Review: Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

25895524Red Sister (Book of the Ancestor #1) by Mark Lawrence

Published by: Ace

Publication Date: April 4th 2017

Genre: Adult Fantasy/LGBTQ

Pages: 432 pages

Format: eGalley (Netgalley)

Rating: ★★★★★

HUGE thanks to Ace, Netgalley, and Mark Lawrence for the eGalley of Red Sister in exchange for a honest review. All opinions are my own.

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I was born for killing – the gods made me to ruin.

At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones its novices’ skills to deadly effect: it takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist.

But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls as a bloodstained child of eight, falsely accused of murder: guilty of worse.

Stolen from the shadow of the noose, Nona is sought by powerful enemies, and for good reason. Despite the security and isolation of the convent her secret and violent past will find her out. Beneath a dying sun that shines upon a crumbling empire, Nona Grey must come to terms with her demons and learn to become a deadly assassin if she is to survive…

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My very 1st Mark Lawrence read & boy was it something! nothing could’ve prepared me for what lay ahead but the first few pages in the first chapter did manage to leave me wide eyed. Right off the bat we are introduced to a 8 year old Nona & the harsh reality of the world she lives in. The opening scene had me asking strangers on the train “oh! so no man, woman, or CHILD is safe under Mark’s pen huh?!?!” well the answer to that is NO! no one is safe & plenty are hungry enough to sell their children to avoid starvation. Nona is literally saved from the noose at the very last second by a Nun from Sweet Mercy Convent which is by no means your typical convent. This also won’t be my typically styled review, I finished this book days ago & have gone above & beyond to avoid a book hangover. I will try my best not to fangirl all over this review, back to the Plot…

Sweet Mercy Convent gave me Hogwarts mixed with a Ludus (like in Spartacus) vibes. The nuns at Sweet Mercy all specialize in one skill or another ranging from fighting to magic. Everyone in this world is a descendant from of the following four tribes:

Hunska: Speed (faster than your average human)

Gerrant: Physically large & strong

Marjal: ability to do magic on a smaller scale

Quantal: ability to walk the path & more complex magic

The students who enter are sorted by the abilities they’ve shown a inherent skill towards or in the case of Gerrant & Hunska, are visibly on display. The girls also attend classes in various subjects pertaining to each skill and go through ranks in the following order: Red Class, Gray Class, Mystic Class, and Holy Class. Nona will have 10 years of education in the convent in order to become a Red Sister. During her time & training in the convent there are outside forces at work seeking retribution for old wounds. Nona has secrets, ones that she doesn’t want her peers to ever find out for fear they will see the darkness within her. Nona has a bloody violent history leading up to the noose where she would be hung for her crime. We follow her progress in Sweet Mercy Convent as she learns to hone her skills all the while dealing with inside & outside threats.

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We follow Nona from age 8 to about age 11 in this first installment in the Book of the Ancestor series. She has only known violence & the need to survive when she is brought to Sweet Mercy Convent. She is shrouded in mystery & likes it that way, often times making up stories for her past. Perhaps Nona’s biggest weakness is her unquestioning loyalty to those that call her “friend”. In Sweet Mercy we are introduced to the Abess & sisters who run the convent & teach the classes. I found myself enjoying some of these characters like Sister Apple for her specialty which I won’t reveal since it is spoilery. Also, Sister Kettle who watches over the library, won me over with her threat to anyone caught folding pages in books. Besides the vast array of sisters, there were three other girls in Nona’s class we get to follow closely. There’s Clera who has a love/hate relationship with Nona, Arabella who fiercely watches over Nona, and Hessa who is connected to Nona & often plays the voice of reason. Friendships play a center focus in Red Sister, we see Nona learning the highs & lows all the while living in a competitive setting. Arabella was hands down my favorite & seeing their friendship unfold was awesome since as a reader of Young Adult, I don’t often see positive F/F friendships. This was a change of pace & there were definitely betrayals & double crossings in the mix but that’s to be expected in this world where violence is the law of the land. I like my characters flawed & complex and Lawrence delivers with Nona as well as her friends. No one is wholly “good” or “evil” & therefore nothing is ever black or white in this world, we get a ton of gray til the very last page.

