Review: Labyrinth Lost 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

27969081Give me a book about kickass magic wielding ladies set in an incredibly built world, and I’ll fall in love. And I fell head over heels into a portal leading to Los Lagos. Zoraida Córdova’s Labyrinth Lost was the type of book where, had I read it as an actual teenager, I would have reread it every day until I got sick of it. (Spoiler: I would never get sick of it.)

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

I fall to my knees. Shattered glass, melted candles and the outline of scorched feathers are all that surround me. Every single person who was in my house – my entire family — is gone.

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 markings 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…

wp-1464035380601.jpgI can’t tell you how incredibly excited I was for this book when I first heard about it, some few weeks ago. I had tried desperately to get a review copy (but Edelweiss is so not user-friendly), and was unsuccessful. Then I learned that Zoraida would be at BookCon and signing ARCs of Labyrinth Lost. And I definitely did not let that opportunity pass by!

So once I had my copy, I couldn’t put it down. I was so immediately invested in Alex’s journey through Los Lagos to save her family, rooting so hard for Alex and Rishi, desperately needing to know what was going to happen.

Labyrinth Lost was the book I needed as a kid; to know that it was okay to accept one’s culture and still accept their queerness.

I loved every last minute while reading it and it’s definitely the type of book where I wish I had a time machine so I could go back and experience it all again for the very first time. Though I am incredibly glad that it’s a series, and there’ll be more of Alejandra and more of her family and friends in stories to come.

Labyrinth Lost releases September 6th, 2016.

Goodreads . Amazon . B&N . Author’s Page

Review: The Wolf in the Attic ★☆☆☆☆

23492495The Wolf in the Attic by Paul Kearney is the long winded tale of Anna, a Greek refugee living in London with her father in the early 20th century. There was exactly one exciting, plot driven scene in the first quarter of the book and everything else is countless pages of details, descriptions and character reflections on repeat. I had to mark Wolf in the Attic as a DNF, which I hate to do.

1920s Oxford: home to C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien… and Anna Francis, a young Greek refugee looking to escape the grim reality of her new life. The night they cross paths, none suspect the fantastic world at work around them.

Anna Francis lives in a tall old house with her father and her doll Penelope. She is a refugee, a piece of flotsam washed up in England by the tides of the Great War and the chaos that trailed in its wake. Once upon a time, she had a mother and a brother, and they all lived together in the most beau
tiful city in the world, by the shores of Homer’s wine-dark sea.

But that is all gone now, and only to her doll does she ever speak of it, because her father cannot bear to hear. She sits in the shadows of the tall house and watches the rain on the windows, creating worlds for herself to fill out the loneliness. The house becomes her own little kingdom, an island full of dreams and half-forgotten memories. And then one winter day, she finds an interloper in the topmost, dustiest attic of the house. A boy named Luca with yellow eyes, who is as alone in the world as she is.

That day, she’ll lose everything in her life, and find the only real friend she may ever know.

-Goodreads

Anna’s journey is meant to be a magical one, full of mystery, strange creatures and the voices of some classic authors. But I found it dull and ended up forcing myself to get through the first quarter of it.

Anna has come to London with her father after Turks burn their hometown to the ground, and have since become refugees. She desperately wants to find a place of her own, but she is kept away from local children and her only source of companionship is Pie, a doll she’s had since she was very young, with whom she shares many conversations.

And for a long while, that’s the only person she speaks with. Most of the book is full of Anna’s reflections on what’s around her and pages of descriptions and details that never end. The only scene that actively held my interest was about fifteen percent of the way through the book; when Anna is in the meadow, watching a boy kill a man and then that boy following her all the way back to the city. After that, nothing of interest happens.

I really liked Anna’s character. She’s young, spunky and adventurous. I knew almost immediately that she not only had to be dealing with some form of PTSD, having lived through the trauma of her home being attack and losing her mother, but also some form of mental illness. As an eleven year-old still closely attached to her doll, not to mention her incredibly limited view of the world despite being at an age where she should be viewing things around her in a much more multi-dimensional fashion, she reads as someone on the autistic spectrum or as someone with a learning disability.

Since I began reviewing books, I’ve started to learn that sometimes, I won’t be able to finish every book. I’ve long since determined that I also won’t like every book I come across. I used to try and finish every book I get from NetGally, but it’s not always possible, especially if the book I’ve chosen to read that week isn’t a very good one or does not meet my expectations. Finishing books I don’t like just leads to headache, heartache and a long time spent moaning and groaning about how I couldn’t wait to be done.

I don’t particularly like marking books down as DNF; I used to find it unfair to the author, who put so much work and heart into the crafting of their story. But reading is meant to be a pleasure, something I do because I enjoy it and want to do. Reading bad books or books I don’t feel invested in for any reason is not pleasurable.

