Review: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (non-spoiler)

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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Series: Six of Crows #1

Published by: Henry Holt and Company

Publication Date: September 6th 2016

Genre: YA Fantasy

Pages: 465 pages

Format: Hardcover (I own)

Rating: ★★★★★

 

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

A convict with a thirst for revenge.

A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.

A runaway with a privileged past.

A spy known as the Wraith.

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Kaz’s crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

 

Plot

Six of Crows takes place in the same world as Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy, 2 years after the Ravkan Civil War. The Six of Crows series however, was written so that readers who haven’t read The Grisha trilogy can still enjoy. There are references to characters from The Grisha trilogy purposely name dropped however, the characters in Six of Crows themselves do not have an accurate account of the events that followed the Ravkan Civil War. In other words, you won’t be missing out on any crucial bits of information. Leigh Bardugo has been interviewed & has answered questions on Goodreads where she tells readers that clarification will later be provided so there’s that. We get introduced to Kaz Brekker who is the leader of the Dreggs. The Dreggs are a rag tag team of criminals from all walks of life who Kaz has recruited to run heists on the wealthy. Just like in the movies (Oceans Eleven comes to mind lol) where THE BIG heist presents itself, Kaz is offered 30 million Krug to take back a scientist that is being held captive by the government. The scientist is their most prized asset because he has come up with a way to enhance a common drug. The drug, when ingested by Grisha can enhance their magical abilities to unimaginable heights making them unstoppable. Oh the damage one can do with just 1 Grisha on this drug *hides* There are many different types of Grisha & thanks to Google I will list them for you:

Corporalki

  • Healers
  • Heartrenders
  • Tailors

Etherealki

  • Inferni
  • Squallers
  • Tidemakers
  • Summoners

Materialki

  • Durasts
  • Alkemi

Characters

Photo Credit: Lauren’s Tumblr Page

This is by far my most FAVORITE Cast of characters in a Fictional Fantasy world PERIOD! Not only did Leigh Bardugo give us some of the most beloved characters, but she made a whole lot of people fall in love with their imperfections & complexities. None of her characters are perfect but it’s their flaws that make you fall in love with each & every one of them. We have Kaz Brekker aka Dirty Hands, leader & head schemer HAHA! Inej AKA The Wraith or The Spider, a female POC known for her stealthy abilities. Even with bells on you will NOT hear Inez creeping up on you & she holds many of Kaz’s secrets close to heart. Jesper sharpshooter extraordinaire & Kaz’s Second, walks around with 2 pearl handled guns that he is more than happy to pull out & show off lol. Nina the Heartrender, she’s a Grisha who has the ability to alter or stop your heart. She’s also a semi trained Tailor which means she can alter physical features on a person (she’s not very good at this lol). We also have Matthias & Wylan but i’ll leave these characters roles out of the description cuz spoilers 😉 I found myself rooting for these characters, getting mad at some of them, and other times very protective over them. Thanks again Gretchen @Chicnerdreads for pointing me in the right direction for the perfect Fan cast art 😉

“Kaz leaned back. “What’s the easiest way to steal a man’s wallet?”
“Knife to the throat?” asked Inej.
“Gun to the back?” said Jesper.
“Poison in his cup?” suggested Nina.
“You’re all horrible,” said Matthias.” 
― Leigh BardugoSix of Crows

Writing

Leigh Bardugo aka My Queen Of Darkness has a way of infusing her sense of humor in her writing & since she is one funny lady, I often found myself chuckling at the dialogue between characters. The story is fast paced but it’s appropriate for a heist that typically you would see playing out on the big screen. The fact that she managed such a feat is impressive enough but that she did so by managing 6 different characters without skipping a beat is utterly INSANE & proof that she is QUEEN! The characters she created are so fleshed out that they practically leap off the pages which I LOVE! I can’t get enough of Six Of Crows & can’t wait to start Crooked Kingdom.

Thoughts

I have fallen in love with the world Leigh Bardugo has created & hope that she has more for us reader fans. She did say at the Strand NYC event this past Monday, that there are plenty more stories to tell in this world but that she couldn’t say anything was for certain (Leigh Bardugo event post here). It’s pretty clear to me that Leigh Bardugo really got to know her characters well & brought them to life on the page. I haven’t had this much fun reading a book in a long time. The story gave me Ocean’s Eleven & Boardwalk Empire feels but in the end nothing compares to Six of Crows 😉

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About Last Night…

My Monday started off with me trying to finish reading Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, a book that has been talked about & praised all over social media. It was my shameful little secret that I had not yet read this beautiful black paged book, until it was announced that Leigh Bardugo would be coming to New York City Strand Bookstore as part of her #Troublemakerstour. I could NOT put it off any longer because I’ve heard such amazing things not only about Six of Crows but the author herself. I have read the Grisha trilogy but I wasn’t too much of a fan on how that wrapped up. Six of Crows however, BLEW ME AWAY! I finished reading SOC on the train ride to the event signing for Crooked Kingdom & got off the train to immediately text Gretchen at Chicnerdreads that I had DONE IT! I had finished the book in time. I was also reeling from how it ended but nonetheless feeling pretty euphoric lol. Review for Six of Crows to come, gathering all of my thoughts & feels so that I’m not just saying I LOVED IT! over & over again lol.