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I finished reading Red Sister some time last week & was left speechless…so much so that I couldn’t bring myself to write this review. I needed to digest what was my first ever Mark Lawrence book & gather my thoughts. From start to finish, Red Sister held me in its grip for various reasons including the no holds barred violence that follows our main protagonist. The world building at first seemed like it would overwhelm me but Lawrence weaves in the ranks & paths so well, that there really was no need to refer to the glossary. About the glossary LOL! MAJOR points for placing the glossary at the very beginning of the book as opposed to the very end where no one ever thinks to look haha! although as previously mentioned, it wasn’t necessary other than as back-up info to this world. The writing is very detailed but in a useful way if that makes sense, it wasn’t overkill. The fighting/training scenes were the most detailed & I was able to get a vivid picture almost as if I were watching a movie. Told in third person POV, Red Sister’s opening pages starts you off with a glimpse of events taking place in the future. This alone was a HUGE motivator for me as far as page turning goes, I needed to find out what that whole scene was about & how everyone managed to get to that point…WHAT WENT WRONG?!?!?! to say that I loved my 1st Mark Lawrence book is a HUGE understatement, I’m in it for the long haul my bookish peeps! If you’re a mostly Young Adult Fantasy reader & are considering taking the leap into Adult Fantasy, this may be a great place to start. For fans of bad a** female heroines, vivid  fight scenes, positive female friendships, positive LGBTQIA representation and elements of the Potterverse…this book is for YOU! 😉

Some of my closest book blogging buddies have already read Red Sister & I will spend Monday visiting their reviews to finally read their thoughts & complain about the wait til’ book 2 haha! Is anyone else reading Red Sister? If you have a review up, please drop that link in the box below & I’ll gladly swing by for a chat 🙂

Review: Hunted by Meagan Spooner

Hunted by Meagan Spooner

Published by: HarperTeen

Publication Date: January 14th 2017

Genre: YA Fantasy/Re-telling

Pages: 352 pages

Format: eGalley

Rating: ★★★★★ (4.5 Stars)

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Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?

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Hunted is the story of Yeva aka Beauty and her love for the hunt & desire for more than court life (reminds me of one of my fave protogs Freya from Long May She Reign). Yeva has only known the wealthy aristocratic life keeping the baronessa company which she finds boring & constricting. She is the youngest of 3 girls and lives with her father who is known as a wealthy business merchant. It is a business deal with good intentions-gone wrong that throws Yeva and her family into poverty. Forced to sell their home & live in their father’s cabin in the forest, their lives drastically changed. The shame & disappointment of it all proves to be too much for Yeva’s father. The Goodreads synopsis sums up the events that transpire following their misfortune. On the surface Hunted is a re-telling that runs parallel with the original classic Beauty & the Beast. However, besides the similarities this story is also about want & greed and the consequences of never being sated. Starting with a father who wanting more for his village, went as far as staking his entire mass fortune. We see Yeva abandon her home where her sisters depend on her hunting skills for their livelihood, in search of their father who’s gone missing. The thrill of the hunt has always called to Yeva who like her father, has a natural skill for it. The Beast also has his story but revealing that here would be a spoiler so i’ll keep that one to myself lol. Just as in the original, the Beast is cursed and is in need of rescuing…I think this is what I love most of this tale, that the Beauty or princess isn’t in need of rescuing. 

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I love seeing YA Fantasy turn the tables on the outdated trope of the princess needs saving & so it’s no wonder why I end up loving the Yeva’s & Freya’s of YA Fantasy. I enjoyed Yeva as a character because of her flaws, she isn’t Belle from BATB although they do share similarities. We see Yeva make questionable decisions and ultimately also be affected by her unquenchable desire for more. When I got to thinking about Yeva, I realized this made her all the more human to me. We also meet her two older sisters Lena and Asenka, & I liked them alright as supporting characters. Asenka has a physical disability that she hides and like Lena focuses on keeping the house maintained. Asenka is a giver she will sacrifice it all for her family & I rooted for hers all through the end. Lena wasn’t all too fleshed out but what I saw of her, I liked enough. Now, the real show stopper award goes to Doe-Eyes, Yeva’s hunting dog who previously hunted with her father. From what I could gather, Doe-Eyes is a female dog (I may be wrong but this is what i’m going with lol) & very loyal. Wherever Yeva went, Doe-Eyes would follow no matter how impossible this feat may have seemed. To say that I fell in love with this dog is an understatement, Doe-Eyes was spunky & lively, she wasn’t getting left behind from all the action. I couldn’t get enough of her whenever she showed up unexpectedly (Yay for dogs in YA!). Last but not least we have the Beast (I promise I did not intend for that to rhyme -_-) who just as in the original, we get brief glimpses of. What I loved about Beast? the fact that we see him warring with the human nature he carries within. We also get to know his backstory of how he came to be cursed which unlike the original, actually has some meat to it. Besides his backstory, everything else about Beast is pretty similar to the original & I appreciated Spooner staying close to the original while still making him her own.

