Posted in Book Review

Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones

Read Dates: January 18, 2022 – January 23, 2022
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
Source: owned hardback

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From Goodreads:
Six months after the end of Wintersong, Liesl is working toward furthering both her brother’s and her own musical careers. Although she is determined to look forward and not behind, life in the world above is not as easy as Liesl had hoped. Her younger brother Josef is cold, distant, and withdrawn, while Liesl can’t forget the austere young man she left beneath the earth, and the music he inspired in her.

When troubling signs arise that the barrier between worlds is crumbling, Liesl must return to the Underground to unravel the mystery of life, death, and the Goblin King—who he was, who he is, and who he will be. What will it take to break the old laws once and for all? What is the true meaning of sacrifice when the fate of the world—or the ones Liesl loves—is in her hands?

Alright… bear with me because, even though I’ve slept on it and it’s been two days, my thoughts on this book are still all over the place. One thing I can tell you for sure, though, is that two days later, this book has no special place in my heart or my head. It just was. It used to be. I read it and now I’m done with it.

They say the Hunt rides abroad when there is an imbalance between the Underground and the land of the living.

Alright so, Wintersong. I really did enjoy Wintersong! It was enjoyable and I was fangirling at the references and nods to the movie Labyrinth. When I finished Wintersong, I immediately went to Amazon and ordered the second book. I wanted, nay, NEEDED to know what was going to happen with the Goblin King and Liesl. But what I got from this book just wasn’t fulfilling.

So, it’s been half a year, and Liesl has abandoned music and is pouring herself into work at the Inn. The synopsis up there, yea, not correct. The girl hasn’t touched music since Wintersong. She refuses to. She “can’t”. Even though she promised the Goblin King she was going to play her song for him so he would hear and remember her and he could hold onto his humanity and whatever. But no. This character who changed SO MUCH in Wintersong has reverted right back as if the first book never even happened. Even the second part of the synopsis… Liesl doesn’t find her way back to the Underground until the very end! It makes it sound like she’s back in the Underground for a majority of the book but she’s not. Not at all! She doesn’t even try until almost the very end.

“Ah,” she said softly, “but what’s the use of running” – she lifted her eyes to mine – “if you are on the wrong road?”

The beginning of the book is a series of letters Liesl has written to her brother that have gone unanswered. But there isn’t really any investigation there either. Liesl doesn’t think to find a way to investigate her brother’s well-being. Not until a letter is received asking Liesl to come to Vienna and it appears to be in Josef’s handwriting. So it takes a frantic cryptic letter to get her to worry enough to investigate her brother’s well-being. Except… she STILL doesn’t! The letter gets talked about and ultimately thrown off to the side. It’s not until ANOTHER letter comes from a well-to-do individual who claims they are sheltering Josef and offers the money and means of travel to get Liesl and her sister to Vienna to join them. Now, finally, Liesl is heading to her brother. But, still, it feels like the pleading letter is completely forgotten. It’s not even mentioned when they get there! That’s the first inconsistency I’m going to mention.

Another thing that I can’t really go into too much detail about without giving things away, is a couple of characters that get introduced. Like, why? Thinking back, they didn’t have much of a purpose. They didn’t do anything significant. They didn’t drop any bombs. THe didn’t help. They didn’t hinder. They were just there.

Oh! Oh! Not to mention, Constanze, the grandmother. She starts talking all crazy calling Liesl and Kathe by her sister’s names and it turns out that was basically pointless too. It didn’t really go anywhere. I was thinking “Ooo. I bet that’s significant somehow.” Meh. Not really.

There just weren’t any exciting or “ah-ha!” moments in this book. I wasn’t really wow’ed. I suppose the end was kind of exciting. I just, I don’t know, I wasn’t impressed. There were inconsistencies, there was filler content, or what I felt was filler content. I just feel like the two books could have been condensed into one really awesome book.

My final complaint is The Goblin King. He was barely in it! Yes, we got his back story and that was cool but we hardly got any time with him in the state he’s in now. I felt like I didn’t know him anymore by the time we got to the end of the book. Which kind of made the end of the book fall flat for me.

He reaches out for her one last time, pressing his name onto her heart.
Keep me safe, he thinks. Keep me human. Keep me whole.
And then he is gone.