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The night was made all the more special because I was also meeting Gretchen (pictured above) for the very first time after many months of communicating through social media, our blogs, gchat, text, & HILLARIOUS voice messages LOL. I met Gretchen earlier this year when she was still a booktuber, thankfully I came across her before she left Booktube & started her blog. She is actually one of the people who motivated me to start my own (4 days later to be exact haha!) & for that I am very thankful for this friendship. It should come to no surprise that a couple of bookworms decided to do a little book & comic book shopping since we arrived super early for the event…

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$18.00 for hardcover = WINNING!!! 🙂

The event was to start at 6:30pm but the crazy long line started forming by 4pm, luckily we were in the front of this line. We also happened to be standing in the exact spot where Leigh Bardugo & Jesse The Reader’s car pulled up which meant she had to cut through us…

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Gretchen took this photo because I was author struck & froze, as a matter of fact it took considerable effort to move out of Leigh’s way so that she can get through *hides face* LOL!  Leigh Bardugo arrived promptly at 6pm (early) & did not keep us waiting. We were in the first group of 20 to be let in & be seated which was great because the place quickly filled up to maximum capacity. Some artwork was brought in & placed in different corners…

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I tried unsuccessfully to take a selfie with Jesper, he is hella tall & I am nothing but a shrimp next to him. Leigh & Jesse came out shortly after we were seated & from the moment she sat down it was non stop laughter from everyone because she is one funny lady! Jesse asked her a series of pop culture questions like “if the crew of Six Of Crows were Youtubers, what would each of their channels be about?” or “which drink would each of the characters order from Starbucks?” we were also given a chance to ask questions & she answered everything with sincerity, honesty, and gave some really good advice to aspiring writers. She spoke briefly about Wonder Woman; the YA book she is writing under DC but couldn’t give away too much of course. When asked about the possibility of more books in the Grishaverse she made no promises but said there are plenty more stories to tell & she’s not quite finished with that world sOOOo *fingers crossed* 

Fact:  Leigh is also donating 10% of book sales to GEMS, a charity for young girls ages 12-24 who’ve been victims of sexual exploitation & domestic trafficking. This charity works to empower young girls/women by giving them the tools they need to leave the commercial sex industry & develop their full potential. This charity is also close to the theme in Six Of Crows. 

Can we just take a moment to admire this woman’s style?!?! Fierce! after a few rounds of questions we were then asked to form a line for the book signing & again arriving early truly makes a difference (signing expected to run till 10:30pm). We were the first 20 to line up & while we waited…smh…we realized there were other authors present for this event. We spotted Zoraida Córdova author of Labyrinth Lost (I recently reviewed & LOVED this book here), Daniel José Older author of Shadowshaper (on my TBR, probably will get a copy at Bookcon next week), and Libba Bray author of The Diviners series (I own & need to stop procrastinating). It happened again, I froze & didn’t woman up to talk to Zoraida but ummm there will be other times *cough* for sure…smh LOL. Back to Leigh Bardugo, it was finally our turn to get our books signed and take a photo  with Leigh…

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This was simply AMAZING! she struck up a convo when she saw my name on the post-it (Lilly) & told me that when she was a little girl, her parents used to call her LeeLee which is what my parents call me in Spanish. I got to pick up one of the playing cards that were face down on the table & drew Inej which YESSSSS!!! I LOVE!!!! also got a pin & a crow shaped cookie but that broke into bits so no pic lol.

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Gretchen & I ended the night by going to Chipotle since we had skipped lunch and it was around 8 or 9pm. We chatted up a bit about the event AND already prepping for next week’s BookCon @ NYC Comicon. It was a great night & I had so much fun with Gretchen that I cannot wait to do it again! Thank you Gretchen for taking the photos at the event cuz you know you had the heels/height, what would I have done without you?!?! 🙂

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Six of Crows bookmark was part of the September Owlcrate, got it just in time for Crooked Kingdom!

The Cookie Book Tag

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& I’m BACK with a tag this Sunday afternoon! I haven’t done a tag in a bit but I stumbled across this one over at Sara from Freedom Library  and thought why not?!?! it’s hella cute! I’m a HUGE cookie LOVER & this tag is only making me want to go to a pastry shop with my book which would probably work against my diet but YOLO right?!? smh lol. The creator of this tag is Nicole from Sorry, I’m Booked

RULES:

  • In addition to linking back to the person who tagged you, it would be awesome if you link back to Nicole’s original post!
  • Pick a book that corresponds to the cookie’s ‘theme’
    Have fun!
  • Tag 1 to 3 people

CHOCOLATE CHIP: A CLASSIC BOOK THAT YOU LOVE OR REALLY ENJOYED (INTERPRET CLASSIC HOW YOU WANT, IT CAN BE A CLASSIC WRITTEN 100 YEARS AGO OR 20 YEARS AGO)

I have 2 that I hold close to my heart: To Kill a Mockingbird & The Iliad, both of which I read in grade school & stirred up my love for classics. I was very young when I was reading most well known classics on my own because YA unfortunately was not yet a thing. One of my goals in 2017 is to re-visit some well known classics with my now adult mind 😉

THIN MINTS: A FANDOM THAT YOU REALLY WANT TO ‘JOIN’ AND/OR A HYPED-UP BOOK YOU WANT TO READ (YOUR SOURCE(S) OF A BOOK BEING HYPED CAN BE FROM ANYWHERE)

Easy! The Falling Kingdoms series, I’ve slowly been purchasing the books in this series (from Bookoutlet) which already has a spin-off. I think what is so appealing about this series besides it being Fantasy is that it’s told in multiple POV’s which is my fave format in books. It’s going to happen soon, I’m going to binge these 😉

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SHORTBREAD: AN AUTHOR YOU CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF

Recently my very first New Adult series & now i’m kind of going through withdrawals because besides one other book she currently has out…there’s nothing else to read from her…K.A Tucker my friends!!! I still faithfully check her social media for any nugget of info *crosses fingers* ❤ U GRAY 4 introducing me to my new obsession!

