Quick Review: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

labyrinth lost

**Spoilers Ahead**

I knew I was going to like this book when it was revealed that Alex and her family of Brujas live in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.  I may be a little bias but Sunset Park is the best neighborhood in Brooklyn.  Anyway, Alex is from a long line of Brujas or as we say in english, Witches.  While her family sees their powers as gift sees them as only curses.  Her Deathday is coming and Alex will do anything to get rid of her powers.  She blames them for the misfortune of her family.  She believes they made her father leave when she was a child.  When she accidentally banishes her family to Los Lagos, she must venture there herself with a mysterious but handsome Brujo Nova to guide her.  This is a story about acceptance.  Alex for so long was afraid of herself, believing that her powers were the source of her families troubles and that if she only got rid of them then they would be okay.  Over time she realizes that her powers are part of her and ridding them would only getting rid a part of her.  For too long she tried to hide who she was that she didn’t even know who she was.  The only person she felt she could be herself around was with her friend, Rishi but even there she had to keep herself a secret.  As Alex, Nova and Rishi navigate the dangers of Los Lagos, she becomes more at home with her powers but things are not as they seem.  For one Nova is not who she thinks he is.  It bothered me that she never really questioned why he knew so much about Los Lagos.  He is quite knowledgeable about the place that only existed in myths and legends before.  The best surprise was who Alex’s love interest ended up being.  It was all set up to be Nova when it ended up being Rishi.  How refreshing to see Queer representation of Latina and Guyanese girls.  Their relationship starts as a sweet friendship.  Accepting each other for who they are and not caring that one is a little odd to seeing each other for who they truly are.  Alex and Nova shippers have some hope but I do hope that Alex and Rishi are the endgame.  As for the rest of the story, it wasn’t perfect but it was entertainment. It’s great to have a strong Latina lead character and being kickass.  Now that Alex has come into her powers, it’ll be interesting to see what comes next for her and her family.

Review: The Queen of the Tearling Series by Erika Johansen

queen tearling

**There maybe a few minor spoilers in this review**

First of all, our Cousin Sarah has good taste in books because I really enjoyed this series.  So thank you Sarah for the suggestion.  I’m sorry that I waited so long to read it.

One of the themes I got from this series is how past shapes our present and our future.  As someone who has a degree in history I really appreciate that.  The saying of “those who don’t learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them” maybe cliche but it’s also true.  History is littered with examples of forgetting or  ignoring the past and then surprised when the results are the same.  Look about what is going on today.  Many of the same rhetoric that is being said on both side of the aisle have all been said before.  There have been so many correlation between what is currently going in the United States with what lead to other Countries descent into authoritarian regimes.  Agree or disagree that is the direction the US is going, one must be a little nervous with what they are seeing happening around our country.  Right now is the perfect time to look back at our past and see what we can learn.

invasion tearling The Tearling was founded by William Tear and his followers by leaving the United States that had fallen into Martial Law and extreme poverty.  They crossed the Atlantic and through a mysterious portal to land in the “New World” to start an utopian society where everyone was equal.  No one was more important then another but this was never truly the truth in practice, even from the beginning of their new colony.  William Tear always stood higher then everyone else even though he tried not too.  His opinion was enough to sway an issue to right or the left.  He was the King without the title.  You add the people’s unwillingness to talk about their pre-crossing life led to the downfall of the society after only one generation.  They failed to learn from their own past.  They felt that had moved beyond the troubles of their past but when things fell apart they resorted back into the old habits and fear that lead the downfall of the past and again fell part again.  Three hundred years later, Kelsea inherits a country with very little assets and has the traffic it’s own people to a neighboring country to survive.  The people are mostly illiterate and live in poverty.  The ideals of William Tear have long been forgotten.  Kelsea with the help of the Mace, try their best to right the wrongs of their past but with little army and even less of a treasury she is fighting an uphill battle.  Kelsea is not perfect herself.  She is young and inexperienced.  She has a temper on her that makes to make rash decisions.  She was also left in the dark about her own countries history, particularly the resent history that she has to learn about her people as she rules them.  She makes some great decisions but she also makes some terrible mistakes.  Which is important because it is sometimes to easy to make the protagonist to perfect.  It would be very easy to make Kelsea a saint, bringing her country back to it’s former glory but Erika Johansen doesn’t do that.  Nor does she give us the perfect happy ending either but I’ll get to that later.

