Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas #1) by Zoraida Córdova

Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas, #1)   Rating:

Hardcover:  336 pages
Expected publication: September 6th 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Note: I won an copy of this book via Samantha’s YA Halloween giveaway.

overview Alejandra “Alex” Mortiz is not just any other Bruja. She is one of the most powerful Brujas of her generation.  But if she could have it her way, she doesn’t want anything to do with the magic that runs in her lineage; her blood. All Brujas usually show or start exhibiting their magical abilities before they are sixteen. Well, so has Alex; a long time ago. But she has hidden this fact from her mom and sisters. Showing it the first time killed her pet cat and drove her dad away from home so she wants nothing to do with magic. But with her Deathday celebration just days away, she is worried that she can no longer exercise the choice to subdue her magic. After all, the whole point of the Deathday ritual is to invoke the blessings of her ancestors’ souls so that she is able to control and use her powers in the best possible way.When Nova, a mysterious Brujo boy with a shady past tells her that there is a way to refuse her “rite-of-passage” to become a proper Bruja, she is determined to see it through.  With hopes of living a “magic-free” life, she takes matters in her own hands and tries out a different Canto in her Deathday ceremony. But instead of wiping out her magic, it wipes out her entire family and guests…

Now, she has to turn to Nova for help to get them back. But getting them back from Los Lagos – a place where the dead rest before passing on and where Brujas are banished into exile by the Deos  – is not going to be easy.

My thoughtsBringing in elements of Latinx culture and folklore into its world-building of magic systems and ancestry, this book was all kinds of wonderful. I loved how centered it was on family and traditions passed down from generations. It is something that I don’t read a lot in fantasy world-building these days. I mean, maybe it is just the genre- but everything is so large-scale with huge stakes, kingdoms, and borderline-dystopian, if not dystopian. The world in Labyrinth Lost felt “smaller” in geography but cozier. Even when the story shifts from regular Brooklyn to the magical Los Lagos, it felt like some strange private island and not an open battlefield. I think by keeping the actual magical locations easy to remember and understand, the author could focus more on what Alex was going through emotionally in trying to understand and process what is happening around her and within her. (Psst.. it does help that we get a map of Los Lagos).

I can also now understand why this book made it to so many of the LGBT recs list last year. Alex’s bisexuality is presented in the same way any cishet characters’ romance would have. This is how it should be in fiction, and I needn’t have to be “applauding” a book for it.  But it doesn’t happen that often.  So kudos to the author for such a casual, non-gimmicky rep. Thank you for not unintentionally othering Alex.  There is enough of that nonsense going on in real life.

I loved all the Mortiz family scenes, especially with her older sister Lula. It was nice to see her not being the usual older sister stereotype – rude, bitchy, insecure and aloof from the rest of the family. I can’t wait to read about all of them again in the next book and maybe see more of them. This book, understandably, was all about Alex getting her family back so we don’t read much of them in this book. Although, the author does manage to make their presence felt as much as possible during Alex’s journey.

I rarely see Hindus as one of the MCs, so it was nice to see Rishi Persaud not just being a token desi character. (Sidenote – Rishi is a very uncommon choice of name for a girl.) It was also nice change to see a desi who is not shown as conforming in terms of styles or choices. (I am not saying that it is not accurate rep, but it is just that I have already seen such characters in too many books, so Rishi was a welcome change) Oh, and thank god she is not eating “naan-bread” or “chai tea” but just roti and dal. No, seriously, I thought if I did look twice, I would see “roti-bread” or “dal-lentil” instead.

I am not sure how I feel about Nova though. His backstory and motivations were explained in the end but it was all at once and it felt rushed, and I don’t think I even understood it in terms of the “magic logic”. I also feel that in terms of magical concepts, the plot might have been.. stronger (?) if all the explanations didn’t come back to (or rely heavily on) souls. (So many of the other elements that we see throughout the book, like magical creatures, just come together in the end like some sort of a monolith.) That just made some things in the end feel less menacing than it should have been. The main villain – the Devourer – definitely should have creeped me out. But I felt like I could have probably taken a kitchen knife, jumped into the pages and stabbed her in the – well, wherever her heart is supposed to be.