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SAMOAS/CARAMEL DELITES: AN EMOTIONAL ROLLER COASTER (THIS COOKIE WAS HARD …SO ANY BOOK THAT MADE YOU FEEL MORE THAN ONE EMOTION, STRONGLY. THE CHOICE OF EMOTIONS IS UP TO YOU)

Sara at Freedom Library had an awesome pick for this one cuz More Happy Than Not definitely put me THROUGH it Gals & Ghouls! BUT alas, I’ll give the honors to a more recent read, Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. It was such a ride that I haven’t watched the movie yet, just not ready lol.

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OREOS: A BOOK WHOSE COVER WAS BETTER THAN THE STORY OR VICE VERSA, WHERE THE STORY WAS BETTER THAN ITS COVER

Ummm..LOL..I can’t go into this one too much because i’m still experiencing the dissapointment 700 pages later. I have a review for Empire Of Storms here in which I rated this 5th installment a 3.5 stars but since then it’s been bumped to  a 3 possibly even a 2.5…Jussayin…

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TAGALONGS/PEANUT BUTTER PATTIES: A BOOK THAT WASN’T WHAT YOU EXPECTED (GOOD, BAD, OR JUST DIFFERENT, INTERPRET HOW YOU WISH)

Illuminae by Jay Kristoff & Amie Kauffman!!! THIS BOOK! Oh Goodness! I was so intimidated by the format of this book which is told in a series of e-mails, memo’s, and chat’s until I finally decided to take the plunge. NO REGRETS! BEST DECISION EVER! 1st book to make me jump off my couch yelling YES! YES! YES! such a good story & I’ve already reserved my copy of Gemina 😉

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SNICKERDOODLES: A BOOK YOU MAY NEVER STOP REREADING/LOVING

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness…Crushed me in it’s beautiful sadness, through magical realism this story weaves a powerful tale that has stayed with me since the 1st day I opened it. I don’t do re-reads nor do I remember many details of books I read a year back cuz I just have terrible memory but not this book. A Monster Calls will be with me till I grow old…

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I tag the following lovely Book Lovers:

Gretchen at ChicNerdReads

Jillian at RantandRaveaboutbooks

Beth at Readingeverynight

Melissa at Booknerdmomo

Amanda at Cover2CoverMom

Stephanie at TeacherofYA’s Book Blog

Drew at TheTattooedBookGeek

 

 

 

September’s Owlcrate Unboxing

It’s that time again!!! My September Owlcrate box arrived & the theme this month is DARKNESS! I am VERY happy with the curating of Owlcrate’s boxes but this one takes the cake! They’ve outdone themselves with an EPIC box. Three Dark Crowns is one my most highly anticipated books for fall 2016 so pardon me while I *SquEeee*🤗🤗🤗 lol. 

Favorite item in the box has to be the Miss Peregrines Home For Peculiar Children canvas pouch & the Raven Cycle series inspired fortune telling bath fizzers from Da Bomb Bath Fizzers. Also in this box is a bookmark Inspired by Leigh Bardugo’s Six Of Crows from Evie Seo aka Eviebookish (my next read 😉), a Throne of Glass inspired candle by The Melting Library in the exclusive scent Celeana’s Cake (smells like cotton candy YUM!) & the first episode in a 15 episode YA sci-fi series titled ReMade. For those of you who have an account with NetGalley, they currently have some of the next few episodes in this 15 episode series available as “Read Now”.

I feel like these past few boxes, Owlcrate has been raising the bar for themselves. This has to be my favorite box this year (so far). I’m already using the canvass pouch as my makeup bag & Im reading Six Of Crows so the bookmark came at the perfect time. Now, to find the time to enjoy the bath bomb, is my next mission in life! #goals 😂

Did anyone else LOVE this month’s Owlcrate? Also, I have this thing where I have to guess the next month’s box & so far I’ve been right the past 3 boxes lol. I must say that I have NO clue what October’s pick could possibly be. Open to some guesses though, leave them right down below lol.

Review: Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5) by Sarah J. Maas

Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5) by Sara J. Maas

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Publication Date: September 6th, 2016

Format: I own HC

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Page Count: 693 pages

Rating: ★★★ 3.5 stars

 

  

Goodreads Synopsis:

The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those who don’t.

As the kingdoms of Erilea fracture around her, enemies must become allies if Aelin is to keep those she loves from falling to the dark forces poised to claim her world. With war looming on all horizons, the only chance for salvation lies in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.

Aelin’s journey from assassin to queen has entranced millions across the globe, and this fifth installment will leave fans breathless. Will Aelin succeed in keeping her world from splintering, or will it all come crashing down? 

