Book Review: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

Book: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

Published September 2016 by Sourcebooks Fire|324 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Brooklyn Brujas #1

Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

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 really loved the magic, traditions and culture in Labyrinth Lost.  When I first heard about it, I knew I wanted to rea it, because it seemed really different.

Los Lagos was a really vivid setting- it had this Wonderland feel to it, and I think, if it were to be adapted into a movie or t.v. show, that Los Lagos would be really pretty to look at.  I thought things were pretty interesting leading up to Los Lagos, and as pretty and vivid at it seems, it was also the point where I started to lose a little bit of interest.

I think it’s mostly because the stakes never felt really high.  I know Alex is trying to get her family back, but there was never the sense of urgency that she would never get them back if she didn’t comply with the Devourer’s wishes.  It was pretty predictable that she’d be reunited with them, and I kind of felt like the book never really made me feel like it was a distinct possibility.

There were also a lot of the tropes you’d see in a book like this.  The girl who’s the most powerful in a while, but doesn’t want it and would do anything to get rid of it.  There’s the best friend who has no idea her best friend is a bruja but goes after her anyway, and the bad boy with a troubled past who, in the end, does the right thing by trying to help our heroine.  It wasn’t annoying enough to make me dislike it, but just annoying enough for me to bring it up. So keep that in min if you’re thinking about reading it.

The magic and folklore were really different, and I liked the idea of a Deathday celebration.  There was something very old and traditional about the magic, like it was passed down from generation to generation.  I also really liked the contrast between Brooklyn and Los Lagos and Brooklyn and the magic we see in the book.

I did think Alex was a little bit on the bratty side- her family really cared about her, as did a lot of other people, and it seemed like she threw it right in their faces at her Deathday celebration.  I am curious about why her mom didn’t really put her through their magical training a little more.  I wonder if maybe that’s part of Alex’s problem.  Maybe not, but I do wonder if it would have made a difference.

And the cover!  It’s really unique and I’d definitely pick it up based off of the cover alone.

4 stars.  I can’t wait to read the next book, because I am curious to see where things go.  Especially with how the book ended.  It is really unique, and worth checking out!

Book Review: City Of Saints And Thieves by Natalie Anderson

Book: City Of Saints & Thieves by Natalie Anderson

Published January 2017 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books For Young Readers|401 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

The more you see, the less you know.

In the shadows of Sangui City, there lives a girl who does not exist.

Tina and her mother first arrived in Kenya as refugees from Congo desperately searching for a better life. Trading the peril of their besieged village for the busy metropolis of Sangui, they can barely believe their luck when Tina’s mother finds work as a maid for the Greyhills, one of the city’s most illustrious families. But there’s a dark secret lurking behind the family’s immense fortune, and when Tina discovers her mother shot dead in Mr. Greyhill’s private study, she knows he pulled the trigger.

With revenge on her mind, Tina spends the next four years surviving the streets on her own, working as a master thief with the Goondas, Sangui City’s local gang. It’s a job with the Goondas that finally brings Tina back to the Greyhill estate, giving a long-awaited chance for vengeance. But once Tina returns to the lavish home, she’s overcome by memories of her painful past, and the girl who does not exist is caught red-handed, setting into motion a breathless and dangerous cascade of events that will expose not only the truth behind who killed Tina’s mother, but even more harrowing secrets from Tina’s past that will change everything.

I thought City Of Saints & Thieves was a great book!  This is most definitely a book about getting revenge on the person who killed Tina’s mother, and I thought it went in a really interesting direction.

At first, Tina very much wants revenge on the man she believes killed her mother.  When she returns to the place where her mother died, a series of events leads her to realize that she didn’t know for sure what happened the night her mother died.  What really happened that night ends up being far different than what Tina thought happened, and she uncovers a lot of family history.  Everything from who her father is to why they left Congo.

What happened isn’t the whole story, and I liked how we uncovered what really happened that night.  I think it would be interesting to go back and re-read City Of Saints & Thieves knowing what I know now.

I liked the rules of being a thief that we see at the beginning of some of the chapters.  It added something special to the book, and I think it gives a peek into Tina’s life as part of the Goondas.

It did take a little while to get into the book, and I thought the pacing was a little uneven.  It was fast-paced, and then really slow.  I still wanted to know what happened next, but I felt like I had to wade through some parts of the book.

