Blog Tour: White Stag Review by Kara Barbieri

White Stag (Permafrost, #1)White Stag by Kara Barbieri
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-STARS**

We are all monsters to something, somehow, someway.

As the sole survivor of a goblin raid on her village, Janneke is wracked with survivor’s guilt. This would have been bad enough, however, to make matters worse she is taken hostage by the raiding army and forced into a life of servitude at the hands of the sadistic goblin, Lydian.

Her life while with him is absolute hell. This is putting it mildly. We learn about this time through flashbacks but let’s just get the trigger warnings out of the way: sexual assault/rape, torture, body mutilation, and emotional abuse. If you are a reader who is sensitive to these topics, tread with caution. The descriptions of these happenings do pop up continually over the course of the story as they are a big part of Janneke’s character development.

After some time, Lydian grows tired of his plaything and for one reason or another gifts Janneke to his nephew, Soren. When the story begins for us, Janneke has been living with Soren for 100 years.

How can a human girl live that long? I have no idea. I never really understood the concept of time in this story. She is supposed to have been there for a hundred years but is still the same as when she first got there as far as outward appearance? She is still written as a teenage girl. It is strange. I think it has something to do with the location. The Permafrost. The magical land of the goblins.

Soon after the story begins, the current Erlking, leader of the goblins, dies and a new leader needs to be chosen to replace him on the throne. In their world, the way this is done is through a ‘stag hunt’. The magical White Stag is where the Erlking draws his power from, quite literally, during his reign.

Any goblin may become King by slaying the Stag. Hunting groups are assembled, alliances formed, and the hunt begins. Janneke, trained as a hunter since childhood, joins Soren on the hunt. They are both willing to do anything to ensure that Lydian doesn’t become Erlking. They are joined by a ragtag group of allies and the real adventure begins.

On the hunt, things are never boring, there is a lot of action and quite a few violent and intense scenes. New alliances are formed along the way and one of the best parts of the story for me was the various side characters. They added depth and humor to the story which was definitely needed at times. There really isn’t too much more I can say on the topic of the hunt without getting into spoilers, which I do not want to do.

Throughout their journey, Janneke and Soren’s relationship begins to change. The intensity of the hunt pushes them closer together and they begin to rely on each other like never before.

I really enjoyed their relationship. Soren is swoon-worthy for sure.

Soren, you might ask? Isn’t he a goblin? Yes, but keep in mind, these are not your standard goblins.

Oh no. These goblins are hot and are described more like Viking warriors. I found it helpful to picture this when thinking of Soren:

Not what you think of when you think of goblin? Yeah. Truth be told, it was a little jarring at first but I think, again, it has something to do with the magic of the Permafrost. At one point, Barbieri mentions something about their looks being an illusion. Then in another section, during a fight, you read of their illusion dropping a little and their true, more animalistic, form showing through.

Ultimately, I am not really sure how it all works as there was quite a bit of ambiguity with the magic system. Granted, maybe I just didn’t get it, but I do read a lot of fantasy and felt this could have been ironed out a bit more. Perhaps we will get more clarification of the world in the second book.

The conclusion is an absolute cliffhanger and I look forward to seeing how Barbieri continues this story. Janneke and Soren both had so much growth here and I am most interested to see if they continue to grow together in the future or if changing circumstances push them apart.

Overall, I enjoyed diving into the hunt and learning about Janneke and the goblin world. Was this book perfect? No, not at all. There were definitely some places that I felt could have been fine-tuned; some repetitive phrasing and unclear magical elements, etc. That being said, it is impressive that such a young author is getting this out there as a debut novel. The world is vast and complex and I think that Barbieri should definitely be proud. It draws you in and makes you want to learn more.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Wednesday Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review, as well as including me on the blog tour for its release. I truly appreciate the opportunity and look forward to continuing on with this story in the next book!

View all my reviews

Review: Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

Girls Made of Snow and GlassGirls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

☆☆☆☆.5 stars rounded up!!

All she would remember was the story that would be passed down by those watching: the cruel stepmother, and the wronged princess who had returned from the dead to strike her down and take what was hers. She didn’t want their story to end this way. And more than that, she knew she had the power to change it.

This Snow White retelling was completely original and definitely took me by surprise! This is a debut? Seriously? Melissa Bashardoust’s creativity and originality is on full display with this story.

