‘White Stag’ spoiler-free review!

Hello all! Today, I’m reviewing White Stag by Kara Barbieri which was one of my anticipated releases in 2019! Sadly, I felt a bit let down by it. Want to know why? Keep reading… 😉

white stag


synopsis

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.


my thoughts

First things first, I love a good goblin story. Tell me a book has goblins in it and I will immediately be interested. Add in a frozen wilderness and you can understand why I was so eager to read this one. And while I did like aspects of it, it didn’t work for me as a whole.

The setting was pretty good but didn’t feel 100% realised. I felt as if the random Norse elements were kind of thrown in and didn’t add anything to my enjoyment of the story; if anything, they felt jarring and unnecessary.

There was a quality to this book that I can’t quite put my finger on but it was one which held me back from giving a higher rating. It was a kind of immaturity? I don’t want to come across as judgemental but I could definitely tell that this book started out in life on Wattpad. I feel like it needed even more editing than what it would have received. The writing was very repetitive and juvenile.

But listen. It wasn’t all bad. I did appreciate the mental health themes (particularly as these are still pretty rare in fantasy novels). The exploration of Janneke’s PTSD and her journey of healing from that trauma were nicely done and it’s just a shame that the writing quality detracted from what could have been a very powerful book.

I feel like this review was so harsh! And I didn’t mean it to be. I always hate to criticise a book knowing someone put their heart and soul into it. But hey, maybe this one will work for you where it didn’t work for me – I know plenty of readers who loved it. We can’t enjoy them all!

white stag


What are you all reading these days? Are you enjoying it? Let me know in the comments! xsignature (2)

 

January 2020 Wrap-Up!

Hello my lovelies! I can’t believe we’re already looking at the first wrap-up of 2020! January has simultaneously felt a million years long but also over in the blink of an eye?!

From the quality of books I’ve read this month, I’m feeling good about what’s to come this year. Last year felt very ‘meh’ in reading terms and I didn’t discover many new all-time favourites but I have a feeling 2020 is going to be amazing!

january 2020 wrapup


Review Books

Magpie by Sophie Draper

This is the second book I’ve read by Sophie Draper and while I loved the first, I was disappointed by this one. I found it dull and meandering but I’m hoping the author’s next book will be more like her debut.

 

Pine by Francine Toon

I loved this Gothic debut with its atmospheric setting and eerie mythological ties. I questioned the ending slightly but on the whole, this was a very enjoyable read!

 

Not So Pure and Simple by Lamar Giles

I loved everything about this one. It had me giggling before the end of the first page and it has stayed with me long after finishing it. I definitely recommend this one for fans of great characters.

All The Rage by Cara Hunter

My first Cara Hunter did not disappoint. I found this to be a compelling and original thriller, which addressed important and timely issues.

 

Bad Island by Stanley Donwood

This graphic novel was a fast read but one which was stark and haunting. I’ll be reviewing it soon so keep your eyes open!


Books from my TBR

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

My first read of the year was one which I was highly anticipating and which didn’t let me down. This gorgeous book was an incredible reading experience and one that I recommend to all fantasy fans.

 

The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell

This middle grade was a Christmas gift from one of my besties and I really enjoyed it. You know me by now, wintery aesthetics are my jam 😉

White Stag by Kara Barbieri

I had been anticipating this one for a good while but sadly, it was a bit of a let-down. I found it very repetitive and there was an immaturity to the tone that I didn’t enjoy. Full review coming soon!

 

A Storm of Ice and Stars by Lisa Lueddecke

Oh look, we’re back with that winter aesthetic. This was a prequel to A Shiver of Snow and Sky which I read a few years ago and loved. While this one didn’t grab me as much as that one did, I still really enjoyed it. Lueddecke’s writing is lovely.


Rereads

No rereads yet this year but I have a few planned for the coming months!


Stats

Total pages: 3147

Average pages per day: 101.5

Longest book: The Starless Sea (498 pages)

Shortest book: Bad Island (144 pages)

Favourite read of the month: Not So Pure and Simple/The Starless Sea (for very different reasons!)