I also loved the setting!  I’ve read a few books set in Africa, but I don’t think I’ve read any set in Congo or Kenya before.  There is a sense of danger, and I felt like you really understand why Tina and her mother left Congo for Kenya.  You see the danger they’re in, and why people might seek a better life somewhere else.  You also see why people stay, even when it might be easier for them to leave.

It turns out the author has worked with refugees in Africa, and that really comes through.  It felt very well researched and I felt like there was a lot of attention to detail.

4 stars.  It was a little slow at times and it was hard to get into at first, but overall, I really liked it.

Book Review: Queen Of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

Book: Queen Of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

Published September 2015 by Bloomsbury Publishing|547 pages

Where I Got It: I own the e-book

Series: Throne Of Glass #4

Genre: YA Fantasy

Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she’s at last returned to the empire—for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past…

She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die just to see her again. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen’s triumphant return.

Celaena’s epic journey has captured the hearts and imaginations of millions across the globe. This fourth volume will hold readers rapt as Celaena’s story builds to a passionate, agonizing crescendo that might just shatter her world.

I really like this series, and this book…I don’t know what I was expecting, but I can’t wait to see what happens next. Especially with how the book ended.

In the last book, I wasn’t sure about Manon, and the whole arc with the covens- it seemed out of place before. And I wondered if maybe it was setting something up in future books.  I turned out to be right about that, but I really didn’t expect it to go the way that it did.  I want to see more of Manon and her Thirteen.

We see more development with Rowan and Aelin, and it seems like the good ship Chaol and Celaena are on their way to being completely dead.  It depends on what happens in Empire Of Storms, of course, but I don’t see Chaol and Celaena getting back together.  As much as I love both Chaol and Celaena, I don’t think I really like them together. Pretty much because I think he has a hard time accepting her for who she is.  And after the whole thing with Nehemia…there really isn’t any hope for them.  Not anymore.  But at the same time, Chaol does stand up to her, which I think she needs.

She is a very different Celaena in this book than in the previous ones.  She is more Aelin, Queen Of Terrasen than Celaena Sardothien, Adarlan’s Assassin.  It’s a big change, and I have the feeling that there are very divided feelings on both the change in Celaena and with the romance.

I did hate what Maas did to Chaol, but he was right (a lot) and I wish the changes for him and Celaena were a little bit smoother.  And Dorian!  I felt for him, I really did.  I hated every single time he was in pain.

Manon and Lysandra were amazing, and Nesryn had a lot of potential but I kind of felt like Nesryn was just there.

Queen Of Shadows is definitely a big turning point.  We’re turning away from trying to free magic and take down the king of Adarlan, and turning towards a war with Perrington.  I’m curious to see where things go.

4 stars.  I thought Nesryn had a lot of potential, and I hated what Maas did to Chaol, but I can’t wait to see where things go.

Book Review: My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier

Book: My Sister Rosa By Justine Larbalestier

Published November 2016 by Soho Teen|320 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Thriller/Contemporary

What if the most terrifying person you know is your ten-year-old sister?

Seventeen-year-old Aussie Che Taylor loves his younger sister, Rosa. But he’s also certain that she’s a psychopath—clinically, threateningly, dangerously. Recently Rosa has been making trouble, hurting things. Che is the only one who knows; he’s the only one his sister trusts. Rosa is smart, talented, pretty, and very good at hiding what she is and the manipulation she’s capable of.

Their parents, whose business takes the family from place to place, brush off the warning signs as Rosa’s “acting out.” Now that they have moved again—from Bangkok to New York City—their new hometown provides far too many opportunities for Rosa to play her increasingly complex and disturbing games. Che’s always been Rosa’s rock, protecting her from the world. Now, the world might need protection from her.

I was intrigued by My Sister Rosa when I first heard about it, and I finally got around to reading it!

Rosa’s pretty creepy and twisted, and she seemed a little bit older than her ten years.  It’s easy to see why her parents- especially her mom- wouldn’t believe what she’s really capable of.  Some people seem to know there’s something different about her, though, but they’re not sure what.

We’re told right off the bat that Rosa is a psychopath, and nothing’s really changed by the end of the book.  I wish there was more build-up with Rosa.  I also thought that maybe Che was an unreliable narrator, and that he was the psychopath, not Rosa.  I expected Rosa’s results, but not Che’s- it seemed opposite of how Che acted in the book.  I also didn’t get how the book went from “my sister is a psychopath” to “everyone is a psychopath, but you just don’t know it.”  The book makes it seem like it’s something that’s really common, but I always thought it was a lot more rare.  I also felt like I was being told Rosa was a psychopath, as opposed to actually seeing her act that way.

