Review: You’re Welcome Universe by Whitney Gardner

25701463You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner

Published by: RandomHouse

Pub Date: March 7th 2017

Genre: YA

Contemp/Disability/LGBTQIA

Pages: 304 pages

Rating: ★★★★★

goodreads-synopsis-2

A vibrant, edgy, fresh new YA voice for fans of More Happy Than Not and Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, packed with interior graffiti.

When Julia finds a slur about her best friend scrawled across the back of the Kingston School for the Deaf, she covers it up with a beautiful (albeit illegal) graffiti mural.

Her supposed best friend snitches, the principal expels her, and her two mothers set Julia up with a one-way ticket to a “mainstream” school in the suburbs, where she’s treated like an outcast as the only deaf student. The last thing she has left is her art, and not even Banksy himself could convince her to give that up.

Out in the ’burbs, Julia paints anywhere she can, eager to claim some turf of her own. But Julia soon learns that she might not be the only vandal in town. Someone is adding to her tags, making them better, showing off—and showing Julia up in the process. She expected her art might get painted over by cops. But she never imagined getting dragged into a full-blown graffiti war.

Told with wit and grit by debut author Whitney Gardner, who also provides gorgeous interior illustrations of Julia’s graffiti tags, You’re Welcome, Universe introduces audiences to a one-of-a-kind protagonist who is unabashedly herself no matter what life throws in her way.

plot-banner

The Goodreads synopsis for You’re Welcome Universe pretty much captures what this book is about so I won’t paraphrase, instead I’ll cover the themes. This book seriously had it all & then some! the result is a EPIC story you won’t want to put down. We start off with the main protagonist Julia getting into some trouble in school after she is caught using graffiti to cover up slurs on a wall aimed at her “best friend”. Julia’s intentions were good but as we all know graffiti is illegal & frowned upon. Graffiti is Julia’s way of expressing herself in a world that is very much silent to her. More importantly, she finds that in her art she can be seen in a world where she feels invisible & therefore bypassed. You’re Welcome Universe is a book about the up’s & down’s of friendships, self expression, trust, and staying true to yourself no matter what.

Our main protagonist Julia considers herself a rare anomaly & proud of it. This character is confident even when she may not feel that way on the inside. Most of the time she is speaking her mind through sign language & won’t shy away from giving her two cents when asked. I appreciated Julia’s raw & straight forward personality because we don’t see a lot of that in YA contemporaries.

I flip Through some magazines, hoping lightning will strike, but there’s not a cloud in the sky. No one in the pages of Nylon is like me. I’m a fingerprint, an anomaly, a snowflake. Indian, Deaf, girl, two moms. You couldn’t make this shit fit in the pages of those glossy mags.”

Julia is also very loyal & expects the same in return from her friends. She doesn’t wear a hearing aide & communicates via sign language. Both of Julia’s moms are also deaf which meant that a lot of the book was also internal monologue. Julia is sarcastic & so when you’re in her head you can’t help but smile at this strong & witty gal who is navigating friendships, crushes, and the parentals while also trying to feed her passion for graffiti. what I loved most about Julia had to be her commitment to being REAL when it came to her friends/non friends & giving it to them straight! This is admirable, too many times your friends hold back for fear of losing you but its rare when you find a Julia 😉

The Parentals Mee & Ma play the role of good cop/bad cop which felt realistic, there’s always one parent who gets pegged the “strict one”. I enjoyed seeing Julia’s parents interactions & conversations as well as the cute traditions they created. There are good times & bad ones just like with any teenager but at the end of the day, their love for one another helped them overcome the challenges along the way. Julia also befriends a girl in her new school who she assigned the nickname YP (Yoga Pants) in sign language. YP is an interesting character, from the instant she meets Julia they hit it off but even they are aware of how unlikely their friendship appears. YP at the time is in the Cheerleading squad and is dating the “hot” guy in school, but YP also has a secret. I loved YP’s character, seeing her take initiative to learn sign language in order to be able to communicate with Julia stood out the most for me. Given how our story begins with a broken friendship, I was weary of YP but also happy to see Julia find a good friend. YP struggles with a hidden disorder I won’t disclose cuz spoilers but I will say that I appreciated how it was handled.  I also loved Julia’s treatment of YP, she wasn’t afraid to tell her friend “you’re beautiful” & that’s quite rare. Julia cared to see YP happy & looked out for her feelings which meant a lot considering Julia herself is the opposite of sensitive. We also get to meet Julia’s interpreter Casey who sits in on all of her classes & truly cares for Julia. Casey, I felt played an important role in the sense that her presence gives the reader a taste of what it’s like for Julia to need her to communicate with other people on her behalf.

writing-final-thoughts-banner-2

Every once in a while I pick up a YA Contemporary that gives me all the feels & renews my interest in the genre…You’re Welcome, Universe is that book! Julia referring to herself as an anomaly/snowflake set the tone for the book. She knew she was one of a kind & that gave her a sense of pride which I loved seeing. The positive portrayal of a Indian deaf girl with 2 deaf moms…I absolutely admired & adored this fictional family.