Alex is more likeable and personable once she is more accepting and open about how special her family and heritage is, and how special Rishi is to her. But just by herself, she is pretty clueless through most of the book .. which works. There is nothing more eye-roll worthy than a Chosen One being a know-it-all. Alex gets a lot of help and pretty much blunders her way through a good portion of the book before having direct advice handed out to her about just how exactly being a conduit of magic works. But I feel  I would have probably liked and know more about HER (rather than all that comes with being a Bruja) in the next book (assuming the next book features her..)

I can’t wait for synopsis of the second book to come out. The tidbit released by the author last month has me wondering whether it is again going to be from Alex’s POV or someone else’s.

When Three’s Not a Crowd!!! My top reads of 2016

Sooo, when I was picking some of my favorite reads in 2016, I realized I can call them out in groups of three:

MY TOP 3:

  1. New-to-me authors:

A Monster Calls This was perfection ❤ and my only 5-star read this year.

Fangirl  I loved – Cath!! The way Rowell portrayed her struggle with social anxiety was so relatable. I disliked – The abrupt ending to the Simon Snow show after all the extended page-time.

Speak Check out my Teaser Tuesday post here.

2) Standalone fantasy/paranormal

The Diabolic An inter-galactic fantasy replete with themes of loyalty, political coups and revenge. Check out my review here.

Holding Smoke I honestly didn’t think I would end up liking this one so much because – A) I totally judge books with people on the cover. B) I have been sandbagged in the past with “soul-themes” turning into religious fiction. But I had nothing to worry about. Read my review here.

The Infinity of You & Me My first brush with multiverse fantasy. Read my review here.

     3) Author debuts

Shelter A story of an estranged son and his Korean immigrant parents. Read my review here.

Sometimes We Tell the Truth A retelling of the Canterbury Tales, SWTtT was a delightful read. This had a large, diverse cast with respectful representation of gay and intersex characters. Read my review here.

Phantom Limbs  Definitely my favorite book release of 2016!! With sensitive portrayals of  depression, PTSD, disability, bisexuality and one of my favorite male teen YA narrators in Otis, this book, along with SWTtT, deserves more appreciation. Read my review here.

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So what are some of your favorite reads in 2016? Do let me know in the comments! If you have a blog post up with your top picks, do link me up!!

This would probably be my last post for 2016, so happy holidays and wish y’all a very happy New Year in advance!!!

Take 5 – Most disappointing reads of 2016

This has been a great reading year for me – the sort of year where I found something to appreciate even in the books that were otherwise major disappointments. Here are some books that I really wanted to fall in love with but couldn’t :

(Click on the images to go to their Goodreads page)

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The Selection (#1 and #2)

The Selection (The Selection, #1)  The Elite (The Selection, #2)

 

 

 

I stopped at #2 because of the feeble dystopian world-building elements and the overwrought love triangle.

Finding Audrey 

Finding Audrey

 

 

 

 

 

Needed more focused and believable social anxiety and GAD representation.

Furthermore

Furthermore

 

 

 

 

Lovely writing but it was difficult to read a wafer-thin plot stretched over 400 pages.

 

Everything Everything

Everything, Everything

 

 

 

Relies too much on the shock value over a big plot twist which I guessed pretty early on. I wasn’t a fan of the twist itself because.. well I guess I didn’t like health issues being used in such a way. Read my review here.

A Little Life 

A Little Life

 

 

 

 

The most disappointing of the lot. Maybe because this was something that was on my TBR since my pre-blogging days. Oh well, I have ranted quite a bit about it here.

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So, this was my list of disappointing 2016 reads. Have you guys read any of these books? Were there any books this year that you were really looking forward to reading but were seriously let down by it? Do let me know in the comments!

Teaser Tuesday #7

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm.

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Furthermore

My Teasers:

When their world was built it was so breathtakingly beautiful-so rich and colorful- the sky wept for a hundred years. Tears of great joy and grief flooded the earth, fissuring it apart and, in the process, creating rivers and lakes and oceans that still exist today. (Page 100)

Furthermore – By Tahereh Mafi

Book Spotlight/Guest Post by Robert Eggleton

It isn’t very often that I receive review/spotlight request for a book with such a unique premise – its contents addressing child abuse and mental health against a backdrop of     SciFi/Fantasy cross-genre. I am so pleased to feature Rarity from the Hollow on my blog today.