Lynet and her regal stepmother, Mina, have always had a close relationship as far as ‘step’ relationships go. Young Lynet has admired her and aspired to be strong and smart just like Mina. She never knew her own mother and discovers during the course of the story that a magician actually made her from snow under her father’s orders.

Mina, motherless herself, feels her unbeating heart is perfectly normal. She doesn’t know that her own magician father actually cut out her heart at one point and replaced it with one of glass. After living most of her young life feeling unloved, Mina’s goal of marrying Lynet’s father becomes reality for her and she becomes Queen. She is fond of Lynet and feels they have a special bond.

However, when Lynet’s father suddenly decides to make her the Queen of the Southern Territories, displacing Mina as their figurehead, things dramatically change. Now Mina looks at Lynet as a competitor and we all know the best way to take care of competition…

I know from the synopsis it sounds a little strange but trust me, it works. There is some chasing, some running through the woods, some injuries, a potential queer love interest, girls being their own damn heroes and a whole lot more.

I read this book as part of Retellathon. Retellathon is a readathon hosted by some great Booktubers which I am really hoping turns into an annual affair. I used this to satisfy challenge #2: ‘True Love’s Twist’ – read a queer or gender-flipped retelling.

If you are like me and love retellings I would highly recommend this book. It is dark, it is different and it is definitely worth picking up. I cannot wait to see what Bashardoust comes up with next! **I actually read this book in July 2018 but just realized that I had never reviewed it. I guess I was so busy with Retellathon that week that I put it off! Better late than never…

View all my reviews

Review: Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3) by Sarah J. Maas

Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass, #3)Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

12/12/18: Reflections of 2018 continue with this book, Heir of Fire my favorite book read in April. Since reading this, I have also completed, Queen of Shadows. At the time when I finished this one, it was my FAVORITE of the series. Now it is QoS. For me, they keep getting better and better.

I know haters out there.

That’s fine. No shame here. I am TRASH for this series. Fight me.

Manon gives me life and getting to know her during the course of this book was so entertaining for me. I am equally obsessed with Abraxos and know that my heart is ultimately going to end up being broken in that regard ((NO SPOILERS PLEASE)).

Also, it is now apparent to me that I never wrote a full review for this so, boo on me. Fail.

Original: Oh. My. Wyrd. What an ending! This series! (Fans self) Full review to come…

View all my reviews

Review: Shiver (The Wolves of Mercy Falls #1) by Maggie Stiefvater

Shiver (The Wolves of Mercy Falls, #1)Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5-stars!!!

Ahhhh, young love. Isn’t it grand? You know the story, the tale as old as time: girl meets wolf, wolf and girl fall in love, angsty things happen…wait, is that not how the story usually goes?

This story follows two perspectives, Grace, a girl low-key obsessed with the wolves in the woods behind her house, and Sam, a werewolf. Sam has golden eyes and beautiful fur that Grace is instantly drawn too because…gold.

Seriously though, this is a love story between a girl and the werewolf who once saved her life. It was full of teenage drama and I must admit that had 14-to-20 year-old Meg read this book she would have been swooning from now till next year, honey! Needless to say, old Meg, not as thoroughly blown away by the plot.

The first half was difficult for me. More romance than an actual plot. Once I got towards the middle however I felt myself getting sucked into this bizarre storyline in an oddly addictive way…

Then finally, at the end, I’m like, Thank all that is holy that I have the entire series!!! Yep. You read that right, I am now officially a sucker for teenage werewolf love and I am not even upset about it. I am sure the fact that Maggie Stiefvater happens to be a truly good writer definitely aides along my new found addiction. So, thank you Ms. Stiefvater, for that!

View all my reviews

Review: My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows & Brodi Ashton

My Lady JaneMy Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Continuous fun the whole way through! I loved this. 💖🐎💖

My Lady Jane is a fantastical romance loosely based around the life of Lady Jane Grey. Who was Lady Jane Grey?

I mean, I really don’t know. All I can tell you is she was Queen of England for a shockingly short 9-days; hence her nickname the ‘the Nine Days Queen’. As to the circumstances surrounding that = a complete mystery to me. I am choosing from this day forward to believe this amazingly hysterical version of events put forth in these pages by the Lady Janies (Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows & Brodi Ashton).

