Video Book Review: “Mask of Shadows” by Linsey Miller

It’s the first video from my new YouTube channel! Woohoo! I am so excited to have posted this. The audio is not perfect–I am a very soft-spoken person. Added to that, I’m trying out a new-to-me editing software (LightWorks), so I have that to get the hang of. It does feel nice to have a YouTube channel again, and having no followers or views is a little sad–but! I am not going to stress over anything like that. I would much rather just enjoy posting my reviews and other videos.

Wish Lists and Plans for the Future

So. There is a 50% chance (maybe more) that I will be getting a job within the next month. It’s a good paying job–much more than what my wife and I are earning now via disability–and the location is just down the road. It’s going to be difficult, I’m sure. I’m basically going from having no job to a full-time one. However, I do feel that I am ready to take the next step. I’m ready to move forward, to better myself, to become someone better. Next year is all about that, truly.

For example, I plan on writing the bare bones of at least one novel. I hope to read more, and to start up a Booktube channel on YouTube. I will be getting back into video games, and less into obsessing over dolls. Though I still love them, I realized this year that I was basically forcing myself to make art that I didn’t and still don’t love.

At any rate…if I am able to land a job next year, there are some things that my wife and I want to be able to afford. We would be able to. It will be amazing. Perhaps I am counting my chickens before they hatch, but I can hear them peeping.

There are book subscription boxes that I would like to start getting. For so much money a month, by signing up to one of these subscriptions, one generally gets a few bookish items (scarves based on Harry Potter, for example, or coffee cups with quotes from A Court of Thorns and Roses printed upon them) as well as the book of the month. Some of the boxes offer a special, limited edition cover to said book of the month that can’t be found anywhere else. These covers are insanely expensive if one attempts to purchase them secondhand.

The following links/images are to the book boxes I would like to get.

OwlCrate: LINK

FairyLoot (US): LINK

Scribbler: LINK

Unicorn Crate: LINK
(I couldn’t find any good pictures from their site; they are also bi-monthly now)

Book Review: “Mask of Shadows” by Linsey Miller

Mask of Shadows (Mask of Shadows, #1)Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

True Rating: 4.5 Stars out of 5

“Mask of Shadows” is an interesting book, to say the least. It is very fast paced, to the point where I felt like I could not take a breath at times while reading it. During the entire read, I was waiting for certain tropes to rear their heads; thankfully, for the most part, that did not happen.

After a horrible war destroyed their childhood, Sal–a young thief–finds out that the Queen is holding auditions for a new assassin to do her work. The kingdom in which they live holds, normally, four positions–Ruby, Amethyst, Emerald, and Opal. All of the Queen’s killers are named for the rings she wears on her left hand. Opal was killed during a mission, leaving that spot open.

What follows is a sort of battle royale between twenty three would-be assassins. Sal finds themselves willing to kill, willing to fight, all for the chance of becoming someone better. Added to that, they discover that terrible things are happening in their country; things that could lead to a new war. Not only do they have to survive, but they have to stop those that would tear their world apart.

I’m going to say it right here and now–I liked Sal’s character. Part of the time, they were called Twenty-Three, as that was their number assigned to them during the auditions to be the next Opal. Some of the time, they were male, sometimes female, and sometimes neither. Sal is presented as gender-fluid–which is freaking amazing! As someone who is non-binary, I felt a sort of kinship to another gender queer person. Of course, that alone does not make Sal’s character likeable. They were honest, not only with themselves but with the reader. Though they understood that some people would die so that they could further themselves, it was never torture. It was explained as being needed for the betterment of the country as a whole. Tough choices, of course.

The one thing about this story that I did not like was the disjointed way of writing. Linsey Miller is gifted, in my opinion, when writing dialogue and action. Everything in between, however, is just…choppy. Sometimes, I had no idea how a conversation started, or who was speaking. Sometimes, I had absolutely no idea how this happened, or that happened. It was sort of like a puzzle. The pieces were all present, but they were jumbled. I had to link things together that I normally wouldn’t need to. Passages and paragraphs were a little disjointed.

Of course, the twists and turns of the story made up for that.