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 Hunted is my very first read by Meagan Spooner & I’m officially a fan! this book gave me such Bear and the Nightingale (LOVED!) feels with its use of Russian Folklore. The story telling was on point. I’m always weary when picking up a re-telling of a childhood favorite but Spooner pulled it off with Hunted. Maybe it was the mixture of similarities to the original & her own take on it but…I felt like I got a piece of my childhood back, a very nostalgic reading experience. I especially enjoyed the chapter “enders” (made this word up) where we were given the Beast’s inner monologue as the human inside him wars against the beast he’s become. The pacing is a bit on the slower side but I’m the type of bookworm that doesn’t mind the slow build-up. I don’t however think that it’s so slow that it drags or bores, it felt like I was being read a fairy tale which is what I wanted. To date, this is my favorite Beauty and the Beast re-telling. It has me listening to the original soundtrack & watching the original just to stay a little longer with this tale as old as time…

*Thank you HarperTeen, Edelweiss, and Meagan Spooner for the eGalley of Hunted in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own.

Photo credit: Crushermyheart https://crushermyheart.tumblr.com/

Have any of my bookish peeps read Hunted? thoughts? did you enjoy the similarities? are any of you watching Beauty and the Beast? I know I’ll be watching it next wknd & attempting my 1st movie 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

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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.

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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…

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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!

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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: Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

scrappy-little-nobodyScrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

Published by: Touchstone

Date of Publication: November 15th 2016

Genres: Autobiography-Memoir-Humor

Pages: 271

Format: Audiobook

Rating:★★★★ (4.5)



Goodreads:

A collection of humorous autobiographical essays by the Academy Award-nominated actress and star of Up in the Air and Pitch Perfect.

Even before she made a name for herself on the silver screen starring in films like Pitch PerfectUp in the AirTwilight, and Into the Woods, Anna Kendrick was unusually small, weird, and “10 percent defiant.”

At the ripe age of thirteen, she had already resolved to “keep the crazy inside my head where it belonged. Forever. But here’s the thing about crazy: It. Wants. Out.” In Scrappy Little Nobody, she invites readers inside her brain, sharing extraordinary and charmingly ordinary stories with candor and winningly wry observations.

With her razor-sharp wit, Anna recounts the absurdities she’s experienced on her way to and from the heart of pop culture as only she can—from her unusual path to the performing arts (Vanilla Ice and baggy neon pants may have played a role) to her double life as a middle-school student who also starred on Broadway to her initial “dating experiments” (including only liking boys who didn’t like her back) to reviewing a binder full of butt doubles to her struggle to live like an adult woman instead of a perpetual “man-child.”

Enter Anna’s world and follow her rise from “scrappy little nobody” to somebody who dazzles on the stage, the screen, and now the page—with an electric, singular voice, at once familiar and surprising, sharp and sweet, funny and serious (well, not that serious).