Biggest disappointment of the month: Magpie

Male authors: 2

Female authors: 7

Multiple authors: 0

january 2020 wrapup


How many books did you read in January? Which was your favourite? Let me know in the comments! xsignature (2)

February 2020 Anticipated Releases!

Hey everyone! January is finally over after what feels like a million years so it’s time for the year to go into overdrive as it always does! There are more amazing books coming out this month so let’s take a look, shall we?

[As always, all covers and synopses are taken from Goodreads, and I have used UK release dates that are correct as far as I’m aware. It always upsets me when I post these and then book releases get pushed back haha.]

February


Blood Countess by Lana Popovic

Release date: February 3rd

blood countess

A historical YA horror novel based on the infamous real-life inspiration for Countess Dracula

In 16th century Hungary, Anna Darvulia has just begun working as a scullery maid for the young and glamorous Countess Elizabeth Báthory. When Elizabeth takes a liking to Anna, she’s vaulted to the dream role of chambermaid, a far cry from the filthy servants’ quarters below. She receives wages generous enough to provide for her family, and the Countess begins to groom Anna as her friend and confidante. It’s not long before Anna falls completely under the Countess’s spell—and the Countess takes full advantage. Isolated from her former friends, family, and fiancé, Anna realizes she’s not a friend but a prisoner of the increasingly cruel Elizabeth. Then come the murders, and Anna knows it’s only a matter of time before the Blood Countess turns on her, too.

Why I’m interested: I loved Popovic’s debut, Wicked Like A Wildfire, with its gorgeous writing and sensory detail. I’m ashamed to say I still haven’t read the sequel because I suck. But I’m still excited to see that Popovic is releasing a new book, this one a reimagining of the life of Elizabeth Bathory!


The Stars We Steal by Alexa Donne

Release date: February 4th

the stars we steal

Engagement season is in the air. Eighteen-year-old Princess Leonie “Leo” Kolburg, heir to a faded European spaceship, only has one thing on her mind: which lucky bachelor can save her family from financial ruin?

But when Leo’s childhood friend and first love Elliot returns as the captain of a successful whiskey ship, everything changes. Elliot was the one that got away, the boy Leo’s family deemed to be unsuitable for marriage. Now, he’s the biggest catch of the season and he seems determined to make Leo’s life miserable. But old habits die hard, and as Leo navigates the glittering balls of the Valg Season, she finds herself failing for her first love in a game of love, lies, and past regrets.

Why I’m interested: This was the first ARC I received from Titan Books this year and they have been spoiling me ever since! This sounds like it could be a little bit cheesy but a lot of fun.


Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland

Release date: February 4th

deathless divide

After the fall of Summerland, Jane McKeene hoped her life would get simpler: Get out of town, stay alive, and head west to California to find her mother.

But nothing is easy when you’re a girl trained in putting down the restless dead, and a devastating loss on the road to a protected village called Nicodermus has Jane questioning everything she thought she knew about surviving in 1880’s America.

What’s more, this safe haven is not what it appears – as Jane discovers when she sees familiar faces from Summerland amid this new society. Caught between mysteries and lies, the undead, and her own inner demons, Jane soon finds herself on a dark path of blood and violence that threatens to consume her.

But she won’t be in it alone.

Katherine Deveraux never expected to be allied with Jane McKeene. But after the hell she has endured, she knows friends are hard to come by – and that Jane needs her, too, whether Jane wants to admit it or not.

Watching Jane’s back, however, is more than she bargained for, and when they both reach a breaking point, it’s up to Katherine to keep hope alive – even as she begins to fear that there is no happily-ever-after for girls like her.

Why I’m interested: I’ve tried not to read that blurb because the first book, Dread Nation, is still unread on my shelf and I don’t want spoilers. Now that Titan Books have provided me with a free copy of this sequel, I’m absolutely determined to get to this series. It sounds awesome!


Below by Alexandria Warwick

Release date: February 4th

below alexandria warwick

In the heart of the frigid North, there lives a demon known as the Face Stealer. Eyes, nose, mouth—nothing and no one is safe. Once he returns to his lair, or wherever it is he dwells, no one ever sees those faces again.

