ARC Review: Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

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Frozen meets The Bloody Chamber in this feminist fantasy reimagining of the Snow White fairytale.

At sixteen, Mina’s mother is dead, her magician father is vicious, and her silent heart has never beat with love for anyone—has never beat at all, in fact, but she’d always thought that fact normal. She never guessed that her father cut out her heart and replaced it with one of glass. When she moves to Whitespring Castle and sees its king for the first time, Mina forms a plan: win the king’s heart with her beauty, become queen, and finally know love. The only catch is that she’ll have to become a stepmother.

Fifteen-year-old Lynet looks just like her late mother, and one day she discovers why: a magician created her out of snow in the dead queen’s image, at her father’s order. But despite being the dead queen made flesh, Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina. She gets her wish when her father makes Lynet queen of the southern territories, displacing Mina. Now Mina is starting to look at Lynet with something like hatred, and Lynet must decide what to do—and who to be—to win back the only mother she’s ever known…or else defeat her once and for all.

Entwining the stories of both Lynet and Mina in the past and present, Girls Made of Snow and Glass traces the relationship of two young women doomed to be rivals from the start. Only one can win all, while the other must lose everything—unless both can find a way to reshape themselves and their story.

review

****Big thank you to Flatiron Books for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!****

This was a very unique and creative take on Snow White and one that I really did enjoy especially with the minor F/F romance and feminist themes! However, there was just something not there for me to rate this any higher than 3.5 unfortunately.

PLOT

My biggest complaint about this book is the extremely uneven pacing because it would have me turning pages eager to know more or I’d set the book down and not pick it up for days it was so slow. This is a problem for me since it’s harder for me to want to finish a book when it gets super slow after being so good! I have to say the end  and the middle is where it slowed down significantly for me and thought the first 40%-50% was much better.

The story is told in two different POVs one is Mina, the Queen and stepmother, and Lynet, the princess. In this way Mina is the “evil Queen” and Lynet is “Snow White”. The story revolves around Mina wanting to keep her power as Queen so she can be loved even though her heart is made of glass and Lynet is supposed to take her place but would rather spend her time climbing the castle walls and spending time with the new surgeon. Personally I found Mina’s chapters to be much more interesting.

As I already mentioned this book is a little slower with the pacing since it’s a very character driven story and doesn’t have an action packed plot by any means. I really loved the overall themes of feminism, family not being only blood, and being accepted for you who are and not who you “should” be. I also thought the general retelling of the Snow White fairy tale was done very well here, very creative and unique, and I loved seeing the twists on certain elements such as the enchanted mirror, huntsman, and poison apple!

The writing was also very well done and compelling…just saying. It really was wonderfully written and helped set the atmosphere for a fairy tale retelling.

I kind of stated already that I loved the themes in this book and I really appreciated that this is a book that focuses on female empowerment and women helping and supporting other women. Instead of Mina and Lynet fighting each other for the sake of power and the whims of oppressive men they stood against that and helped and supported each other. And that’s awesome.

characters

Now to the characters which were the best part and what drove the story forward!

Mina was by far my favorite character, I really thought her chapters and flashbacks were the most interesting parts of this story. Her character had so much depth and development throughout the book and we really see so many layers to her. She was raised motherless and by a father who constantly tells her that with her glass heart she cannot love or be loved. In her desperation for love she makes some bad choices but ultimately she is a very sympathetic character.

Lynet is the main character overall but she wasn’t as interesting to me as Mina, probably since she’s younger and there isn’t as much complexity to her character. She is constantly being compared to her late mother and instead of allowing herself to be groomed for the throne she would rather spend her time climbing and getting into mischief. I found myself really sympathizing with her though since she just wants to be her own person and not be a version of her mother like everyone wants. Lynet does grow over the course of the story significantly though as she learns she can use her power as queen to help people and help her kingdom.

