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.

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Year Zero by Rob Reid

 

I got this book at NYCC 2017. I saw the author speak at a panel about deleted scenes and then went to his book signing.

I found his deleted scene (for After On) to be very funny and that prompted me to go to his book signing.

The plot of Year Zero had lots of promise and it started out really funny, but about half way through the jokes got old and I also became bored by the story. Sometimes it was hard to follow all the descriptions of copyright laws and the descriptions of the alien worlds. I hate to admit that I started to skim about three quarters of the way through.

Also, the footnotes were distracting. Small ones were fine, but they often turned into whole paragraphs. That tangent is just unnecessary and I also just skipped reading those all together towards the end.

I didn’t find myself connecting with any of the characters so in the end I didn’t really care what happened. Hence the skimming.

I feel horrible giving such a poor review but it is an honest one.

Since I already bought After On I will give that one a shot and hope I like it better than Year Zero.

2 out of 5 Downloaded Songs.

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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Sisters of the Fire by Kim Wilkins

The battle-scarred warrior princess Bluebell, heir to her father’s throne, is rumoured to be unkillable. So when she learns of a sword wrought specifically to slay her by the fearsome raven king, Hakon, she sets out on a journey to find it before it finds her. The sword is rumoured to be in the possession of one of her four younger sisters. But which one? Scattered as they are across the kingdoms, she sets out on a journey to find them.

Her four sisters all have their own paths to tread, the gifted magician Ash is on a journey to find a dragon that could determine her destiny. The beautiful, unhappy Rose has left her undermagician Aunt and is speeding to the aid of her daughter, Rowan, who has been lost to her. Ivy, sold into marriage for the sake of an alliance, is now set to become the ruling Duchess of Seacaster with the imminent death of her much older and sick husband, and the power-hungry Willow is raising her infant child as a potential trimartyr king and training to be a warrior for the fanatical religious order Maava.

From wild rocky coastline to granite-topped tors, from bustling harbours to echoing ghost towns, from halls of kings to ancient primal woodlands, this story follows five sisters upon whose actions kingdoms will rise and fall.

Synopsis from here.

This is an ARC that I won from a Giveaway that Del Rey was having on Instagram. Thank you again, Del Rey!

I am a little confused though because the book is being released in the U.S. on February 2, 2019 but was released elsewhere in 2016, and some of the reviews on Goodreads are from 2 years ago. So, is this still an ARC?

Whatever it is, I enjoyed this second book in the trilogy. There is some fun action and it’s to the point. The description doesn’t drag on and on. I would say it was more character driven. The characters, especially the sisters are well written and are diverse in their personalities. I certainly have my favorites sisters that I root for and ones that I want to smack across the head. I’ll elaborate more below so beware of spoilers.

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Doctor Sleep by Stephen King, narrated by Will Patton.

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Stephen King returns to the characters and territory of one of his most popular novels ever, The Shining, in this instantly riveting novel about the now middle-aged Dan Torrance (the boy protagonist of The Shining) and the very special 12-year-old girl he must save from a tribe of murderous paranormals.

On highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless – mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and spunky 12-year-old Abra Stone learns, The True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the “steam” that children with the “shining” produce when they are slowly tortured to death.

Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father’s legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him, and a job at a nursing home where his remnant “shining” power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes “Doctor Sleep.”

Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan’s own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival. This is an epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of hyper-devoted fans of The Shining and wildly satisfy anyone new to the territory of this icon in the King canon.

I listened to the audiobook narrated by Will Patton. At first I really didn’t like his voice at all and missed Campbell Scott’s voice. But as I started getting into it I got used to his gruffness and thought it actually worked really well with some of the members of the True Knot and with Billy Freeman.

I thought Dan’s character as an adult was spot on for what would become of his life in the aftermath of the traumatic events of the Overlook Hotel. Also, the way he wrote his recovery from alcoholism was so well written and so believable that (besides King saying it himself in the Author’s Note) I looked it up and King knows from experience! I did not know that Stephen King was a recovering alcoholic.

WARNING: NOW THE REVIEW WILL HAVE SPOILERS BELOW.

THIS IS YOUR FINAL WARNING!

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Book Review: Harry Potter and History (Wiley Pop Culture and History) by Nancy R. Reagin

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A guide to the history behind the world of Harry Potter just in time for the last Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part II)

Harry Potter lives in a world that is both magical and historical. Hogwarts pupils ride an old-fashioned steam train to school, notes are taken on parchment with quill pens, and Muggle legends come to life in the form of werewolves, witches, and magical spells. This book is the first to explore the real history in which Harry’s world is rooted.