Throughout the book we get to see some of the street art Julia so graciously shared & I enjoyed seeing the Graffiti battles on the pages. I didn’t include any of the actual images from the book because I found those to be the most fun getting to as I was reading. You want to flip the page & see what she tagged on the wall & how the mystery person who is challenging her tags with their own, responds. I also got bit nostalgic since Julia lives in NYC and the places she was visiting to tag up are places I am familiar, being born & raised here in NY. Graffitti played it’s role in this city’s history and can still be found if you’re looking…

tumblr_mxesevsOzl1t5mlh3o1_1280
5 POINTZ (Julia’s dream wall) actually existed in Queens NYC, this is just one of the walls. This place has a ton of history & is home to many of the famous taggers. In 2013 it was purchased & the walls white washed causing much anger in the community 😦

The writing is very easy going in this book but perhaps what has resonated deeply within me is the positive messages this book sent out to overpower the negativity people with disabilities & disorders are subjected to. I couldn’t be more satisfied with our female protagonist & wish only to see more from Whitney Gardner in the near future *fingers crossed*

*Thank you RandomHouse, NetGalley, and Whitney Gardner for the opportunity to read & review You’re Welcome, Universe in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own*

about-the-author-banner

8512303

Whitney Gardner is an author, illustrator, and coffee addict. Originally from New York, she studied design and worked as an art teacher and school librarian before moving to Portland, Oregon, where she lives by a bridge with her husband and two pugs. In the rare moment Whitney isn’t writing or drawing, she’s likely to be reading comics, knitting, and tending her garden or apiary. You’re Welcome, Universe is her debut novel.

Have any of my bookish peeps read You’re Welcome, Universe? Thoughts? drop your links down below if you happen to have a review 😉

Review: Daughter Of The Pirate King (Daughter of the Pirate King #1) by Tricia Levenseller

dotpkDaughter of the Pirate King (Daughter of the Pirate King #1)

Published by: Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group

Publication Date: February 28th 2017

Genre: YA Fantasy

Pages: 320 pages

Format: eGalley

Rating: ★★★★★ (5 STARS)

*HUGE thanks to Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, Netgalley, and Tricia Levenseller for the eGalley of Daughter of the Pirate King in exchange for an honest review

goodreads-synopsis-2

A 17-year-old pirate captain intentionally allows herself to get captured by enemy pirates in this thrilling YA adventure.

Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map—the key to a legendary treasure trove—seventeen-year-old pirate captain Alosa deliberately allows herself to be captured by her enemies, giving her the perfect opportunity to search their ship.

More than a match for the ruthless pirate crew, Alosa has only one thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate, Riden. But not to worry, for Alosa has a few tricks up her sleeve, and no lone pirate can stop the Daughter of the Pirate King.

Debut author Tricia Levenseller blends action, adventure, romance, and a little bit of magic into a thrilling YA pirate tale.

plot-banner

Daughter of the Pirate King is the story of Alosa, a 17 year old pirate captain who has been sent by the Pirate King AKA her father to find a hidden map. Alosa along with her crew of female pirates plot her own kidnapping, fully intending to allow herself to be taken by another ships captain. She downplays her physical capabilities as well as other abilities that would give her a serious advantage in any physical altercation. The objective is to be taken onto the ship in order to find the hidden map that will lead them to a Island filled with treasures. There are three important/royal pirate families descended from three well known & highly feared pirates. Alosa is descended from the Pirate King himself and they hold one of the maps needed to find the island, the other two maps can be found within the other two pirate families. Alosa successfully manages to pull off being kidnapped however, her mission turns out to be much more difficult than she had anticipated. Although she was trained by the Pirate King himself in a all manners of defense, it is keeping those skills hidden that will prove to be her biggest weapon. We get to follow Alosa on board the enemy ship as she gathers intel all the while trying not to raise suspicions. After all, no one can know that she fully intended to be captured or what she hopes to find…

characters-banner

The characters in Daughter of the Pirate King remind me plenty of those in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise only I enjoyed this cast a bit more. Starting with Alosa, the daughter who wants nothing more than to make her father proud and follow in his footsteps ruling the seas. Alosa is strong physically & mentally, she is also very sharp & sarcastic which quickly made her a fave. We get a bit of background on her and how she came to be so strong. Her relationship with her father is not a positive one but Alosa is very proud & grateful for how it has molded her into a force to be reckoned with. Alosa has a crew of women on her very own ship, all of which she has handpicked herself. Each woman has their strengths & Alosa values everyone one her crew. Once on the enemy ship, we get introduced to their captain and first mate who happen to be brothers. Alosa & the first mate have some fierce chemistry and their banter throughout the book often made me laugh out loud and visibly shake my head. These two know which buttons to press to get the other one going & NOTHING is too far below the belt. There is plenty more that I LOVED about Alosa that I can’t quite say because *spoilers* but just know that she is seriously kick a**!  I got Merida from Brave/ blended with Jack Sparrow/Pirates of the Caribbean vibes & I couldn’t get enough. I haven’t had this much fun with a cast of characters like I have with Daughter of the Pirate King, in a very long time!

writing-final-thoughts-banner-2

Ok, the selfish bookworm in me just wants to get this out of the way…this book was way too short for me! I need more of this fantastic crew, more of this adventure/quest, more Riden! I had so much fun reading Daughter of the Pirate King that I seriously had to pace myself when I noticed that I was inhaling the book. I want to gush all about what I loved about Alosa but I know that I can’t for fear of spoilers lol. The YA Fantasy genre has been a go to for me this past year & therefore has gotten bit harder to find new story lines/characters. However, not only is Alosa a refreshing new character but she will catch you unawares. Just like she manages to keep the crew of the enemy ship in the dark, we the reader also don’t fully grasp the depth of her skills. We get introduced to a very cocky, self-assured, and brave female protagonist & then we are shown that she can back up everything that she says & thinks she is. Hands down my 1st fave female protagonist in YA Fantasy since…thinking…thinking…yea no, she simply is my favorite (the Illuminae Files girls don’t count cuz that’s more sci-fi lol). This being Tricia Levenseller’s debut fantasy series, i’d say she’s onto something here cuz who doesn’t like pirates? this book will leave you wanting to hop on the next ship out of port to your very first adventure with no care in sight. Many of the fighting scenes have a cinematic feel and overall was a ton of fun to visualize. I can’t wait for the sequel to Daughter of the Pirate King, the next adventure that i’m sure will be packed with non-stop surprises 😉