The only other characters of any importance in the story would be King Nicholas, Mina’s father Gregory, Nadia the surgeon, and Felix the huntsman. King Nicholas and Gregory the magician were probably my least favorite characters since they’re both men trying to rule over and pressure our female characters Lynet and Mina (their daughters respectively). Sure King Nicholas doesn’t go about ruling over his daughter Lynet in an abusive way like Gregory rules over Mina, but he still tries to force her mother’s image on her. As for Gregory….he is straight up an asshole….just saying.

Nadia’s character was very interesting and she does play the love interest for Lynet which was a very slow-burn and sweet romance. Nadia actually develops quite a bit over the story even though she doesn’t play a huge role in it.

Felix plays the role of the huntsman and he is….adorable. I thought the take on his character was very, very creative and he actually grew a lot considering he’s more of a minor character.

romance

The romance does not play a central role in this book at all but it is there! It’s an F/F romance between Lynet, our Snow White character, and Nadia. I really loved the romance here since it didn’t overtake the main plot line and it was a nice slow burn romance, it was also very adorable!

in conclusion

I did really enjoy this book and think it’s a very creative take on the Snow White fairy tale but the pacing was something I had a hard time looking past while reading. There wasn’t much action which I understand but it would have been nice to have a little more and a few more complex side characters as well! Minor complaints those last two though.

What I Loved:

  • F/F, slow burn romance
  • Great feminist themes
  • Fantastic characters that were well developed
  • The writing was done well
  • Creative take on Snow White

What I Didn’t Love:

  • Not a whole lot of action
  • Very uneven pacing (most of the time a little on the slow side)
  • Would have liked a few more complex characters

RECOMMEND

I do recommend checking this book out especially if you’re looking for a good Snow White retelling or even just a book that has some great feminist themes!

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository

The Sassy

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ARC Review: Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller

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Sallot Leon is a thief, and a good one at that. But gender fluid Sal wants nothing more than to escape the drudgery of life as a highway robber and get closer to the upper-class and the nobles who destroyed their home.

When Sal Leon steals a poster announcing open auditions for the Left Hand, a powerful collection of the Queen’s personal assassins named for the rings she wears — Ruby, Emerald, Amethyst, and Opal — their world changes. They know it’s a chance for a new life.

Except the audition is a fight to the death filled with clever circus acrobats, lethal apothecaries, and vicious ex-soldiers. A childhood as a common criminal hardly prepared Sal for the trials. But Sal must survive to put their real reason for auditioning into play: revenge.

review

****Huge thank you to Sourcebooks Fire for sending me an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review!****

There seem to be a lot of mixed feelings on this book with people either DNF’ing their ARCs or loving them, fortunately I was one of the people who LOVED it! I was very pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed “Mask of Shadows” everything about it was entertaining and it really blew away all of my expectations!

Trigger Warnings: Misgendering and Much Violence (gets pretty brutal at times)

PLOT

As you can see in the descriptions right away this is being compared to books by both Sarah J. Maas and Leigh Bardugo but let me tell you I thought this book was so much better than those! You can see the similarities to the plot of this book and that of “Throne of Glass” right away, which I did, but trust me when I tell you I thought this was far better than “Throne of Glass”. “Mask of Shadows” was essentially everything I had wanted “Throne of Glass” to actually be: full of action, brutal violence, and a main character who isn’t all talk! So I personally thought the descriptions didn’t do this book justice, or it did in case you’re a big fan of either of those authors I suppose.

I really loved how we are tossed into some action immediately at the beginning of the story and we don’t waste anytime getting into all the action the synopsis promised! Of course considering the fact that Sal is auditioning to become part of the Left Hand there is quite a bit of training in many various areas so those parts can become a bit tedious, I personally found them enjoyable though. I also liked how none of the contestants were messing around either, they were hardcore! I actually really liked how brutal and violent the lot of them were because this means the author wasn’t sugar coating the fact that these people are trying out to be ASSASSINS. That’s what they do.

While the pacing wasn’t necessarily fast and went kind of back and forth a little bit, I still never got bored while reading since there was always something going on. The action definitely wasn’t lacking here! But as I said the pacing did go back and forth pretty erratically.