Finishing books is great, but sometimes, not finishing them is even better.

Review: Akarnae ★★☆☆☆

23569787I always thought I loved portal fantasy stories; after all, I did spend ten years writing one, but Akarnae proved that I did not love portal fantasies as much as I thought I did.

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Review: The Lie Tree ★★★★☆

I’m always enamored by girls in stories that seem innocent and invisible but use that to their advantage to carve their own path — which is exactly what Faith Sunderly does in The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge. It’s impossible to put down this historical mystery, set just after the advent of Darwin’s On The Origin of Species, where young Faith takes the matter of her father’s murder into her own hands.

Faith Sunderly leads a double life. To most people, she is reliable, dull, trustworthy—a Lie Tree.jpgproper young lady who knows her place as inferior to men. But inside, Faith is full of questions and curiosity, and she cannot resist mysteries: an unattended envelope, an unlocked door. She knows secrets no one suspects her of knowing. She knows that her family moved to the close-knit island of Vane because her famous scientist father was fleeing a reputation-destroying scandal. And she knows, when her father is discovered dead shortly thereafter, that he was murdered.

In pursuit of justice and revenge, Faith hunts through her father’s possessions and discovers a strange tree. The tree only bears fruit when she whispers a lie to it. The fruit of the tree, when eaten, delivers a hidden truth. The tree might hold the key to her father’s murder—or it may lure the murderer directly to Faith herself.

-Goodreads

Historical fiction has always been that tiny love of mine, the flame of a candle burning in the back of my mind while I busied myself with fantasy. It’s always forgotten while I adventure with dragons and goblins, but I’m reminded how brightly that candle burns when I read something like The Lie Tree.

When I opened Lie Tree up, I couldn’t close it until I was almost halfway through, and the only reason I did was because it was 3 in the morning and I had work in a few hours. Faith is an incredibly strong female character–and not in the ways most people expect when they hear those three words. She’s immensely flawed, selfish and brash, but she’s kind and brave and willfull too. She seeks the truth when everyone else is blind to it, and she puts herself in danger to get to the bottom of it.

Every detail comes full circle in every aspect; Hardinge is a talented writer who wastes no word.

My only gripe, if I really could call it that, is the huge cast of characters. Some are only mentioned in passing and others we physically see on the page, but they end up flowing into one another and often I find myself asking, “Wait, who is that?”

It’s not a good thing to have happen, especially in a murder mystery where everyone you meet is a potential suspect. You forget who wronged whom or when they were last seen, and it gets confusing.

But regardless of your favorite genre, whether it’s fantasy or historical fiction, you ought to pick up The Lie Tree as soon as you can.

Goodreads . Amazon . B&N . Indie . Author Page

Review: Asteroid Made of Dragons ★★★☆☆

26159959.jpgIf you gave me the option to read a book with dragons, versus one without, I will pick the dragons over everything else. I love dragons that much. So, of course, being promised an asteroid made of dragons, I was pretty excited. And Asteroid Made of Dragons by G. Derek Adams was pretty exciting–at first.

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Review: Glass Sword 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

If I could sum up my entire experience of Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard in a single gif, it would be this one:

If you’ve spent any amount of time at Round Robin Writes, or listening to our Podcasts, you know how much of a fan Jess and I are of Victoria Aveyard. We fell in love with Red Queen last year, and Glass Sword delivered as many emotions as its predecessor. Maybe even more.

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Review: Beyond the Red 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

29282402When it comes to the broad sibling genre of Sci-Fi and Fantasy, I’ve always been more in the favor of Fantasy. But Beyond The Red by Ava Jae showed me a whole new world within the Sci-Fi realm, and I have fallen in love.

Alien queen Kora has a problem as vast as the endless crimson deserts. She’s the first female ruler of her territory in generations, but her people are rioting and call for her violent younger twin brother to take the throne. Despite assassination attempts, a mounting uprising of nomadic human rebels, and pressure to find a mate to help her rule, she’s determined to protect her people from her brother’s would-be tyrannical rule.

Eros is a rebel soldier hated by aliens and human alike for being a half-blood. Yet that doesn’t stop him from defending his people, at least until Kora’s soldiers raze his camp and take him captive. He’s given an ultimatum: be an enslaved bodyguard to Kora, or be executed for his true identity—a secret kept even from him.

When Kora and Eros are framed for the attempted assassination of her betrothed, they flee. Their only chance of survival is to turn themselves in to the high court, where revealing Eros’s secret could mean a swift public execution. But when they uncover a violent plot to end the human insurgency, they must find a way to work together to prevent genocide.

