Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Labyrinth Lost

Labyrinth Lost by Zoradia C├│rdova
Series: Brooklyn Brujas #1
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date: September 6,2016
Length: 366 pages
My Rating:  ★★★★★

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...

This book started popping up on blogs I follow and I was instantly sucked in by its beautiful cover. Honestly, the book description could have been super mundane and I still would have wanted to read it based off the the cover alone.
I loved this book for several reasons but I think it comes down to this: There were a lot of themes at play here and they all were represented and nothing major got lost in the shuffle.


Alex: Alex is probably one of the stronger YA heroines I've read in a while. Not because she's super confident or even extremely competent when it comes to her magic but because she has a strong moral compass. When the story started out Alex threatened to be this whiny, self-absorbed character who was just going to be a pain in the ass, but when the plot really started going and she had to get it together she did. And she made mistakes and owned them which is hard to do for anyone especially a teenager. I also liked that she wasn't ridiculously overpowered when it came to her magic she had limits and those limits got in the way they weren't something that was ignored for the sake of convenience.

Her family- Family is really important in the culture that was created in this book and it's clear Alex's family is the most important thing to her. I don't have a big family so the scenes of her interacting with her sisters and extended family were fun and odd but I get a feeling that's how big families are. Especially her relationship with her older sister Lula who got on my nerves more often than not, which I suspect she was supposed to, but selflessly healed Alex regardless the cost to her. Who even though she had a lot of anger towards Alex still forgave her out of love.
Her friends- I really liked the banter that exists between Rishi, Nova and Alex.

"Let's get this donkey show on the road," she says.
"I think you mean dog and pony show," Nova says. Rishi looks him up and down...
"Since you're here, I'm pretty sure I mean donkey."

Their speech patterns sound organic and their humor is genuinely funny. I will say my only complaint with the story is also found here. There is a love triangle in the midst of the three of them wandering a foreign, mythical realm and while I think it was developed well enough it would have been nice if there was some indication of Rishi's feelings before they traveled to a different dimension. Nova's are pretty clear, but Rishi's at first seem only there to create tension between Alex and Nova. They work themselves out just fine but the beginnings seemed a little stuck in there.

The culture/setting- In the authors note, Zoraida Cord├│va talks about creating this bruja/brujo culture and its myths by pulling influences from Latin America, the Dominican Republic and Africa. She succeeded to creating a vibrant fresh and incredibly colorful world especially in her detailed exploration of the realm of Los Logos. The author seems to have had a lot of fun in creating this place and it comes through in the journey Alex and her friends take and the careful description of each new thing they encounter.
It gave me feelings of the Wizard of Oz, The Chronicles of Narnia and Alice in Wonderland. Good journey story in a unique setting. It makes me want to watch all of those movies!

I've read some other reviews that say the end falls flat comparatively, but I don't see that at all. The climax and wrap up were satisfying while still leaving the door open for a continuation. (It appears that this is the first in a series) I'll be curious if the next book follows one of Alex's sisters more maybe Rose? She was the only character I felt didn't get enough development and maybe that's the reason... I hope so!

Thanks to Sourcebooks and the Publisher via Netgalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child or Harry Potter and the disappointing continuation

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling,Jack Thorne and John Tiffany
8th in the series Harry Potter
Publisher:Arthur A. Levine Books; Special Rehearsal ed. edition (July 31, 2016)
Genre: Plays & Drama, Children's Literature, Fantasy
Length: 320 pages
My rating:★★★☆☆

I wanted to wait a couple of days before I wrote this review because I needed to really mull over what I had read and my feelings about it.
In my mind I am a die hard Harry Potter fan. I have read the books so many times I have seriously lost count. They are my go-to comfort reads, my filler books when I don't know what to read next. I even love the movies. I know there are some fans that can't stand them but I think they catch the spirit of Harry Potter and Hogwarts.
Okay, there's no way to say this well: I did not like Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

harry potter confused shrug dumbledore i give up

However, I still can't tell if it's because of the script format or if the story itself is flawed. Ultimately though, I think it failed to have that same spirit of the HP saga. There was such a sense of wonderment and exploration of the magical world that was so, so enjoyable and immersive, and getting to experience it along with a protagonist who is flawed but inherently likable and good made the emotional investment and pay-off at the end of the series incredibly fulling. Regardless of the story itself I do not think that can be accomplished in a script or stage production. (I've heard nothing but praise for the actual production and I'm sure it is top notch and maybe if I saw it first I would have been swept up in it and not minded that this story comparatively fell short.)

Okay this next part gets a little spoiler-y so proceed with caution.

The most disappointing part of the story to me had to be the fact that they revisited the same conflict of the series. Here was an opportunity to explore the characters of the original story and their children and their lives post the Battle of Hogwarts. Instead the plot attempts to do that while trying to have a finale that mirrors the finale that took seven books to build up to and an extremely complex plot to establish. Regardless of how good the writing, acting, scene design and characters are it's going to fall flat and it did. The fourth act was so frustrating because it was much faster paced than the rest of the play and it was trying to shove all of the elements in this one act to have this epic battle at the end and left so many plot holes. Convenient prophecy is convenient, convenient time-turner IS REALLY REALLY CONVENIENT AND TOTALLY UNEXPLAINED-

14 Reasons Dolores Umbridge Is The Absolute Worst

*Hem-hem* Anyway...the point being there were too many things trying to be shoved into this one story to make it clean. There were so many plot holes! One of the cool things about the original books is that there are very little as far as plot holes and certainly no major ones and then there's this story...