Rarity from the Hollow

Synopsis2Lacy Dawn’s father relives the Gulf War, her mother’s teeth are rotting out, and her best friend is murdered by the meanest daddy on Earth. Life in the hollow is hard. She has one advantage — an android was inserted into her life and is working with her to cure her parents. But, he wants something in exchange. It’s up to her to save the Universe. Lacy Dawn doesn’t mind saving the universe, but her family and friends come first.

Rarity from the Hollow is adult literary science fiction filled with tragedy, comedy and satire. The second edition was released on November 3, 2016.

praises

“The most enjoyable science fiction novel I have read in years.” Temple Emmet Williams, Author, former editor for Reader’s Digest

“Quirky, profane, disturbing… In the space between a few lines we go from hardscrabble realism to pure sci-fi/fantasy. It’s quite a trip.”  – Evelyn Somers, The Missouri Review

. “…a hillbilly version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy…what I would have thought impossible; taken serious subjects like poverty, ignorance, abuse…tongue-in-cheek humor without trivializing them…profound…a funny book that most sci-fi fans will thoroughly enjoy.” — Awesome Indies (Gold Medal)

“…sneaks up you and, before you know it, you are either laughing like crazy or crying in despair, but the one thing you won’t be is unmoved…a brilliant writer.” —Readers’ Favorite (Gold Medal)

“Rarity from the Hollow is an original and interesting story of a backwoods girl who saves the Universe in her fashion. Not for the prudish.” —Piers Anthony, New York Times bestselling author

“…Good satire is hard to find and science fiction satire is even harder to find.” — The Baryon Review

About the Author:

Robert Eggleton

Robert Eggleton has served as a children’s advocate in an impoverished state for over forty years. He is best known for his investigative reports about children’s programs, most of which were published by the West Virginia Supreme Court where he worked from 1982 through 1997, and which also included publication of models of serving disadvantaged and homeless children in the community instead of in large institutions, research into foster care drift involving children bouncing from one home to the next — never finding a permanent loving family, and statistical reports on the occurrence and correlates of child abuse and delinquency.

Today, he is a recently retired children’s psychotherapist from the mental health center in Charleston, West Virginia, where he specialized in helping victims cope with and overcome physical and sexual abuse, and other mental health concerns. Rarity from the Hollow is his debut novel. Its release followed publication of three short Lacy Dawn Adventures in magazines: Wingspan Quarterly, Beyond Centauri, and Atomjack Science Fiction. The second edition of Rarity from the Hollow was release on November 3, 2016. Author proceeds have been donated to a child abuse prevention program operated by Children’s Home Society of West Virginia. http://www.childhswv.org/ Robert continues to write fiction with new adventures based on a protagonist that is a composite character of children that he met when delivering group therapy services. The overall theme of his stories remains victimization to empowerment.

Buy Links : 

Amazon     Lulu    Dog Horn Publishing

Connect with Robert:

Website Facebook Twitter 

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Here’s a guest post from the author about writing books with emotional triggers.

courage-n-spirit

Do you cry during sad or uplifting scenes in books or movies? Some people are so sensitive that they weep during fund-raising infomercials for Save the Children or another heart-felt cause.  

Good fiction, unless you are a total narcissist and unable to feel empathy, does trigger emotions on some level. Since adolescence is often a period of strong egocentrism, and since empathy is an acquired skill that develops as we mature, young adult content often prompts basic feelings – romance, excitement, or anger using plot and action. Whereas, literary fiction tends to be more complex and prompt contemplations about emotionally charged issues long exposures to the content, such as the book/movie Precious or The Color Purple.

People who avoid triggers of strong and complex emotions may be considered by some to be “faint hearted.” Some individuals are so faint hearted that they faint when there is no medical explanation, such as at the sight of blood, a condition that may have neurological roots: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/broadcast/read/838. They avoid, for example, horror movies or books because the content causes them to feel so uncomfortable that it could even cause nightmares.