 

 

PLOT

This being the 5th book in the Throne of Glass series, I will keep my review short to avoid spoilers. However, if you’re anything like me who avoids ALL talk revolving my current read for fear of what I may or may not consider to be a spoiler myself, then maybe save this review for another time? lol

We see Celeana aka Aelin Galathynius & her rag tag group of friends (including her consort) on the hunt for the wyrdkeys while fending off threats & attacks from opposing forces. In this book they actually go up against more than one enemy, all of who want the wyrdkeys for their own evil doings. Aelin finds that taking up her throne is not as easy as just revealing her identity; she will actually have to prove she deserves to be queen. Terrasen has been without their queen for many years & to protect her homeland she will have to fight true & hard. Empire of Storms chronicles Aelin’s quest for the wyrdkeys, allies, and ultimately the truth.

 

Characters

I am a HUGE Manon & Abraxos fan & in the beginning chapters could not get enough of them. So much so that I was anxiously if not impatiently getting through the 1st non-Manon chapters rather quickly just to get back to her story. This is a close to 700-page book & I’m glad that it did NOT take long for the action to start (pg 60 to be exact lol) & continue all throughout. Empire of Storms came with tons of nuggets of background information for some of our most favorite characters. I especially loved getting more info on Aedion, Brannon, and Elena. Lysandra also came to be a favorite since she’s evolving & becoming a valuable player in Aelin’s court also, who doesn’t love a shapeshifter? she managed to pull off some really neat tweaks that left me thinking she’s a baddie lol. When it comes to Aelin aka Celeana I kind of wasn’t the biggest fan of our young queen, in this installment. Specifically because certain power moves make you question whether Terrasen is enough or whether she will want more. I also wasn’t too keen on how she treated specific characters when it came to matters of the court & war. Her dialogue in general peeved me off quite a bit, it’s almost as if she had taken 20 leaps backwards in maturity. All in all, I enjoyed being back in this world with most of the characters. 

On the topic of coupling, although I loved some of the relationships that developed into a bit more… I can’t say that I am completely pleased with how closely Empire of Storms follows A Court of Mist and Fury in this aspect. I’m glad that certain things left off where they did because realistically, not everyone will find their perfect mate or match w/out some obstacles within that relationship (excluding the outside powers that be) making it more challenging to co-exist.

 

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Writing

One thing I love about these books is how quick paced they are without compromising the story. With so many characters in a book, some with their own story lines taking place apart from the group; Maas manages to tie them all in to the central story very effectively. I also have to give it to Maas for giving each of these characters such strong personalities & their own distinct voices, they practically jump off the page. Which I guess is a good thing seeing as Hulu has picked up the Throne of Glass series for production & i’m psyched to see the cast assemble.

 

Final Thoughts

Ok, so I guess I should explain why i’ve given Empire of Storms a 3.5 instead of the 5 stars mostly everyone has rated it. I can’t deny that I enjoyed the hell out of this book & it was a fun & obstacle filled quest I was more than happy to embark upon. I did however have issues with the last 200 pages of this book or what i’ve come to call…”The Final Stretch” I buddy read this book with my husband who loves the series for it’s brutal fighting scenes which led to him finishing this book the night before I did. Since he did not read Sarah J. Maas’ other ongoing series A Court of Thorns & Roses, the final stretch was original to him. I however, I found too many similarities if not outright exact scenes from A Court of Thorns & Roses to truly enjoy some of the things that took place. This is not to say that I hated the ending, on the contrary I actually really liked some of the final wrap-up. I just couldn’t give this 5 stars after reading A Court of Mist & Fury very recently and loving that series for what it is-a separate series of it’s own. Also, in regards to that ending…it seems we were being told a story from an unreliable narrator which is fine with me. Sometimes those make for some of the most interesting stories. However, after riding hard lol with Aelin & crew through 5 books…I felt a little blindsided? I’m still working through these thoughts gals & ghouls. Overall, a fun read with plenty of power moves & scheming to keep you on your toes…Oh & plenty of heart wrenching moments to tug at your heart strings til’ you possibly shed a few tears 😉

Friday Reads aka Currently Reading

Happy Friday Readers!!! It’s been a L-O-N-G and unexpectedly emotional week for my little fam & I. Today completes Izzy’s (my 5-year-old daughter) first week & a half (lol) of Kindergarten & although my girl is usually ready to conquer the world with her larger than life old soul personality…this was a new beginning & there were some tears from the both of us. I was allowed to walk her to class the first 2 days after which I was then told that my baby was growing up & basically it was time to “cut the cord” drop off’s would be in the cafeteria…does anyone else find the cafeteria to be one scary big place? I always have. Nonetheless, off I went to work but not before I had myself one good sob during my 7-minute walk to the train station on the phone with my husband. I boarded the train & to be honest had no desire to read. By Wednesday, Izzy & I had befriended the cafeteria lady & her daughter who also attends the school. Needless to say this brought me much comfort & Izzy re-assured ME (smh) that she was NOT scared. With her assurance I boarded my train & dived back into SJM’s Empire of Storms…