This wasn’t a love story about Liesl and The Goblin King, this was a love story about Liesl and her brother Josef. Which is fine, but, that wasn’t what I signed up for. I was in this story for the Goblin King and, honestly, that’s probably on me for having expectations going in. I’m just feeling a bit betrayed by this synopsis that is completely misleading and the story that felt like one of those movies that feels like it’s 4 hours long because of how much content there is that is just boring and doesn’t seem to matter in the grand scheme of things. The one where you keep checking your watch and marveling at how it’s only been half an hour and you just wish things would either get better or just hurry along.

I will say, I did enjoy the way this book was written. I enjoyed the first one for the same reason. It’s sort of poetic and old-timey and it was really fun to read. Well… Until it wasn’t. There were a lot of times something was said either in German or French or Latin and there was no explanation as to what it meant. That was a bit annoying.

Anyway, this one just wasn’t for me. I’m really disappointed and I am off to find more Labyrinth-inspired stories. I feel unfulfilled. I feel like I HAVE to find another series now to fill the hole that was just left in me from reading this duology.

Now I always say this, and this book is no exception but… there’s a chance you’ll love it! There are people who do! I just didn’t. So if what I’ve described intrigues you, by all means, go read it! It’s definitely a cool world S. Jae-Jones has built.

✌💛

Posted in Book Review

Pestilence by Laura Thalassa

Read Dates: January 19, 2022 – January 22, 2022
Date Published: September 14, 2018
Source: ebook

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From Goodreads:

They came to earth–Pestilence, War, Famine, Death–four horsemen riding their screaming steeds, racing to the corners of the world. Four horsemen with the power to destroy all of humanity. They came to earth, and they came to end us all.

When Pestilence comes for Sara Burn’s town, one thing is certain: everyone she knows and loves is marked for death. Unless, of course, the angelic-looking horseman is stopped, which is exactly what Sara has in mind when she shoots the unholy beast off his steed.

Too bad no one told her Pestilence can’t be killed.

Now the horseman, very much alive and very pissed off, has taken her prisoner, and he’s eager to make her suffer. Only, the longer she’s with him, the more uncertain she is about his true feelings towards her … and hers towards him.

And now, well, Sara might still be able to save the world, but in order to do so, she’ll have to sacrifice her heart in the process.

Is this my first five-star of the year!? I think it is!

So this was actually a spur-of-the-moment read because my best friend started reading it and told me she was about 70 pages in and felt like it was going to be a 5/5 for her. So I took a pause on the book I was currently reading and dove into this one. I’m so glad I did.

Now, I get the mixed reviews. This isn’t your conventional romance novel. It doesn’t really fall into any one romance category for me. It was just… different. It was so different from the romance novels I’m used to. I read contemporary, paranormal, historical, YA… this book doesn’t fit into any of them. It was in a league all its own.

So, our main characters for pretty much the entirety of the book are Sara and Pestilence. Sara is a firefighter who volunteers to take the last shift before evacuation. She also happens to be the firefighter who pulls the black straw, meaning she is the one who will stay behind and carry out a plan she and her coworkers came up with to attempt to kill Pestilence and end the plague that he carries with him. Despite shooting him point-blank and setting him on fire, Pestilence lives and he takes Sara captive intending to make her suffer showing no mercy the way she showed him no mercy. And so begins the story.

“Oh, for the love of—” “God?” he finishes for me, raising his eyebrows. “Do you really think He is going to help you?”

Now here’s the thing… this book stood out from its brethren in substantial ways. First of all, there wasn’t that immediate sexual interest that you get from the very first encounter in most of the romance novels (especially paranormal ones) I read. It wasn’t immediately, as my best friend put it, putting fire into anyone’s loins. Some of the things Pestilence did to make Sara “suffer” were particularly cruel. It wasn’t just one cruel instance, it was many. It went on until it didn’t. It was BELIEVABLE. That’s the big one for me. The way this book was written was completely believable. Sara tried to kill him and didn’t waver when he asked her for mercy. Then Pestilence caused Sara to suffer and, in turn, did not show Sara mercy when she asked it of him. We don’t get to hear Pestilence’s side of things but from Sara’s perspective, she hates him. She hates the way he keeps her alive and causes her hurt and it all makes SENSE.