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I went into listening to Scrappy Little Nobody with very little expectations since besides Pitch Perfect, I really didn’t know much about Anna Kendrick. I did know that she was someone who I wanted to know more about, her on-screen presence giving you only hints of her actual personality. She’s one of the few funny ladies that I love watching yet I didn’t know why. In Scrappy Little Nobody, Kendrick completely obliterates any notion that she is fame ready & the belief that she’s this A-list celebrity reaping all the benefits of Hollywood stardom. Kendricks very humble beginnings set the stage for what was to come but it wasn’t easy and it was her fierce determination & hunger to do what she loves that got her to where she stands now. She invites us into her youth days when she auditioned for many small time plays, commercials, and movies. Like the time she played one of many supporting actors/actresses on the Twilight set as a corpse covered in blood. She didn’t turn her nose at any of the roles thrown her way but instead took them as an opportunity to fatten up her resumé. She tells us about a time she had been offered an audition in NY & her parents allowed her to take the metro to the city. The audition turned into a call-back and her parents paid for a hotel, called ahead and informed the hotel that they were certain to follow when in reality they just needed to be there for the following morning. After all, in show biz there are no rooms for excuses & a second chance is hard to come by. She jokes that whenever an actor/actress thinks to raise a complication or complaint, they are offered a glass of water…the show must go on. Anna washed her clothes in the hotel sink and used the $40 in cash her parents had given her to buy shoes from Payless. You can tell she is proud of these humble beginnings and this made me love her all the more for it. Later in her career, Kendrick began to generate some buzz and with it came roles like Up In The Air alongside George Clooney, a film that went on to win many Academy awards. All throughout, she lets us know that she by no means had her life together while starring in these films. She was however, a struggling actress living paycheck to paycheck and it was reflected in the simple clothing she wore and in the small apartment she shared with 2 of her friends. The well put together Anna we saw on the red carpet was polished hours before we saw her. She was often left in awe at some of the clothes & jewelry that she was allowed to wear, mostly rentals because of the price tag but nonetheless it didn’t go unnoticed by her that these were indicators of her progress in making her dreams come true. All throughout she remains humble, giving us an inside look on what it takes to make it when you come from nothing. I had many laugh out loud moments listening to hilarious takes of her trying to get a scene right only to have it cut as a whole, leaving her physically bruised but never defeated. She speaks on body issues, being a smaller size was never easy and she’s honest about the teasing & challenges that shopping presented. I love her resilience & fighter personality. I found myself rooting for her whenever she found herself confronted with a bully or an awkward situation with one of the guys she was dating. Scrappy Little Nobody is a title that fits this book so perfectly that now that i’ve finished it, I can’t imagine it being named anything else…

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I don’t think i’ve ever understood friends or strangers when i’ve heard them say they wished a certain celebrity was their real life friend lol. After finishing Scrappy Little Nobody, Anna Kendrick is now this person for me. She is one of the few rare gems that shine and just aren’t aware of it. Anna narrated Scrappy Little Nobody herself & the sincerity is there. I felt her awkwardness in many situations and also her eagerness & motivation to do what she loves. Like many of us, she works on being comfortable in her own skin and including this made her only more relatable. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t easy to experience some of the things mentioned in her book, but they seem to have been a contributing factor in the wonderful human being she is today. I’ve never once looked at her on screen & thought her weak or small or less than. I get now, that what I loved about her while admittedly knowing very little about her, is her energy and fighter attitude. I’ve added Up In The Air on my queue, a movie that i’ve stayed away from because I find movies about cancer patients to hit too close to home. In her book, she lets us know that neither the cast or herself thought this movie would win anything & it came as a huge surprise when it did. I’d like to see her performance & will definitely be following her career in acting since I love what i’ve seen so far…btw i’d check out her Twitter, she is seriously funny on Twitter she isn’t kidding haha!

7041930Born in: Portland, Maine, The United States 
August 09, 1985
Anna Kendrick is an American actress and singer, born and raised in Portland, Maine. She is widely known for her roles in The Twilight Saga, Up in the Air, and Pitch Perfect. Throughout her acting career, Kendrick has received various awards and nominations.
Twitter

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

2213661The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Published by: HarperCollins

Date of Publication: September 30th 2008

Genres:

Pages: 312

Format: Audiobook (self-narrated)

Rating:★★★★ (4 Stars) 

 

 

 

Goodreads Synopsis

After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family…

Beloved master storyteller Neil Gaiman returns with a luminous new novel for the audience that embraced his New York Times bestselling modern classic Coraline. Magical, terrifying, and filled with breathtaking adventures, The Graveyard Book is sure to enthrall readers of all ages.

 

The Audiobook Experience…

I’ll keep this one short and sweet since i’m beginning to believe that Uncle Gaiman can do no wrong when he begins to spin his tales. You would be sadly mistaken if you were to think that you can resist the magic of his worlds once they begin to reel you in. The Graveyard Book By Neil Gaiman is now the 2nd book i’ve read by this author and it has only served to cement my feelings towards him…I simply LOVE Uncle Gaiman! It has now become the norm for me to reach for the audiobook vs. physical or even digital format for Gaiman’s books. Treat Yo self to a feast for your ears & imagination with the audiobook narrated by Gaiman himself. Not only is his voice truly one of of the most soothing story telling voices i’ve come across but he also has a few other talents up his sleeve. Gaiman gave each of the characters in this book their own distinct voice without sounding over the top. I truly enjoyed listening to his audiobook and often found myself wanting to return to the graveyard at all hours of the day.