I will say Albus and Scorpius were cute and Ginny and Harry were still good together. Ron and Hermione were adorable, even though Ron was essentially a stripped down version of the movie characterization and just served as a way to highlight and balance Hermione's character.

I've chosen to treat this story the way we treat Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull. Yes it exist, it wasn't a bad movie, but it wasn't Indiana Jones.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Wicked Intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt

Wicked Intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt
Published by Grand Central Publishing; 1 edition (July 17, 2010)
Genre: Romance, Historical, BDSM
Length: 401 pages
My Rating:★★★☆☆

Wicked Intentions is the fourth romance novel I've read. All of the ones I've read have been part of a series. Wicked Intentions is the first book in the Maiden Lane series and it does suffer from first-book-in-a-series-itis almost all of the characters who are the hero in other books are introduced in this one. That showed by how much the author talked about Temperance’s two other brothers, Concord and Asa, and how much time they were given in the story even though their presence had no bearing on the plot at all, and the same thing goes for her sister Silence who has her own subplot which is actually just the prequel to her own book.
Outside of all the extra stuff that was shoved into the plot of this book, the plot itself was pretty good. Lord Caire is searching for a murderer in St. Giles where Temperance and her brother Winter run an orphange. Lord Caire enlists Temperance for her help in navigating St. Giles and in return he will help her find a patron for the orphanage since the previous patron had passed away. Lord Caire has a reputation for strange sexual proclivities that have given him quite a reputation. Temperance is a widow who thinks of herself as evil for having any kind of sexual appetite. And that's where this book lost steam for me. Lord Caire is this character that's been built up as some kind of sociopathic sexual deviant who just likes to toy with women without any regard for their hearts. We know that because it's stated by every character the talks to Temperance about Lord Caire and it's kind of played out by the way he talks to her in the first few scenes but not really. The reasoning given for why he's this way is also not fully realized. He makes some vague remarks about having a too stern father who let his younger sister die due to a recurring illness when she was five and also to a strict dance teacher but somehow those two vague memories morphed into him not being able to experience touch without it causing him pain. I don't fully buy that especially for the time period. Surely, he wasn't the only one who had a detached father and strict tutors that was kind of par for the course with 18th century nobility. Temperance reasoning for her “sexual deviancy” (ie wanting to have sex with her husband more that once a day) is even weaker. There's the vaguest mentions that her husband thought sex should be for child producing purposes only and she wanted to have sex just because she liked it, but nothing is played out. I have no idea if her husband ever said anything negative to her about her sexual appetite. So when they both come to accept who they are and why they are the way they are it kind of falls flat because you don't really know what they were all upset about in the first place. I wanted to like this story more. It had a lot of good things in it. The scenes between Temperance and Lord Caire were fun to read and they had a good back and forth, but I felt like the story overall was unfocused it was trying to set up to much and too many characters that it couldn't give the attention the main plot and characters deserved.  

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi, a review

The Star-Touched Queen

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
Published by St. Martin's Griffin, April 26, 2016
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Fantasy
Length: 353 pages
My Rating: ★★★★★

Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen?
Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…
But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.

I was really surprised that I ended up liking this book as much as I did. Literally, every aspect of this book I loved. Let me break it down:
The world: First off, the author was really enjoying building this world. It's clear in the way she deliciously details every setting (especially glass garden,gooorrrgeous) without taking away from the pacing of the book.
The characters: I was really impressed with how realistic the author made every character, even the secondary characters like Gauri and Skanda, who had a total of two scenes, realistic with their depth.
The relationships: Mainly, between Maya and Amar. I've read so many fated loves where the hero is actually a jerk from beginning to end and the story is really about the heroine learning the live with and forgive his short comings because of the weak excuse of fate. (Helen of Troy comes to mind. Guh.) That was not the case between these two. Their relationship was flawed but not in any unforgivable sense. And as far as Maya goes as a main character, she's perfect. Likable, stubborn, strong but not without self-doubt- her growth as a person in the story was really enjoyable and organic to read.
The only thing that took away from the story for me was that it was so steeply based in Indian folklore, which was great except as a total layman to that subject I felt like I lost part of the reveal towards the end. I ended looking up some terms and names used in the book but not defined in the glossary in the back. They definitely helped me grasp the gravity of certain things better. And maybe things were defined in the context of the story and I just missed them. I will admit near the climax I was reading pretty quickly and somehow missed a couple of crucial scenes that I had to go back and read the next day. That's definitely a bad habit of mine when I'm super invested in characters, I just need to know what happens RIGHT NOW!
The Star-Touched Queen was so enjoyable; a story that you can get lost in and one whose imagery that's so strong and unique I feel like I be thinking about it still months from now. I'd love to see Gauri's story and adventures sometime in the future. She seemed like such a strong character whose life will take her in down just as adventurous a path as Maya's.