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Blog Tour: White Stag by Kara Barbieri (Excerpt Post)

Hello, fellow readers! Today, I’m really excited to be a part of the blog tour for White Stag by Kara Barbieri! If you’re lovers of fantasy, feel free to read on for a summary and excerpt of the novel. 😉

Summary

White Stag_cover image

As the last child in a family of daughters, seventeen-year-old Janneke was raised to be the male heir. While her sisters were becoming wives and mothers, she was taught to hunt, track, and fight. On the day her village was burned to the ground, Janneke—as the only survivor—was taken captive by the malicious Lydian and eventually sent to work for his nephew Soren.

Janneke’s survival in the court of merciless monsters has come at the cost of her connection to the human world. And when the Goblin King’s death ignites an ancient hunt for the next king, Soren senses an opportunity for her to finally fully accept the ways of the brutal Permafrost. But every action he takes to bring her deeper into his world only shows him that a little humanity isn’t bad—especially when it comes to those you care about.

Through every battle they survive, Janneke’s loyalty to Soren deepens. After dangerous truths are revealed, Janneke must choose between holding on or letting go of her last connections to a world she no longer belongs to. She must make the right choice to save the only thing keeping both worlds from crumbling.

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Excerpt

1

MASQUERADE
THE FIRST THING I learned as a hunter was how to hide. There was a skill in disappearing in the trees like the wind and merging into the river like stones; masquerading yourself as something you weren’t was what kept you alive in the end. Most humans didn’t think the masquerade was as important as the kill, and most humans ended up paying for it with their lifeblood.

Here, as the only mortal in a hall of monsters, I was very glad that I was not most humans.

I kept my steps silent and my back straight as I passed beneath the white marble pillars. My eyes flickered around me every so often, counting hallways, retracing my steps, so I could escape at a moment’s notice. The Erlking’s palace was treacherous, full of twists and turns, stairways that led into nowhere, and places where the hallways dropped to gaping chasms. According to Soren, there were also hollow spaces in the walls where you could slink around unnoticed to the mundane and the monstrous eye, but you could hear and see all that went on in the open world. The lair of a king, I thought bitterly. I dared not say it out loud in case someone was near. But beside me, Soren sensed my disgust and made a sound deep in his throat. It could’ve been agreement.

Soren examined his king’s palace with the usual contempt; his cold, calculating eyes took in everything and betrayed nothing. His lips turned down in a frown that was almost etched permanently into his face. Sometimes I forgot he was capable of other expressions. He didn’t even smile when he was killing things; as far as goblins went, that was a symptom of chronic depression. He lifted his bored gaze at the gurgling, choking sound coming from his right, and it took all my willpower not to follow his line of sight. When I felt the subtle whoosh of power transfer from one body to the next, my fingers twitched to where I’d slung my bow, only to remember too late that it had been left at the entrance of the keep in accordance with ancient tradition.

A scream echoed off the cavernous passageways as we made our way to the great hall where everyone gathered. It sent chills down my spine with its shrillness before it was abruptly cut off. Somehow, that made me shiver even more. Ancient tradition and custom aside, nothing could stop a goblin from killing you if that was what they desired. My hand reached for my nonexistent bow again, only to be captured by cold, pale fingers.

Soren’s upper lip curled, but his voice was low and steady. “The next time you reach for a weapon that isn’t there might be the last time you have hands to reach with,” he warned. “A move like that will invite conflict.”

I yanked myself away from his grip and suppressed the urge to wipe my hand on my tunic like a child wiping away cooties. “Force of habit.”

Soren shook his head slightly before continuing on, his frown deepening with each step he took.

“Don’t look so excited. Someone might get the wrong idea.”

He raised a fine white eyebrow at me. “I don’t look excited. I’m scowling.”

I bit back a sigh. “It’s sarcasm.”

“I’ve told you before, I don’t understand it,” he said.

“None of goblinkind understands sarcasm,” I said. “In another hundred years I’m going to lose my understanding completely.”