– Goodreads

I’ve been a long time follower of Ava Jae’s writing advice Writability (and you should be too!), and when I heard that their debut was coming, I was ecstatic. Surely, someone who gives such great and dependable writing advice should have written an amazing book, right? And Ava delivered, beyond all expectations.

Reading the book of someone who you hold in high regard due to their advice can feel like you’re walking on a fine line. On one hand, their book could not hold up to your expectations, and fall flat, thereby disillusioning you to their advice. It could be just plain bad and you’ll forever doubt any sort of advice they may try to give, because clearly their advice wasn’t good enough if they didn’t follow it. But, like in the case of Beyond the Red, it could be everything you could have ever hoped for and more.

I felt deeply connected to Ava’s characters, rooting for them from the start. Ava’s writing is rich and powerful, and their prose is almost lyrical when read. The book has a strong set of characters, all with their different agendas, and the story itself has the potential to become a classic and a staple in the sci-fi/fantasy community.

My one and only gripe comes from the sudden end of the book, which sets up for a sequel, and perhaps it comes from my deep need to know more and submerge myself in the world of Sefara. I want more world-building, more stories, a comprehensive guide to the Sephari language, a history of all things Sephari and how humans came to the world. I essentially want this to become as wide and detailed as Harry Potter or LoTR, where I can learn the language and read everything there ever is to read about this story.

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Review: California Skies ★★★★☆

26806313California Skies by Kayla Bashe is an endearing and exiting Western romance featuring Maggie Valerian, a spirited heiress and author, and California Talbot, the most dangerous bounty hunter in the West, and Maggie’s childhood friend.

Bandits came looking for the legendary emeralds belonging to Maggie’s family, killing her older brother and scarring her face. She can’t change the past, but finding the jewels will help her injured sister recover. In need of reliable muscle, she goes to an old friend of her brother’s: tough-as-nails nonbinary bounty hunter California Talbot.

While Maggie expected hard roads and violence, given the tragedy that provoked the journey, she wasn’t expecting the bar fights, snakes, and bandits to be the easy part—and the difficult part to be a growing attraction to someone who’d probably never look twice at her mutilated face.

 – lessthanthreepress.com

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Review: The Vanishing Girl ★★☆☆☆

19395125The Vanishing Girl by Laura Thalassa promised to be exciting and thrilling, with adventure and teleporting girls, but it ended up being creepy and disappointing.

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Review: The Citadel of the Sky ★★☆☆☆

25097062I was intrigued right away by The Citadel of the Sky by Chrysoula Tzavelas. A fierce warrior princess setting out to defeat a great evil with a flaming sword. Sounds awesome, right? I thought so too. But things never turn out how we hope they will, do they?

Her (not very) Serene Highness Princess Tiana tries her best not to think about the dark lords ravaging her country or how the magic in her bloodline makes her family go mad. The descendant of a legendary hero, she prefers bringing the myths of old to life on the theater stage, not on the battlefield.

Then a rash of suspicious deaths strikes the Regents —trusted advisors, friends, and guides to her troubled royal family —and the Noble’s Council tries to cover it all up. Tiana is determined to get to the bottom of the murders and the conspiracy, even if that means making a dangerous pact with a telepathic demon trapped in a magical sword. But he may just be the edge she needs to save the people she loves.

Cursed sword in hand, Tiana and her friends prepare to face the encroaching darkness ­—and the ultimate truth about her and her family.

I got more than halfway through this book before the plot started. I’d like to stress: 50% of this book went by before the first plot point occurred.

I figured long and slow beginnings were natural for a high fantasy. I expected two chapters, maybe three, to go by before we got to the plot. I expected a lot of world building and some exposition in the beginning. In a book like Citadel of the Sky, it’s difficult to avoid exposition. But for almost twenty chapters to go by before we got a plot is too much.

I tried very hard to stick to it, because I was interested, but not invested.

The book opens with the main character, Princess Tiana, attending a funeral for her father’s advisor. But the problem there is that I don’t know this advisor, or Tiana, and I don’t care that she’s upset about his death.

The cast of characters introduced within the first few chapters puts Game of Thrones to shame. Except this time, it doesn’t work. I can’t remember who’s a sister, a cousin, an adviser, a random magician, or what have you. Big casts are difficult to pull off, and unfortunately Tzavelas wasn’t successful at it.

The magic system within the story was intriguing. Every time someone used magic, they were under risk of falling to madness and hysteria, slowly loosing their sanity until they died. I would have loved it, had the magic not been so difficult to understand. I wasn’t sure if everyone used the magic the same way or what most of the magic meant. Tzavelas just went on in the narrative and expected the reader to follow along without explaining a single thing.

My expectations were set pretty high, and I was let down over a long series of chapters that essentially went nowhere until I just had to give up. Maybe the next book that comes from Chrysoula Tzavelas will get the party going a little quicker.