Sunday, September 16, 2018

Three YA ARCs, One YA Audiobook, and One YA Finished Copy Mini-Reviews

Finally, finally getting around to posting a review on a book I read clear back in April, because I was waiting until I finished its sequel, an ARC I had, so I could review them together.  Then another book that I just finished reading this past week, an ARC that was top of my list to get at ALA this past summer.  And the other two are a free audiobook I got from the Sync program this summer, as well as another ARC I received from a publisher. 

Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas #1) by Zoraida CordovaGenre:  YA Paranormal
Release Date:  September 6th, 2016
Publisher:  Sourcebooks Fire
Source:  Purchased finished hardcover copy. 
My rating:  5 stars

Now, I first bought this because I was going to get to meet the author at NOLA StoryCon that same month it was published.  So I have had this autographed copy sitting on my shelves for over a year while I just didn't get around to reading it for one reason or another.  Then last spring, the publishers sent me an ARC of the sequel to the book, and I thought I would go ahead and get this one read and jump right into the sequel.  I picked this one up and got sucked right in, and as you can tell from my 5 star rating, I loved it!  But then, I had other books on my review calendar that I had to get to, and so the sequel got pushed back and back.  I waited to do the review for this one, because I wanted to do them together.  So now, I'm finally getting around to it, because I made myself finally finish the second one, even though I had other review books.  I loved the world of these witches, or brujas.  Their own mythology and spells that really drew me in to find out just how it all worked.  I love the cultural aspects of this family and story, as well as the real world of Brooklyn that was the background setting for all of this drama.  I can now highly recommend this to my students based on my own reading.  Before I share the synopsis for this one, here is the picture I took with the author when I met her at NOLA StoryCon.

Here is the blurb from Goodreads:
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...

Bruja Born (Brooklyn Brujas #2) by Zoraida Cordova:
Genre:  YA Paranormal
Release Date:  June 5th, 2018

Publisher:  Sourcebooks Fire
Source:  Received ARC from publisher which did not influence my opinion
My rating:  4 stars

Something about this one didn't grab me as much as the book before.  I don't know why, because I still enjoyed it though.  The sad thing is that my ARC of this one got messed up pretty bad on my trip back from ALA.  I put it in a regular duffel bag that got soaked in the rain in New Orleans as it was being loaded onto the plane I guess.  It was still readable. But it is in horrible condition now.  I wouldn't want it, but I'm going to keep it since it is the sequel to the first book and I just am.  The first book was the story of Alex, one of the three sisters in the family.  This book is about her older sister, Lula.  When things go wrong for Lula, boyfriend problems, then a horrible accident that causes her to make choices no witch/bruja should make, things now go wrong for all those around her as well.  We get a little back into the culture from the first book, until the Mortiz family starts getting shunned not only from what Lula has done, but also from what her sister Alex did in book one.  We meet some other big players in this magical world because of the separation between all the bruja families.  Lula must find out if these other players or organizations are there to help, or what their real motives are when they do help her.  I still kind of love Nova from book one, and I like the bit of romance that Lula gets closer to the end of this one.  I'm looking forward to the final book that is maybe coming out next year, as the youngest sister had some things happening in this one that suggest some major events for that story.  Another book I need to get in for my students to read.

Here is the blurb from Goodreads:
Three sisters. One spell. Countless dead.

Lula Mortiz feels like an outsider. Her sister's newfound Encantrix powers have wounded her in ways that Lula's bruja healing powers can't fix, and she longs for the comfort her family once brought her. Thank the Deos for Maks, her sweet, steady boyfriend who sees the beauty within her and brings light to her life.

Then a bus crash turns Lula's world upside down. Her classmates are all dead, including Maks. But Lula was born to heal, to fix. She can bring Maks back, even if it means seeking help from her sisters and defying Death herself. But magic that defies the laws of the deos is dangerous. Unpredictable. And when the dust settles, Maks isn't the only one who's been brought back...

Echoes by Alice Reeds:
Genre:  YA Thriller
Release Date:  August 7th, 2018

Publisher:  Entangled Teen
Source:  ARC received from Publisher which did not influence my review
My rating:  2 stars

If you have been following me, you'll know that if I am going to rate a book lower than 2 stars, usually it's one I didn't finish.  This book had soooooooo much potential!  And I'll say this, it kept me reading until the very end.  But then, the ending, let me just say I was so angry at the end!  There were elements of this story that totally had the feeling of that tv show, Lost.  Not only throughout the story, but in how much that ending ticked me off!  I got to the end, there were no explanations of any sort, NONE!  There were parts that were possibly either earlier moments or flashbacks, or maybe they were alternate timelines or realities.  Or maybe other parts of the story were memories that weren't real.  Someone was after them, but why?  Did they want to kill them, or were they experimenting on them?  When I finished I totally felt like I had wasted my time reading this. The details and situations I had overlooked, expecting some sort of answers or something, ANYTHING at the end, all came crashing back with that ending.  I may be an unpopular opinion on this one, I don't know, haven't read all the other reviews, but man.  I do NOT recommend this one.  Unless you want to go read it, and then come back and tell me what I missed.