We get to follow multiple perspectives in this book: Jane, her cousin King Edward and Gifford (“call me G”). There is a really fun and unique ‘narrator directly addressing the reader’ format to this which I found absolutely charming. The fantastical elements were so far out there but again so much fun. That’s pretty much my largest take from this book – reading can be so much fun. I was transported by this story and could see the events playing out in my mind. I loved the different perspectives and felt the characters were well fleshed out with their own very distinct voices.

I always find collaborations like this so impressive. It is surprising to me that a group of three individuals could work so well together that they could create such a seamless narrative. I am excited to see what else these authors put out. I do have a copy of My Plain Jane but I haven’t gotten to it yet. In short, if you are looking for a fast-paced, heart-warming, ton-of-fun book, you should definitely give this one a shot!

View all my reviews

Review: Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor

Dreams of Gods & Monsters (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #3)Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After a previous stutter start with this one, I have finally finished it and therefore completed the series! Again, I listened to the audiobook – the narrator is the same for all three and she just did such an incredible job – absolutely no complaints there. The first time I tried listening to this, I kept getting to the same spot and getting stuck and my mind would just be wandering away. This time around, I set out determined, I could do this and you know, I am glad I did. Also happy to be done with this series. I leave so many series unfinished so it feels like an accomplishment.

There’s no denying Laini Taylor is one hell of a writer. Her characters are interesting, the worlds are well constructed, there is humor and action – she is a true wordsmith. My problem I have finally decided was Akiva. I’m just going to say it – I don’t like him. Easy now, put down the pitchfork…

I just could not get into him. He was so bland and boring for me. Now Ziri, that was someone I could get behind. I loved his storyline in this one – he makes my heart sing. Then of course Zuzana and Mik. I adore them and was so happy they were along for the ride in this installment. My favorite addition in this book was the incorporation of the scientists. Adding the human element, what was going on around the globe after the angels arrived was just really, really cool. I loved that part. Eliza was a great addition as a character as well.

Overall, this was a good series. I am not swooning over it or anything but it was good and I’m glad I read it. I am going to read Night of Cake & Puppets for sure, as Mik & Zuz are some of the best side characters ever, IMO. I also will be reading basically anything else Laini Taylor writes because…beauty.

Previously:…trying again…I started this earlier this year and shelved it again after my mind could just not stay focused on it. This series has been a mixed bag for me but I REALLY want to finish it. I have heard that this is the best book of the series so am hoping it will really take off for me!

View all my reviews

Review: Empress Unveiled by Jenna Morland

Empress UnveiledEmpress Unveiled by Jenna Morland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5-stars

Empress Unveiled is a debut YA fantasy novel by Jenna Morland. This is the start to a new series and with that ending…I can’t wait to get the next one! This book was highly addictive. I am not sure what it was about it. When I wasn’t reading it, I was kind of wishing I was…but I was confused about it…I couldn’t put my finger on what exactly was drawing me in.

Morland’s writing style does have a nice flow to it. It was a quick read that set the stage well for a continuation of the series. It left off on quite the cliffhanger actually. I would say as fantasy books go, this is a good beginner fantasy. Please note, that is not shade.

Fantasy is a genre, that to me, can be broken up into different levels: beginner, intermediate and high or advanced. Let’s clear something up, I am OLD. I have been reading fantasy for over 25 years and read a lot of epic fantasy and high fantasy – that is why I am calling this beginner. The concepts were very easy to understand and therefore accessible to younger readers or people who may want to try fantasy but are intimidated by complex magic systems, political systems, etc.

This story follows, Swazyi, a high school girl in ‘our world’ Alaska. When a portal to another world opens, that’s where the magic comes from. The portal leads to the world of Empress, home to many mythical/magical creatures and peoples that we all know and love, such as fae, vampires, witches, werewolves, etc. I think portal fantasy is a good way to introduce magic or magical concepts into an otherwise normal world and in fact, it is quite frequently used.