Are any of my bookish peeps looking forward to meeting Alosa, Daughter of the Pirate King? What do you make of that cover? I can’t stop staring at her fierce red hair contrasted against the black & cream parchment *heart eyes*

Review: Gilded Cage by Vic James

30258320Gilded Cage (Dark Gifts #1) by Vic James

Published by: Del Rey Books

Publication Date: February 14th 2017

Genre: YA Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Dystopian

Pages: 368 pages

Format: eGalley

Rating: ★★★★ (4 STARS)

*Click on cover for Goodreads

I’d like to thank Del Rey Books, Netgalley, and Vic James for providing a eGalley of Gilded Cage in exchange for an honest review.

goodreads-synopsis-2

Not all are free. Not all are equal. Not all will be saved.

Our world belongs to the Equals — aristocrats with magical gifts — and all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.

A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.

Abi is a servant to England’s most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of the noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family’s secrets might win her liberty, but will her heart pay the price?

A boy dreams of revolution.

Abi’s brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.

And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.

He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy?

plot-banner

Gilded Cage is a dystopian Fantasy set in an alternate England where all (no matter the color of your skin or your financial status) are expected to complete 10 years of slave life at a time of their choosing. The people are governed by the Equals who have Skill, abilities they are born with that for the most part only the wielder knows it’s full potential. Skill isn’t something spoken about freely & most among the Equals consider it taboo to discuss at all. The Equals control the Skill-less by imposing  Slave Days which are typically carried out in slave towns monitored closely. Life in these slave towns proves to be very difficult due to 6 day work weeks, small food rations, and often beatings from the patrolling security guards. We are introduced to a family of five: Mom, Dad, Oldest Daughter Abi (medical student), Son Luke (middle child), and 10 year old Daisy. The parents have been convinced by their eldest daughter Abi to submit an application to carry out their slave days at the Kyneston estate belonging to one of the top most powerful family of Equals. She is absolutely certain that they each can offer up a service that would make them ideal to be accepted at the estate as opposed to the slave towns. What Abi never expected was for the application to be accepted for all except her brother Luke. The family is immediately picked up & separated from Luke who is taken to the slave towns. From this point on Abi & Luke’s paths are divided and their experiences vastly differ from one another. Told in third person narrative, each character gets a chapter and we the reader get a dose of life through Luke and Abi’s eyes as well as the Equals. Luke is recruited by a small group of characters that are determined to bring an end to slave days. through a series of “jobs” they slowly begin to tear at the seams of injustice. One thing is for certain…the revolution has just begun.

characters-banner

Luke may have entered the slave town a teenager but he is quickly gaining wisdom and perspective that provide him with a purpose. The friends he makes are characters who just like him, have been cherry picked for their knowledge and skill-less abilities. I enjoyed seeing the character development with Luke since I didn’t think he had it in him to survive in the slave town. I also enjoyed Reenie, the first friend Luke makes and also his recruiter into this rag tag team of misfits. Reenie is described as a POC not much older than 13 years of age who appears to have been in the slave town’s for way longer than laws permit. There’s still a lot to learn about this character, I got the feeling we’ll get her background later on in the series. On Abi’s end we get the sense that she has regret over ever applying to have their days carried out at the estate. She blames herself for Luke’s predicament & sets out on a mission to gather information to get him brought to the estate. Abi has potential to grow into a strong character & her development was nice to see as well. I definitely like the Abi we see in the end better than the one we meet in the beginning.  On the other side of the spectrum we have the Equals who we get to follow & get to know individually in each of their chapters. The Jardine’s: Lord Whittam Jardine, Gavar Jardine, Jenner Jardine, and Silyen Jardine are owners of the Kyneston estate and also one of the most powerful families of Equals. Lord Whittam is a power hungry man who doesn’t deem any of his sons fit to inherit his estate. Gavar Jardine is said to have uncontrollable skill, a great amount difficult to harness. This is made all the more difficult by his temper, he is not the nicest of the bunch lol. Jenner is my favorite, he also happens to be skill-less. I enjoyed this character the most because of all the Jardines, he was sympathetic to Abi & her family making sure they stayed out of harms way. Last but not least we have Silyen, he is an oddball and I haven’t decided whether to like him or not. He also has immense power behind his skill but what his intentions are, it’s too soon to tell. Silyen plays his cards close to his chest and I can’t wait to discover more of what he’s up to. There are also some power players in the story like Gavar’s soon wife-to-be Bhouda. This character has every intention of one day sitting in a position of power & can talk politics with the best of them. She’s also colder than ice and someone to keep an eye on at all times. With many pieces on the board, I  commend Vic James for giving each of these characters their own distinct voice in each chapter. I was never confused and found their stories easy to follow which is alway good in a fantasy series with many players. Also, in case some readers are wondering some of the Equals in power were described as people of color. In this world, you were either born with skill or not. The color of your skin did not determine your fate.

writing-final-thoughts-banner-2

The world building in Gilded Cage was impressive on the slave town side of the story. I did however, wish to have seen a bit more on the skill of each of the Equals we were introduced to. I’m not sure if the author purposely chose to leave that obscure til the next book or not but there were hints of this throughout the book. In the next book I hope to gain some clarity on the Jardine brothers Skill. This being book 1 in a series, I felt that it set down a solid foundation. The writing itself was enjoyable and never boring, I always found myself wanting to pick this book back up. With a plethora of characters, I enjoyed the short chapters and felt that it carried the story along at steady pace. I’m looking forward to reading the second book in the Dark Gifts series & returning to these characters lives.

