Review + Spotlight: Labyrinth Lost

NER REVIEWS (labyrinthlost)

Author: Zoraida Córdova
Release Date: September 6th, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Pages: 336 (Hardcover)
Format: PDF
Genre:
 YA | Magic | Witches
Idiom: English
Series: Brooklyn Brujas #1
Read: from August 19 to 23
Source & Shelf: NetGalley | Kobo
ISBN: 9781492620945
(Hardcover)
Cups:
4 Cups
GoodreadsTBDAmazon

Synopsis

“Enchanting and complex. Every page is filled with magic.”-Danielle Paige, New York Times best-selling author of Dorothy Must Die

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…

My Opinion

Disclaimer: Thank you NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Let me begin by just saying that I never read anything like this before. At first I thought this was a different kind of witchcraft, of religion and when I finally picked it up and submerged in the story, I realised I was wrong. And I loved it because it made me enjoy the story even more.

Labyrinth Lost is about Alex who is a Bruja – a specific kind of witch based on the Latin witchcraft. On her Deathday (in celebration of her powers finally appearing), she casts a spell to eliminate her powers but instead she sends her family, dead and alive, to Los Lagos, a parallel dimension where Gods, spirits, strange beings and much more dwell. With the help of a strange boy, Alex embarks in an adventure that will surely change her.

Alex was a great character to read about. Her past helps build her trepidation when it comes to her abilities but the way she develops throughout the story made up for her fears. When we first met her she’s a scared teenager who kept her powers hidden from her sisters because she’s scared of them. What she doesn’t know is that her powers are special and she’ll need them later on the book in order to save her whole family. In Los Lagos we see this other side of Alex that was hidden behind her fears and I adored watching her grow, watching her develop not only this amazing magic she has but also herself as a person.

I have to admit that I’m super curious about Nova, the boy Alex meets and tells her about what to do to block her power during her Deathday. He’s a lost soul who is trying to find himself in the world and what we find towards the end of the book was, for me at least, completely unexpected. I’m pretty sure there’s much more to his character than meets the eye and I hope he’ll be able to redeem all his wrong-doing in the upcoming books.

The romance in this book wasn’t your typical boy-meets-girl love. This book explores a romance that grew from friendship and tries to break boundaries. It wasn’t the romance I was expecting but I was so happy with what I got. I’m trying not to spoil you because I found it refreshing to discover it by myself instead of instantly knowing what it was about. Zoraida Córdova really broke some lines writing this romance and I can only respect her for doing so and doing it amazingly well.

The magic, as I mentioned right in the beginning of the review, wasn’t what I was expecting nor was it something I knew in details. This particular kind of witchcraft, more based on the Latins beliefs and religions, centred in Gods and spirits, was a gulf of fresh air. There are so many kinds of magic in the world and being able to emerge myself in a different felt amazing. At times I would be slightly lost since I am not accustomed to this particular kind of witches. But then Alex would explain it and as soon as I found the flow, it was easy to be mesmerised by it.

I dare say that even though I enjoyed this book, only when Alex and Nova enter Los Lagos did I became completely hooked in it. Los Lagos sounded like such a thrilling rollercoaster of fantasy. This parallel world was filled from top to bottom with everything fantastical. It reminded me of the movie Book of Life minus the songs.

The book ended in a cliffhanger that had me gasping for more. It ended with a figure from the past that I’m pretty sure will have a huge impact in Alex’s life. This might sound a little bit unfair but one of the reasons I couldn’t rate this book higher than 4 cups/stars was the cliffhanger. So many questions! So many theories! So little answers and I have no idea when the sequel comes out.

Zoraida Córdova‘s writing was easy and it flew with the story. The author managed to give Alex a voice that some of us could relate to and at times her sarcasm was a delight to read. The little bits of excerpt from songs, prayers and others at the beginning of each chapter was a nice touch since it connected really well with what was going to happen.