Now, I must say, I do have a strange fascination with Stockholm Syndrome type books. I mean, Beauty and the Beast is one of my all-time favorites… so… I guess maybe that’s the difference between me and the people that didn’t care for this book. But I thought it was incredibly refreshing that the beginning of their relationship wasn’t romanticized. It was anything but. As most of these situations should be, right? Even if you *are* kidnapped by a tall, handsome, RIPPED specimen of a man.

Pestilence frowns. “Anyone who tries to get close to us is doomed. You are safe, Sara.” But I’m not. Not from him, and not from my own heart.

Another thing I noticed people complaining about was the decisions the two made being questionable to their characters but, if you ask me, they really weren’t! They totally made sense to me. I don’t want to give too much away here but there were moments when, even though Pestilence was coming to care for Sara, he would do things to upset her. Let me just explain this to you guys in one sentence, “He IS Pestilence.” He was made to spread disease. It’s his purpose. He doesn’t know human customs and values. He only knows what he was made to do and what he’s been existing to do all his life.

He rises to his feet then and walks to the door. He pauses there. “For good or for ill,” he says over his shoulder, “I have been indelibly changed by you.”

Both of these characters were just really likable for me and I’m definitely, without a doubt, going to read through the next three books in the series. I just worry that they won’t live up to this one because this one, for me, was so so so good. I mean, I gave it five stars. That’s a really hard rating to get out of me. This book had me feeling frustrated when I couldn’t get any free time to read. I wanted nothing more than to sit and read the entirety of this book in one sitting. It made me feel all the things. I had literal pangs in my chest multiple times. It made me cry for heaven’s sake. The scenes we got where it showed normal everyday people in their homes getting the plague and how they handled it… just everything about this book was so incredibly wonderful and refreshing and startling and I really hope the next three are just as good. I am especially anxious to read Death’s book.

If you like paranormal romance novels, chances are you’ll like this one. As long as you’re not super attached to the immediate sexual tension. As long as you’re willing to witness the ugly truth of this kind of situation in order to get to the romantic parts. I loved Pestilence and he was so worth it. Onto the next!

Pestilence, his crown perched upon his brow. War, with his steel blade held high. Famine, a scythe and scales at hand. And Death, blighted Death, his dark wings folded at his back, a torch of bilious smoke tight in his grip. And so it was, and so it shall be, for the Age of Man is over, and the Age of the Horseman has begun. They came to earth, and they came to end us all.

✌💛

Posted in Book Review

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

Read Dates: December 25, 2021 – December 28, 2021
Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Source: Owned hardback

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From Goodreads:

The last night of the year. Now the days of winter begin and the Goblin King rides abroad, searching for his bride…

All her life, Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, dangerous Goblin King. They’ve enraptured her mind, her spirit, and inspired her musical compositions. Now eighteen and helping to run her family’s inn, Liesl can’t help but feel that her musical dreams and childhood fantasies are slipping away.

But when her own sister is taken by the Goblin King, Liesl has no choice but to journey to the Underground to save her. Drawn to the strange, captivating world she finds—and the mysterious man who rules it—she soon faces an impossible decision. And with time and the old laws working against her, Liesl must discover who she truly is before her fate is sealed.

“Will you marry me, Elisabeth? the little boy asked, and the little girl did not wonder at how he knew her name.
Oh, she replied, but I am too young to marry.
Then I will wait, the little boy said. I will wait as long as you remember.
And the little girl laughed as she danced with the Goblin King, the little boy who was always just a little older, a little out of reach.

Listen. I LOVE David Bowie. I also LOVE the movie Labyrinth. I also pick up every single book I can find that claims to be a retelling of such or even just one that is inspired by the film. So… when I heard about this one, I ran to my local bookstore. They didn’t have it. So like any rational person on the face of the Earth, I bought it and had it rush delivered to my house. Perfectly reasonable, I know.

So anyway, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked the story. I admit, it was a bit slow going in the beginning… but then… but THEN…

I also have to mention how incredibly giddy it made me when I read a sentence that was taken straight out of the movie Labyrinth but used in a different way that fit this adaptation. I marked them all with my cute little sticky notes and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t clap after placing each one down on a page.