The beginning of the novel and the end of the novel are what they are. They are a bit tidy, they are understandable, they are spelled out. From the beginning of the book, you basically know what is going to happen in the end. Everything in the middle, though–that’s the best part. That’s the meat, the journey. That’s where anything could happened, and it did.

I think the best part of “Mask of Shadows” is absolutely the fact that it continues on into another book. I will be picking up a copy of the next chapter of Sal’s adventures as soon as I can track one down.

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I’m Looking Up

Things are going surprisingly well at the moment, despite how horrible the previous portion of 2019 was. Going into 2020, it would seem that things are on the way up. For example–I might have a job within the next month! The best part about it is the location. It is literally a ten minute walk from our apartment complex to the front door of the business. Of course, I’m trying to not count my chickens before they hatch–I’ve been looking into other jobs nearby as well. It’s just that this one specifically would be amazing for me. I feel like I could do this job without too much hassle.

The weather was beautiful today, even if I didn’t manage to really get out to enjoy it. An open window sufficed.

My wife is feeling much better, although not enough to get out of the apartment. Because of that, I will be flying solo tomorrow in going to my grandparents’ home. We have laundry to do, and they’ve so graciously allowed us to use their washing machine so we don’t have to pay the nearly five dollars a load to do our clothes. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but when you’ve only got about 200 dollars a month… Which, of course, is another reason to finally find a good job.

Along with getting back into reading and writing, I am also getting back into video games! It has been a while since I really sat down to play a game (I think Kingdom Hearts III was the last full game that I played?). Tonight, I am going to work on Resident Evil VII, which Covey got me for Winter Solstice. There are a ton of other games that I really want to play and get into.


Speaking of games–my copy of World of Final Fantasy for the PlayStation 4 just arrived via Thanks, Covey! I will probably play that soon. I really want to finish Resident Evil first, though. Horror seems a bit more palatable at the moment. There are a few other things I need to do tonight before I sit down to play. Mostly finish this post, then do a few things online. I should probably also work on the Final Fantasy swap doll that is due sometime in February.

That I’ve started, but I’m super unhappy with it right now. I think I am going to start over–new wig, new doll…Not sure. We’ll see how it goes.

Good-bye, 2019

2019 was probably one of the hardest years I have ever gone through, especially the last few months of it. Though it may have started out grand, it did not stay that way. The strangest thing about it, though, is that it felt like a very long year. Things that happened toward the start of it feel like they happened ages ago.

For my family…we fell on hard times. Cassie’s illness grew worse until she finally passed. My grandparents’ health has decayed. The state of the country is terrible. The Earth is dying.


I look to 2020 with hope in my heart. There are things happening, slowly, that I think will help the next year be a good one. For example, I am applying to jobs again, thanks in a large part to a gentleman named Matt, who is helping me with the entire process. I’m on meds that I am compatible with. Things are looking up, really. For that, I am glad.

Next year, I have goals for myself. Lose some weight (a little at a time, of course); write a novel; get a job; start a new YouTube channel (based on writing and reading); and some other things that I will think of, I’m sure.

‘Twas the Night After Christmas…

Yesterday was Christmas. The morning went really well, despite my fears. My family got along very well, and everything was fun. My parents got me a new coffee maker (which is awesome, by the way!), a few other odds and ends, but the best part was that they got Coventry a waffle maker. She has wanted one for so long. The look on her face when she opened the present…it was amazing. I was so happy.

Then came dinner.

We left my dad and step-mum’s house for my grandparents’ house. It was…tense. This was the first Christmas we’ve had since Cassie passed away. My mom and gram were not fighting per say, but they were not happy with each other. Though it was nice to see my brothers and their girlfriends, the air in the house was just…thick.

My mom and Steve brought us home, which was a good thing, as Covey was feeling super bad. This morning, I woke up, and she was so ill that she spent nearly half an hour in the bathroom. After cleaning up the apartment for a bit, I asked her if she wanted me to take the bus to Walmart so I could grab some juice and medicine for her. She said yes, so…

Oh, by the Gods, the bus was packed. Packed! I thought that, on the day after Christmas, it would have been dead. Nope! Just about everyone was out on the bus and in the store. The bus ran late, so I was gone for nearly two hours.