Did you know that bezoars and mandrakes were fashionable luxury items for centuries? Find out how Europeans first developed the potions, spells, and charms taught at Hogwarts, from Avada Kedavra to love charms. Learn how the European prosecution of witches led to the Statute of Secrecy, meet the real Nicholas Flamel, see how the Malfoys stack up against Muggle English aristocrats, and compare the history of the wizarding world to real-life history.

Gives you the historical backdrop to Harry Potter’s world Covers topics ranging from how real British boarding schools compare to Hogwarts to how parchment, quills, and scrolls used in the wizarding world were made Includes a timeline comparing the history of the wizarding world to Muggle “real” history

Filled with fascinating facts and background, Harry Potter and History is an essential companion for every Harry Potter fan.

I had this on my TBR for a few years and decided to read it for the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter. I have been on a Harry Potter kick for most of the year. I did a “reread” by listening to the audiobooks and Harry Potter: A History of Magic. I also went to the exhibit at The New York Historical Society. And I started listening to the podcast Harry Potter and the Sacred Text.

I have stated before that reading non-fiction and reading history is not my cup of tea (I prefer watching shows about history), but I have read Twilight and History, also edited by Nancy R. Reagin, and I liked that.

Before I get into all the cool new things I learned from these essays I have a bone to pick with Susan Hall in her essay “Marx, Magic, and Muggles: Class Conflict in Harry Potter’s World.” On page 288 she compares the Gaunt family with the Durbeyfield family from Tess of the D’Urbervilles. While I totally agree with the comparisons between the two families she COMPLETELYdescribes the plot of Tess of the D’Urbervilles INACCURATELY! Tess is not “seduced” by Alec D’Urberville. She was raped. She doesn’t hang for the murder of her “lover”. He raped her! WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK, SUSAN HALL!?

Also, on the same page is another inaccuracy she made when she said the Weasleys spend money they don’t have on extravagant trips. They won that trip to Egypt! Did you even read the books?

Now that I got that off my chest, and sorry for the use of the F word but I feel in this issue it was justified, onto the rest of the review which is positive.

There were topics that I already had learned about from Harry Potter: A History of Magic, such as potions and witch-hunts, but this collection goes more into topics of class conflict, politics & government, women’s civil rights, aristocracy, boarding schools, and werewolves.

I learned more about the Spanish Inquisition in this book than I did when I was in school.

One essay also goes into why most spells are in Latin and goes into the origins of the Unforgivable Curses and the term “hocus pocus.” Which I found fascinating.

A few other cool things I learned:
– There really were secret magic schools!
– There was an Emperor who was not of nobel birth named Severus.
– Lupin’s werewolf affliction is an analogy for HIV/AIDS.

Some of the essays dragged on a bit and I found myself skimming sometimes. At one point I put the book down completely to listen to The Shining. The good thing about that is that there is no plot to this book to remember. You can easily pick it up and pick whichever essay you feel like reading about.

It’s a good read for anyone who is really interested in history and is a die hard Harry Potter fan.

4 out of 5 O.W.L.S.

 

The Shining by Stephen King, Narrated by Campbell Scott

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Listening Length: 15 hours and 56 minutes

Jack Torrance’s new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he’ll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote . . . and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around the Overlook is Danny Torrance, a uniquely gifted five-year-old.

The Shining certainly lived up to the hype. I became afraid of the dark, and I even jumped in my seat on the bus when the passenger next to me adjusted his position in his seat.

This is the first King novel I have ever read/listen to. I have read/listened to a couple of novels by his son Joe Hill, and I can see their similarities with their prose. I liked the way King describes the settings and actions. I bookmarked a few favorite parts.

The pacing and character development was just right and so engaging. It is very hard to put it down. I jumped, gasped and groaned in reaction.

Campbell Scott’s narration was excellent. Without overly changing his voice too much he made it easy to distinguish the characters and when Jack is possessed at the end, the insanity in his voice is chilling.

Some Favorite Quotes:
Chapter 8: The mountains did not forgive many mistakes.

Chapter 33: (about the woman in 217) Like some malevolent clockwork toy she had been wound up and set in motion by Danny’s own mind… and his own.

Chapter 43: All the hotel’s era were together tonight now, all but the current one, the Torrance era.

5 out of 5 Roque Mallets.

I think most people have seen the movie by Kubrick, but that does not do the story justice. It missed the point and changed the essence of the characters. Danny is an intelligent boy and the movie dumbs him down, especially with his imaginary friend, Tony.

Jack Torrance being played by Jack Nicholson makes him seem like he was always a sinister, crazy man when he is more of a tragic character that gets manipulated by the Hotel.

The movie is great on it’s own and I will still watch it when I see it on TV. However, it is not a great adaptation of the book.