Empire of Storms by Sara J. Maas is the 5th book in the Throne of Glass YA Fantasy series & one of my most highly anticipated reads for the second half of 2016! I hadn’t realized how much I had missed certain characters in this world, specifically my favorite kick butt witch Manon & her Wyvern Abraxos who would follow her to the depths of the world if need be. I think what appeals to me most about these characters is the loyalty they have to each other (excluding Celeana who at times makes questionable decisions). I am really enjoying seeing the friendship btwn Aedion & Lysandra develop as well as Lorcan & Elide. Whether these friendships develop into something more, I’m not sure yet (on pg. 400 of 693) but wouldn’t be completely surprised if they do. Yes, SJM enjoys coupling up her charcters making it a bit predictable at times but I think it’s done well. In any case, I love these books for the character development & world building. I am currently OBSESSED with the Manon chapters smh, in the beginning I really just wanted to get to those chapters alone. Thankfully 🙌🏼 the story picks up the pace fairly quickly & never stops. Can this be the best book in the series? It’s sure looking that way but I still have about 300 pgs to go & that leaves Maas plenty of time to turn my world upside down. I kid you not, I really do think she types away with an evil smirk on her face, knowing she’s going to leave us in our feels in need of our blanky’s & the nearest teddy 😂😂😂


The other book I’m reading or rather should I say listening to? Is Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson. I had used one of my Audible credits a few months back on this one but could NOT for the life of me, get people to stop interrupting me while I listened. After reading a review for this book on Amanda’s blog Cover2CoverMom, I decided to pick it back up again. For the most part, I’d rather listen to than read comedienne’s memoirs. They narrate their own books & therefore know when a line should read as funny or not. This makes a big difference for me. Perfect example is  Mindy Khaling who I adore for the goddess that she is 🙌🏼 has written 2 books & it wasn’t until I switched to audio that I was able to enjoy her narrative. To be honest I had never heard of Jenny Lawson but the cover with the over the top excited raccoon made me smile every time I walked by it in B&N. After reading the synopsis & seeing that Jenny suffers from mental illness and that this was a collection of stories infused with her humor…I was intrigued. Now, I’ve heard great & not so great things about this book. Primarily, people taking offense to her use of humor when it comes to the topic of her mental illness or labeling herself. As a person who deals with anxiety, mild OCD, and others I don’t need to list…my sarcasm/dark humor IS my coping mechanism. It’s the blanket that provides comfort when faced with the alternative which is to let it overcome & that’s just not the choice that I’ve made. I’m now following Jenny on her blog The Blogess & I’m listening to Furiously Happy. Jenny’s husband Victor reminds me a bit of my husband. She does not shy away from listing their differences & the less than “normal” but still very humorous arguments they have because of her mental disorders. Her interactions with her pets (Ferris Mewler is a fave of mine) including Rory the raccoon who is deceased but has been brought back through her friend the taxidermist, provide plenty of entertaining moments. Overall, what I’m finding the most enjoyable are the many relatable day to day moments & thoughts she has  at home and in social situations…

Waiting On Wednesday 

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event that is hosted by Jill at @Breaking The Spine, which spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.


Title: The Valiant

Author: Lesley Livingston

Book: Hardcover, 288 pages

Expected Publication: February 14th 2017

Publisher: Razorbill Young Readers (Penguin Random House)






Edelweiss Synopsis:

A richly-imagined, gripping historical fantasy for fans of Sarah J. Maas and Cinda Williams Chima,The Valiant recounts a seventeen-year-old’s tumultuous journey from fierce Celtic princess to legendary female gladiator and darling of the Roman empire.

The youngest daughter of a proud Celtic king, Fallon has always lived in the shadow of her older sister Sorcha’s legendary reputation as a warrior. But when Fallon was a young child, the armies of Julius Caesar invaded the island of Britain and her beloved older sister was killed in battle.

On the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is excited to follow in her sister’s footsteps and earn her rightful place in her father’s royal war band. But she never gets the chance. Instead, Fallon is captured by a band of ruthless brigands who sell her to an exclusive training school for female gladiators—and its most influential patron is none other than Julius Caesar himself. In a cruel twist of fate, Fallon’s worst enemy, the man who destroyed her family, might be her only hope of survival.

Now, Fallon must overcome vicious rivalries, chilling threats and the dangerous attention of Caesar himself to survive the deadly fights that take place both in and out of the arena—and claim her place in history among the Valiant. 

Reasons:

When a synopsis includes the words/names: Gladiators, Julius Caesar, Celtic King, fighting arena, and warrior…I stop for a moment of silence while I try to contain my excitement. Female warrior protagonists? *SqUEeee* & it’s being released on Valentine’s Day, what better gift to give myself? Ok! fangirling over lol. A school of female gladiator’s run by none other than Julius Caesar himself?!?! SIGN ME UP! to read all about it that is (Lol). I’m a sucker for a strong female protog who isn’t afraid to get down & dirty, throw in a bit of Rome & you’re basically serenading me. I also love the names Fallon & Sorcha, they scream Fantasy & that cover is AWESOME to say the least. I only wish that the book was a bit longer but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this is the beginning of a possible trilogy.

Slowly but surely we’ve been seeing YA branch into different sub-genres and Historical Fiction is finally getting some love. With some of the more popular books like Eleanor Herman’s Legacy of Kings & the collaborative project My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Asthon, and Jodi Meadows leading the way, I am hoping Lesley Livingston’s The Valiant joins their ranks & makes for a brutal & kick butt Valentine’s Day. Also, for those of you attending New York Comic Con this October like myself, Edelweiss has The Valiant listed for promotion at this event. So yes! I am already crossing my fingers & toes for the Book Gods to bless me with either a eGalley or physical ARC of The Valiant.