Are any of my bookish peeps planning on reading Gilded Cage? For those who already have, link that review down below & I’ll swing by 😉

Review:The Education Of Margot Sanchez

margotThe Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publication Date: February 21st 2017

Format: eGalley

Genre: YA Contemporary

Page Count: 304 pgs

Rating: ★★★★ (4.5 STARS)

I’d like to thank Simon & Schuster for approving me to receive an eGalley of The Education Of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

goodreads-synopsis-2

Pretty in Pink comes to the South Bronx in this bold and romantic coming-of-age novel about dysfunctional families, good and bad choices, and finding the courage to question everything you ever thought you wanted—from debut author Lilliam Rivera.

THINGS/PEOPLE MARGOT HATES:

Mami, for destroying my social life
Papi, for allowing Junior to become a Neanderthal
Junior, for becoming a Neanderthal
This supermarket
Everyone else

After “borrowing” her father’s credit card to finance a more stylish wardrobe, Margot
Sanchez suddenly finds herself grounded. And by grounded, she means working as an indentured servant in her family’s struggling grocery store to pay off her debts.

With each order of deli meat she slices, Margot can feel her carefully cultivated prep school reputation slipping through her fingers, and she’s willing to do anything to get out of this punishment. Lie, cheat, and maybe even steal…

Margot’s invitation to the ultimate beach party is within reach and she has no intention of letting her family’s drama or Moises—the admittedly good looking but outspoken boy from the neighborhood—keep her from her goal.

plot-banner

Ok Guys & Gals, the time has come for me to review this awesome book & I cannot tell you how excited I am to do so! the Goodreads synopsis more than covers the plot so I won’t repeat what’s already up above, instead i’ll touch on some of my fave plot points. The Education Of Margot Sanchez is first & foremost a Own Voices book about a Puerto-Rican family living in the Bronx, New York. Margot’s dad is the owner of two Grocery Stores from which he provides for his wife, son, and daughter. Margot attends a prep school in Manhattan along with the children of wealthy families. Her brother Junior works with their father in the grocery in hopes to one day take over the family business. We start off with Margot getting caught stealing her fathers credit card to order clothes online. Her punishment is to work off the debt in one of the grocery stores throughout the summer. This does not bode well for Margot who has a social life to maintain back in the city if she ever wants to “fit in” with the wealthy kids in her school. We follow Margot’s daily routine as she fulfills her duties in the grocery store by stocking shelves, working in the deli with the meat, and basically handling all of the grunt work. Her dad has every intention of teaching her a lesson but also utilizing her knowledge of social platforms to possibly give the store a new edge. The neighborhood is experiencing Gentrification and the family business is feeling the side effects. Situated next to a college and a new and upcoming food market, the family business can either benefit or be hurt by the change in demographics in their neighborhood. Margot however, could NOT be bothered with these things. Her thoughts are occupied by that guy back in her prep school who may or may not be interested in her and the “friends” she’s made by appearing to be someone she’s not. Margot is pretty much living a double life, something she has learned to do in one way or another by her own family. When Margot meets a guy while working in the grocery store, who is the complete opposite of the guy she’s had her eyes on in prep school…everything she worked so hard to create starts to fall apart. Moises represents everything her family does not want for her & yet he seems so right. This story is about Margot & how certain events lead to her growing up & learning some hard lessons from those she loves most.

characters-bannerI’ll start off with saying what I’ve seen many readers say about Margot…she’s not the nicest, she’s self-absorbed, selfish, deceitful, and ultimately an unlikeable protagonist. However, I understood this to be the whole point in educating her. Margot hasn’t had the best examples at home. Yes, her dad does pay for her to attend a pricey prep school in Manhattan but her values are all screwed up. Her parents marriage is not all that it seems and her brother is going through substance abuse issues. The problem is, there is no communication whatsoever between any of these family members. All is solved by simply not talking about it. On the surface this family appears to have it all but underneath they are hurting and divided. As a Latina woman, my childhood/family set up looked a lot like Margot’s. I experienced first hand what it’s like to look towards Papi (dad) as the bread winner and more than anything wanting to please him with success in school. Both Margot & Junior (son) want to succeed but get lost while trying to please a man who himself was failing. Mami (mom) was pretty much a silent figure in the background but you could feel her pain through her compulsion to keep everything extremely clean & tidy all day every day. I took this as her way of keeping control over something in her life when underneath it was all a giant mess. This family touched me because I was able to relate to their experiences, culture, and pain. This after all is the beauty of reading books by Own voice authors. I still think about this family & wonder whether these fictional characters are ok now…

writing-final-thoughts-banner-2

The Education Of Margot Sanchez was a light read that I flew through in just under two days. I enjoyed reading from the perspective of a Puerto-Rican family since it truly is rare to come across. This family felt familiar and relatable making this read one that I devoured all the while making comparisons to my own experiences growing up Puerto-Rican. I was pleasantly surprised to see the topic of gentrification play a role in this neighborhood since it’s one that i’ve personally seen have an affect on local mom & pop stores. There are other more serious topics covered in this book however, I feel that mentioning them is very spoilery since when I came across them I was taken aback and was moved by them. Although I know that at it’s core the story is about Margot and her family, I would’ve enjoyed seeing her take on a more hands on approach with the issues & concerns affecting her community as a symptom of gentrification. I do however appreciate how Lilliam Rivera explored the morals and values of this family in a very realistic sense. These characters were deeply flawed and were all weathering internal battles that seeped into their relationships with one another. Sometimes parents don’t always have it right themselves. A lot of times the kids get caught up in the unspoken. Such is the story of Margot & her brother Junior.

about-the-author-banner

14358410Originally from the Bronx, NYC, Lilliam Rivera is a 2016 Pushcart Prize winner and a 2015 Clarion graduate. She has been awarded fellowships and grants from PEN Center USA, Elizabeth George Foundation, and A Room of Her Own Foundation. Her work has appeared in Tin House, Los Angeles Times, Bellevue Literary Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, Latina, among others. She hosts the Los Angeles-based radio show Literary Soundtrack on Radio Sombra and lives in Los Angeles with her family. Visit her at LilliamRivera.com.

