Infinity Son by Adam Silvera

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Balancing epic and intensely personal stakes, bestselling author Adam Silvera’s Infinity Son is a gritty, fast-paced adventure about two brothers caught up in a magical war generations in the making.

Growing up in New York, brothers Emil and Brighton always idolized the Spell Walkers—a vigilante group sworn to rid the world of specters. While the Spell Walkers and other celestials are born with powers, specters take them, violently stealing the essence of endangered magical creatures.

Brighton wishes he had a power so he could join the fray. Emil just wants the fighting to stop. The cycle of violence has taken a toll, making it harder for anyone with a power to live peacefully and openly. In this climate of fear, a gang of specters has been growing bolder by the day.

Then, in a brawl after a protest, Emil manifests a power of his own—one that puts him right at the heart of the conflict and sets him up to be the heroic Spell Walker Brighton always wanted to be.

Brotherhood, love, and loyalty will be put to the test, and no one will escape the fight unscathed.

I got an ARC during NYCC at a post panel signing with Adam Silvera.

It took me some time to get into this world. I was having a difficult time keeping characters straight and I could have used a Dramatis Personae.

I also had a difficult time understanding the difference between a celestial and a specter until more then halfway through. It felt like I was just thrusted into the world and expected to understand the terminology and mythology without much explanation. Especially, with the mention of the Blackout. I still don’t know what that event entailed.

However, it is a really fast read and once I got into it, it started to clicked.

There were some plot twists that were predictable. I also had an issue with the amount of time spent training for a couple of characters. No way could they be that good in that short amount of time.

But honestly, I’m not that bothered because I think the things I liked about it outweighed what I think could have been improved.

What I really enjoyed were the relationships between the characters. There was a lot of drama and a lot of tensions, mostly within the Spell Walkers themselves. I liked it because not only did it make the story interesting but it will allow for growth and development in the sequels.

The story also showed the power of social media, when it works for you and against you.

I liked the clear influences and Easter eggs from Harry Potter.

Another plus was having a cast of diverse characters.

The cliffhangers have enough spark that I will look out for the next book in 2021. I do like a fast fantasy read.

3 out of 5 Phoenixes

Bruja Born by Zoraida Córdova

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Lula Mortiz may be a bruja with healing powers, but after her family’s battle in Los Lagos, she feels broken in a way she can’t seem to fix. Then tragedy strikes when a bus crash leaves her friends and her boyfriend, Maks, dead. Desperate to reclaim normalcy, Lula invokes a dark spell to bring Maks back. It isn’t until she hears that all of the bodies from the crash have gone missing that she realizes something is wrong. Lula has unwittingly raised an army of casi muertos–creatures between the living and dead–and they’re hungry for freedom…which they can only achieve if Lula dies.

 

I liked the first book, Labyrinth Lost, in the Brooklyn Brujas series so much that I immediately bought book 2. Now that we are close to Halloween I included Bruja Born in my challenge for the month: creepy, supernatural reads.

I enjoyed the second book as much as the first. There was a good balance between the relationships, the magic and mythology and the action of the story. The pacing was good too. I never felt that it was being too cryptic or lingering too long on a particular scene.

Once again I loved the family dynamics, especially between the sisters. I loved the way that the supernatural world mixed with the contemporary setting of Brooklyn. I love that this was set in Brooklyn. It was so easy to picture.

I love that the world expanded in this story with the introduction of new characters and organizations. I was really amused by the humor from the characters too. I love McKay, Frederik and Rhett.

The action was fun and exciting. I liked this spin on the casimuertos. They are like zombies but aren’t brainless. And they don’t desire brains. A small critique I have is I didn’t understand how they turned others into casimuertos. It’s not that important but I was just curious.

Also, I did miss Rishi. I understand that the cast of characters was big enough and so it was easier for her to be away, but I still missed her presence.

The ending certainly did leave it open for the next book and I am very much looking forward to it.

4 out of 5 Hearts

House of Salt And Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

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In a manor by the sea, twelve sisters are cursed.

Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor, a manor by the sea, with her sisters, their father, and stepmother. Once they were twelve, but loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls’ lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last—the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge—and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.

Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that the deaths were no accidents. Her sisters have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn’t sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who—or what—are they really dancing with?

When Annaleigh’s involvement with a mysterious stranger who has secrets of his own intensifies, it’s a race to unravel the darkness that has fallen over her family—before it claims her next.

This is an ARC my sister won at Book Con 2019. I borrowed it from her.

I didn’t know it was a re-telling of the Brother Grimm’s “The Twelves Dancing Princesses” (a.k.a. “The Worn-out Dancing Shoes and “The Shoes That Were Danced to Pieces.”) I never heard of that story. So I can’t compare the two.

I do know I liked this version very much. It had a great atmosphere. I love the sea theme. The cover artwork is just beautiful. I really liked the world building and they way their different devotions to different gods and goddesses were explained.

The supernatural murder mystery was intriguing and kept me wanting to turn the page. The pacing does slow down a bit in the middle, but I still wanted to know the outcome. I had several suspects on my list because a few people come across as untrustworthy and I would change my mind as to who really was the villain.

I enjoyed how the book built up to the ending. I was questioning what was real and what wasn’t as Annaleigh searches for the truth.

I am happy to say that the love triangle was very minimal. It focused more on the sisters, the mystery, and the enchantments.

Also, I am glad that this is a standalone, but if it were to become a series I would like to see a story from one of the other cities that follow a different god or goddess.

Besides the slow pace in the middle I do have one other reason for not giving it a perfect score, but it’s a spoiler. Basically I am a little confused.

SPOILER WARNING

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Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova

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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 got this book as a give away at Book Con 2017.

I really enjoyed this story. While the world and story isn’t anything new, Córdova did a great job of incorporating old Latin American lore into a modern story.

I love the family dynamics and the fact that the characters are from Brooklyn. Alex’s coming of age journey and acceptance of herself and her powers was well done.

If your are looking for a fantasy book with diverse representation, read this. The leads are POC and there is a bisexual love triangle. Luckily the story doesn’t lean too heavily on the typically overdone love triangle aspect and concentrates more on the world building, the character development, and the magic.

I do have a small critique about the villain. I didn’t find her as scary or threatening as she was supposed to be. She was more cartoonish in my opinion. I also wished to know more about her history.

Overall I enjoyed it so much I bought the sequel right away because I want to see more from Brooklyn Bruja sisters (and Nova too) and know more about their family history and future.

Favorite quotes:

page 126: What’s the point of being what I am if I can’t use it when I need it to save my life?”

page 234: But burden or gift, this is who we are. Just think, nena, if you didn’t fear your own power, then you wouldn’t have respected it enough to rein it in.

4 out of 5 Death Masks.

The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden, narrated by Kathleen Gati

Following their adventures in The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower, Vasya and Morozko return in this stunning conclusion to the best-selling Winternight Trilogy, battling enemies mortal and magical to save both Russias, the seen and the unseen.

The Winternight Trilogy introduced an unforgettable heroine, Vasilisa Petrovna, a girl determined to forge her own path in a world that would rather lock her away. Her gifts and her courage have drawn the attention of Morozko, the winter-king, but it is too soon to know if this connection will prove a blessing or a curse. Now, Moscow has been struck by disaster. Its people are searching for answers – and for someone to blame.

Vasya finds herself alone, beset on all sides. The grand prince is in a rage, choosing allies who will lead him on a path to war and ruin. A wicked demon returns, stronger than ever and determined to spread chaos. Caught at the center of the conflict is Vasya, who finds the fate of two worlds resting on her shoulders.

Her destiny uncertain, Vasya will uncover surprising truths about herself and her history as she desperately tries to save Russia, Morozko, and the magical world she treasures. But she may not be able to save them all.

The Winter of the Witch was a wonderful conclusion to the Winternight Trilogy. Katherine said in the Author’s Note that from the earliest drafts of The Bear and the Nightingale that she knew where she wanted it to end but the path had varied.

I feel I know what she means because I read the ARC for the second book, The Girl in the Tower, and the very end was changed when I listened to the audiobook. I think the change was wise.

I also loved learning from the Author’s Note what was historically accurate and what was imagined for a story with magic. I loved the balance of powers at the end. It was so perfect and so carefully orchestrated.