Other people appreciate and pursue the powerful emotions triggered by some fiction. We each have individualized comfort zones, often reflected in our entertainment choices. In general, however, some psychologists believe that people should strive to break out of their comfort zones: http://lifehacker.com/the-science-of-breaking-out-of-your-comfort-zone-and-w-656426705.  

Rarity from the Hollow is an adult literary social science fiction novel full of tragedy, comedy and satire. Here’s what one book reviewer concluded after reading it, the second of two Gold Medals: “… Full of cranky characters and crazy situations, Rarity from the Hollow sneaks up you and, before you know it, you are either laughing like crazy or crying in despair, but the one thing you won’t be is unmoved….” —  https://readersfavorite.com/book-review/rarity-from-the-hollow

Emotional triggers prompted by fiction may also be related to warm or harsh personal memories. Memories of very bad experiences, such as rape, car accidents, war, child maltreatment, can traumatize a person. For example, one of the characters in Rarity from the Hollow begins the story as a war damaged Vet having returned from the Gulf War with PTSD. There is also one violent scene in the story, a flashback of domestic violence. And, there are references to child maltreatment and puns about sex (no actual scenes).

Perhaps more important than parental guidance advisories meant to define adult content appropriate to youthful consumers, book and movie reviews play an important role in helping people scarred by trauma, not merely the faint hearted, from unpleasant experiences in entertainment. We each take one step at a time in putting our bad memories to rest.  

While some degree of cautionary statement is appropriate to advise potential readers of Rarity from the Hollow, the early tragedy amplifies subsequent comedy and satire: “a hillbilly version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, only instead of the earth being destroyed to make way for a hyperspace bypass, Lacy Dawn must…The author has managed to do what I would have thought impossible; taken serious subjects like poverty, ignorance, abuse, and written about them with tongue-in-cheek humor without trivializing them…Eggleton sucks you into the Hollow, dunks you in the creek, rolls you in the mud, and splays you in the sun to dry off. Tucked between the folds of humor are some profound observations on human nature and modern society that you have to read to appreciate…it’s a funny book that most sci-fi fans will thoroughly enjoy.http://awesomeindies.net/ai-approved-review-of-rarity-from-the-holly-by-robert-eggleton/

As a retired children’s psychotherapist, the novel was written to be a fictionalized road map from victimization to empowerment, especially for those victims still symptomatic after having been involved in mental health treatment or currently involved in treatment. This story is pure fiction, based on people that I’ve met during over forty years as a child advocate. It is not a self-help manual. It is a genre bender that uses science fiction as a backdrop.

To readers who have PTSD and who decide to check out Rarity from the Hollow, I do recommend please reading beyond the third chapter. Several book reviewers privately disclosed to me that they had experienced emotional trauma, and one publicly disclosed for the first time that she was a survivor of rape: “…As a rape survivor… found myself relating easily to Lacy Dawn… style of writing which I would describe as beautifully honest. Rarity from the Hollow is different from anything I have ever read, and in today’s world of cookie-cutter cloned books, that’s pretty refreshing…taking you on a wild ride you won’t soon forget….http://kyliejude.com/2015/11/book-review-rarity-from-the-hollow/

If you decide to read Rarity from the Hollow, yes, I hope that your emotions will be triggered. Its mission is to sensitize readers to the huge, world-wide, social problem of child maltreatment through a comical and satiric science fiction adventure. Author proceeds have been donated to child abuse prevention. “If I could, I would give it all the stars in the universe…I was hesitant to accept. I usually do not read or review books that discuss child abuse or domestic violence; however, I was intrigued by the excerpt and decided to give it a shot. I am glad that I took a risk; otherwise, I would have missed out on a fantastic story with a bright, resourceful, and strong protagonist that grabbed my heart and did not let go….”  http://www.onmykindle.net/2015/11/rarity-from-hollow.html
If you decide not to read Rarity from the Hollow but want to help maltreated children, there are several ways to contribute. There are hundreds of under-funded emergency children’s shelters all over the U.S. Google to find one, and then send an unwrapped anonymous gift to a kid, any size will do because maltreatment comes in all shapes and sizes. It is the Holiday Season. Furthermore, some community-based providers of social and mental health services are likely to be concerned that there could be cuts in federal funding of their programs under the new administration. Your help may be needed more than ever before.