Another hundred years. It hadn’t hit me yet, not until I said it out loud. Another hundred years. It had been a hundred years since my village was slaughtered, a hundred years as a thrall in Soren’s service. Well, ninety-nine years and eight months, anyway, but who’s counting? Despite the century passing by, I still looked the same as I had when I was forcefully brought into this cursed land. Or, at least, mostly; the scars on my chest hadn’t been there a hundred years ago, and the now-hollow spot where my right breast should have been burned. The four months when I’d belonged to another were not something I liked to think about. I still woke up screaming from nightmares about it. My throat went dry and I swallowed. Soren isn’t Lydian.

“You look tense,” Soren said, breaking me out of my thoughts. I’d crossed my arms over my chest. Not good. A movement like that was a sign of weakness. It was obvious to everyone that I was the weakest being here, but showing it would do me no good.

“I’m fine,” I said. “I just don’t like this place.”

“Hmm,” Soren said, eyes flickering around the hall. “It does lack a certain touch.”

“What does that even mean?” I asked.

“The entire design of the palace is trite and overdone.”

I blinked. “Okay, then.”

By now we’d entered the great hall where the reception was held. Every hundred years, the goblins were required to visit the Erlking and swear their fealty. Of course, their loyalty only extended to him as long as he was the most powerful—goblins weren’t the type of creature to follow someone weaker than themselves.

The palace, for what it was worth, was much grander than most other parts of the goblin domain. Soren’s manor was all wood, stone, and ice, permanently freezing. Nothing grew—I knew because I had tried multiple times to start a garden—but the roots never took to the Permafrost. Here, it was warm, though not warm enough that I couldn’t feel the aching chill deep in my bones. The walls were made of pure white marble with intricate designs far above what a goblin was capable of creating, and streaked with yellow and red gold like open veins. It was obviously made by humans. Goblinkind were incredible predators and hunters, gifted by the Permafrost itself, but like all creatures, they had their flaws. The inability to create anything that wasn’t used for destruction was one of the main reasons humankind were often stolen from their lands on raids and put to work in the Permafrost.

Soren’s scowl deepened as we passed under a canopy of ice wrought to look like vines and flowers. “I feel like I need to vomit,” he said.

I stopped in my tracks. “Really?” I swore, if I ended up having to clean up Soren’s vomit …

He glanced at me, a playful light in his lilac eyes. “Sarcasm? Did I do it right?”

“No.” I forced myself not to roll my eyes. “Sarcasm would be when you use irony to show your contempt.”

“Irony?” He shook his head, his long white hair falling into his face.

“Saying one thing when you mean the other, dramatically.”

“This is beneath me,” he muttered. Then, even quieter, he said, “This place is in dire need of a redecoration.”

“I’m not even entirely sure what to say to that.” With those words, he flashed me a wicked grin that said little and suggested much. I turned away, actually rolling my eyes this time. For a powerful goblin lord, Soren definitely had the ability to act utterly childish. It could be almost endearing at times. This, however, was not one of those times.

In the hall, the gazes on the back of my neck were sharp as knives. I kept my head straight, trying my hardest not to pay attention to the wolfish faces of the other attendees.

From a distance they could almost be mistaken for human. They varied in size and shape and the color of their skin, hair, and eyes much like humans did. But even so, there was a sharpness to their features, a wildness, that could never be mistaken for human. The figures dressed in hunting leathers, long and lean, would only seek to torment me if I paid them any attention. As the only human in the hall, I was a curiosity. After all, what self-respecting goblin would bring a thrall to an event as important as this? That could very easily get me killed, and I wasn’t planning on dying anytime soon. My hand almost twitched again, but I stopped it just in time, heeding Soren’s warning.