Vasya’s development and growth was so well done. It’s a true coming of age story for a witch finding her place in the world and learning to accept some outcomes.

4.5 out of 5 Mushrooms.

There are some details that I want to address and for that I am issuing a SPOILER WARNING!

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Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

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When kingdom come, there will be one.

In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born—three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins.

The last queen standing gets the crown.

I had taken part in a survey about books and during this extensive survey I was asked if I would be interested in receiving a free download of Three Dark Crowns in exchange for a survey about it in a few weeks. (I have not received that survey yet.)

I downloaded the free app BookShout to read it. It’s a cool app. You set goals and it tracks your progress to reach your daily goal and counts your words per minute (mine is 168). You also earn .25 cents for each 25,000 words you read, or something like that. I am too lazy to look it up. I am still learning how to use the app though. Figuring out how to highlight sentences is tricky.

Anyway, so my review of the book.

It started out a bit slow and took me a while to keep track of who is who because there are a lot of characters. I wish I had made a list. As I kept reading though it got easier to remember and it also became more and more of a page turner. I would advise anyone who is interested but is struggling with it in the beginning to stick with it. Towards the end of part 1, and certainly by parts 2 and 3 it will be hard to put down.

I like the world building, but I want to know more. The traditions are explained well enough, and even a repeat itself, but I want to know why it is that way. There will be some random history about past Queens mentioned, and I see that there are prequel stories, so maybe those stories go more into how and why this realm operates this way. It certainly has me sucked in enough to add them to my BookShout wish list.

I like the sisters (and their supporting characters) Each Queen has her own personality, strengths and weaknesses. It is hard to pick one to root for. I was/am hoping they ban together to fight the traditions and people who control their fates like puppeteers.

The twist! Ok, in the beginning I did sort of suspect it, but then I forgot about it because I got caught up in the subplots and I was still learning to keep the characters straight. By the end I was caught off guard and my mind blown because the way it was revealed was so smart and shocking. It just raises so many more questions and I am left wanting to read the sequels.

4 out of 5 Crowns.

Small Spaces by Katherine Arden

Bestselling adult author of The Bear and the Nightingale makes her middle grade debut with a creepy, spellbinding ghost story destined to become a classic

After suffering a tragic loss, eleven-year-old Ollie only finds solace in books. So when she happens upon a crazed woman at the river threatening to throw a book into the water, Ollie doesn’t think–she just acts, stealing the book and running away. As she begins to read the slender volume, Ollie discovers a chilling story about a girl named Beth, the two brothers who both loved her, and a peculiar deal made with “the smiling man,” a sinister specter who grants your most tightly held wish, but only for the ultimate price.

Ollie is captivated by the tale until her school trip the next day to Smoke Hollow, a local farm with a haunting history all its own. There she stumbles upon the graves of the very people she’s been reading about. Could it be the story about the smiling man is true? Ollie doesn’t have too long to think about the answer to that. On the way home, the school bus breaks down, sending their teacher back to the farm for help. But the strange bus driver has some advice for the kids left behind in his care: “Best get moving. At nightfall they’ll come for the rest of you.” Nightfall is, indeed, fast descending when Ollie’s previously broken digital wristwatch, a keepsake reminder of better times, begins a startling countdown and delivers a terrifying message: RUN.

Only Ollie and two of her classmates heed the bus driver’s warning. As the trio head out into the woods–bordered by a field of scarecrows that seem to be watching them–the bus driver has just one final piece of advice for Ollie and her friends: “Avoid large places. Keep to small.”

And with that, a deliciously creepy and hair-raising adventure begins.

I bought this book at NYCC 2018 because I am a fan of Katherine Arden’s The Winternight Trilogy.

Although I am way older than the target audience of this story I found it suspenseful and creepy. A very good, and fast, Halloween read. I had to keep going to see how it would turn out.

I doesn’t go too in depth about the history, or the details about the curse, but it explained enough to set up the stakes if the main protagonists should fail.

I really liked the character development and relationships between the main characters: Olivia, Brian and Coco. I also liked that for a change instead of the trio being two boys and a girl, it was two girls and a boy. I never see that.

The end is left open for more adventures and I look forward to the next story.

4 out of 5 Scarecrows.