fate tearling The Tearling is a curious place.  It takes place in the future but is clearly a Medieval  society.  They lost most of their medical supplies and doctors in the crossing and 300 later they still haven’t developed any technology.  They don’t even have a working printing press.  The Horror!  They do have a little bit of magic.  Kelsea also inherits two sapphires that give her abilities to see into the past and powers.  The ability to see into the past and the future help her but also make things a bit tense.  She starts to have visions of the past through two women who helped shape the early Tearling.  She sees how life was before the crossing and how the Tearling fell.  She struggles to figure out how the past is supposed to help her but she knows it’s important.  As her kingdom starts to fall apart and those who are most loyal are starting to question.  When she finally figures out what to do it’s ruthless and brave that runs head on into doing not knowing what the outcome will be.  In the end *spoiler* she does bring back William Tear’s vision for the New World even though it’s not how she imagined it.  It’s very bittersweet that accomplished what she set out to do, she righted all the inequality the country had suffered through but it left her a little alone in her victory.  Then again, who knows what the future will bring for Kelsea.  Maybe all we have to do is gleam into her past to see where Kelsea will go next.

Very Quick Review: The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

queen tearling It’s a rare thing for me to start a series after all the books have been released.  It’s kinda of thrilling to be able to read from beginning to end without having to wait years to finish.  So with that in mind, I’m going to one big review after I have completed the trilogy.  However I do have some thoughts.  Lately, we have seen how some dystopian and fantasy novels could be prophetic, this is kind of a terrifying thought.  The Tearling was founded by people escaping to the New World because the America we know had fallen in disrepair.  The gap between the rich and poor had widen so far that there was no middle class left.  Cities were nothing more then slums.  Food was scarce.  Martial law was enacted and women were forced out of the workforce to become mothers and housewives.  So they sailed across the ocean, to where we don’t know where, looking for better lives only to losing all our advancements in medicine and technology.  Basically the Tearling have traveled back to the Middle Ages and three centuries, Kelsea has inherited a Kingdom that is illiterate, sick, poor and at the Mercy of the Mortemense, the more powerful nation across the border.  The Mort is ruled by the Red Queen, who is just a mysterious as she is terrifying.  Kelsea, only 19 but is brave in her convictions.  She knows her life may be short but she still sets out to do what’s best for her people, even if it means going against the Red Queen and her more advanced army.  It is an intriguing start to the series and I’m already enjoying book two.

Quick Review: Dark Breaks the Dawn by Sara B. Larson

dark breaks the dawn *** This review may contain Spoilers ***

I confess, I’m not all that familiar with the store of Swan Lake so I can’t say if this is a good retelling or not.  What I can say it was just meh.  I wanted really into it but I also wasn’t bored with it either.  Evelayn is the crown Princess of the light side of the Kingdom.  Long time ago, a curse fell on the  Kingdom years ago and took away their immortality and separated them into two Kingdoms of Light and Dark.  For centuries the two sides lived in peace and keeping balance of the magic until 10 years before when the King of the Dark magic started a war to grasp both sides.  Evelayn is thrust into the conflict when her Mother is killed by the King making her Queen.  Now Evelayn is a fine character.  She’s smart and brave and willing to do anything for country.  She does what she needs to be done.  She’s a fast learner.  She is just coming into her powers and is able to master all of them except for the power to transform into her Swan. Only those with royal blood can transfigure.  Her love interest is Tanvir is kind of bland.  Several times there are hints of him not being worthy, that he has a secret, or that there is something is past that could come back to haunt him.  I was starting to think that he was a spy for the Dark Kingdom and he was forced to be a spy to save his sister who isn’t dead just being held captive by the King.  That would have made him more interesting at least but no.  The Dark Prince, Lorcan is far more interesting to me then either Evelayn and Tanvir and I sort of started rooting for him.  I know he’s technically the real big bad of the story but I was left for interested in what he was going to do then the others.  I also felt how Evelayn reacted at the end was a little out of character.  She never sought out violence before.  She had to do what she had to do for the safety of her Kingdom and keeping balance so for her to threaten the Dark Queen like she did seemed a strange move.  True she is young and obviously scared and desperate but this wasn’t the first time she felt that way and handled things better.  So yeah, it was meh but I’m going to read the second book because I do want to see what Lorcan does next.

Quick Review: Seeker by Veronica Rossi

seeker This was a fun book to read if a little uneven.  The sequel to  Riders, Seekers picks up a week after the first book ended.  Daryn has returned from Georgia after watching Marcus, Jode and Gideon reunite but too scared to face them.  She’s still blaming herself for abandoning Bas to the other realm with Samrael, the leader of the Kindred.  Gideon is still conflicted because he’s mad at Daryn for her role in Bas’ situation plus losing his hand but he’s also madly in love with her.  The trials of teenage love.  It’s been eight months and time is running out get Bas back so Daryn, Gideon and the other Riders of the Apocalypse must reunite to go into the Rift, face their demons and save Bas.  Now I say it was fun because mixed with all the teenage angst were some funny moments.  I truly appreciate Gideon’s snarkiness and sarcasm.  A little uneven because it didn’t feel the momentum of the first part of the book didn’t stay to the last part.  The book spends half of the book trying to find Bas and then we find him and find out that he was just the bait.  Samrael was only using him to get Daryn and the real conflict begins.  I sort felt that all the trials that happened before were kinda meaningless now.  It seemed like a long way to go to get to the payoff and we did it wasn’t as satisfying and felt rushed.  I wish we had spent less time on the Bas search and more on the Samrael/Daryn debate of forgiveness and who deserves it.  Other then that, it was a good book.