Overall I think Labyrinth Lost was a great read set in a different spectrum of magic. There is loads of fantastic elements to the story, some creepy moments, characters that are unique since they are so different and a lesson at the end that I think pretty much everyone will relate to. I recommend this book if you want something magical yet different and if you like pure and raw fantastical adventure in a completely different universe.  

Book Spotlight

NetGalley and Sourcebooks were kind enough to send me material to host a Spotlight for Labyrinth Lost and I’m super excited to share an excerpt of the book and a giveaway. There’s also the booktrailer to present you to this creepy and magical world 😀

In the meantime, if you guys like colouring like I do, check out the amazing colouring page that Sourcebooks has available for Labyrinth Lost here. Need to print my own so I can colour it! If, or when, you have coloured it, leave me a link down below on the comments so I can see it 😉

Praise for Labyrinth Lost:

“This work is a magical journey from start to finish… A compelling must-have for teens” –School Library Journal, STARRED review

Córdova’s (the Vicious Deep series) magic-infused, delightfully dark story introduces readers to an engrossing, Latin American–inspired fantasy setting and an irresistible heroine” –Publishers Weekly

A brilliant brown-girl-in-Brooklyn update on Alice in Wonderland and Dante’s Inferno.Very creepy, very magical, very necessary.” Daniel José Older, New York Times bestselling author of Shadowshaper

 “Labyrinth Lost is more like reading Paradise Found. Zoraida Córdova brings us a new generation of witches, enchanting and complex. And every page is filled with magic.” Danielle Page, New York Times bestselling author of Dorothy Must Die

Córdova’s world will leave you breathless, and her magic will ignite an envy so green you’ll wish you were born a bruja. Delightfully dark and enchanting. An un-putdownable book.” -Dhonielle Clayton, author of The Belles and Shiny Broken Pieces

“Córdova’s rich exploration of Latin American culture, her healthy portrayal of bisexuality and her unique voice allow this novel to stand out among its many peers.” –RT Book Reviews

“Cordova draws inspiration from Ecuadorian, Spanish, African, Mexican, and Caribbean folklore and mythology to craft a page-turning tale about a young bruja unsure of her place in the world.”Bustle.com

“Córdova pulls elements from Greek mythology and Spanish and Latin American legends to craft a memorable world in Los Lagos, a supernatural realm that is as fascinating as it is threatening. The history and customs of Alex’s family’s type of witchery are also carefully constructed, giving readers a complete world to sink into with satisfaction and wonder.” -Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“This succeeds with its lush use of Latin American mythologies, an unexpected love story, and, above all, in Alex’s complicated relationship with her family. Alex is a necessary heroine, and this dark fantasy nicely” -Booklist

Excerpt:

1

Follow our voices, sister.
Tell us the secret of your death.
—-Resurrection Canto,
Book of Cantos

The second time I saw my dead aunt Rosaria, she was dancing.

Earlier that day, my mom had warned me, pressing a long, red fingernail on the tip of my nose, “Alejandra, don’t go downstairs when the Circle arrives.”

But I was seven and asked too many questions. Every Sunday, cars piled up in our driveway, down the street, and around the corner of our old, narrow house in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Mom’s Circle usually brought cellophane–wrapped dishes and jars of dirt and tubs of brackish water that made the Hudson River look clean. This time, they carried something more.

When my sisters started snoring, I threw off my covers and crept down the stairs. The floorboards were uneven and creaky, but I was good at not being seen. Fuzzy, yellow streetlight shone through our attic window and followed me down every flight until I reached the basement.

A soft hum made its way through the thin walls. I remember thinking I should listen to my mom’s warning and go back upstairs. But our house had been restless all week, and Lula, Rose, and I were shoved into the attic, out of the way while the grown–ups prepared the funeral. I wanted out. I wanted to see.

The night was moonless and cold one week after the Witch’s New Year, when Aunt Rosaria died of a sickness that made her skin yellow like hundred–year–old paper and her nails turn black as coal. We tried to make her beautiful again. My sisters and I spent all day weaving good luck charms from peonies, corn husks, and string—-one loop over, under, two loops over, under. Not even the morticians, the Magos de Muerte, could fix her once–lovely face.