Thankfully, I managed to get everything we needed–juice, soda, medicine, cat food, and a few other things to eat. The second I got home, I made Covey drink some of the juice I got her, and take some of the PM meds so that she could finally get some sleep (she was so sick last night that she just couldn’t get to sleep).

Poor thing, she’s sleeping now. I have to wake her up in about half an hour so that she can take another dose. She probably should have seen her doctor today (the office offers an urgent care section), but something’s wrong with her insurance. I don’t know why, as they never contacted her, but apparently, her coverage expired.

Shout out to my Uncle Justin, and to my cousin Montana, who are both celebrating their birthdays today.

Changing topics, I have this horrible urge to write. I want to do nothing more than sit down at my computer and type, type, type. The only problem is that I’m too sleepy to do so at the moment. I guess I can take down some notes? I don’t know. Ugh.

Manga Review: “Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu”

Junji Ito's Cat Diary: Yon & MuJunji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu by Junji Ito
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What an amazing, relatable, beautiful, hilarious manga! Junji Ito, normally a master of horror, here shares his life’s adventures with the two cats that turned him from a dog man into a cat daddy. The art is, as usual with Ito’s pieces, beautiful and haunting, a little odd, and over all wacky. The facial expressions are to die for, and the art of the two cats–Yon, with the odd face, and Mu, the adorable, fluffy Norwegian Forest Cat–is both heartwarming and frighteningly funny. I loved this manga!

Junji Ito moves into a brand new home with A-ko, the love of his life. She, however, quickly makes up her mind–the house needs cats! Junji has previously met Yon, A-ko’s cat that lives with her family. Surprisingly, not only does Yon come to live with the two, but Junji and A-ko adopt a lovely little Norwegian Forest cat that they name Mu. Once the kitties are used to their new home, they become the best of friends, and both terrorize and love Junji to pieces.

Though most of the story is equal parts roll-on-the-floor funny, heartwarming, and relatable for those of us lucky enough to be cat parents, it does end on a sort of sad note. It should be noted to have some tissues on hand during the last chapter and notes!

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Book Review: “Red Queen” by Victoria Aveyard

Red Queen (Red Queen, #1)Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Wow, this book was difficult for me to get through. It has taken me far too long to finish it. At first, I thought this was my own fault–perhaps I was in a reading slump. Perhaps I just was being lazy with my reading, or was too busy with the rest of my life to sit down and enjoy a book. However, as I pushed through “Red Queen,” I realized that, no. It wasn’t me. It was very much the novel.

I feel like the major problem with “Red Queen” was the pacing. On the outside, it offered everything I usually like in my YA Sci-fi/Fantasy reads. A strong female lead. Magic abilities. A dystopian society. War. Political intrigue. The characters were decent (though I do feel like there were a bit too many to keep track of, and many of them were not fleshed out beyond ‘this person is bad/this person is good’). Overall, the plot was well done, though there were a few points where the twists and turns were obvious.

Mare Barrow is a young woman living in a world where there are two types of people–the Silvers, who have literal silver colored blood and magic in their veins; and the Reds, who are the average person with red blood. The Silvers are the ruling class, leaving the Reds as little more than slaves living in their slums.

After a few shenanigans, Mare ends up pretending to be a Silver princess, betrothed to one of the princes of the land. She discovers that she, a lowly Red, somehow was the powers of a Silver. Through the charade, she finds herself thrown into a world of political unrest and rebellion.

There’s also a sort of love triangle, though there is a third love interest that may or may not actually be a love interest.

Where to really begin? “Red Queen” should have been a five-star review, easily. Like I stated before, there was everything in it to be a great novel. However, there is just something about it that lacks the pull a good book has over a reader. Some of the story is bland. Some of it is simply fantastic. The characters are good; those that are fleshed out a really understandable (with a few exceptions), and even the worst of them are somewhat redeemable.

It’s the pacing.

The beginning of the book exists in this odd sort of space where nothing happens, and then suddenly, everything happens. It felt like watching someone get ready to shoot an arrow from a bow. They notch the arrow, they pull back the string, they aim…and then suddenly, everything explodes. It felt like that–disjointed and odd and strange. Then the center of the book, the very middle, is very…eh. Just eh. Toward the last 1/8th of the novel, everything in Mare’s life starts to unravel, and things get good.