Quick Review: Believe Me by Eddie Izzard

eddie Phew!  I did it. I only had about 48 hours to read my DRC and I just barely made it under the deadline.  It helped that those last two days fell on my days off from work.  I’m very glad that I got a chance to read it.  Believe Me was a touching and honest memoir of man who struggled by persevered not just in his career but in his life.  Eddie Izzard is mostly known for his stand up but he is also an actor and transgender.  He talks openly about his sexuality and trying to identify who he is when there really wasn’t a word for it, the loss of his mother when he was six and breaking into the entertainment industry when you have no idea on how to find the door.  He goes step by step throughout his life that lead him to where he is now and those who are familiar with his stand up will notice how many of his chapters are written like his shows.  With a topic and then a short digression into a topic that’s related but not really related before coming back to the original thread.  It’s filled with humor and grief.  Hard times but good times too.  He didn’t have an easy road but it wasn’t all tragedy either.  He owns up to his privilege of growing up in a middle class household.  How the hard work of his father not only inspired him but allowed him to be able to follow his dreams and when he wasn’t able to pay the bills, his father was there to support him.  He talks about the fear of coming out and knowing that it could be the end of his career but how he had to do it.  I don’t think I have ever read a more clear and detailed experience of someone’s coming out.  I think most people see it as it as a one time thing. You Say I’m Gay! and that’s it but really it’s like multiple coming outs.  Once to themselves, then close friends and family and then coworkers and so forth.  To my LGBTQ+ friends, I hope that I have been supportive you and know that I believe that you are all brave for being you.  It’s also a good demonstration that if want something you have to be willing to work for it.  Eddie’s path to success had a lot of failures and a lot of unexpected detours but he used everyone of them to learn and grow and kept at it.  He’s still looking for new challenges like performing his stand up in different languages to connect more with people from different cultures.  Fans of Eddie will love it but I think people looking for inspiration will get a lot out of it too.

Review: Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare

lord of shadows

**This Review May contain some Spoilers**

I read a lot of fantasy novels and lately many of them have been relevant to what’s currently going on in our world.  I would say that some of it is a reaction to today’s political and cultural climate but books and art have a history of being predictive.  The Handmaid’s Tale was written over two decades ago and is just if not more relevant today then it was then.  Cassandra Clare’s The Dark Artifices might be her most political and timely series out of all her Shadowhunter series but it was years in the making first set in motion 10 years ago with the release of City of Bones.  One of the main threats in Lord of Shadows comes from within the Clave itself.  At the end of the The Mortal Instruments Series City of Heavenly Fire, the Clave started the Cold Peace.  A harsh punishment against Fairies for their involvement in the Dark War.  This has lead to anti-downworlder’s sentiment to spread among Shadowhunters.  Once again proving that people, even supernatural people do not learn from their own history.  Less then five years ago, they defeated Valentine, who’s group wanted to bring back the “golden age” of shadowhunters by ridden the world of downworlders and now the Cohort, a group of Shadowhunters are asking for downworlders to be registered and put into camps.  They movements should be marked and controlled.  Does that sound kinda familiar? It shouldn’t surprise any of you that the downworlders, particularly fairies are not happy and plan in invasion.  While all of this is happening, the Blackthorns and Emma are dealing with their own issues.  With each new book, they get more and more complicated with so many story lines that Clare is almost at George R.R. Martin level but not as many deaths.  I’m not sure all are necessary but it does make for interesting reading.  That being said to me the most interesting character is Julian.  Here’s a guy who at seventeen runs the LA institute. He takes care of his younger siblings and is utterly ruthless.  He will do anything for his family and his Parabati, Emma.  Who he is also madly in love with as she is with him but that’s forbidden and for good reason.  Parabati bond is pretty strong and only enhances strong romantic love to the point it drive them crazy.  Yikes.  As for the ending, I knew the character was going to die as soon as she admitted she was going to be friends with another character.  It sounds silly but the way it was written it sounded so final as her arc was over at that moment.  I was sorry to see that character go but boy there will be hell to pay now.  Too bad we have to wait 2 years to find out what happens next.