Aunt Rosaria was dead. I was there when we mourned her. I was there when we buried her. Then, I watched my father and two others shoulder a dirty cloth bundle into the house, and I knew I couldn’t stay in bed, no matter what my mother said.

So I opened the basement door.

Red light bathed the steep stairs. I leaned my head toward the light, toward the beating sound of drums and sharp plucks of fat, nylon guitar strings.

A soft mew followed by whiskers against my arm made my heart jump to the back of my rib cage. I bit my tongue to stop the scream. It was just my cat, Miluna. She stared at me with her white, glowing eyes and hissed a warning, as if telling me to turn back. But Aunt Rosaria was my godmother, my family, my friend. And I wanted to see her again.

“Sh!” I brushed the cat’s head back.

Miluna nudged my leg, then ran away as the singing started.

I took my first step down, into the warm, red light. Raspy voices called out to our gods, the Deos, asking for blessings beyond the veil of our worlds. Their melody pulled me step by step until I was crouched at the bottom of the landing.

They were dancing.

Brujas and brujos were dressed in mourning white, their faces painted in the aspects of the dead, white clay and black coal to trace the bones. They danced in two circles—-the outer ring going clockwise, the inner counterclockwise—hands clasped tight, voices vibrating to the pulsing drums.

And in the middle was Aunt Rosaria.

Her body jerked upward. Her black hair pooled in the air like she was suspended in water. There was still dirt on her skin. The white skirt we buried her in billowed around her slender legs. Black smoke slithered out of her open mouth. It weaved in and out of the circle—-one loop over, under, two loops over, under. It tugged Aunt Rosaria higher and higher, matching the rhythm of the canto.

Then, the black smoke perked up and changed its target. It could smell me. I tried to backpedal, but the tiles were slick, and I slid toward the circle. My head smacked the tiles. Pain splintered my skull, and a broken scream lodged in my throat.

The music stopped. Heavy, tired breaths filled the silence of the pulsing red dark. The enchantment was broken. Aunt Rosaria’s reanimated corpse turned to me. Her body purged black smoke, lowering her back to the ground. Her ankles cracked where the bone was brittle, but still she took a step. Her dead eyes gaped at me. Her wrinkled mouth growled my name:Alejandra.

She took another step. Her ankle turned and broke at the joint, sending her flying forward. She landed on top of me. The rot of her skin filled my nose, and grave dirt fell into my eyes.

Tongues clucked against crooked teeth. The voices of the circle hissed, “What’s the girl doing out of bed?”

There was the scent of extinguished candles and melting wax. Decay and perfume oil smothered me until they pulled the body away.

My mother jerked me up by the ear, pulling me up two flights of stairs until I was back in my bed, the scream stuck in my throat like a stone.

Never,” she said. “You hear me, Alejandra? Never break a Circle.”

I lay still. So still that after a while, she brushed my hair, thinking I had fallen asleep.

I wasn’t. How could I ever sleep again? Blood and rot and smoke and whispers filled my head.

“One day you’ll learn,” she whispered.

Then she went back down the street–lit stairs, down into the warm red light and to Aunt Rosaria’s body. My mother clapped her hands, drums beat, strings plucked, and she said, “Again.”

Book Trailer:


About the Author:

zoraida-head-shotZoraida Córdova was born in Ecuador and raised in Queens, New York.

She is the author of the Vicious Deep trilogy, the On the Verge series, and the Brooklyn Brujas series.

She loves black coffee, snark, and still believes in magic. Send her a tweet @Zlikeinzorro or visit her at zoraidacordova.com.