When tragedy strikes, Apaay embarks on a perilous journey to find her sister’s face—yet becomes trapped in a labyrinth ruled by a sinister girl named Yuki. The girl offers Apaay a deal: find her sister’s face hidden within the labyrinth, and she will be set free. But the labyrinth, and those who inhabit it, is not as it seems. Especially Numiak: darkly beautiful, powerful, whose motives are not yet clear.

With time slipping, Apaay is determined to escape the deadly labyrinth with her sister’s face in hand. But in Yuki’s harsh world, Apaay will need all her strength to survive.

Yuki only plays the games she wins.

Why I’m interested: What initially drew me to this one was the fact that I share a first name with the author. That’s always weirdly exciting for me 😀 But the more I learn about this one, the more interested I become; it’s based on Innuit mythology! And it fits my aesthetic perfectly.


Heartstopper: Volume 3 by Alice Oseman

Release date: February 6th

heartstopper volume 3

In this volume we’ll see the Heartstopper gang go on a school trip to Paris! Not only are Nick and Charlie navigating a new city, but also telling more people about their relationship AND learning more about the challenges each other are facing in private…

Meanwhile Tao and Elle will face their feelings for each other, Tara and Darcy share more about their relationship origin story, and the teachers supervising the trip seem… rather close…?

Why I’m interested: Nick and Charlie, my precious boys. I’m not sure a cuter graphic novel series exists.


What Kind of Girl by Alyssa Sheinmel

Release date: February 6th

what kind of girl

The girls at North Bay Academy are taking sides. It all started when Mike Parker’s girlfriend showed up with a bruise on her face. Or, more specifically, when she walked into the principal’s office and said Mike hit her. But the students have questions: Why did she go to the principal and not the police? Why did she stay so long if he was hurting her? Obviously, if it’s true, Mike should be expelled. But is it true? Some girls want to rally for his expulsion – and some want to rally around Mike. The only thing that the entire student body can agree on? Someone is lying. And the truth has to come out.

Why I’m interested: I’ve been keeping an eye on Alyssa Sheinmel ever since reading Faceless (way back before my bookstagram days!) Her books always seem to tackle important subjects and this one sounds no different.


Glass Town by Isabel Greenberg

Release date: February 6th

glass town

The entrancing story of the Brontë sisters’ childhood imaginary world, from the New York Times bestselling graphic novelist

Four children: Charlotte, Branwell, Emily and Anne have invented a world so real and vivid that they can step right into it. But can reality be enough, when fiction is so enticing? And what happens to an imaginary world when its creators grow up?

Plots are spiralling, characters are getting wildly out of hand, and a great deal of ink is being spilt…

Welcome to Glass Town.

Why I’m interested: I loved The Encyclopaedia of Early Earth by this author and now she’s created a graphic novel about the Brontes?! I’m in.


The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Release date: February 6th

the mercies kiran millwood hargrave

Finnmark, Norway, 1617. Twenty-year-old Maren Magnusdatter stands on the craggy coast, watching the sea break into a sudden and reckless storm. Forty fishermen, including her brother and father, are drowned and left broken on the rocks below. With the menfolk wiped out, the women of the tiny Arctic town of Vardø must fend for themselves.

Three years later, a sinister figure arrives. Absalom Cornet comes from Scotland, where he burned witches in the northern isles. He brings with him his young Norwegian wife, Ursa, who is both heady with her husband’s authority and terrified by it. In Vardø, and in Maren, Ursa sees something she has never seen before: independent women. But Absalom sees only a place untouched by God, and flooded with a mighty evil.

As Maren and Ursa are drawn to one another in ways that surprise them both, the island begins to close in on them, with Absalom’s iron rule threatening Vardø’s very existence.

Inspired by the real events of the Vardø storm and the 1621 witch trials, The Mercies is a story of love, evil, and obsession, set at the edge of civilization.

Why I’m interested: Here’s another book that is perfectly my aesthetic. Witches and frozen settings? Yes please. Plus I’ve enjoyed Hargrave’s writing previously.


