Book Review: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova

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Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova

Published by Sourcebooks Fire on September 6, 2016

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy

Pages: 336 – hardcover, paperback, & ebook

Format Read: eARC

Rating: 3 stars

Source: NetGalley

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Blurb:

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…


Review:

*Many thanks to the publisher for providing me with an ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. This in no way impacted my views and opinions below.*

Alright, so I went into this book with no prior knowledge of anything except for what I gleaned from the synopsis. Imagine my (pleasant) surprise when I discover that not only is there f/f representation, but also a WHOLE POC CAST. Um, have I died and gone to heaven?? It also really helped that the story makes you want to keep flipping pages by sucking you into this highly original fantasy world. So, you might be wondering…. Despite the above, why did I choose to give this 3 stars?

My main issue with this book lies with the execution of the story. You know that feeling when you’re starting a new book and you know nothing about the world? You’re still getting used to it as the author slowly immerses you into it page by page, and eventually, your confusion fades until your familiar with the book. Well, in the case of Labyrinth Lost, I was still stuck in that confused phase for the majority of the book. You’ve got all these ideal elements like an amazing premise, a wonderful setting, and an even better background, but… they just weren’t executed properly. The story lacked a certain order to it; it was like a mishmash of plot ideas. This greatly dulled it’s ‘spark’, leaving me very disenchanted.

Furthermore, I had a teeny issue with the Rishi + Alex pairing. You see, Rishi and Alex were supposed to be this AMAZING couple. We should have been more invested in them, since they already had an established friendship, but sadly I didn’t feel anything. No chemistry at all. I’m all for LGBT+ representation, but there should have been more work put into Rishi and Alex’s relationship. However, a relationship that was actually focused on was Nova and Alex. We actually have a clear progression of their relationship from the moment they meet. I found myself rooting for Nova most of the time; he’s very intriguing. I just hope Rishi’s character is developed as well in the next book.

OH, and was it just me or did this read like an MG book at times? It kinda had this whimsical feel to it. Still, the world was great and so original & unique. Kudos!

In short, this book has tons of potential. With a highly original premise and inventive world, it’s bound to keep you reading ’till the very end. Seriously, the momentum’s great. Bonus points for the LGBT+ and POC rep! However, the story just lacked this sense of clarity because of the execution. There are a lot of relationships and characterizations that could’ve been done in a better way. Due to that, I felt like it was teeming with plot holes. This was good read, but here’s to hoping that the next book will be even better! I believe in you!

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Rating: 3 fish

3 fish

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Book Review: Under the Lights by Abbi Glines

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Under the Lights by Abbi Glines

Published by Simon & Schuster on August 23, 2016

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Pages: 336 – hardcover, 320 – paperback & ebook

Format Read: paperback

Rating: 3 stars

Source: Simon & Schuster

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Blurb:

Willa can’t erase the bad decisions of her past that led her down the path she’s on now. But she can fight for forgiveness from her family. And she can protect herself by refusing to let anyone else get close to her.

High school quarterback and town golden boy Brady used to be the best of friends with Willa—she even had a crush on him when they were kids. But that’s all changed now: her life choices have made her a different person from the girl he used to know.

Gunner used to be friends with Willa and Brady, too. He too is larger than life and a high school football star—not to mention that his family basically owns the town of Lawton. He loves his life, and doesn’t care about anyone except himself. But Willa is the exception—and he understands the girl she’s become in a way no one else can.

As secrets come to light and hearts are broken, these former childhood friends must face the truth about growing up and falling in love…even if it means losing each other forever.


Review:

Many thanks to the publisher, Simon & Schuster, for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review. This in no way impacted my views and opinions below.

Okay, so, I do admit to kinda being nervous that Under the Lights wouldn’t live up to my expectations after Until Friday Night or that it would just be too similar to the first book. I was wrong about the latter; it had a completely different feel to it than the first book. Under the Lights could probably be read as a standalone, though it’s set in the same town as Until Friday Night with the same cast of characters making cameo appearances. Reading the first book definitely isn’t a necessity, but I personally like the feeling of recognizing old characters and already being acquainted with the world and all.

Under the Lights is told in multiple points of view — three, to be exact. Brady, Willa, and Gunner used to be childhood best friends until Willa had to move away. Now she’s back, but she’s not the same. All of them aren’t. They have haunted pasts and dark secrets (you know, the package deal). I know what you’re probably thinking… love triangle? Yikes. I was a bit disheartened by that, too, but it actually wasn’t that bad. For starters, it was pretty obvious who Willa would end up with from the beginning. For me, it didn’t even take away from the book. Their relationship development still made my heart beat all the same. There wasn’t much drama about the love triangle itself as expected. Instead, the “drama” was mostly focused on each character’s individual struggles. Needless to say, there was jealousy here and there, but it didn’t stir that many problems.

The story itself was an incredibly enjoyable fast read that’ll have you wondering where the pages flew. My overall level of enjoyment of this book alone is enough to warrant it 4 stars; however, there are a few issues that did bother me enough to make me take away a whole star.

Firstly, the way every single girl character except for our MC, Willa, and the previous book’s MC (Maggie) was written irked me so.much. They were all so stereotypical and mean, and it was obvious they were written for the sole purpose of being props to the guy characters. In addition, older women like Willa’s and Gunner’s mother were such awful, conceited people and I just- arghh. What pissed me off the most was the fact that two women in this book *no spoilers* said that they’d been raped, and guess what? They were ridiculed & disbelieved by almost everyone, including some of our very own MCs.