This story is heavy on your standard YA tropes as well. Most notably: instalove, angsty love triangle and the ‘chosen one’ trope. If any of these is not your bag you may not enjoy this as much. The love triangle was my least favorite aspect of the story but 16-year old me probably would have loved it. There are tropes for everyone, it’s all about finding the right books to tickle your fancy! I had a couple of other small, personal taste, things that weren’t quite for me but as mentioned earlier, I couldn’t stop thinking about it and that’s not a bad thing!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Oftomes Publishing, for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. I always appreciate the opportunity to read a book early and provide my thoughts. For a debut book, this is solid. I had a lot of fun with it and look forward to continuing with the series. Jenna Morland should be proud of her efforts and I look forward to watching her develop as a writer! The sky is the limit…unless you find a portal to another world in the sky…then there is no limit!

Previously: So happy to finally be starting this new YA fantasy! Also happy I get to marvel at the beauty of this cover every day whilst doing so… I mean, look at it!!! 😍😍😍

View all my reviews

Review: Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass, #4)Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow, okay. This. Book.

This was so good. I have been enjoying this series very much up to this point, don’t get me wrong, but in my opinion this one takes it to the stratosphere. Whole new level here. I won’t make this too long as there probably isn’t much that I can say that would be new at this point. I will just let y’all know how this one made me feel and that would be freaking psyched. I am such trash for this series now – fangirling all afternoon long after I finished this. SJM is my Queen and I will read every single word she ever writes.

Seriously though, I felt that this developed the story so incredibly well. I loved the relationship development in this one and I don’t mean that in the romantic sense. For me, it was more the friendships, the loyalties that develop as these characters are basically pitted against the most evil forces in the universe; it was just a gorgeous, gorgeous thing.

Lysandra – my new love. Her story arc is just astounding – to see her strength, which obviously has always been there, but to see it come out and her assert herself and kick some serious ass was just so great to me. I loved hearing her backstory, learning her motivations, discovering her secrets – I can’t wait to see where her story goes in the next book. And of course, Manon, my book-BFF, so fierce and such a powerful bringer of change -I just adore her and pretty much every scene where she was even remotely involved in gave me LIFE!

I am very excited to get to Empire of Storms but I am going to take a one book hiatus before I start it because I do not think I am emotionally ready to move on yet. Still so much to process. I am beyond happy that I gave in and read this series; probably one of the best book choices I have ever made. Highly, highly recommend to all the world!

Original review: Chills. That was incredible! Full review to come. . . Stay tuned!

View all my reviews

Review: Hunted by Meagan Spooner

HuntedHunted by Meagan Spooner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well, it has now been close to a week since I finished this book and I finally feel like I can put my thoughts down into actual words. Let’s get the main grit out of the way = Hunted is the BEST Beauty and the Beast retelling I have EVER read. Guys, I know I am super late to the party on this one. I think I am probs the only B&B superfan left to read this. Why did I wait this long, you ask? Because I am horrible at life obviously.

I listened to the audiobook of this and I will definitely be buying a hard copy because I absolutely plan to reread this someday. The most impactful aspect of this for me was the atmosphere. It was so well written. Dark, gothic, dangerous – I felt cold, I felt alone, I felt hunted. It was spectacular. The setting is Russia and I definitely felt like it was a nice blend of the classic Beauty and the Beast with Peter and the Wolf. I used to have the record version of the Peter and the Wolf symphony as a child and I listened to it all the time. (I played classic violin, perhaps that makes that fact make more sense…) This book brought back strong memories of listening to that. It is such a feeling.

I loved the twists to Beauty’s character in this as well. That was another really strong aspect for me. I loved how independent, strong, willful and brave she was. She was not a damsel in distress. Nope, not our girl – she was a badass, who though scared, did whatever she had to do for vengeance and that’s the kind of heroine I live for!

Then, of course, we have the Beast. We get his perspective in small parts throughout the book and I found them very interesting. He was absolutely darker than the Beast of the Disney version but no less compelling in my opinion. Along with him, of course, comes the castle fallen into ruin and the hostage situation and the Stockholm Syndrome love trope…and it was so good. I just ate it right up.

I suppose for some this book may seem slow, it is not nonstop action, but for me the flow was absolutely perfect. The pace helped to set up the atmosphere – it contributed to the feeling and I felt it was flawless.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves retellings – particularly if you are into dark, gothic or stabby things. More stabby than lovie…than this book is for you!

Original Review: A classic tale of love via Stockholm Syndrome…

Seriously though – this book – my favorite retelling of all time. I was shocked by how much I truly enjoyed it…

Dark, dangerous, replete with myth/folklore – full review to come…stay tuned!

View all my reviews