I also felt like we got two stories in one book- one focusing on Rosa, and one focusing on a coming-of-age.  I felt really bored reading about both Rosa and Che’s life in New York, and I kind of wish the book focused more on Rosa. It was a little too unbalanced, and I wish the book had focused on one or the other.

Considering how big of a role David and Sally have in the book, we know absolutely nothing about them.  Some of the other characters had the potential to be really interesting, but they fell a little short.  I did like how diverse the characters were, though.

2 stars.  It was okay, and I felt like there were two different stories that didn’t go very well together.  I also wish we saw how creepy Rosa was, instead of being told that she was psychopathic.

ARC Book Review: Black, White, Other And A Girl Named Mister

black-white-otherBook #1: Black, White, Other by Joan Steinau Lester

Published January 2017 by Blink|225 pages

Where I Got It: I received this book as an e-arc from netgalley.com in exchange for a fair and honest review

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

What It’s About: Identity Crisis.  

As a biracial teen, Nina is accustomed to a life of varied hues—mocha-colored skin, ringed brown hair streaked with red, a darker brother, a black father, a white mother. When her parents decide to divorce, the rainbow of Nina’s existence is reduced to a much starker reality. Shifting definitions and relationships are playing out all around her, and new boxes and lines seem to be getting drawn every day.

Between the fractures within her family and the racial tensions splintering her hometown, Nina feels caught in perpetual battle. Feeling stranded in the nowhere land between racial boundaries, and struggling for personal independence and identity, Nina turns to the story of her great-great-grandmother’s escape from slavery. Is there direction in the tale of her ancestor? Can Nina build her own compass when landmarks from her childhood stop guiding the way?

Rating/Review: 2 stars.  It was okay for me, and I wanted to like it, but I had a hard time with it.  I found myself skimming through the part where she’s reading about her relative.  I liked the present-day story a little bit more, and the message was really obvious- but it’s also really important.  She really does struggle to fit in, and you see how much things change her and how she feels caught in the middle on so many different levels.  I did really like seeing the relationship with one of her friends and her reaction to Nina hanging out with other people.  I think it’s something we can all relate to, feeling like we don’t fit in, but I feel like I understand Nina a little better.

a-girl-named-mister-coverBook #2: A Girl Named Mister by Nikki Grimes

Published January 2017 by Blink|233 pages

Where I Got It: I received an e-ARC from netgalley.com in exchange for a fair and honest review

What It’s About: Nikki Grimes, a bestselling author known for titles such as Dark Sons, Barak Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope, and Voices of Christmas has written a gripping book from the perspective of a girl named Mister (Mary Rudine) who finds herself momentarily distracted from her faith commitment to purity by a handsome boy named Trey. After one night of weakness, Mister finds her entire life has changed, even if she can’t yet accept all the changes occurring within her are real. When the emotional scars of losing her innocence are more lasting than she imagined, Mister turns to a book of her mother’s, which contains poems from Mary’s perspective. As both Mister and Mary’s voices play out in the story, a full and meaningful portrait of Christian faith, trust, and forgiveness emerges, along with the truth that God can use even the most unplanned events in our lives for his greater glory.

Rating & Review: 2 stars.  This one was okay for me.  It was a quick read, which I think is because the entire book is told in verse.  It was okay, but sometimes it felt like things were broken up to give the appearance of poetry, because there were times where it didn’t feel like I was reading poetry.  Then again, I don’t read a lot of novels told in verse, so maybe unfamiliarity is where my problem lies.  There is a whole diary feel to the book that didn’t quite work for me.  The comparison to Mary, Jesus’ mother, did not work for me at all, and I felt like the comparison was trying to compare apples and oranges.  I’m also not sure what the book was going for abstinence, maybe?  That’s the impression I got.  I’m also not quite clear on who the book is actually meant for- definitely not me, but maybe a teen who’s questioning her faith is the target audience for this?  The ending was also abrupt and left a lot of questions.

Book Review: A World Without You by Beth Revis

a-world-without-you-coverBook: A World Without You by Beth Revis

Published July 2016 by Razorbill|372 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Blog Graphic-What It's About

What would you do to bring back someone you love? After the unexpected loss of his girlfriend, a boy suffering from delusions believes he can travel through time to save her in this gripping new novel from New York Times bestselling author Beth Revis.