Turtle Under Ice by Juleah del Rosario

Release date: February 11th

turtle under ice

Rowena feels like her family is a frayed string of lights that someone needs to fix with electrical tape. After her mother died a few years ago, she and her sister, Ariana, drifted into their own corners of the world, each figuring out in their own separate ways how to exist in a world in which their mother is no longer alive.

But then Ariana disappears under the cover of night in the middle of a snowstorm, leaving no trace or tracks. When Row wakes up to a world of snow and her sister’s empty bedroom, she is left to piece together the mystery behind where Ariana went and why, realizing along the way that she might be part of the reason Ariana is gone.

Haunting and evocative—and told in dual perspectives—Turtle Under Ice examines two sisters frozen by grief as they search for a way to unthaw.

Why I’m interested: As you know, I’m always on the look-out for books that address mental health issues. This sounds like it could be a difficult but amazing read.


The Library of the Unwritten by A. J. Hackwith

Release date: February 11th

library of the unwritten

Join the library and raise hell in the first book of a stunning new fantasy series, where books unfinished by their authors reside within the Unwritten Wing of the devil’s own library, and restless characters will emerge from out of their pages…

Every book left unfinished by its author is filed away in the Unwritten Wing, a neutral space in Hell presided over by Claire, its head librarian. Along with repairing and organizing books, her job consists of keeping an eye on restless stories whose characters risk materialising and escaping the library.

When a Hero escapes from his book and goes in search of his author, Claire must track and capture him with the help of former muse and current assistant Brevity and nervous demon courier Leto. But what should have been a simple retrieval goes horrifyingly wrong, in a chase that threatens to reshape the boundaries between Heaven, Hell… and Earth.

Why I’m interested: As far as I’m aware, this book already came out in America last year. I’m so glad it has come to the UK because it sounds incrdible. Any book about books is already well on its way to a win with me.


The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

Release date: February 20th

sun down motel

The secrets lurking in a rundown roadside motel ensnare a young woman, just as they did her aunt thirty-five years before, in this new atmospheric suspense novel from the national bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.

Upstate NY, 1982. Every small town like Fell, New York, has a place like the Sun Down Motel. Some customers are from out of town, passing through on their way to someplace better. Some are locals, trying to hide their secrets. Viv Delaney works as the night clerk to pay for her move to New York City. But something isn’t right at the Sun Down, and before long she’s determined to uncover all of the secrets hidden…

Why I’m interested: I remember being interested in The Broken Girls when it came out but I’m yet to obtain a copy. This sounds like another great read from Simone St. James with a potentially great setting.


The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow

Release date: February 25th

the sound of stars

Two years ago, a misunderstanding between the leaders of Earth and the invading Ilori resulted in the deaths of one-third of the world’s population.

Seventeen-year-old Janelle “Ellie” Baker survives in an Ilori-controlled center in New York City. Deemed dangerously volatile because of their initial reaction to the invasion, humanity’s emotional transgressions are now grounds for execution. All art, books and creative expression are illegal, but Ellie breaks the rules by keeping a secret library. When a book goes missing, Ellie is terrified that the Ilori will track it back to her and kill her.

Born in a lab, M0Rr1S (Morris) was raised to be emotionless. When he finds Ellie’s illegal library, he’s duty-bound to deliver her for execution. The trouble is, he finds himself drawn to human music and in desperate need of more. They’re both breaking the rules for love of art—and Ellie inspires the same feelings in him that music does.

Ellie’s—and humanity’s—fate rests in the hands of an alien she should fear. M0Rr1S has a lot of secrets, but also a potential solution—thousands of miles away. The two embark on a wild and dangerous road trip with a bag of books and their favourite albums, all the while making a story and a song of their own that just might save them both.

Why I’m interested: First of all, have you seen that cover? Secondly, talk of a secret library, an AI/alien who loves human music, and a road trip sound like ingredients for a fun read.



What books are you looking forward to this month? Are any of these on your radar? Let me know in the comments! xsignature (2)