We finally crossed the floor to where the Erlking sat. Like Soren’s, the Goblin King’s hair was long. But unlike Soren, whose hair was whiter than the snow, the Erlking’s hair was brown. Not my brown, the color of fallen leaves, underbrush, and dark cherry wood, but murky, muddy brown. It was the color of bog mud that sucks down both humans and animals alike and it somehow managed to make his yellow-toned skin even sallower. He was the strongest of all goblins, and I hated him for it. I also feared him—I was smart enough for that—but the fear was drowned out by the blood rushing in my ears as I locked eyes with Soren’s king.

Soren turned to me. “Stay here.” His eyes turned hard, the glimmer of light leaving them. Whatever softness he had before drained away until what was left was the hard, cold killer he was known to be, and with it went the last shreds of warmth in his voice. “Until I tell you otherwise.” Subtly, he jerked his pointer finger at the ground in a wordless warning.

I bowed my head. “Don’t take too long.”

“I don’t plan to,” he said, more to himself than to me, before approaching the Erlking’s throne. He went to one knee. “My king.”

I eyed Soren from underneath the curtain of my hair. His hands were clenched in fists at his sides. He must’ve sensed something from the Erlking, from the other goblins, something. Whatever it was, it wasn’t good. Cautiously, I directed my gaze to the Goblin King himself, aware that if I looked at him the wrong way, I might be inviting my own death. While the behavior and treatment of thralls varied widely among goblins, I had a feeling submissiveness was required for any human in the Erlking’s path.

This close, the Erlking’s eyes were dark in his shriveled husk of skin and there was a tinge of sickness in the air as he breathed his raspy breaths. His eyes flickered up to meet mine and I bowed my head again. Don’t attract attention.

Soren spat out the vows required of him in the old tongue of his kind, the words gravelly and thick. He paused every so often, like he was waiting for when he would be free to drive his hand through his king’s chest, continuing on with disappointment every time.

The tension around the room grew heavier, pressing down on those gathered. Somehow, like dogs sniffing out blood, they all knew the king was weak. Beautiful she-goblins and terrifying goblin brutes were all standing there waiting until it was legal to kill him.

Beside the weakened king’s throne, a white stag rested on a pile of rushes. Its eyes were closed, its breath slow. Its skin and antlers shone with youth, but the ancient power it leaked pressed heavy against my shoulders. That power was older than anything else in the world—maybe older than the world itself.

Goblins were, before all things, hunters. Born to reap and not to sow. Cursed with pain upon doing any action that did not in some way fit into the power the Permafrost gave them, the goblins fittingly had the submission of the stag as the symbol of their king’s ultimate power. Until it runs.

I didn’t want to think about what happened after that.

Soren continued to say his vows. The guttural language was like ice shards to my ears, and I shuddered. Catching myself about to fidget, I dug my fingers into my thigh. Control yourself, Janneke, I thought. If they can do it, you can.

A soft voice whispered in my ear, “Is that you, Janneka?” His breath tickled the back of my neck, and every muscle in my body immediately locked. Icy dread trickled down my spine, rooting me in place.

Don’t pay attention to him. He’ll go away.

“I know you can hear me, sweetling.”

Yes, I could hear him, and the sound of his voice made me want to vomit. My mouth went dry.

CREDIT: WHITE STAG by KARA BARBIERI Copyright © 2018 by the author and reprinted by permission of Wednesday Books.  

Buy Link From the Publisher’s Site

About the Author

Kara BarbieriKara Barbieri is a writer living in the tiny town of Hayward, Wisconsin. An avid fantasy fan, she began writing White Stag at eighteen and posting it to Wattpad soon after under the name of ‘Pandean’. When she’s not writing, you can find her marathoning Buffy the Vampire Slayer, reviving gothic fashion, and jamming to synthpop. Kara Barbieri’s Twitter handle is @PandeanPanic.

 

 

 

For those of you who are interested, White Stag can be found in stores on January 8th, 2019! Thanks for reading, everyone!

–  Sumaya

 

Blog Tour: Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean

Summary

In a palace of illusions, nothing is what it seems.