Review: Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

wintersongWintersong by S. Jae-Jones

Published by: St. Martin’s Press

Publication Date: February 7th 2017

Genre: YA Fantasy/Re-telling/Romance

Pages: 448 pages

Format: eGalley (Netgalley)

Rating: ★★★ 1/2 (3.5 Stars)

I’d like to thank St. Martin’s Press, S. Jae-Jones, and NetGalley for the eGalley of Wintersong in exchange for an honest review.

 

goodreads-synopsis-2

Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.

All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.

But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.

Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.

plot-banner

Wintersong weaves the tale of Leisl, a young woman who has more than her fair share of duties in her home. Kathe’s father is a fallen musician who is mostly inebriated, Mother is more of a partner in running the household, younger sister is seen as the beauty, and younger brother is a musical prodigy. Leisl herself is musically talented, specifically in composition but has set that aside in favor of helping her brother perfect his craft and one day gain notoriety. Besides the fact that she is running the household, her gender is one of the reasons for which her father discourages her from taking interest/composing music. As young children both Leisl & her young brother Josef would play their music in the Goblin Grove for the Goblin King, a mysterious figure who played music with them. As time passed & Kathe’s responsibilities grew, the Goblin King was slowly forgotten. That is until Leisl’s sister is taken by the Goblins into the Underworld by order of the Goblin King. Leisl finds her way into the Underworld and strikes a bargain with the King to release her sister…A life for a life…she will remain in the Underworld & marry the King and he will let her sister return to the land of the living. Although it may seem harsh at first, Leisl’s “selfless” deed is a bit selfish. She is tired of being unseen , unheard, not beautiful, and cast aside in the shadows of her younger brother’s musical genius. What Leisl didn’t know, was that her sacrifice was much heavier than at first it seems. Leisl & the Goblin King reconnect through their love for music & soon enough a love for each other. As long as her passion shines bright, the Underground will sustain and the land of the living will see Spring instead of being thrust into a deep dark never ending winter…she is essentially it’s life force all while she physically fades away…

characters-banner

Our main protagonist Leisl isn’t your typical YA character & this was both a good and I wouldn’t say bad thing, but definitely someone to get used to lol. She is very much aware of her musical talent & oftentimes a bit of envy sneaks up when she is helping her brother Josef in composition. Josef is precise, he has been able to play the violin since the age of 5 while Kathe is wild passion and emotion in her composition. She also looks upon her younger sister’s beauty & is self-aware of what comes across as her own plain Jane appearance (nothing wrong with a plain Jane *winks*). Her sister is already betrothed to someone that Leisl also can’t stop herself from wanting for herself. It isn’t so hard for her to (at first) leave this life behind in favor of one where she is the center of the Goblin King’s attention & her musical abilities are praised. We get to see major character development with Leisl which I came to appreciate because it provided a better understanding of all her underlying emotions. Although her family were central to her story, they also weren’t the focus & were more in the background of the story. The Goblin King himself is actually perfectly suited for Leisl in many ways lol, he’s pretty arrogant and controlling which probably can be credited to being immortal & seeing many brides come and go. He’s also musically talented and although he comes off as having this jerk-like exterior, can actually be a decent guy…it’s a common trope, I know but it happens to work well in Wintersong. This is a a 448 page book and the author gives us full on character development & history. The Goblin King’s history is interesting and I can understand how his story and how he came to be the king of the Underworld, molded him into such a undesirable character. I wasn’t a fan of the Goblin King, particularly because of his selfishness which he fully owns up to. Also, certain parts regarding Leisl’s appearance & what he thought of her made me a bit squeamish. I appreciate however, that these characters weren’t your typical cookie cutter personalities found in YA. They were flawed & complex, which oftentimes led to me holding back judgement until I got more story. There were however, two characters that I ABSOLUTELY loved and couldn’t get enough of. Twig & Thistle are two Goblins who are tasked with the not so easy job of tending to Leisl’s needs & wants as Queen of the Underworld. Although all Goblins can’t be trusted, Twig came as close to a friend to Leisl as possible. Twig is the sweeter of the two Goblins. Thistle is Twigs opposite, sarcastic & not happy whatsoever with having to tend to Leisl. Twig is also very vocal about this and gets a kick out of withholding information from Leisl. Thistle’s mischief really added the Goblin touch & those scenes were very entertaining.

writing-final-thoughts-banner-2

The writing in Wintersong is beautiful, atmospheric, lyrical, and dark which managed to keep me enthralled whenever I picked this book up. However, there were two things that I struggled with just a bit. This is a slow paced book which typically I don’t have any problems with, however it may just be the dark mood and setting that made this one feel a bit too slow. The second issue I had isn’t really one that bothered me too much but it did affect the reading experience a bit, the heavy use of Classical music terminology. Its been years since I took the basics of Classical music in college but that didn’t help me much here. Although one can easily say that it’s not necessary to be knowledgable of the subject, because it was such a focal point & the author used a lot of terminology…I did feel left out of the story on more than one occasion. I won’t however, take away from the writing because it is seriously some of the most beautiful writing I have come across. I also couldn’t stop diving back into this world which leads me to the excellent world building. The Underground came to life through vivid description, the author left nothing out down to the Goblin furniture. I loved the attention to detail that was given in creating this world & can honestly say it played out like a movie for me. I will most definitely keep an eye out for this author’s future works & recommend Wintersong for those who love great world building, Romance, Fantasy, lyrical writing, and especially those who enjoy Classical music/Composition 😉