BTW, did any of you catch the “for fans of SJM & Cinda Williams Chima”? …Signed, Sealed, Delivered *sings* I’m YOURS!

Have any of you heard about The Valiant? If so, does it tickle your fancy? Eh? Lol. Feel free to drop THAT link with your Waiting On Wednesday’s. I have my Goodreads open & TBR ready for suggestions <3’s!
 
 

Author Spotlight & Giveaway: Zoraida Córdova

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About the Author:

Zoraida Córdova was born in Ecuador and raised in Queens, New York. She is the author of the Vicious Deep trilogy, the On the Verge series, and the Brooklyn Brujas series. She loves black coffee, snark, and still believes in magic. Send her a tweet @Zlikeinzorro or visit her at zoraidacordova.com.

 

I’d like to thank Sourcebooks Fire for offering my blog & I the opportunity to feature Zoraida Córdova, author of Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas #1). After reading (My review can be found here) & falling in love with the characters & world in Labyrinth lost, I just knew that this was something i’d love to do.  Not only because I thoroughly enjoyed this book, but also because it is a perfect example of of a #ownvoices book. Zoraida Córdova has now become an auto-buy author for me & I look forward to continuing with the Brooklyn Brujas series. To best describe Labyrinth Lost I would say that Daniel José Older (author of Shadowshaper) hit the nail on the head….“A brilliant brown-girl-in-Brooklyn update on Alice in Wonderland and Dante’s Inferno. Very creepy, very magical, very necessary.” I truly enjoyed being able to recognize many of the Mexican, Ecuadorian, Caribbean, and African influences that made up the magical experience that is Labyrinth Lost. The central theme in this book was family (ancestral-living & dead) & self identity. We also get LGBTQIA diversity in Labyrinth Lost, our characters didn’t see gender which is rare. We usually get quite the opposite in the Latino community, the way Zoraida Córdova handled her characters & themes has made Labyrinth Lost an instant fave for the year (probably of all time lol). Last but not least, Kudos to the author & publishing house for the awesome giveaway (runs Sept 6th-19th) at the end of this post!

 

Summary:

Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…

Goodreads Link:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27969081-labyrinth-lost?from_search=true
Buy Links:
http://books.sourcebooks.com/labyrinth-lost/
Book Trailer Link:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_DBTALS6bI
Labyrinth Lost Coloring Page:
http://www.sourcebooks.com/images/LabyrinthLost-ColoringPage.pdf

 

 

The following is an excerpt from labyrinth Lost provided by Sourcebooks Fire:

 

1

Follow our voices, sister.

Tell us the secret of your death.

—-Resurrection Canto, 
Book of Cantos

The second time I saw my dead aunt Rosaria, she was dancing.

Earlier that day, my mom had warned me, pressing a long, red fingernail on the tip of my nose, “Alejandra, don’t go downstairs when the Circle arrives.”

But I was seven and asked too many questions. Every Sunday, cars piled up in our driveway, down the street, and around the corner of our old, narrow house in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Mom’s Circle usually brought cellophane–wrapped dishes and jars of dirt and tubs of brackish water that made the Hudson River look clean. This time, they carried something more.

When my sisters started snoring, I threw off my covers and crept down the stairs. The floorboards were uneven and creaky, but I was good at not being seen. Fuzzy, yellow streetlight shone through our attic window and followed me down every flight until I reached the basement.

A soft hum made its way through the thin walls. I remember thinking I should listen to my mom’s warning and go back upstairs. But our house had been restless all week, and Lula, Rose, and I were shoved into the attic, out of the way while the grown–ups prepared the funeral. I wanted out. I wanted to see.

The night was moonless and cold one week after the Witch’s New Year, when Aunt Rosaria died of a sickness that made her skin yellow like hundred–year–old paper and her nails turn black as coal. We tried to make her beautiful again. My sisters and I spent all day weaving good luck charms from peonies, corn husks, and string—-one loop over, under, two loops over, under. Not even the morticians, the Magos de Muerte, could fix her once–lovely face.

Aunt Rosaria was dead. I was there when we mourned her. I was there when we buried her. Then, I watched my father and two others shoulder a dirty cloth bundle into the house, and I knew I couldn’t stay in bed, no matter what my mother said.

So I opened the basement door.

Red light bathed the steep stairs. I leaned my head toward the light, toward the beating sound of drums and sharp plucks of fat, nylon guitar strings.

A soft mew followed by whiskers against my arm made my heart jump to the back of my rib cage. I bit my tongue to stop the scream. It was just my cat, Miluna. She stared at me with her white, glowing eyes and hissed a warning, as if telling me to turn back. But Aunt Rosaria was my godmother, my family, my friend. And I wanted to see her again.

“Sh!” I brushed the cat’s head back.

Miluna nudged my leg, then ran away as the singing started.

I took my first step down, into the warm, red light. Raspy voices called out to our gods, the Deos, asking for blessings beyond the veil of our worlds. Their melody pulled me step by step until I was crouched at the bottom of the landing.

They were dancing.

Brujas and brujos were dressed in mourning white, their faces painted in the aspects of the dead, white clay and black coal to trace the bones. They danced in two circles—-the outer ring going clockwise, the inner counterclockwise—hands clasped tight, voices vibrating to the pulsing drums.

And in the middle was Aunt Rosaria.