Author Website | Labyrinth Lost Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Author Tumblr | Labyrinth Lost Tumblr | YouTube

Giveaway:

  • 2 (two) copies of Labyrinth Lost with signed Labyrinth Lost bookmarks (ends September 19th – US & Canada only)

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Ner

Book Promo: The Ugly Stepsister by Aya Ling {Excerpt + Giveaways}

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Publication Date: June 12th, 2015
Genre: YA Fantasy | Fairytale Retelling
Buy Links: Amazon | Amazon UK | Apple | B&N | Kobo
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Blurb:
When Kat accidentally rips apart an old picture book, she’s magically transported into the world of Cinderella–as Katriona, one of the ugly stepsisters! Life turns upside down now that she’s a highborn lady and must learn how to survive the social season, including how to get through the door in a huge metal hoop skirt. To get back, she’ll have to complete the story, right to the end of happily ever after. But the odds are huge: the other stepsister is drop-dead gorgeous, the fairy godmother is nowhere to be found, and the prince, despite being insanely hot, openly dislikes balls. Can she ever return to the modern world?


How the Book Come to Be:

Some readers liked the idea of Kat entering the fairy tale by ripping apart the book. Well, here’s the actual book that inspired the concept. You can see that the cover has completely fallen off:

Cinderella

*note: this book is at least 20 years old! I’m so glad I was too sentimental to toss it away, or I might not have come up with the idea!


Excerpt:

“Girlie, wake up.”

I open my eyes again. This time it’s dark, but from the moonlight streaming through the window, I sense that I’m still in this strange historic-setting room. The candelabra next to my bed has been snuffed out. The fire in the hearth has gone out, but the embers are still glowing.

Then I discover something more shocking than the weird room I’m in.

A semi-transparent being is hovering in thin air, right above the bed. It’s quite ugly—its eyes and nose look squashed together, and it has a stumpy body with arms and legs that look alarmingly short in proportion to the torso.

I am so shocked that I just stare with my mouth wide open. Is that ghost going to eat me up?

“Awake now, are we?” the ghost speaks. His voice is kind of high-pitched with a note of playfulness in it.

Oh no, not again. I pinch my arm again, really hard this time, and yelp in pain. My fingernails have drawn blood.

The ghost starts to laugh. “Two hundred years later and humans are still as dumb as before.”

I am beginning to feel crazy. Here I am in a strange room, with an ugly ghost, and no matter what I do I can’t wake up.

Maybe I’m dead. Maybe when I fell down the stairs I got hit with something really sharp and bled to death. Ouch. I feel over my head, but it seems all I’ve got is a sore spot that feels more like a bruise than a gaping wound. Besides, this room seems a far cry from hell.

“Hey you,” I call to the ghost. “I’m dead, aren’t I? Is this a place I go to before I go to heaven?”

The ghost throws his head back and laughs—a high, raucous sound. I’m surprised that no one hears him—either they can’t hear him or are too deeply asleep. “She thinks this is heaven! Wait till I tell His Majesty…”

What the hell is going on? “Aren’t you a ghost?”

That only makes him laugh harder. He clutches his sides, wheezing, like I’m the greatest comedian in the world.

“You…thick-headed, pea-brained human,” he gasps, wiping his eyes. “Haven’t you seen this room before?”

“In the downtown museum?”

“No, silly, a book.”

Moonlight streams in through the window. Several framed paintings hang on the walls—the biggest one depicts a beautiful garden. The scene does seem familiar; all it lacks is a maid kneeling in front of the fireplace.

Cinderella?” I gasp. This is the room that’s illustrated on the first page. “Why am I seeing it in a dream?”

“She still thinks it’s a dream…” the ghost mutters, shaking his head. “Look, don’t you remember what happened to the book?”

I rub my temples. “It…fell apart?”

He nods. “When you ripped up the book our king created, a curse is triggered for tampering with his magic. So as punishment, you’re transported into the story itself.”

“Your king?” This is getting simply ridiculous. “Who is this king, and who are you?”

The ghost settles on the foot of my bed. “Might as well tell you or you’ll never get it—I’m Krev. I’m in service of His Majesty Barthelius, the Goblin King.”