Each generation, a competition is held to find the next empress of Honoku. The rules are simple. Survive the palace’s enchanted seasonal rooms. Conquer Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. Marry the prince. All are eligible to compete—all except yōkai, supernatural monsters and spirits whom the human emperor is determined to enslave and destroy.

Mari has spent a lifetime training to become empress. Winning should be easy. And it would be, if she weren’t hiding a dangerous secret. Mari is a yōkai with the ability to transform into a terrifying monster. If discovered, her life will be forfeit. As she struggles to keep her true identity hidden, Mari’s fate collides with that of Taro, the prince who has no desire to inherit the imperial throne, and Akira, a half-human, half-yōkai outcast.

Torn between duty and love, loyalty and betrayal, vengeance and forgiveness, the choices of Mari, Taro, and Akira will decide the fate of Honoku in this beautifully written, edge-of-your-seat YA fantasy.

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Review

Hey, everyone! So excited to be a part of this blog tour! It was a real treat to read Emiko Jean’s Empress of All Seasons and I can’t wait to talk more about it. 😉

Firstly, I really did appreciate the different POVs in this book. Whether it was how they were woven together to tell a story or just sharing another character’s view, I was all in! You would also see that same character in the eyes of another main character, which would make the former even more developed. My only qualm with the novel character-wise is that by the end, while the plot seemed rushed, the character development couldn’t catch up enough for my liking. I felt that if the story went on for at least another book, then this sudden shift in a particular character could be explored. But all readers get is a jarring change in a particular character rather than the subtle development of others.

Another really great thing I loved about this book was the world it was set in. It was yokai versus humans with Akira in the middle, not really knowing where he should stand. There are the Animal Wives and Mari’s failure to fit in with them. Taro disagreeing with his father’s views but cannot openly oppose them. All these characters have something in common: they all want more. To pair these wants with rich Japanese mythology makes it even better! Plus, if there are any fans of The Selection, you definitely should give this book a read!

Overall, I was really taken by this book, which is kind of weird since I haven’t been into fantasy lately… but if I got into it, it probably says something good about the book! Anyways, for anyone who is interested, Empress of All Seasons is already in stores near you! And if you have any questions about the book, feel free to leave a comment in the section below.

Q & A from the Author

Sumaya: Out of the three different points of view in the novel, did you have a favourite point of view?

Emiko: Yes. This is difficult to admit because as I writer I’d like to say I love all my characters equally but I loved Akira most. He was the character I developed first. I love his origin story. And I also identified with him the most. He feels that he straddles two worlds, yōkai and human, and as a mixed-race person I am very familiar with that feeling.

Well, that’s all for now. Have a wonderful day!

– Sumaya

I received an advance reader’s copy from Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review.

ARC Review: A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney

Summary

The first time the Nightmares came, it nearly cost Alice her life. Now she’s trained to battle monstrous creatures in the dark dream realm known as Wonderland with magic weapons and hardcore fighting skills. Yet even warriors have a curfew.

Life in real-world Atlanta isn’t always so simple, as Alice juggles an overprotective mom, a high-maintenance best friend, and a slipping GPA. Keeping the Nightmares at bay is turning into a full-time job. But when Alice’s handsome and mysterious mentor is poisoned, she has to find the antidote by venturing deeper into Wonderland than she’s ever gone before. And she’ll need to use everything she’s learned in both worlds to keep from losing her head . . . literally.

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Review

Hi, everybody! I’m back with another review. But first, I’d like to apologize to anyone wanting to comment on Monday’s blog post and found that they couldn’t. I didn’t realize the Comments Section was closed until the next day. I love hearing what people think and will make sure to double-check to see if the Comments Section is open.