The plot was very entertaining, even though it seems it could be a run of the mill YA fantasy plot. Sal’s thirst for revenge and the lengths they go to achieve the revenge was interesting to read about and definitely had me rooting for them.

Another thing that was very well done was the world building but I could have used a little more of it as well. I thought one of the most interesting points were the “shadows” which I won’t go into detail about but the descriptions honestly terrified me! I personally never felt like I was being “info dumped” on but I could see some people getting annoyed with the amount of info being spilled all at once throughout reading.

There were quite a few shocking plot twists and that ending definitely has me dying to read the sequel!

characters

One of the best things about “Mask of Shadows” is the fact that the main character, Sal, is gender fluid, that’s right we have a gender fluid main character in a YA fantasy! While I personally cannot say whether this was represented well or not I read a review from an amazing blogger I follow (Avery @ The Book Deviant) who has an own voices review up that I will link for you to check out!

It’s stated in the book that Sal prefers to use the she/her pronouns when dressed as a woman, the he/his pronouns when dressed as a man, and they/their pronouns when dressed as neither. Since this is just a book review I will refer to Sal using the they/their pronouns.

Sal was a fantastic character and I really adored them, they just had so much spunk and spirit. However, they also came with their flaws as well from the rough past that they’ve had and what they’re willing to do to get their revenge as well. I LOVED that Sal came into the competition with a realistic set of skills and admitted that they didn’t know everything and did their best to learn other skills worthy of an assassin. That is so unbelievable refreshing, a main character that doesn’t magically have ALL the skills!

I’d also like to take a moment here to discuss the cases of misgendering Sal that occurred in the book. This happens in one instance at the beginning of the story and Sal corrects them right away explaining how they liked to be addressed according to what they are wearing and it doesn’t happen again. However, there is a more villainous character that misgenders Sal more than a few times and Sal challenges it immediately, which I loved. There is just one thing that goes along with this that I wanted to mention was that Sal states they like to be addressed as they dress: dresses for she/her and trousers/tunics/leggings for he/him. Now I KNOW this is just a fantasy and most clothing is gendered and that’s accepted but when Sal is misgendered by what they are wearing they state that “clearly” they are a woman/man by how they are dressed and would get very angry (which is understandable of course). I just kind of didn’t like this considering the fact that women and men can dress in whatever clothes they like and not have to identify as that gender based off of the clothes they are wearing, especially since this is a book about a diverse character.

Food for thought and hopefully that made some sort of sense.

AS for the secondary characters I really enjoyed quite a few of them but mostly I adored the other members of the Queen’s Left Hand: Emerald, Amethyst, and Ruby (MOST OF ALL RUBY!). I didn’t have too hard of a time keeping track of the other contestants but it did get a little annoying at times considering they were only ever referred to by number. Elise was also a pretty great character and I loved that she was diverse as well (either bisexual or pansexual) since she states that she’s interested in more than just men.

There is a romance in this story but it doesn’t take central stage and is more of a minor plot device. It really wasn’t anything special though and was more of your run of the mill YA fantasy romance.

in conclusion

Overall I really did have a great time reading this book and it surpassed ALL of my expectations!

What I Loved:

  • Genderfluid and overall fantastic main character
  • Stabby plot that doesn’t sugarcoat!
  • Interesting world building
  • Great secondary characters (mostly Ruby…)

What I Didn’t Love:

  • Erratic pacing
  • Sal’s outlook (or just the book’s) on gendered clothing

RECOMMEND

I highly recommend checking out this book whether you’re looking for a fun new YA fantasy or if you’re looking for a great diverse read as well!

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository

The Sassy

Discussion Post: Physical ARCs versus E-Galleys

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I have been meaning to discuss in some way, shape, or form ARCs on my blog for some time, however, I just feel that I don’t have that much experience with them to properly do a post about them. That being said I’d just like to take the time to discuss with all of you, no matter your experience, physical ARCs and digital galleys.