Review: Fractured by Catherine McKenzie

29477965Fractured by Catherine McKenzie

Publisher: Lake Union

Publication Date: October 4th 2016

Format: eGalley (Netgalley)

Genre: Suspense/Mystery

Page Count: 360 pgs

Rating: ★★★★ (3.75)

Goodreads Synopsis:

Julie Prentice and her family move across the country to the idyllic Mount Adams district of Cincinnati, hoping to evade the stalker who’s been terrorizing them ever since the publication of her bestselling novel, The Murder Game. Since Julie doesn’t know anyone in her new town, when she meets her neighbor John Dunbar, their instant connection brings measured hope for a new beginning. But she never imagines that a simple, benign conversation with him could set her life spinning so far off course.

After a series of misunderstandings, Julie and her family become the target of increasingly unsettling harassment. Has Julie’s stalker found her, or are her neighbors out to get her, too? As tension in the neighborhood rises, new friends turn into enemies, and the results are deadly.

*I’d like to thank Lake Union for approving me to receive an eGalley of Fractured by Catherine Mckenzie via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

PLOT

Fractured is the 2nd mystery/suspense novel I’ve read this year in which I was unsure whether one of the main protagonists was a unreliable narrator or not. This novel kept me in the dark for almost the entirety of the book with incredible build up. Formatted in past & present tense, Fractured is narrated by Julie Prentice who is the newly moved in neighbor & John Dunbar who has resided in the close-knit neighborhood all his life. This book gave me such Stepford/Desperate Housewives feels & I wasn’t complaining since I loved the movie & tv show. I will say that any time I read or watch anything that takes place in a suburban community, I am always left feeling creeped out and thankful for my city and the neighbors who couldn’t be bothered to watch my coming’s & going’s HAHA! So, Julie Prentice who is looking to start a new life far away from her stalker decides to move to Cincinnati with her husband and twins. Julie has had much success from her debut thriller The Murder Game based loosely on old law school games she used to play with her law school buddies. “The Book” as Julie refers to it, runs parallel to her own life with many similarities between her and The Book’s protagonist Meredith. In “The Book”, someone is murdered and it just so happens that within Julie’s circle of real life law school buddies, someone was murdered while they were all at a frat-like party many years ago. Now a well known debut author with rising fame, Julie is used to all of the rumors swirling around The Murder Game aka “The Book” except that her stalker isn’t just some random Jane. Julie’s stalker actually attended the same law school & claims to know the truth. Julie struggles with depression & is a recovering alcoholic. Her transition into the new neighborhood is awkward from the very beginning & unfortunately only takes a downward spiral after a series of encounters with some of the neighbors (cue The Stepford Wives jeje). John Dunbar is the first to befriend Julie over a mutual love for morning runs. They develop a friendship since he’s a work-from-home dad & she an author with a deadline for book 2. In a community where every move is watched & reported, a friendship like theirs is sure to stir up some talk. However, it is the decisions they make that put into effect a series of life changing events. Since this is a Mystery/Suspense novel I don’t want to go to in depth. I went in blind like I do with most mystery/suspense novels & I think it works best with Fractured.
 

CHARACTERS

Since this book is told by Julie & John both in past and present tense, we get to see a mixture of old and new friends for each of these characters. Their family set-up is almost identical except for that Julie’s twins are I believe around 5 or 6 years of age and John has two teens. They are both married and their spouses work coincide with one another. Everyone is connected one way or another and everything is treated as public knowledge with very little room for privacy. We get introduced to some of the neighbors who under the leadership of one of the residents, have formed a committee. The leader of the committee throughout the book sends out these memos updating & revising (more like adding) the policies (rules) for the neighborhood and monthly block party which served to insert some humor into this book. I found myself thinking how it could be possible for all of the neighbors to follow these rules without protest but chucked it off to group thinking. The neighborhood as a whole down to some of the teens were pretty intense and very quick to pass judgment on Julie. The giph below perfectly describes how I pictured the women of Mount Adams would look at Julie every time there was a so called “incident” on their street. Most of the time I disliked the way the other women were towards Julie but there were some occasions that made me raise a brow. John I wasn’t too fond of at all, he came across as weird in a gross way and cowardly. Catherine McKenzie gave us two very complex protagonists & for that I am thankful since I like my characters roughly shaped LOL. 
3o7tkrjksvaizqvcww

THOUGHTS

I read Fractured in a fairly short amount of time which usually means that I enjoyed what I was reading, and I did. I was desperately trying to figure out what exactly happened and didn’t see that ending coming at all. I especially enjoyed the formatting of the chapters in past & present tense counting down to the final present hour. It all felt like flashbacks and you the reader get the full picture of how exactly the cookie came to crumble. There were certain things that played key roles in Julie’s life that I wish weren’t so easily tucked away (won’t say what due to spoilers) & some questions from her past that lingered in my mind. Overall though, this was an enjoyable read. What I loved most about reading Fractured had to be Catherine McKenzie’s writing style, which means I will definitely be looking into her other books. If you’re looking for the next suspense filled mystery novel this one is sure to hold you in it’s grasp till the very last page 😉

 

P.S. It aint a block party if the punch aint spiked! BAHAHAHA! 