Quick Review: The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan

dark prophecy I keep waiting for Rick Riordan to write a bad book.  The Dark Prophecy is not that book.  He just keep coming up with fresh and different ideas of making these old stories relevant and fun.  Whoever is the God or Goddess of story telling, Rick Riordan is their son.  When we last left Apollo, he’s reeling from the betrayal of Meg, a new prophecy sending him to Indianapolis and the reappearance of Leo and Calypso. That’s a lot for a former God turned mortal teenage boy to handle but handle he must.  When Apollo, Leo and Calypso arrive they are greeted by some very polite monsters because of course the monsters that inhabit the Midwest would be polite.  they are rescued by two former Hunters of Artemis Emmie and Josephine who tells them that their daughter is missing.  She had gone to the dark oracle for help from the second Emperor who has made Indianapolis his home.  Of course this Emperor Apollo has personal history with making everything more awkward.  As the crew tries to figure out how to defeat Emperor Commodus and get the next prophecy without going crazy they experience the same mythic hi-jinks of the other books.  Yes, these book can at times feel be formulaic but it never feel feels like that.  They are just fun, witty and refreshing.  Rick doesn’t shy away for the more uncomfortable stories from Greek and Roman mythology or tries to wash them out either.  Many of these stories are not happy or fun but then again neither is life and yet Rick never lets it get to dark.  He is always able to find the absurdity in them.  Bring on the next one.

Quick Review: A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J Maas

a court of wings and ruinThis is a story of how people deal with abuse.  No seriously.  Yes, they are mostly fairies and there is magic and takes place in a land full of both of those things but deep down it’s about the effects of abuse and how we deal with it.  Almost every character has suffered some kind of abuse one way or another.  In A Court of Mist and Fury, the second book of the series, I talked about Feyre’s recovery from not only what happened to her at the end of the first book but emotional abuse she suffered at the hands of Tamlin but Feyre’s not the only one.  Maybe one of the reasons why she and Rhys get along so well, besides that they are mates, is because he also has been abused.  Mor, Cassian, and Azriel all have suffered through emotional, physical and sexual abuse.  They all continue to deal the invisible scars left from it.  On the outside they seem okay but in private with each other, they can share their pain. It’s this reason that this series is important because it doesn’t shy away from these uncomfortable topics but faces them head on.  We struggle through them as the characters struggle with them.  I also think that is why I love Rhys so much.  This is a guy who would do anything for his family, his friends.  Submit himself to such tortures.  Allow the world to see him as a monster.  All to protect his people but he still came out of with hope for a better future.  He took Feyre in knowing she was his mate but never pushed her.  Never forced it on her because he knew what she was going through.  Knew the pain that she was feeling.  Knew how important choices are and never wanted to take that away from her or anyone.  The compassion he shows to Feyre, Mor, Cassian, Azriel and to his people is remarkable.

As for the book itself, it is possible to love a series and book but also not really like it. I experience that with the first book, A Court of Thorns and Roses. I originally felt it was too long and should have ended long before it did or at least be split in two books. It wasn’t until I read the sequel did I understand what I really didn’t like about it and why it was written the way that it was. A Court of Wings and Ruin, I thought it had the opposite problem.  It started off slowly for me and really didn’t pick up until more then halfway through.  I felt there was a lot of unnecessary maneuvering as they prepared for war with Hybern.  I will admit that in the end all of that turned out to be important to the finale of the book but it felt tedious at times.  However, when it got it groove back, it was unstoppable.  It one epic battle at the end and it also brought us more of Feyre’s sister, Nesta, who is the Ice Queen we have always wanted but didn’t know.  The ending felt more like a ending of a series then a transition to the next book.  It definitely tied up some loose ends but there are enough left for another book but I just not seeing how there could be a bigger threat then Hybern.  I guess I will have to read the next book to find out.

Quick Review: My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows

my lady jane To say this book was delightful would be an understatement. Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows blends the perfect mixture of fantasy and fiction with history.  History will tell you that Lady Jane Grey was the Queen of England for nine days before Queen Mary took the throne and beheaded her.  Well, not in this book.  Lady Jane Grey was the cousin to King Edward, the son of King Henry VIII.  She was named the successor to King Edward because Mary was too Catholic and Elizabeth was a wild card.  Edward’s advisors were afraid that either one of his sisters would take England back to the Catholic church and away for the recently established Church in England.  Well, in this account the fight is over religion but over magic.  King Henry was an Edians, or a person who can turn into animals.  Before his rule, those who had this ability were hunted down and burned at the stack by the Verities or those who couldn’t change into animals.  Mary is very much in the Verities, who blamed Edians for the death of her mother.  Jane at first just a pawn in game of thrones but she soon turns the tables on those who try to control her.  This book is very funny, charming and just plain clever.  I often find myself laughing while riding on the train to the annoyance of my fellow riders.  And it’s a real hoot when you find out what animal Jane turns into.  You will not find a more clever book with horse puns anywhere.  So do yourself a favor and go read it.