This isn’t going to be a super in-depth discussion on my part about the pros and cons of each of these but to just kind of discuss everything about them in general depending on your experiences with ARCs as well!

I will be doing a full length post discussing ARCs and tips on how to receive them  at some point!

Of course everything I’ve written in this post is just my own opinion, I’m not trying to offend anyone by any means. Please keep that in mind while reading or commenting back! Thank you!

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What’s the big deal with physical ARCs?

Let’s face it: everyone wants physical ARCs. Don’t lie! Getting an advanced reader copy of any book in any form is awesome but as book lovers I feel a lot of us still covet those physical copies a bit more. Because they’re right there in your hands with their beautiful covers and their pure awesomeness!

Physical ARCs are a bit harder to obtain than e-galleys so getting one kind of makes you feel good about yourself and your blog, like you’re doing something right in order to have received one! It’s almost like getting a huge compliment!

However, like I said they are much harder to obtain and can therefore lead to a lot of disappointment as well and some publishers don’t offer e-galleys at all! Some publishers are easier to work with than others, some will send you ARCs and some won’t, some will email you back stating whether you’ve been approved or not and some won’t. This can get frustrating at times since most of us don’t know what we are doing wrong!

Personally, I have yet to receive any ARCs or even feedback from publishers or imprints of Penguin, Harper Collins, or Simon & Schuster. There’s also no real way of knowing what kind of stats they like to see in order to be considered either, at least not to my knowledge. If ANY OF YOU KNOW THE ANSWERS PLEASE TELL ME YOUR SECRETS!

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What’s wrong with just requesting e-galleys off of Netgalley or Edelweiss?

Nothing, absolutely nothing!

Netgalley is very easy to navigate and getting approved is fairly easy there, Edelweiss on the other hand is a little less user-friendly in my opinion and also a little harder to get approved on. But I digress…….

E-galleys are great for many reasons such as: they’re much easier to request and obtain, you get access to them a lot quicker, and there’s no adding to the clutter on your shelves!

However, one of the biggest drawbacks to e-galleys (at least in my opinion) is that if you request them on Netgalley you have a feedback ratio. Which I understand helps publishers to see if you actually read and review they galleys they give you but also it can hurt bloggers as well. Let’s say you’ve read and reviewed maybe 30 books on Netgalley and you’re always good about reading and reviewing the ARCs you request, well if you receive let’s say 4 or 5 ARCs your feedback ratio will immediately drop below the wanted 80% before you send feedback in. (PLEASE DON’T JUDGE MY MATH TOO BADLY, I’M TERRIBLE AT IT)

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It’s kind of a bummer! Some bloggers are more than capable of handling multiple ARCs but maybe won’t be approved for them because their feedback ratio is slightly below 80%. It’s just sort of annoying sometimes.

My slight irritation with this came from my experience last week emailing and requesting a few physical ARCs. I was told by the publisher that they would send me these if they could but that I should request them off of Netgalley which is problematic for two reasons: one being that if I request them off of Netgalley will I end up getting an e-galley and a physical ARC of one of them? You said you’d send them if you could but to also re-request them? Makes no sense to me.

And reason number two being that if I requested the 4 ARCs I wanted off of Netgalley and somehow got approved for them my feedback ratio will drop, potentially stopping me from getting approved for any other ARCs until I finish these. Which as we all know ARCs have different release dates, we are more than capable of reading and reviewing ARCs with differing release dates.

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Join The Discussion!

What are some of your experiences with physical ARCs or e-galleys?

Do you prefer one over the other? Why?

Do you find it easier to obtain physical copies or e-copies?

What do you think of Netgalley’s feedback ratio?

Are there any pros or cons to either that I didn’t list?

Do you have trouble requesting or being approved for physical ARCs?

Are there any publishers you find easier to work with?

Do you know the answers to the SECRETS I mentioned above? (If so I’d appreciate it!)

Let me know in the comments!

The Sassy