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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

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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

 

Review: Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand

Summary

Beware of the woods and the dark, dank deep.

He’ll follow you home, and he won’t let you sleep.

Who are the Sawkill Girls?

Marion: the new girl. Awkward and plain, steady and dependable. Weighed down by tragedy and hungry for love she’s sure she’ll never find.

Zoey: the pariah. Luckless and lonely, hurting but hiding it. Aching with grief and dreaming of vanished girls. Maybe she’s broken—or maybe everyone else is.

Val: the queen bee. Gorgeous and privileged, ruthless and regal. Words like silk and eyes like knives, a heart made of secrets and a mouth full of lies.

Their stories come together on the island of Sawkill Rock, where gleaming horses graze in rolling pastures and cold waves crash against black cliffs. Where kids whisper the legend of an insidious monster at parties and around campfires.

Where girls have been disappearing for decades, stolen away by a ravenous evil no one has dared to fight… until now.

Sourced from Goodreads

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Review

Hey, everyone! It’s been a while since I read Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand, but I really wanted to talk about it. There was just something about this book that made me read on, even as I long interest at the end. Overall, I thought it was a pretty good book and want to see what else Claire Legrand has to offer, like Furyborn.

Firstly, I was a big fan of the urban legends surrounding Sawkill Rock and its inhabitants.  Not only was it super creepy, but it was also pretty relevant to the town’s culture as well as the patriarchy. Isn’t that what urban legends spring from? Something true? There was a lot about how girls and women are treated as a whole, from the monsters who haunt their every move to the “heroes” that are supposed to banish these monsters (not talking about our protagonists in this case, but a secret organization that I will say no more about for fear of spoilers). The line is blurred between the two to the point where you don’t know who to trust. And that’s probably the point.

The characters themselves had really great POVs, and there wasn’t a character I wanted to read more than the other. That, in itself, is pretty rare for me, since I usually have a favourite character whose story I’d like to get back to over the others. While these POVs did intertwine, I loved how each character developed and at the end of the novel, there was real change in them versus the beginning of the novel. There was a good moment where I thought that at least two of the protagonists might have been compromised and joined the dark side… But I won’t tell you which ones; you’ll just have to find out on your own! 😉

Well, that’s all I have to say about Sawkill Girls, other than the fact that the cover is super gorgeous! If you have any questions or thoughts about this novel or whether I should read Furyborn, leave a comment in the section below. Thanks for reading!

–  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.

Sourced from Goodreads

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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.

Blog Tour: Star-Touched Stories by Roshani Chokshi (Q&A)

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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Hey, everyone! I’m back on a blog tour! This one is on the short story collection Star-Touched Stories by Roshani Chokshi, which btw I loved! If you want to see my full review, click here! But today’s post is dedicated to some amazing questions and answers! 😉

Q&A

  1. Out of all the characters in your novels, which one did you have the most fun writing about and who do you relate to the most personally? What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your characters?
  2. In the world of the Star – Touched Queen, I think the one who I related to the most was also the one that I had the most fun writing: Kamala! There’s just something about the demon horse that resonated a lot with me. I think it’s because she does everything that I would do in a fantasy story, which is frantically derail the plot and whine to her friends about how hungry she is all the time.
  3. What inspired you to create this fictional world? Were there anyRomo mythologies that particularly inspired you? I was really inspired by the childhood stories that my grandmother told me. To me, they were so rich with details and texture that it really shocked me how these worlds and mythologies were never explored in mainstream literature. I was particularly inspired by Greek and Hindu mythology.
  4. Why did you feel it was important to add Star-Touched Stories to this world you’ve created?  What do you want readers to gain from the stories? Do you think there are any more stories to tell from the Star-Touched world, and if so, who you most like to write about next? For me, this collection of stories is my farewell to the world that I created. It was extremely cathartic to write these three stories. I want readers to gain a sense of closure. I want readers to feel as much as I did when I with the stories. Who can say whether or not there are more stories left to tell in this world? 😉
  5. Will you miss writing this world and characters? Absolutely! They lived in my head for so long that I feel strangely weightless to be without them.
  6. What was your favorite scene to write from Star-Touched Stories, and what was your favorite scene to write from the whole series? Honestly, my favorite scene that I wrote was the last scene the last story. I think you’ll see why. As for my favorite scene that I wrote from the whole series, I think it would have to be the moment when Maya first enters the Night Bazaar.
  7. Is there a scene or character from one of your stories that you’ve had to cut which you really wish you could share with readers? There once was a speaking monkey character… But I had to let go of him. Maybe he’ll reappear some other time.
  8. How is writing short stories different than writing a full-length book? How different is it to write YA and MG? How has your writing evolved? Writing short stories is really different from writing a full-length book because you’re ultimately writing to a punchline in a shorter amount of space. There is less space to explore so the language must be very deliberate. I think my writing has evolved to become a lot more character focused than I once was. I still love gorgeous, decadent prose, but I believe that the best kind of language is that which is emotionally filtered through the feelings of a character.
  9. What is the best advice you would give to inspiring writers? Read often. I realize that sounds trite, but so many people retread the same path with stories out of comfort or nostalgia. I totally understand this and I’m one of those people who loves to reread my favorite books but I never found a sense of my own writing voice or writing style without reading a wide variety of works.
  10. What sort of music do you listen to when you write? I mostly listen to music to get me in the mood for writing rather than listening to music to get me through a scene. I think the only times I listen to music when I’m writing is if I’m in a third or fourth round of revisions. Otherwise I get distracted.
  11. If any of your books were given an adaptation, would you rather it be a movie, TV show, web series, or stage musical? For The Gilded Wolves, I would rather see that as a miniseries. For both books in the Star-Touched universe, I’d rather see those as movies.
  12. Favorite myth and how has it inspired your writing? What was your inspiration for these stories? I think my favorite myth is Hades and Persephone. I love the atmosphere, the goth undercurrent, the power dynamic. I love the movement of princess to Queen.
  13. Do you remember the first book that made you fall in love with reading? Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. That was the first fairytale retelling book I ever read and it shocked me because I didn’t realize you could do something like that! It opened my imagination to a whole new realm of narrative possibilities.

About the Author

Roshani Chokshi CREDIT Aman SharmaRoshani Chokshi is the New York Times bestselling author of The Star-Touched Queen and A CROWN OF WISHES. Her middle grade debut, ARU SHAH AND THE END OF TIME, released April 3, 2018 from Disney/Rick Riordan Presents. Her next young adult novel, THE GILDED WOLVES, is slated for Winter 2019. Chokshi’s work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Shimmer, and Book Smugglers. She was a finalist in the 2016 Andre Norton Award and the Locus Top Ten for Best First Novel. Her short story, “The Star Maiden,” was longlisted for the British Fantasy Science Award.

 

Author links: Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram

Thanks for reading, everyone! And remember, if you’re interested, Star-Touched Stories is available for purchase on August 7th, 2018!

Have a nice day!

–  Sumaya

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