The book opens up right after the murder of a mother, father, and daughter. Baby Nobody Owens aka Bod, managed to crawl over his crib railing and out of the house, too little to know he had just escaped his families murderer. Bod wanders off into the street and eventually walks right into the cemetery where he meets all sorts of interesting characters  no longer of this world. The Owens, a married couple who were never able to conceive children of their own take to “adopting” Bod who is still a baby. They grant him full freedom of the cemetery  to wander off & also get Silas who is neither living or dead (believed to be a Vampire) to become his guardian. Together, the many characters in the graveyard, raise Bod and protect him from outside dangers by providing a safe home for him amongst the tombstones. We get to see Bod the baby grow into a young man who becomes curious about the outside world & experiencing it for himself. Just like any child his age, Bod gets into a bit of mischief (more like adventures lol) that teach him theres more than just the dead…there’s the living he has yet to experience. All the while, The Man Jack (Bod’s families murderer) is out and about looking to tie the loose ends of the night he intended to kill baby Bod in his crib.

The characters in The Graveyard Book all played a role in educating young Bod and keeping him safe. I thoroughly enjoyed The Owens as well as the other supporting ghosts Caius Pompeius and Scarlett Perkins to name some of my faves. I found out later on while blog hopping that some of the characters in Gaiman’s books crossover one way or another. In this book we get an appearance from a relative of Daisy Hempstock from Stardust, my 1st Gaiman & favorite thus far. With such descriptive story telling & imagery, Gaiman’s ghosts/characters will probably stick with me for many years to come. It really doesn’t matter what age you are, if you’re young at heart and are looking for a heartwarming story then The Graveyard Book is the book for you 😉

“Kiss a lover, 
Dance a measure, 
Find your name 
And buried treasure. 
Face your life, 
It’s pain, 
It’s pleasure, 
Leave no path untaken.” 
― Neil GaimanThe Graveyard Book

Review: Gemina (The Illuminae Files #2) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (Spoiler Free)

gemina-by-amie-kaufman-and-jay-kristoffGemina (The Illuminae Files #2) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Published by: Knopf Books for Young Readers

Date of Publication: October 18th 2016

Genres: Young Adult Sci-Fi

Pages: 608

Format: Physical Book (Hardcover)

Rating:★★★★★ (5 Stars)

 

Goodreads Synopsis:

Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.

The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminae continues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault.

Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.

Once again told through a compelling dossier of emails, IMs, classified files, transcripts, and schematics, Gemina raises the stakes of the Illuminae Files, hurling readers into an enthralling new story that will leave them breathless.

 

After reading and Loving the ISH (funny cuz currency in Gemina is referred to as ISH) out of Illuminae (review here) earlier this year, I knew that Gemina would be a book to have me running to the bookstore to drop that $$$ HAHA! just like its predecessor, Gemina did NOT disappoint. Offering up non-stop page turning action & a cast of witty characters you can’t get enough of. Illustrations by Marie Lu author of the Young elites covered the pages making Gemina one beautiful book both inside & out. The Illuminae Files are addictive, fun, and overall just great story telling…

 

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CREDS & HAILS go to Gretchen @CHICNERDREADS for this EPIC aesthetic, I can’t stop staring at it with the only *heart eyes* Thanks again my fren’ you’re simply AMAZING! 

PLOT

Gemina picks up with a brand new set of characters on the Jump Station Heimdall right after the events of the Kerenza invasion & BeiTech assault. Since this is book 2 in the series, I will ward off the dreaded spoilers. Gemina is said to be a companion novel to Illuminae & for the most part it is, however it most definitely is necessary to read Illuminae as it all does tie in. The characters at jump station Heimdall are unaware of the events at Kerenza or BeiTech’s involvement. As the reader, you feel a sense of anticipation all throughout Gemina because you are aware of what’s happened & the imminent danger that lays ahead. The civilians and crew on Jump Station Heimdall are unaware of the incoming ships & just like in Illuminae, they are in for a rude awakening. This is the story of how Hemidall came to defend itself & the intricate web of deception BeiTech has woven…