I understand that this is the first book in a series, but when the first novel does little more than set up for the next step…it feels a bit hollow. It should have it’s own story, it’s own space. Instead, it just sort of exists for the rest of the series to charge ahead. “Red Queen” ends on a cliff hanger of sorts, but I have so little invested in what happened in this first book that I will probably not continue the series.

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It’s Christmas Time! (In HELL)

Things were going well up until about thirty minutes ago. Things were great! Wonderful! Epic, even! Then–

Family Drama.

I don’t want to get into it. Not really! I just want the holidays to go well. Everyone should be happy, and have fun! Right? So why am I so nervous and worried that everything is going to Hell in a handbag. Ugh!

Getting off of that train of thought…Covey has gotten me into the show Bob’s Burgers. It’s my sort of humor. We are actually watching it right now as we eat (I’m waiting for my dinner to cool while I type). According to one of the quizzes I took online, I am totally Linda–and yes. Yes, I am. Like her, I tend to randomly break out into song (usually making up my own lyrics about whatever I happen to be doing at that moment).


Ugh. I feel so flighty tonight. My thoughts are there, but I just can’t catch them enough to make them into fully fledged ideas. Sentences. Words are hard.

Return of the Loud Music from Across the Hall; Also Book Stuff

Not only do my neighbors think it a good idea to blast their (terrible) music at all hours, but they also enjoy screaming at one another and their children. Straight. Up. Screaming. Sometimes it’s not even words. Just sounds. It’s gotten to the point where I am not sure if the woman in the apartment next to us knows how to speak in a regular tone. She constantly shrieks.

Getting away from my complaints…Books! Loads and loads of books! My wife got me an early holiday gift–a new Kindle! I am so happy to have it. I had forgotten how nice and compact they are. Though I will never stop loving old-fashioned, ink and paper books, e-readers are nice when you travel or go between homes as often as we do. I have already downloaded at least ten books/omnibuses.

I pay for them in a very interesting way! My wife and I do surveys online via a site called Forthright. Every survey gives you between fifty cents to five dollars per one you complete, and often, there are special offers. Since Kindle books are generally between ninety-nine cents to ten dollars, saving up the change from the surveys to get an gift card is pretty easy. The thing I like most about it is that I can just do a survey here or there, like when I’m waiting for the bus or in line at the grocery store, or whatever. If I get accepted into one of the surveys, I am generally able to complete it in between five to fifteen minutes. So! It’s just a simple, easy way to get some quick gift cards to buy books and other things with.

Speaking of ‘other things,’ I did use some of my earnings to buy my wife a special manga for the holiday! I really hope she likes it. Covey is a big fan of Junji Ito, and a huge fan of cats. For those of you that are familiar with the mangaka, I think you know where this is going.

Other books I have purchased are “The Savior’s Champion,” by Jenna Moreci. She is also a YouTuber that offers suggestions and tips for writing and publishing. I believe I have linked a few of her videos in this blog before, but I might do it again!

I also purchased:
…and a few others. I am super happy with my buys. I can’t wait to read them all!

Something else I have been toying with is the idea of starting (and maintaining) a new YouTube channel. I would love to start doing book reviews, hauls, and other novel and reading related videos, as well as maybe a few on writing/progress with my book/s. I think it would be nice to do a video once or twice a week. Just for fun, mind; I don’t want to get caught up in it like I was trying to do before with my gaming channel, or with my doll channel. Just something nice, simple, easy. For fun.

I really need to start doing things for fun again.

For example, I just spent the last week and a half getting ready for a craft fair with Coventry. We both made a ton of stuff to sell at it, but in the end, we only made about forty-five to fifty dollars–and we spent some of that on handmade soaps (it’s best for my skin) and other small gifts for each other. It was basically a bust! I used to sew for fun, but now it’s become a sort of chore. I hate that! I just want it to be fun again. Oh, well. I still enjoy it–just not being under the gun.

Making doll related things became like that for a while. I had to take a step back. I’m afraid that writing or reading might end up becoming the same way; it did in college and high school. But! Maybe just doing it for fun, for stress relief…maybe that will do the trick. I don’t know. I guess I’m rambling at this point.

Anyway, I did mention earlier that I would probably link some videos from Jenna Moreci. So! Here are some!