Second, unlike the first book, the character development in this was almost nonexistent. Maggie’s character development was honestly phenomenal, but Willa? Not so much. What this book did have in abundance, though, was inner dialogue. There was lots of it. Like, it would span the length of 1-2 pages! At first, I didn’t really care or notice that much, but there were times that this inner dialogue started to get repetitive and, dare I say it, boring.

(At this point of the review, I started waffling about what to rate this book, but finally settled on 3 stars for the reasons below.)

On one hand, this was a very quick, cute, and enjoyable read – no doubt about that. The romance was able to pull me in and the love triangle (thankfully) wasn’t that obnoxious. The writing was pretty great and articulate, too. The characters made me fall in love with them, and the book made me feel so many wonderful things. I just really, really, really enjoyed this book!

On the other hand, when I start analyzing the book and delving deeper into all the technicalities, I start to find underlying issues. The way the female characters were written and how they tried to bring each other down (which is a huge pet peeve of mine), the lack of character development & abundance of internal dialogue, and the sexism.

I don’t know if the first book had the same problems as this one and I just didn’t see them, or if I was just in a really weird place while reading it, but what I do know is that both books still managed to capture a part of my heart – no matter how small.

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Rating: 3 fish

3 fish

Book Review: Wanderlost by Jen Malone

wanderlost  Wanderlost by Jen Malone

Published by HarperTeen on May 31, 2016

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Pages: 352 – paperback & ebook

Format Read: paperback ARC

Rating: 4 stars

Source: HarperCollins

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Blurb:

Not all those who wander are lost, but Aubree Sadler most definitely is on this novel’s whirlwind trip through Europe.

Aubree can’t think of a better place to be than in perfectly boring Ohio, and she’s ready for a relaxing summer. But when her older sister, Elizabeth, gets into real trouble, Aubree is talked into taking over Elizabeth’s summer job, leading a group of senior citizens on a bus tour through Europe.

Aubree doesn’t even make it to the first stop in Amsterdam before their perfect plan unravels, leaving her with no phone, no carefully prepared binder full of helpful facts, and an unexpected guest: the tour company owner’s son, Sam. Considering she’s pretending to be Elizabeth, she absolutely shouldn’t fall for him, but she can’t help it, especially with the most romantic European cities as the backdrop for their love story.

But her relationship with Sam is threatening to ruin her relationship with her sister, and she feels like she’s letting both of them down. Aubree knows this trip may show her who she really is—she just hopes she likes where she ends up.


Review:

Many thanks to the publisher, HarperCollins, for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way impacted my views and opinions below.

When I first read the premise of this book, my first instinct was to roll my eyes and think “Yeah, totally, that’s so plausible.” A minor leading a senior group on a tour around Europe as a replacement for her older sister who was arrested, and as a result, grounded? Uh, yeah, sureee. I soon realized that if you just roll with it and continue reading, you’ll find that it isn’t much of a deterrent after all. So in this review, I’m going to put aside all my doubts & opinions about the implausibility of the premise just because the rest of the book was enjoyable enough to nullify that flaw.

Let me tell you, Wanderlost was a very adorable, cute, fluffy, charming read. Adorable, cute, fluffy, charming reads are my favorite kind of reads! I flew through this book and I was so sad to see it end. Aubree was an amazing heroine. I loved how she a) stepped out of her comfort zone and b) managed to handle everything that got thrown her way. She didn’t do it perfectly, of course. She fumbled her way through and messed up quite a few times, but in the end she still persevered — with the help of her friends and family. Her relationship with her sister was emphasized in this book, and it was such a pleasure watching them try to reconnect & fix this relationship.

This wouldn’t be a contemporary review if I didn’t talk about the romance. The romance in this book gave me soo many heart palpitations. I could swoon over Sam for hours on end. From the moment we are introduced to him, he is charismatic, charming, and funny. His lines had me grinning widely at the page… like a goof. He’s definitely my favorite character in this book. What bothered me, however, was how Aubree still wouldn’t tell him her secret. He was so nice and charming and an overall good guy that I knew what Aubree was hiding would hurt him very much. I was practically screaming at her to just tell him!!! Still, their relationship was truly something to read. It had its bumps along the road (see what I did there), but in the end, their pull toward each other was just too strong. All the feels, man.

Another thing that I really admired about this book was the way the senior characters were written. I’m so glad they weren’t just a bunch of wise, warmhearted, wool-knitting grandparents, because that’s usually the way old people are written in books. They all had realistic personalities and were extremely dimensional, encompassing all the flaws and shortcomings of a normal person. I was actually able to connect and care about every single one of the group.

The setting of this book was breathtaking. The descriptions of the different countries in Europe the group group visited made me want to go there myself. I can understand why Aubree fell in love with every place she visited. The writing made me easily picture Aubree there with Sam, leading the tour group and having adventures together.

In short — ignoring the plot holes & inconveniences that this story presents — this was an extremely adorable book with excellent writing and lovely themes. The dynamic characters and swoon-worthy romances are an added bonus! Still, there are quite a few flaws, but the story’s overall enjoyableness definitely negates them. A perfect summer read with just the right amount of adorableness!

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Rating: 4 stars

3 fish