Here is the blurb from Goodreads:
They wake on a deserted island. Fiona and Miles, high school enemies now stranded together. No memory of how they got there. No plan to follow, no hope to hold on to.

Each step forward reveals the mystery behind the forces that brought them here. And soon, the most chilling discovery: something else is on the island with them.

Something that won't let them leave alive. 

Imposters (Uglies #5) by Scott Westerfeld:
Genre:  YA Dystopian
Release Date:  September 11th, 2018

Publisher:  Scholastic Press
Source:  ARC received from Publisher which did not influence my review
My rating:  4 stars

This was one of my unicorn ARCs to get at ALA this summer.  The Uglies series is one of my all time favorite series, maybe even one of the first YA books that got me back into YA when I was teaching.  So when I heard there was going to be another book in the series, I was very excited.  Honestly, this book didn't disappoint in a new addition to the story.  Obviously it had been a while since I'd finished the first four books, so I was worried I wouldn't quite be able to jump right back in.  Fortunately, just a short way into the book, the earlier books were caught up to in a perfect way to not just be an info dump.  Not only did we get a refresher, but we also got filled in on the things that had happened between those books and this one.  I like the new characters, I like the intrigue, and I like how to defeat the real enemy, groups that may not have gotten along before must work together now.  There was a part in this that I definitely got a hint of a poke at today's  real world climate and culture, and I liked it as well.  Of course we're left in a way that we need to continue into another book, so I'll be eagerly awaiting that as well, and hopeful that I will get that one early as well.  Also, I got to meet the author again when I got this, so here is my picture of that.

Here is the blurb from Goodreads:
Frey and Rafi are inseparable . . . but very few people have ever seen them together. This is because Frey is Rafi’s double, raised in the shadows of their rich father’s fortress. While Rafi has been taught to charm, Frey has been taught to kill. Frey only exists to protect her sister. There is no other part of her life. Frey has never been out in the world on her own – until her father sends her in Rafi’s place to act as collateral for a dangerous deal. Everyone thinks she’s her sister – but Col, the son of a rival leader, is starting to get close enough to tell the difference. As the stakes grow higher and higher, Frey must decide whether she can trust him – or anyone in her life. 

How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather:

Genre:  YA Thriller/Historical
Release Date:  July 26th, 2016

Publisher:  Knopf Books for Young Readers
Source:  Audiobook received free through Sync Audiobooks for Teens 2018 Program
My rating:  5 stars

I loved this book.  I actually kind of thought I would, I'd been interested in reading it for a long time. When I saw it was one of the books available this past summer through the Sync summer audiobook program, I immediately downloaded it, and listened to it pretty soon afterwards.  One really cool part was the author read her own book, which I think definitely means a lot of the inflections and way things are read out loud was done the way the author intended, obviously.  All throughout the book we got clues dropped as to who could be causing all the things that were happening.  And just when I'd think it had to be one of those people, something else would happen that totally pointed me in the opposite direction.  A little over halfway through, it seemed to get to a point that we could be wrapping the whole story up, and I wondered where else it could go.  But the author moved it in such a way that I kept on the edge of my seat waiting to see what would happen next.  I really could see this as a movie, and would LOVE to see it as a movie.  I love how it ended, and it is one that I am definitely recommending to my students whenever I get the chance.  So glad I got the chance to listen to this, and I'll definitely be looking into reading the sequel.  

Here is the blurb from Goodreads:
It's the Salem Witch Trials meets Mean Girls in a debut novel from one of the descendants of Cotton Mather, where the trials of high school start to feel like a modern day witch hunt for a teen with all the wrong connections to Salem’s past.

Salem, Massachusetts is the site of the infamous witch trials and the new home of Samantha Mather. Recently transplanted from New York City, Sam and her stepmother are not exactly welcomed with open arms. Sam is the descendant of Cotton Mather, one of the men responsible for those trials and almost immediately, she becomes the enemy of a group of girls who call themselves The Descendants. And guess who their ancestors were?

If dealing with that weren't enough, Sam also comes face to face with a real live (well technically dead) ghost. A handsome, angry ghost who wants Sam to stop touching his stuff. But soon Sam discovers she is at the center of a centuries old curse affecting anyone with ties to the trials. Sam must come to terms with the ghost and find a way to work with The Descendants to stop a deadly cycle that has been going on since the first accused witch was hanged. If any town should have learned its lesson, it's Salem. But history may be about to repeat itself.