CHARACTERS

Although we have quite a few players in the game, the main characters are Hannah Donelly & Niklas Malikov. These are two young adults who end up having to step into much larger shoes when the ISH hits the fan. We get to know both these characters on a more personal level since the format in this book is dialogue heavy. I enjoyed the witty banter between these two so much & found myself either smiling or outright laughing at some of the their exchanges. Hannah also keeps a journal & she’s a pretty good artist (illustrations by Marie Lu) depicting exactly what she thinks of Nik in a series of laugh out loud drawings. Hannah has to be one of my new hands down favorite kick a** female protagonists in YA PERIOD! she is smart, quick on her feet, a pro in war games thanks to her dad, witty, and loyal to her friends & family. Nik Malikov stole my heart with his dirty mind & endless attempts to win Hannah over. He was born into the House Of Knives, a criminal family (yup they exist even in outer space HAHA!) & is being groomed & taught to earn his keep through a series of innnnneresting criminal activities (I won’t divulge more than that hehe). I can’t discuss the characters in this book without mentioning my FAVORITE Spider, Ella Malikova who is Nik’s cousin and hacker extraordinaire. Ella is disabled from the waist down and spends her time in front of a computer in her wheelchair exchanging sarcastic & witty remarks with Nik through IM’s. Not only is Ella AMAZING at what she knows with computers but she’s also a fighter in every sense & I looked forward to seeing her IM’s pop up on the page.

 

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Illustrations by Marie Lu author of The Young Elites trilogy

WRITING

The format for Gemina is the same as the one the authors used for Illuminae. The story is told through a series of IM chats, E-mails, & memorandums. In between these you’ll come across transcriptions from video camera footage which in the story, are written by Analysts that have watched & to the best of their ability tried to make sense of what is caught on camera. Gemina just like Illuminae may appear intimidating at first glance especially given the 600+ page count. However, I can assure all those that are interested in The Illuminae Files that it is all well worth it & a very quick read. In fact, the format of this book only helps move the story along much faster & the dialogue is so much fun that before you know it, you’ll be requesting that Jay Kristoff & Amie Kaufman get working on the 3rd book hehe 😉

Donelly, H: What, you’re just going to open the door so I can creep in?

Donelly, H: It’s too far, not safe. recon before action, that’s the rule. If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles.

Merrick, J: What?

Donelly, H: Sun Tzu.

 IM chat between Hanna Donelly & her boyfriend Jackson Merrick

THOUGHTS

Gemina deserves all of the hype it gets because it truly delivers & packs a punch, I’m lucky to have other books I’ve really been looking forward to because the book hangover is REAL!  Once again, I am left so impressed with these two authors because I can’t tell where one starts and the other ends, they write so well together. The inclusion of Marie Lu’s illustrations in this book only enhanced the beauty and overall bad a**ness of this second installment. Although Illuminae will always hold that special place in my heart for introducing me to such an interesting world…Gemina came in & is now holding the crown. What really made this book even more spectacular is the humor & characters this round, these authors are clearly in tune with young adults making the dialogue so believable. I am now left waiting another year for the 3rd installment…currently experiencing the phase where I watch for (stalk) these authors for any bit of info…following the cookie crumb trail I go…

 

 

 

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson: A Funny Book About Horrible Things (Review)

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Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

Published by: Flatiron Books

Date of Publication: September 22nd 2015

Genres: Autobiography/Personal Memoirs

Pages: 329

Format: Audiobook (I own via Audible)

Trigger Warning: Self harm

Rating: ★★★★★

 

Goodreads Synopsis:

In LET’S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED, Jenny Lawson baffled readers with stories about growing up the daughter of a taxidermist. In her new book, FURIOUSLY HAPPY, Jenny explores her lifelong battle with mental illness. A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety? That sounds like a terrible idea. And terrible ideas are what Jenny does best.

According to Jenny: “Some people might think that being ‘furiously happy’ is just an excuse to be stupid and irresponsible and invite a herd of kangaroos over to your house without telling your husband first because you suspect he would say no since he’s never particularly liked kangaroos. And that would be ridiculous because no one would invite a herd of kangaroos into their house. Two is the limit. I speak from personal experience. My husband says that none is the new limit. I say he should have been clearer about that before I rented all those kangaroos.”