Seventeen-year-old Bo has always had delusions that he can travel through time. When he was ten, Bo claimed to have witnessed the Titanic hit an iceberg, and at fifteen, he found himself on a Civil War battlefield, horrified by the bodies surrounding him. So when his concerned parents send him to a school for troubled youth, Bo assumes he knows the truth: that he’s actually attending Berkshire Academy, a school for kids who, like Bo, have “superpowers.”

At Berkshire, Bo falls in love with Sofia, a quiet girl with a tragic past and the superpower of invisibility. Sofia helps Bo open up in a way he never has before. In turn, Bo provides comfort to Sofia, who lost her mother and two sisters at a very young age. 

But even the strength of their love isn’t enough to help Sofia escape her deep depression. After she commits suicide, Bo is convinced that she’s not actually dead. He believes that she’s stuck somewhere in time — that he somehow left her in the past, and now it’s his job to save her. 

In her first contemporary novel, Beth Revis guides readers through the mind of a young man struggling to process his grief as he fights his way through his delusions. As Bo becomes more and more determined to save Sofia, he has to decide whether to face his demons head-on, or succumb to a psychosis that will let him be with the girl he loves.

Blog Graphic- What I Thought

I have so many thoughts about A World Without You!

So, I have to admit that I knew I wanted to read this book, but that I didn’t know what it was about going in. At first, I didn’t realize it was a contemporary, because of the whole school-for-kids-with-special-powers aspect.  As the book went on, I realized that, in fact, the book was not sci-fi or paranormal or fantasy- basically, whatever genre you classify kids-with-special powers as.  That was when I realized the book was more contemporary than anything else.

I was a little disappointed that it was a contemporary novel, because I think it had a lot of promise if it had stuck to the idea that Sofia was trapped in 1692 Salem, Massachusetts, and not the aftermath of her suicide. I do think the books works better if you don’t know that going in, because the paralyzing fear that something is wrong is much more palpable.  I kind of liked that I didn’t realize something was wrong at first, because everything seemed so normal.  But it was frustrating at the same time, because it became a story I wasn’t as interested in.

I think, had I known going in that Bo had severe mental illness, I would have spent the book frustrated knowing what was going on, and waiting for him to catch up and figure everything out.  There is an undercurrent of fear and confusion and you really see Bo lose all sense of time and reality.  It’s also the most severe case I’ve seen in any YA book that deals with mental illness- I think Identical by Ellen Hopkins is the only other one I can think of that comes remotely close, and it’s pretty similar in that you don’t realize what’s going on until the end of the novel.

I did really want the story where Bo has to go back in time to save Sofia- partly because that part of the novel really interested me, but I’m also curious about how Revis would tell that story.

I feel like the blurb gave away way too much.  I know I mentioned that this a book that may be better if you don’t know what’s going on, and you’re figuring things out right alongside Bo.  But I still think it works better if you know nothing.

We also get a few chapters narrated by Phoebe, who is Bo’s sister.  I feel like her chapters were meant to show how different they are, and how everything that is going on with Bo affects her.  Her chapters were boring and flat, and I feel like all she did was complain about how no one paid attention to her because she’s the good student who’s going off to college.  It’s clear that her parents seem to be focused on Bo- which is understandable- but I do understand that her parents probably don’t give her a lot of attention because she’s the one they DON’T have to worry about. And given everything going on with Bo, she probably feels like she has to do well.

It is hard to say for sure, though, since most of the book focused on Bo, and we only get a few chapters focusing on Phoebe.

The last chapter- an epilogue- was really weird for me.  It did leave you wondering if maybe Bo did have some sort of power or ability but no one realized it because it presented as something else.  It’s ambiguous enough that you’re not sure, but…I am not a fan of the epilogue.  I know it’s trying to wrap up with what happened the previous chapter, and that if the book had ended with that chapter…it would have been a hell of a cliffhanger.  But I felt like the epilogue took away a lot of the fear and confusion that we saw in the chapter before it, and it really lost the darkness and edge that it would have had otherwise.

The moment between Bo and Phoebe was weird- if Bo does have a mental illness, then was it just a coincidence? It did feel off, like maybe he did have some sort of supernatural ability, but no one believed him.  I wonder if maybe he did, but it wasn’t said outright, because it would have contradicted everything in the book?  Maybe I’m wrong, but I felt like you could see it that way.

Blog Graphic- My Rating

3 stars.  I do think it works better if you don’t read the blurb, but it’s also a really good look at mental illness.  It’s just not for me.