“I’ve given you everything you’ve ever wanted. I’m tired of living up to your expectations.

So Liesl is a plain girl living in the shadow of her beautiful sister, Kathe and her talented brother, Josef. She loves music but she is forbidden from practicing it or taking classes to hone her natural talent for it. One day while running an errand at the market for their brother, Liesl and her sister Kathe run into some merchants that turn out to be goblins. The goblins isolate Kathe and spirit her away to the Goblin King. So begins Liesl’s journey to the Underground (**squeals internally**) where she must find a way to rescue her sister and beat the Goblin King.

I must admit, I didn’t care for Kathe at all and I really did dread having to read about her. But I suspect that was the intention. Kathe is beautiful and she knows it. She flirts with all the boys she meets. She enjoys nice things like shopping, accessories fashion, and fancy confections. She’s just a lot. For my personal taste at least. Maybe that’s your thing?

Josef was a bit the same for me. He’s very timid. Liesl is living in his shadow but he is also nothing without her. He’s very emotional and lacks any self-esteem. Liesl helps him navigate through those feelings. When she leaves, he literally has no idea what to do. It’s wild. He is the baby brother though. So I guess it makes sense.

I just didn’t really want to read about anyone except Liesl and the Goblin King. But, of course, most of the beginning chapters of this book were about Liesl’s family. Which is fine, I mean, we have to learn about the things that make our main character tick. But, while we’re on the subject, this was a big reason for my taking away of stars (cats). It’s not the book’s fault in any way, it’s mostly a fault of mine. I love music but I have no clue about composition. A lot of this book was about composing music. Those parts would lose me a little bit. Especially in the beginning where that was 90% of the main focus.

Liesl was enjoyable to read. She is strong and independent and level-headed even though she is very unsure of herself and lacks self-esteem. This was ok with me, though, because it fits the character. As I said before, she lives in the shadow of her siblings so this totally makes sense for her. Where her sister was told how beautiful she was by everyone she came across and her brother was told how talented he was in music, Liesl was never given any compliments where her talents and looks were concerned. She was always just the glue that held the family together. She took on keeping her family happy and her household running smoothly.

Also, I did enjoy the way the author wrote Liesl as being “plain” and “unattractive.” Even the Goblin King admits that she’s nothing to look at. The focus here is that there are other traits a person can have that make them wonderful. This is a constant throughout the story and I found that so refreshing. At no point did Liesl gussy herself up and make herself beautiful. She didn’t need to. All she needed was the one thing she was sure of about herself: her music. I was incredibly impressed by the consistency with this as well as how much it was pushed on the reader.

The Goblin King… *sigh*. He was so interesting. I kept wanting to know more about him. He captivated me. He was hot and cold and he came and went as he pleased. He was just… I don’t know… mysterious. There was also some indication that he was a broken man, regardless of his immortality and his stature. Which I guess makes sense for the next reasoning for deduction of stars. I got a bit dizzy with the back and forth of their relationship. Every time they came together it was good and then it was bad. I was left feeling incredibly confused about the two of them which left me not believing how they felt about each other by the end of the story. The relationship part just wasn’t there for me. It felt toxic. Maybe that was the intention. I don’t know. I do intend to read the second book to hopefully find some clarification.

“Oh, Elisabeth,” he said, “I would go anywhere with you.”

The thing about Liesl, though, is she doesn’t take any of the Goblin King’s crap. She goes toe to toe with him and never backs down. She’s fiercely protective of her family and she’s willing to do just about anything to ensure their safety… including outwitting the Goblin King. She wants to beat him, yes, but she also wants to know him. She’s always had a thing for the Goblin King, ever since she was a kid. She remembers playing games with the Goblin King when they were young and she has always fantasized about the two of them being together. So when she’s basically dropped in his lap, of course she feels that pull to learn more about him. I just… I don’t know. I didn’t believe it when all was said and done.

I feel the need to tell you guys, too, that if you’re not a fan of a less than ideal ending, then this isn’t the book for you. I’m not going to give away any spoilers here, but just know, there is little resolution at the end of this book. No fairy tale endings to be found in this one. It’s honestly kind of a sad ending. However, I’m hoping that the second book will clear this bit up for me so I refrained from letting the ending reflect in how I rated the book as a whole.