Anyways, back to today’s review, which is on L.L. McKinney’s debut, A Blade So Black. It starts off with some action, setting the stage for two of the main characters and their dynamic. This relationship between Alice and her mentor, Addison, was one of the main reasons that I liked the book. They cared for one another on a really deep and emotional level. However, readers only get to see the result of spending months together, so who knows? It might have not been the best teacher-student relationship in the beginning. 😄

I also appreciated how the author adapted Alice in Wonderland to fit into her retelling. I honestly loved all the changes she made, and thought that it made the story more enriched and engaging. One of my major hang-ups on retellings is when the retelling could be exactly the same as the story, with the exception of setting or something like that. It’s always nice to see what authors add on to an older story, you know?

The only thing I that I didn’t like when reading the book was that sometimes I’d go from really invested to looking around the room in semi-boredom. Thankfully, the ending was interesting enough to redeem the novel overall, but I doesn’t erase how I fell in and out of reading at times.

Well, that’s all I have to say about A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney today. I liked what it brought to the table as a retelling, even though it had its slow moments. If you have any questions or comments about this book, though, feel free to leave them in the Comments Section below! And remember, if you’re interested in reading A Blade So Black, the book comes out on September 25th, 2018!

And as always, thanks for reading everyone!

– Sumaya

I received an advance reader’s copy from Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Sweet Black Waves by Kristina Pérez

Summary

Not you without me, not me without you.

Two proud kingdoms stand on opposite shores, with only a bloody history between them.

As best friend and lady-in-waiting to the princess, Branwen is guided by two principles: devotion to her homeland and hatred for the raiders who killed her parents. When she unknowingly saves the life of her enemy, he awakens her ancient healing magic and opens her heart. Branwen begins to dream of peace, but the princess she serves is not so easily convinced. Fighting for what’s right, even as her powers grow beyond her control, will set Branwen against both her best friend and the only man she’s ever loved.

Inspired by the star-crossed tale of Tristan and Eseult, this is the story of the legend’s true heroine: Branwen. For fans of Graceling and The Mists of Avalon, this is the first book of a lush fantasy trilogy about warring countries, family secrets, and forbidden romance.

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Review

My rating:

green25

Hi, there! I’m back with another review, this one being on Sweet Black Waves by Kristina Pérez. I received this book via NetGalley by being one of the first few people to request the ARC and read it. Now, at the time, it did really seem intriguing, being a Tristan and Eseult retelling. I remember enjoying medieval romance a lot during my time at university. But then this book reminded me why I didn’t like Tristan and Eseult when studying it briefly in school and almost wish I didn’t request it.

Don’t get me wrong; I liked some elements of the book. For instance, the sisterly bond between Branwen and Eseult was one of the best things to come out of the novel, in my opinion. The way they cared for each other, even when Eseult was being self-centred or Branwen stoic, had me rooting for this femship. They’re each other’s balm and comfort, often referencing the hazelnut and honeysuckle tree that are entwined, neither being able to live without the other (from the original tale). Also, this book got me thinking about arguments and how even though Eseult had a point in that she’s being treated more as a symbol than a person, she seems to be in the wrong because a lot of the time, she acts like a petulant child. Meanwhile, everyone else acts calmly about the fact that she’s being married off to a person she didn’t choose, worse yet because their kingdoms are enemies. But everyone else sees this as an opportunity to stop the warring between the countries and don’t see it as a problem if she marries for duty rather than love.

A main reason I gave this novel a low rating though, wasn’t because of the writing style, but because by the time I figured out that the retelling included the love potion, I knew it was only a matter of time before it was administered. The only problem was that I didn’t know when. So afterwards, I couldn’t get into the story the same way as I did before. Maybe the sequels will add some more interesting twists…

Well, that’s all for now! If you’re interested in reading medieval retellings, I would suggest reading Sweet Black Waves, since the writing style is pretty engaging. If you have any comments or questions about this book, though, let me know in the Comments Section below.

Have a nice day, everyone!

–  Sumaya

ARC Review: Star-Touched Stories by Roshani Chokshi

Summary

Three lush and adventurous stories in the Star-Touched world.

Death and Night

He was Lord of Death, cursed never to love. She was Night incarnate, destined to stay alone. After a chance meeting, they wonder if, perhaps, they could be meant for more. But danger crouches in their paths, and the choices they make will set them on a journey that will span lifetimes.