“Most of my favorite people are dangerously fucked-up but you’d never guess because we’ve learned to bare it so honestly that it becomes the new normal. Like John Hughes wrote in The Breakfast Club, ‘We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it.’ Except go back and cross out the word ‘hiding.'”

Jenny’s first book, LET’S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED, was ostensibly about family, but deep down it was about celebrating your own weirdness. FURIOUSLY HAPPY is a book about mental illness, but under the surface it’s about embracing joy in fantastic and outrageous ways-and who doesn’t need a bit more of that?

 

Disclaimer (LOL): I’d like to start off by saying that before listening to this audiobook I had no idea who Jenny Lawson was. Odd really because I love me some funny ladies; Mindy Khaling (My Goddess), Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Amy Schumer to name a few. I prefer & have, listened to some of these comedienne’s personal memoirs on Audible and found that I enjoy them more than if I was reading the book in physical format. This is most likely because these ladies have narrated their own books & done an amazing job at it.

 

Jenny Lawson’s Furiously Happy came at the right time honestly. I had walked past the crazy happy looking raccoon on the cover in Barnes & Noble one too many times. It wasn’t until I read two rave reviews from Amanda @ Cover2Covermom whose reviews are always on point & Donna @Chocolatenwaffles’Blog who i’ve recently started following & has an amazing blog, that I knew I had to give this one a go. After all, I had already used an Audible credit on it a few months back smh (zero self control lol) & I was a bit down and nervous about my 5 year old starting Kindergarten in a big school. In this book Jenny Lawson talks & often times hilariously rambles on about the every day things that run through her head while struggling with mental Illness. Jenny lists some of the mental disorders she has been diagnosed with such as Agoraphobia, depression, & anxiety to name a few. She also has a fascination, if not mild obsession (lol) with taxidermy and the raccoon on the cover was actually roadkill that she affectionately named Rory & took in her home. This book is a collection of sorts, stories, and thoughts that Lawson narrates all the while embracing her peculiarities, irrational behaviors, and her “crazy”. A label that she’s aware many view as incorrect & offensive but she feels comfortable with. There are plenty of laugh out loud moments as well as some dark moments. Lawson takes us into her mind & her most intimate thoughts she lays bare. As a person who struggles with social anxiety, mild OCD, and at times mild depression…I found comfort in those hours I spent listening to Jenny. I also found something I wasn’t expecting, understanding for the other person…the spouse. Jenny & her husband Victor argue a whole lot, but please show  me the marriage that doesn’t! I LOVED hearing Jenny re-enact argument’s between her & Victor because they aren’t your typical topics AT ALL! filled with humor I found myself shaking my head in amazement at how good a sport Victor can be when following any of Jenny’s wild ideas. I was also left with a new understanding for my own spouse who can be very supportive when i’m not at my very best.

 

“Last month, as Victor drove me home so I could rest, I told him that sometimes I felt like his life would be easier without me. He paused a moment in thought and then said, “It might be easier. But it wouldn’t be better.” 
― Jenny LawsonFuriously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things

 

Oh Victor! I seriously enjoyed his parts & feel like I’ve known them all my life. Jenny doesn’t hold back, there’s plenty of profanity to go around which I didn’t mind at all. This book is about finding happiness in the mist of all the feelings you may or may not be able to control. There’s a certain liberating feeling that comes with acceptance & listening to Jenny you get the feeling that she is comfortable in her own skin & mind and that’s empowering. She still struggles on a daily basis but she has an amazing support system & an even more amazing sense of humor for all of the bad days. Like many others with similar mental disorders, Jenny sheds light on how these disorders often times hinder her from attending social events. How even when you feel like you have everything you could possibly want & should be happy…you can still experience anxiety and/or sadness.

 

“I wish someone had told me this simple but confusing truth: Even when everything’s going your way you can still be sad. Or anxious. Or uncomfortably numb. Because you can’t always control your brain or your emotions even when things are perfect.” 
― Jenny LawsonFuriously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things

 

I am currently obsessed with all things Jenny Lawson & will be reading her other book Let’s pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir  as well as following her blog TheBloggess where I can get my dose of her dark humor & brutally unapologetic honesty while following her journey with mental illness…

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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 😉

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

 

 

 

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