“Goblins?” I fall back on the pillow, narrowing missing the headboard. “Please tell me I’m hallucinating, or I got a concussion.”

“We’re from another dimension, but our king has always been interested in human stories. That’s why he created his own books hundreds of years ago. He left a few copies in your world, but never expected that they’d disintegrate.”

“Oh god,” I sink down further into the blankets. There has to be some mistake.

“You’ll find out soon enough. Or you can just go back to pinching your arm.” He rises in the air—now I notice he has a pair of tiny wings. “Bye.”

“Hang on,” I blurt, and sit up. “Okay, suppose I believe you. How am I going to get back?”

Krev grins, showing a row of pointy teeth. “Now you’re listening. All you have to do is put the story back together again.”

“Huh?”

“Finish the story to the very end, where they live happily-ever-after.”

Damn. I’m in a role-playing game. Not that I’ve played any, but it just seems that way to me.

Speaking of role-playing…

“That woman Martha called me Katriona. She said I lost my memory, so I’m not a newcomer in this world. So who am I?”

His bulging, toad-like eyes gleam. “Guess.”

I scowl at him. Well, obviously I’m not Cinderella, given the silken nightdress I’m wearing. And obviously I’m not the evil stepmother either. In the mirror I look just as I am, not some middle-aged woman.

“Am I one of the ugly stepsisters?”

His grin grows wider.

Damn. “If I have to be in the story, why aren’t I Cinderella?”

The goblin suddenly goes off in a peal of laughter. “Cinderella! She thinks she’s pretty enough to be Cinderella!” And he rolls over and over in the air until I feel dizzy and embarrassed. “Don’t you know how the spell works? You assume the role of the person you resemble most.”

Yeah, thanks for pointing out the impossibility of me being the protagonist. I suppose if Paige is the one who dropped the book, she’d become Cinderella.

And even though I still find the whole thing ridiculous, I’m kind of intrigued as well.

“So all I have to do is get Cinderella to the ball, the prince falls in love with her, and then the curse is broken and I can return?”

He waggles a crooked finger at me.

“Not yet. You can’t stop at the ball, when she runs out and leaves her slipper behind. You must follow it all the way to the end. The story is only finished when they’re married with wedding bells pealing and white doves soaring.”

Whoa.

“So when is the ball?”

“No idea.”

“Where’s the fairy godmother?”

“No idea.”

I drop my jaw. “Hello? Are you telling me that I have to find everything on my own while you just hover there and do nothing?”

He shrugs. “That’s because you ripped everything off except the first page. The curse starts where you leave off.”

“And if I do nothing? What if the prince won’t hold the ball? What if I can’t find the godmother?”

Krev lets out an evil chuckle. I have an ominous feeling of impending doom.

“Then you will remain in this book. Forever.”

*read more excerpts on Aya’s website: http://www.ayaling.com/the-ugly-stepsister.html


About the Author:

AyaAya is from Taiwan, where she struggles daily to contain her obsession with mouthwatering and unhealthy foods.

Often she will devour a good book instead.

Her favorite books include martial arts romances, fairy tale retellings, high fantasy, cozy mysteries, and manga.

Contact with Aya: Website | Facebook | Twitter


Giveaways:

To celebrate the release, Aya is also offering a giveaway in which THREE winners can:

  1. Get a paperback copy of The Ugly Stepsister OR any book Aya has on paperback (open internationally!)
  2. Get to name a minor character in the “sequel” novella (will probably be Edward’s niece and nephews)

Here’s what you can do to enter the giveaway:

  1. Click HERE to share the book release on Facebook;
  2. Click HERE to share the book release on Twitter;
  3. Share the book release on your blog. Click HERE for an easy copy-paste media kit that you can adapt however you like. For example, if you have already posted a review on your blog, you can add my author bio, excerpt, giveaway info, etc. Please fill in the link of your post as well, so I won’t miss a single entry.

*If you do everything above, you’ll get three entries and have a greater chance to win!

The giveaway ends on June 20. Winners will be announced on June 21.

Ner