Her body jerked upward. Her black hair pooled in the air like she was suspended in water. There was still dirt on her skin. The white skirt we buried her in billowed around her slender legs. Black smoke slithered out of her open mouth. It weaved in and out of the circle—-one loop over, under, two loops over, under. It tugged Aunt Rosaria higher and higher, matching the rhythm of the canto.

Then, the black smoke perked up and changed its target. It could smell me. I tried to backpedal, but the tiles were slick, and I slid toward the circle. My head smacked the tiles. Pain splintered my skull, and a broken scream lodged in my throat.

The music stopped. Heavy, tired breaths filled the silence of the pulsing red dark. The enchantment was broken. Aunt Rosaria’s reanimated corpse turned to me. Her body purged black smoke, lowering her back to the ground. Her ankles cracked where the bone was brittle, but still she took a step. Her dead eyes gaped at me. Her wrinkled mouth growled my name: Alejandra.

She took another step. Her ankle turned and broke at the joint, sending her flying forward. She landed on top of me. The rot of her skin filled my nose, and grave dirt fell into my eyes.

Tongues clucked against crooked teeth. The voices of the circle hissed, “What’s the girl doing out of bed?”

There was the scent of extinguished candles and melting wax. Decay and perfume oil smothered me until they pulled the body away.

My mother jerked me up by the ear, pulling me up two flights of stairs until I was back in my bed, the scream stuck in my throat like a stone.

“Never,” she said. “You hear me, Alejandra? Never break a Circle.”

I lay still. So still that after a while, she brushed my hair, thinking I had fallen asleep.

I wasn’t. How could I ever sleep again? Blood and rot and smoke and whispers filled my head.

“One day you’ll learn,” she whispered.

Then she went back down the street–lit stairs, down into the warm red light and to Aunt Rosaria’s body. My mother clapped her hands, drums beat, strings plucked, and she said, “Again.”

 

Labyrinth Lost
By Zoraida Córdova
September 6, 2016; Hardcover, ISBN 9781492620945

Praise for Labyrinth Lost

“This work is a magical journey from start to finish… A compelling must-have for teens”
–School Library Journal, STARRED review

“Córdova’s (the Vicious Deep series) magic-infused, delightfully dark story introduces readers to an engrossing, Latin American–inspired fantasy setting and an irresistible heroine”
–Publishers Weekly

“A brilliant brown-girl-in-Brooklyn update on Alice in Wonderland and Dante’s Inferno. Very creepy, very magical, very necessary.”
—Daniel José Older, New York Times bestselling author of Shadowshaper

“Labyrinth Lost is more like reading Paradise Found. Zoraida Córdova brings us a new generation of witches, enchanting and complex. And every page is filled with magic.”
—Danielle Page, New York Times bestselling author of Dorothy Must Die

Córdova’s world will leave you breathless, and her magic will ignite an envy so green you’ll wish you were born a bruja. Delightfully dark and enchanting. An un-putdownable book.”
-Dhonielle Clayton, author of The Belles and Shiny Broken Pieces

“Córdova’s rich exploration of Latin American culture, her healthy portrayal of bisexuality and her unique voice allow this novel to stand out among its many peers.”
–RT Book Reviews

“Cordova draws inspiration from Ecuadorian, Spanish, African, Mexican, and Caribbean folklore and mythology to craft a page-turning tale about a young bruja unsure of her place in the world.”
–Bustle.com
“Córdova pulls elements from Greek mythology and Spanish and Latin American legends to craft a memorable world in Los Lagos, a supernatural realm that is as fascinating as it is threatening. The history and customs of Alex’s family’s type of witchery are also carefully constructed, giving readers a complete world to sink into with satisfaction and wonder.”
-Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“This succeeds with its lush use of Latin American mythologies, an unexpected love story, and, above all, in Alex’s complicated relationship with her family. Alex is a necessary heroine, and this dark fantasy nicely”
-Booklist

Rafflecopter Giveaway Link for 2 Copies of Labyrinth Lost with Signed Labyrinth Lost Bookmarks

 

Runs September 6th-September 19th (US & Canada only)

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/54ca7af7402/ 

Social Media Links:
Author Website: http://www.zoraidacordova.com/
Labyrinth Lost Website: http://books.sourcebooks.com/labyrinth-lost/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CordovaBooks
Twitter: @zlikeinzorro
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/wanderwheel/
Author Tumblr: http://wanderlands.tumblr.com/
Labyrinth Lost Tumblr: http://labyrinthlostbooks.tumblr.com/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/ZoraidaLandLabyrinth Lost

Review: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

Series: Brooklyn Brujas #1

Published by: Sourcebooks Fire

Publication Date: September 6th 2016

Genre: YA & LGTBQIA 

Pages- 336 pages

Format- eGalley (Netgalley)

Rating: ★★★★★

labyrinth-lost

 

Goodreads Summary:

Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives. 

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…

 

I’d like to thank Sourcebooks Fire for approving me to receive an eGalley of Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

During my search for diversification in YA books, I stumbled across Zoraida Cordova’s Labyrinth Lost. On the cover is a girl in a Death Day mask, making this an eye catcher for anyone walking by with an eye for stunning covers. I honestly wasn’t expecting to love this book as much as I did but it took me on THE MOST magical ride with elements of Alice in Wonderland along the way. We get introduced to our main protagonist Alex who is part of a family of “brujas” (Spanish for witch) & like every bruja before & after, she will need to have her Death Day celebration to mark her coming into her powers. Typically, the celebration is held on birthday’s in order to throw more over the top parties. Alex however, has no interest in having her Death Day celebration or accepting her powers…in fact she’s trying to stop it from ever taking place. One spell gone wrong results in Alex’s whole family disappearing into the in between world. A world where souls linger & are tortured. It was through the introduction of this underworld of sorts, that you are able to really appreciate & enjoy the writing style. Beyond this, would be giving away too much of the plot so instead I’ll go into some of the things that I loved about this book.