Review: Ink and Bone by Lisa Unger

ik-bone

Ink and Bone by Lisa Unger 

Published by: Touchstone

Date of Publication: June 7th 2016

Genres: Mystery Thriller/Paranormal/Urban Fantasy

Pages: 352

Format: eGalley (Netgalley)

Rating: ★★★★★ (4.75 stars)

 

 

Goodreads Synopsis:

An instant page-turner (Lisa Gardner) that straddles the line between thriller and horror…sure to appeal to a wide range of readers, including Stephen King fans. (Booklist, starred) A young woman’s mysterious gift forces her into the middle of a dangerous investigation of a little girl’s disappearance. 

Twenty-year-old Finley Montgomery is rarely alone. Visited by people whom others can’t see and haunted by prophetic dreams, she has never been able to control or understand the things that happen to her. When Finley’s abilities start to become too strong for her to handle – and even the roar of her motorcycle or another dazzling tattoo can’t drown out the voices – she turns to the only person she knows who can help her: her grandmother Eloise Montgomery, a renowned psychic living in The Hollows, New York.

Merri Gleason is a woman at the end of her tether after a ten-month-long search for her missing daughter, Abbey. With almost every hope exhausted, she resorts to hiring Jones Cooper, a detective who sometimes works with psychic Eloise Montgomery. Merri’s not a believer, but she’s just desperate enough to go down that road, praying that she’s not too late. Time, she knows, is running out.

As a harsh white winter moves into The Hollows, Finley and Eloise are drawn into the investigation, which proves to have much more at stake than even the fate of a missing girl. As Finley digs deeper into the town and its endless layers, she is forced to examine the past, even as she tries to look into the future. Only one thing is clear: The Hollows gets what it wants, no matter what.

 

I’d like to thank Touchstone for providing me with a eGalley of Ink & Bone by Lisa Unger via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I guess I should start off by saying that horror is NOT my thing! this gal right here has avoided the Freddy intro ever since first hearing it at the age of 10. I was the girl who avoided spook every Halloween & somehow always managed to get “accidentally” egged LOL. The mere mention of a spirit or ghost in my home was enough to keep me up several nights & my dear old g’ma used this as a way to get my sister & I settled down when being too rowdy at night. Fast Forward to 2016 & Spookathon Read-alongs are EVERYWHERE! can’t escape them. I decided to start Ink & Bone since it was described as a mystery thriller with an ominous cover but no mention of spook just a couple of psychics….I can do psychics right?…

Ink and Bone by Lisa Unger sunk its teeth into me from the 1st page & never let me go. It starts off with a prologue which I surprisingly enjoyed. It gives us a piece of the puzzle & lingers in your mind as the story unfolds. We get introduced to a couple who have been married for 16 years (unhappily so) with 2 kids. They are both night & day, Wolf is a writer and Merri is an editor. Wolf is also quite the charmer & the player, being unfaithful from day 1. Merri is aware of his philandering but has come to accept it as the norm, knowing that he hasn’t been faithful for longer than a year at a time. Merri also knows that Wolf loves her, they have amazing sexual chemistry, and when its good its great. Its the every day cycle of their lives as parents filled with repetition and very little adventure that bores Wolf. While carrying on a relationship with another woman (complete opposite of Merri), Wolf decides that the family needs a little getaway, packs them up, and heads to The Hollows. A town filled with mystery, death, and sadness but of course at the time Wolf had no idea. Wrapped up in his own needs & wants, Wolf hasn’t found a way to cut ties with his lover and instead is stringing her along. At the end of the day he knows that he loves Merri & that he wants to be faithful, that Merri is the only woman that can truly have a hold on his heart. It’s during a outing with the kids on a hiking trail in The Hollows that everything changes for the worse. Even though we are shown what happens in the prologue, I won’t do so beause I want you ALL to read it for yourselves & enjoy it just as much I did of course HAHA! the events however, only further put a strain on their marriage. Throw in resentment, regret, guilt and what you have is a recipe for divorce…or not? won’t give that away 😉

We also get introduced to Finley Montgomery who i’ve already added to my collection of fave female protagonists. Finley is described as having neon pink & black hair, tattoo sleeves (most of her back is covered), and a motor bike she rides all over town. Finley lives with her grandmother Eloise in The Hollows, they both are survivors of a tragic accident that left them with the powers to connect to the dead. Finley is able to see the dead who linger in this town with unresolved business. Kudos to Unger, the descriptions of these dead ones was haunting & bone chilling which led me to have to read Ink and Bone with the lights on. The Hollows is a place with abnormally high levels of abductions, murder, and abortions. It calls to others who like Finley, are able to see or feel those that have crossed over to the other side. It isn’t long before Finley’s path crosses with Merri & her family. Eleven months after the disappearance of Abbey (Merri & Wolf’s daughter), Meri still feels that there is hope and decides to resume her search by hiring an independent detective known for his work with psychics. Detective Jones Cooper has solved many cases alongside Eloise (Finley’s g’ma) but this time he will find himself working with Finley who is trying to learn how to control & set boundaries for her powers.

Thoughts

This book had me at the edge of my seat in certain parts & in others it had me searching for the light switch. The writing is haunting and a bit disturbing, I found myself wanting to know more about The Hollows but NEVER wanting to visit. The Hollows is described by Eloise to be some sort of vortex or place of power (maybe even a vacuum) that acts like a magnet for negativity which would explain all of the death. We even get to see dead spirits of three young girls who were accused & burned as witches. Unger brought The Hollows to life for me, it was a very atmospheric read that left me googling to see if it exists…haven’t found it yet (thankfully lol). I also felt that although there was resolution, we also get a sense that she’s leaving the door open for more. I can only hope that this gets turned into a series since there seems to be plenty of material & Finley is only just now getting acquainted with her powers. I did find The Whispering Hollows which is a collection of 3 short stories introducing us to The Hollows (before Ink and Bone was published) & I will be reading this in November since it’s only 159 pgs. & my curiosity for The Hollows is unusually great. If you’re looking for your next Booktober or fall read, Ink and Bone is the way to go 😉

27221254

Review: When The Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

 When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

Published by: Thomas Dunne /St. Martin’s Press

Date of Publication: October 4th 2016

Genres: Young Adult/Magical Realism/LGBTQ

Pages: 288

Format: eGalley (Netgalley)

Rating: ★★★★★(5 stars)

 

 

Goodreads Synopsis:

When the Moon Was Ours follows two characters through a story that has multicultural elements and magical realism, but also has central LGBT themes—a transgender boy, the best friend he’s falling in love with, and both of them deciding how they want to define themselves.