Poison and Gold

Now that her wish for a choice has come true, Aasha struggles to control her powers. But when an opportunity to help Queen Gauri and King Vikram’s new reign presents itself, she is thrown into the path of the fearsome yet enchanting Spy Mistress. To help her friends, Aasha will have to battle her insecurities and perhaps, along the way, find love.

Rose and Sword

There is a tale whispered in the dark of the Empire of Bharat-Jain. A tale of a bride who loses her bridegroom on the eve of her wedding. But is it a tale or a truth?

Sourced from Goodreads

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Review

My rating:

Hello, fellow readers! Another day, another book read! Today, I’ll be reviewing Roshani Chokshi’s Star-Touched Stories, short stories set in the same world as The Star-Touched Queen and A Crown of Wishes. I was so happy to get a chance to read this as I’ve loved the author’s previous books! And I’m glad to say that these short stories didn’t disappoint!

The collection is comprised of three short stories, focusing on the relationships of Night and Death, Aasha and Zahril, as well as Gauri and Vikram. These stories were pretty engaging in getting into the heads of the protagonist, describing the plight in such exquisite detail! And the romance! Oh, my! The romance between these characters was just amazing! It reminded me of old relationships within the previous books as well while also giving me a burgeoning new relationship that make my heart flutter!

Also, I’ve got to say that I’m a big fan of Roshani Chokshi’s writing style. It’s beautifully descriptive, with imagery that gets you right inside the stories. Even when nothing’s going on at that specific moment, I couldn’t help but enjoy the story because of the writing.

Overall, I really liked reading these short stories, with the only thing I can comment on is the fact that they’re way too short for my liking! 😉 But such is the way of a lot of the stories I’ve been reading and loving lately. I just hope to see more stories from this series! If anyone is a fan of this author’s work or would like a taste of her writing, I would definitely recommend reading Star-Touched Stories. And to those who are interested, the book comes out on August 7th, 2018!

That’s all for now! Have a wonderful day, everyone!

– Sumaya

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Review: Between the Blade and the Heart by Amanda Hocking

Summary

Valkyries have one great responsibility: to return immortals to the afterlife by slaying them. As a Valkyrie, Malin has always known that the balance of the world rests on her ability to carry out orders. But when Malin discovers that her mother spared the life of an immortal who was destined to die, her world is thrown into chaos.

Malin not only wrestles with the knowledge that her mother might not be who she thought—she’s also thrust into the path of a gorgeous blue eyed guy named Asher who needs her help slaying the rogue immortal who destroyed his family. The balance of the world is at stake. And, as Asher competes with Malin’s ex for her love and loyalty, so is her heart.

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Review

My rating:

purple3

Hey, everyone! I just finished reading Between the Blade and the Heart by Amanda Hocking! To be honest, I didn’t hear about her latest novel until around October, which seems pretty late in the game, but I was still pretty intrigued! I loved The Trylle Trilogy and The Kanin Chronicles, so I couldn’t wait to read this book! Once I started reading it though, I wasn’t as excited for it as I thought I would be…

A good reason for this might be the world-building within the novel. Usually, in the author’s past novels, the mythology is concise and easy to follow. In this case, I felt as if it was all over the place, with different mythologies coming together to create a hodgepodge all-encompassing mythological world. I just wasn’t a fan of mixing mythologies together and then just leaving holes in that world later on because of it. That and the fact that until the end, I had no clue whatsoever about where the book was set. It didn’t really bother me until Malin used some British slang and then I paused to ask myself “Wait! Where is this taking place?” Luckily, by the end, the book hints to take place in the U.S. since they mention Mexico and the border. I’m still not 100% sure… But those are just my opinions! I’m sure there are people who loved the world the novel was set in! 😉