The #ownvoices movement that started recently has been one that I fully support. I love discovering new authors that are able to infuse their culture into their writing, their voices are ones that I can relate to & that’s always cool…seeing a bit of me in what I’m reading. In Labyrinth Lost, we are introduced to Alex’s ancestors (spirits of deceased family members) who as the author notes are from Ecuador, Spain, Africa, Mexico, and the Carribean. Although Alex & her family are not classified as practicing any specific denomination of religion, we do see some aspects of other religions such as Santeria & Catholicism with a new age twist. It was interesting seeing the authors spin on some of the Gods & being able to recognize the cultural influences. The families “Book of Cantos” was another very cool detail, it is a book that contains all of Alex’s ancestor’s spells & magic. It also contains quotes, sayings, and bruja(o) songs, each chapter started off with a snippet of a passage from their Book of Cantos. I also enjoyed the family dynamics in Alex’s home, one comprised mostly of women with their father’s unexplained disappearance weighing heavy in all of their hearts. The sisterly bond between Alex, Lula, and Rose stood out the most. Their interactions with each other felt genuine & realistic. Alex’s mom gave me a few laugh out loud moments & this is because I was able to see my mom & family in this character. This is a story of family & self-discovery, Alex knows that she’s different than the rest of her family and is scared to disappoint those that she loves by the choices she makes. I think everyone can see a bit of Alex in them no matter the cultural background/experience which is why I would recommend this book to everyone.

I’m looking forward to continuing with The Brooklyn Brujas series. I am also glad to have stumbled across Zoraida Córdova. I was just wondering how I can go about bringing more attention to this author when I received an e-mail from the publisher offering me the opportunity to feature the author in a Author Spotlight & Giveaway post, that’s on it’s way & you won’t want to miss it 😉

Has anyone else read Labyrinth Lost? I’d love to read your thoughts on the book. Please feel free to drop the link to your review or drop a comment my lovelies 🙂

August Wrap-up & Haul

My reading for August was Ok with the exception of This Savage Song & Everything leads to You which were both 5 & 4.5 stars respectively. Three of my reads were also eGalleys from Netgalley so in a way I guess you can say I took a stab at ARC August lol. I think August had to be a bit more on the calm side honestly because the excitement over the September line-up is overwhelming for this bookworm.

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Gemini by Sonya Mukharjee ★★★ (3.5 stars)

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena ★★★ (3.75 stars)

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab ★★★★★ (5 stars)

Leave Me by Gayle Forman ★★★ (3.5 stars)

How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather  ★★★ (3 stars)

Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour ★★★★ (4.5 stars)

Monstress Volume 1 by Marjorie M. Lou & illustrated by Sana Takeda  ★★★★ (4.5 stars)

 

My August Book Haul is also one of my smallest in months! & i’m OK with this seeing as June was INSANE (June Book Haul)! HAHA! No regrets here 😉 This month however, I was lucky enough to win a giveaway that was being hosted by Kristin @ Super Space Chick for The Reader by Traci Chee. The Owlcrate book for August was P.S. I Like You by Kasie West (an ongoing Valentine’s Day gift from my husband ). All other’s I purchased with some pretty awesome B&N Member’s coupons, Amazon & Strand NYC irresistable steals. I’m going to put this out there now….I am not to be held responsible for all of the good books being released this fall that I will be book lusting over…

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I’m pretty sure i’m not alone in feeling like August truly flew by. The last month of summer was pretty chill for my brood & I, basically prepping for my 5 year old daughter starting Kindergarten this week *grabs Kleenex*

For the most part we gave our 2 tiny humans some park time, got some reading in, and binge watched Stranger Things on Netflix. We also caught up with The Vampire Diaries (last 2 seasons were their best smh) & The Originals which will ALWAYS be a favorite. My husband & I watched The Originals finale last night & immediately started googling for a season 4 premier date. Sadly, one has not been announced because the show never really took off in ratings. It’s a spin-off of The Vampire Diaries which lost a ton of it’s following after a few seasons understandably so (There’s only so many times we can watch them chase Elena). However, The Originals in my opinion is the better show both in characters & plots. There’s also a ton of New Orleans culture infused into each episode making it a real treat to watch. Recently, with the news of TVD being canceled (Thank Goodness!) after the next upcoming season, it’s been announced that certain actors will cross over to The Originals. I will patiently await any & all news regarding The Originals 😉

Stranger Things (Netflix)

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The Originals (CW)

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The Vampire Diaries (CW)

the-vampire-diaries-cast

 

I know i’m a few days late with my August Book Haul & Wrap-up, it honestly snuck up on me as did the fall season (my fave) & Kindergarten! LOl, i’ll be making my rounds on the Blogosphere tonight & tomorrow checking out my fellow book blogger’s hauls & wrap-up’s. I hope you all had an AMAZING August Loves! Happy September my fellow bookworms 🙂