To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town.

But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

I’d like to thank Thomas Dunne /St. Martin’s Press for approving me to receive an eGalley of When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

PLOT

When the Moon Was Ours is the story of two best friends, Miel & Sam who meet when they are children, under unusual circumstances. The town’s water tower has fallen & Miel, a child at the time is found sitting there when the water washes away. The belief is that she came from the water tower. Sam is the only person/child that Miel allows to approach her & since that day, they’ve been inseparable. A friendship that grows with them & eventually turns into much more. Both Miel & Sam hold secrets close to their hearts. This is their story of coming to terms with, accepting, and loving who they are. It’s about releasing your fears & understanding your loved one’s journey at their pace. A story about self-identity & living your truth. Sam short for Samir is a transgender Pakistani boy who the town often refers to as moon for all of the globes/moons he paints & hangs all throughout the town and woods. Sam & his mother who is a stay at home teacher, moved to the town with no paper trail to their past. Miel (Spanish to English translation: Honey) is a Latina girl with a fear of pumpkins & is believed to have been cursed. Miel has an open wound on her arm where a rose with vines & thorns grow. when in full bloom, Miel offers them up to the river. Miel was taken in & cared for by a neighbor after she was found by the tower of water. The neighbor, a Latina woman who is known as the town’s Curandera, specializes in curing lovesickness. The story revolves around Miel, Sam, Sam’s mom, Aracely (Miel’s caretaker), and lastly the Bonner sisters (4 in total). The Bonner sisters are known for their beauty, red hair, and ability to attract any male in town with little to no effort as if they have bewitched them. When one of the Bonner sisters does something that could bring shame to the family, she is sent away. It is her return that shakes up Miel & Sam’s lives. The Bonner sisters seem to have lost their magic but believe the  rumor that the roses growing from Miel’s arm can restore beauty & attraction, are true. So begins this story filled with pain, sadness, and beauty…


“To the boys who get called girls, the girls who get called boys, and those who live outside these words. To those called names, and those searching for names of their own. To those who live on the edges, and in the spaces in between. I wish for you every light in the sky.”


CHARACTERS

I LOVED these characters so much that my heart was breaking for them for more than 80% of the book. Sam, a transgender Pakistani boy who binds his chest & practices his voice to make sure it sounds low & developed at the same rate as other boys in school. Sam who adopts a tradition that his grandmother passed on to him, called bacha posh “a cultural practice in parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan in which families who have daughters but no sons dress a daughter as a boy. The daughter then acts as a son to the family. As an adult, a bacha posh traditionally returns to living as a girl, now a woman” Sam adopts this tradition thinking he would one day want to be a woman. Sam will forever be in my heart for all of his beauty & tenderness towards Miel. For all of the moons he lit up & hung around the homes of children who couldn’t sleep. Miel is a girl who carries guilt, pain, and beauty on her arm. This book is full of metaphors & beautiful prose but it’s clear that the roses are connected to Miel’s own heart. The cruelty she experiences at the hands of the Bonner sisters broke my heart into pieces & I felt the need to protect her. The parentals, it’s rare nowadays that you come across parentals in YA books that you actually like but that are also flawed themselves. Such is the case with Sam’s mom & Aracely who is Miel’s caretaker, these women have plenty of pain of their own but they both are portrayed as very strong women.  What I loved the most about these two is the support & understanding they both provided to Sam & Miel. They guided both Miel & Sam, making sure to toughen them up for what was sure to come.

WRITING

The writing in When The Moon Was Ours is full of magic, folklore and legends. Lush with the littlest of details making their world come to life on the pages. So much beauty in the words for these characters who experienced profound pain & sadness. Sam went out of his way to bring out the beauty of the night to Miel & we can feel how much he truly loves her. I found myself caught up on some of the prose describing how he viewed Miel, tissue at the ready. When I read violent scenes I was always struck by the contrast in the world Sam & Miel had created for themselves next to what it really is. To be honest I didn’t know if this book was for me because although I love Magical Realism, McLemore’s writing is very lyrical & reminiscent of Laini Taylor…I just have to be in the mood for their style of writing. Thankfully I decided to stick with it & now I have a new favorite story that will for sure stay in my heart.

THOUGHTS

I actually read the afterward at the end of this book & I’m glad because Anna-Marie McLemore shares a bit of where she drew inspiration for this book. She met her husband when they were both teens & always wondered whether he was transgender. There were moments where she noticed his awkwardness at being grouped with other females. She provided for him the same understanding that he gave her. Anna-Marie had nightmares of La Llorona as a child. In myths she is said to have drowned her own children & roamed around wailing at night and stealing daughters from their parents. She talks about providing that understanding for her husband when he did decide to live his life in the gender he identifies with. It wouldn’t be until many years later that she would write When the Moon Was Ours, a story that at its base is an extension of her own life experiences. Reading this part about the author’s personal experience made this story all the more special.

Author Spotlight & Giveaway: Zoraida Córdova

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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 🙂