One last thing I think is worth mentioning: this is labeled as a young adult novel but, well, it’s not. It certainly didn’t feel like one. The language (not foul, just… poetic?), the sex… it just didn’t feel like a young adult novel at all. I just wanted to mention this, though, for those who might be wondering if this book is ok for their younger reader. Expect them to read quite a few sex scenes. None of which are overly detailed or super explicit but it’s very clear what they’re doing.

All in all, I enjoyed the book. I enjoyed the little snippets we got from the author calling back to David Bowie’s Labyrinth. I enjoyed the concept and the world-building. I SO enjoyed the magic. It was an, overall, enjoyable read!

✌💛

Posted in Book Review

A Deal with the Elf King by Elise Kova

Read Dates: November 21,2021 – December 1, 2021
Publication Date: November 6, 2020
Source: Owned hardback

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“You are perhaps the one thing in Midscape I find terrifying.”

Maybe there’s something wrong with me… there’s probably something wrong with me.
So when I saw this book had a Hades and Persephone/Beauty and the Beast type feel, I was ALL IN.
Those are two of my absolute favorite stories. Again, because there’s probably something wrong with me. Stockholm syndrome you say? Yes, please.  

Anyway…

So this book is about a girl named Luella. She lives in a town where, for centuries, the elves have come to take a human queen. The human queen brings about the seasons and prevents the elves from being plunged into an eternal winter. In exchange for their human queen, the village receives longer life spans and protection from the wild fae and other dangerous creatures that lurk outside their borders. Unfortunately, the human queen has not presented herself and the elf king is growing impatient.

Luella is a healer within her village and she believes she is just an ordinary girl. But when the elf king comes to demand his human queen, she is revealed to have the same magical abilities every human queen before her had and is whisked away to Lafaire, the Elf King’s kingdom. She has to learn the ways of the elves and endure their harsh and unusual treatment of their human queen as well as learn how to use her new powers. Most human queens are discovered at a young age and are trained to use their magic, but Luella was not.

Let’s start with Luella. I actually really genuinely enjoyed Luella throughout the book. She didn’t exasperate me like so many main female characters in stories similar to this do. She trusted herself and questioned the things that her predecessors had not been willing to. She truly wants to do good for her people and she believes going with Eldas is the right thing to do for them. She does feel sad, however, that she is leaving her village as their only healer. The people in her village even donated money so that she could go off to school to become a better healer. She feels indebted to them, yes, but she also just feels this love for everyone in her community. It’s also hard on her as she is carted off as a plague has broken out in her village. She’s just an all-around great character with a good head on her shoulders who just genuinely cares. It’s refreshing.

Eldas. Now, of course, he’s tall and brooding and mysterious… so… Yea. He had my full attention. Eldas is just as duty motivated as Luella. He wants to do right by his people and he wants to keep his subjects happy and comfortable. He feels the need to continue on with this tradition of taking a human queen to bring about the end of winter. However, he also feels a bit trapped by this old tradition. Not to mention, he has started to maybe start to have feelings for Luella.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see the plot of this book and where it was heading. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. This was honestly such a good read with two incredible main characters and equally enjoyable secondary characters who just made my heart so happy. The entire thing was so so so good. The plot, the character building, the relationship building with not only our two main characters but with all the other characters as well. The story was just *chef’s kiss*.

I will say, there were times when I was desperate to have chapters showing Eldas’ point of view. But this didn’t take away from my liking of the book at all. I was still so entranced and so enchanted by the whole thing.

Now, I will say… there’s not a whole lot of “adventuring” in this book. I typically like my fantasy books to have a bit of adventure if only for the sake of seeing this world the author has envisioned for the characters. This book takes place, for the most part, in the Elf King’s castle. So, if you’re off-put by a book without adventure, this isn’t the one for you.

I honestly enjoyed the simplicity of this story though. It was just the story of two people bound by duty who lived for others but in the end, helped each other find themselves. It was incredibly enjoyable and I honestly got a lot of David Bowie’s “Labyrinth” vibes which is pretty much an instant two thumbs up from me!

✌💛