As for the characters, while they were good for all intents and purposes, I didn’t connect with them that much. I mean, I was interested in their actions and whatnot, but that was more in terms of plot and the mystery surrounding them. Plus, I felt as if some of the characters could have used a bit more backstory. Not necessarily Malin and Quinn (I actually like the amount of backstory given to them), but Oona, Asher and even Marlow. Maybe it’s my feelings about the world building that’s clouding my judgement as well, but overall, I just didn’t click with the characters as much as I wanted to…

I guess that’s all I have to say about Between the Blade and the Heart by Amanda Hocking. At least for now. While I wasn’t into this book as much as her other novels, I hope that the second book will be better. If you have any comments or questions about this book as well as any other novels by Amanda Hocking, feel free to share them in the Comments Section below. Thanks for reading, everyone!

–  Sumaya

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Bargain: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Hi, everyone! Just wanted to let you know that the eBook version of Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake is available for $2.99 only! You can buy a copy via Amazon Kindle, Kobo, and iBooks! I really, really liked this book and cannot wait for the sequel, One Dark Throne! 😉

–  Sumaya

Blog Tour: True Born Trilogy by L.E. Sterling (True Born Review)

About the Book

True Born by L.E. Sterling

Published on May 3rd, 2016

Published by Entangled Teen

Genre: YA Fantasy/Science Fiction

Summary:

Welcome to Dominion City.

After the great Plague descended, the world population was decimated…and their genetics damaged beyond repair.

The Lasters wait hopelessly for their genes to self-destruct. The Splicers pay for expensive treatments that might prolong their life. The plague-resistant True Borns are as mysterious as they are feared…

And then there’s Lucy Fox and her identical twin sister, Margot. After endless tests, no one wants to reveal what they are.

When Margot disappears, a desperate Lucy has no choice but to put her faith in the True Borns, led by the charismatic Nolan Storm and the beautiful but deadly Jared Price. As Lucy and the True Borns set out to rescue her sister, they stumble upon a vast conspiracy stretching from Dominion’s street preachers to shady Russian tycoons. But why target the Fox sisters?

As they say in Dominion, it’s in the blood. 

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Review

My rating: purple3

Hi again! Hope everyone is having a good week so far! In honour of the latest instalment of the True Born trilogy, True North, I’m here to review the first book itself! I’ve just finished reading True Born by L.E. Sterling, and even though I liked it overall, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. It actually took me a while to finish it compared to most books I read, so maybe it had to do with that. However, I think my view of the characters and the way the exposition was handled had a lot to do with me liking the novel as well.

For instance, other than a handful of characters, I don’t think that anyone made a great impression on me throughout the novel. And that even includes our protagonist, Lucy. At times, I barely tolerated her, but there were a few moments where she caught my attention. Other than that, I also had a problem with her speech patterns because it was all over the place. Sometimes, Lucy would go from using prim and proper speech to talking regularly or in slang. And this isn’t just to different people, but in her thoughts as well. If she had stuck to one lane or the other, it would have been okay with me. But the mix in her dialogue and narrative was a bit jarring to read.

As for the exposition, while I know it’s needed for readers to gain context of the story’s world, at times it could be a bit too much, dumping information when readers could have been eased in. It felt odd at times, too, even random at one point. It’s probably why I was so slow reading this book in the beginning, because by the end of the novel, it was more fast-paced and easier to read.

The thing I liked about this book though was its world building. While the exposition surrounding Lucy and her sister Margot’s history wasn’t the greatest, the mythology surrounding the city of Dominion with a mix of science and magic was really cool. I liked seeing how that all fit together. That and learning about the Fox sisters’ puzzling DNA mystery was what made this book easier to read. It kept me going, wanting to know what would happen to them as well as what was happening to them. Overall, the book’s world building slightly redeemed the story, in my eyes.

Well, that’s all I have to say about True Born by L.E. Sterling. While I’ve got to admit that it wasn’t my favourites, it did hold an interesting appeal in terms of the world created between those pages. Hopefully this just sets the stage for book two! 😉 If you have any thoughts or questions about this book, feel free to share them in the Comments Section below. Thanks for reading, everybody!

–  Sumaya

About the Author

I was a voracious devotee of sci-fi and fantasy novels all through my childhood, so I suppose it doesn’t come as much of a shock that I’ve returned to the genre with a vengeance.

For a while I turned my back on the genre in favour of ‘high-brow’ literary texts. Ironically, it was my doctoral degree that saw me circling back. There’s something about the way postmodern literature plays with the arcane that had me utterly fascinated, and it wasn’t long until I fell headlong back into my old ways and haven’t looked back since.

My first novel, which isn’t in the Urban Fantasy or Fantasy genres, isn’t high literature, mind you, even if it tangles with some serious statements about politics and the way our western world runs. My editor described it as something between Charles Dickens and The Catcher in the Rye: Serious Fun, in other words.

My second novel, Pluto’s Gate, is where I’ve come home to myself: it’s a contemporary retelling of the Demeter-Persephone-Pluto story from Greek mythology. Folded into the mix is a Shaman-in-training, a magical book, Underworld Gods, a world covered in ice, a three-headed dog, and one lousy ex-boyfriend.

But I’ll tell you this much: I believe in the power of words and stories to transform our inner worlds. Whether the characters be vampires or vagabonds, a good narrative sucker punches so-called reality anyhow.

Author links: Website|Goodreads|Twitter

Excerpt

Read the first 6 chapters HERE

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Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

My rating:

blue4-copy

(3.75 stars)

Hello again! I’m back with another review and this one’s on Caraval by Stephanie Garber. It focuses on Scarlett, whose trapped under her father’s tyrannical rule along with her sister Tella, and has been waiting for her upcoming nuptials to escape him. Then, one day, she receives an special invitation to attend Caraval, a spectacular performance of a game where the audience has to participate in a contest in order to get the prize . This year’s prize is a wish, but in order for the participant to win the wish, they have to find the target of the game. This target turns out to be Tella, who is spirited away as soon as they reached the site of Caraval. Now, Scarlett, with the help of a rakish sailor,  must find her sister without being swept away by the magic that is Caraval.

This book is sure full of twists and turns! Throughout it all, I kept on second guessing the intentions of everyone in the book, including Scarlett. I had so many farfetched theories about Caraval – and still do! My main problem with this book though was with the instalove between our romantic pairing. This is just my bias, but I don’t like how they fell in love after knowing each other for such a short period of time. Especially when there’s an unfair disadvantage of one person knowing more about the other. It just rubbed me the wrong way, but that’s just my opinion on it… Also, I got kind of bored of it at times, and I’d notice myself skimming near the end, until that epilogue turned it around.

Scarlett herself is an interesting character, and I say that without any sarcasm. You can tell she has the potential to be an amazing heroine but limits herself in the beginning to the standards set by her father. Granted, anyone in her situation, shouldering responsibility for herself and her sister, would probably react the same way. So it was understandable that Scarlett just wanted to play things safe, even though she had that spark of adventure in her. She tempered that away in order to protect herself and sister from her father’s cruelty. There is an immense development within the book where Scarlett starts thinking more of what she wants in life rather than just wanting protection from her father or being a protector for her sister. Tella, on the other hand, remains a bit one dimensional. Mostly because it’s not in her perspective so we get Scarlett’s limited view of her. Also, I don’t see much of Tella since she is essentially kidnapped, so I never really got to know her as well as Scarlett. And from what I do know, it’s kind of off-putting. But then that epilogue made me more intrigued in Tella, so there’s that.  Overall, I loved the idea of the story centred around two sisters, but to be honest, it was more focused on Scarlett. Maybe the next book will be Tella-centric?

Well, that’s all I have to say about Caraval by Stephanie Garber. While it was a good read, it wasn’t as great as I anticipated. Have any of you read Caraval? What did you think of it? If you have any thoughts on Caraval, please leave them in the Comments Section below. Thanks for reading!

–  Sumaya

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