 

Book Spotlight/Guest Post by Chuck Barret – Why Cyber Terrorism

While cyber-terrorism is featured as a plot quite often in films, it is still not seen much in adult fiction books. In this post, author Chuck Barret talks about what prompted him to pick this theme for his latest book in the Jake Pendleton series- Disruption.

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Why Cyber Terrorism?

Since my latest thriller, DISRUPTION, has been out (October 25, 2016 release date), I’ve been asked numerous times why I picked cyber-terrorism as the main theme of the book. I say to them, why not cyber-terrorism? I mean, it’s in our faces every single day. You can’t open a newspaper or listen to the news without hearing about another cyber-attack somewhere in the world. It’s a daily occurrence. Many times a day, if truth be told. Other than the recent elections that dominated the news for a few weeks, cyber-security is THE hottest topic in this day in age. And it’s one that is extremely important to everyone except the most technologically challenged.

All of the examples of hacking in DISRUPTION are accurate. Most have already happened! Many are realistic threats that our nation, as well as many other nations, fear could happen anytime. Just look at the elections, our government took extreme measures to prevent any attempt by foreign entities to hacking the election results and plummet this country into total chaos. Much worse than how anyone might have felt about who won the election. This would have shaken our trust at a much deeper level.

The dark world of hacking is a fact of life we must live with every day. Currently, there is no way to avoid that threat. Certainly, we can and should take every precaution available to us, but we aren’t free of the possibility of being hacked. And won’t be for a very long time.

When crafting the storyline for DISRUPTION, I consulted a man who has been a vital part of my research since my second novel, a man who became the character of The Toymaker, and is now the boss. We discussed conspiracy theories and political implications of cyber-warfare. We discussed, in pain-staking detail I might add, encryption technology and how that technology could be turned against a country. Actually, I came away more paranoid about cyber-security than I did going in.

I took what I had and weaved a storyline around it. It is plausible. It could happen. And this should scare the hell out of you. Cyber warfare is real and it is looming on our horizon.        

The greatest threat to our country right now is not nuclear warfare or aggressive threats by Russia or Islamic State. Cyber-security is the greatest threat to our country today. Or rather the lack of it.

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Thanks Chuck and good luck with Disruption!

About the book:

Disruption (Jake Pendleton #4)

There are two types of people: those who have been hacked and know it, and those who have been hacked and don’t know it.

Former Naval Intelligence Officer turned secret operative Jake Pendleton finds himself in a pulse-pounding race to stop a cyber-terrorist from releasing a string of the most heinous cyber-crimes the world has ever seen. Crimes that could render the world’s advanced technology useless.

Jake teams with his partner, Francesca Catanzaro, to track down their only lead, a white-hat hacker in Italy known only as The Jew. A man who might hold the key to stop a group of black-hat hackers from causing worldwide chaos—tag named Disruption.

After a search of the hacker’s flat in Rome turns up empty, Jake and Francesca follow the clues—a trail of dead bodies that leads them across Europe. Along the way, Jake discovers a possible link between recent hacks and a Malaysian airliner that mysteriously disappeared.

In the final adrenaline-charged moments before Disruption, Jake and Francesca find themselves in a high-voltage race to stop these cyber terrorists from unleashing destruction against their sworn mortal enemy.

About the author:

Chuck Barrett

Chuck Barrett is the bestselling author of the Award-Winning Jake Pendleton series—Breach of Power, The Toymaker, and The Savannah Project, as well as his latest award-winning blockbuster, BLOWN, the first book in his new Gregg Kaplan series.

In addition to writing thrillers, Barrett speaks and conducts workshops at book festivals, book clubs, reading groups, writers conferences, and writers groups. Some of his topics include Nuts & Bolts of Self-Publishing based on his book—Publishing Unchained: An Off-Beat Guide To Independent Publishing—as well as, Blueprint for a Successful Book Launch, Getting from ‘Idea’ to ‘Finished Manuscript,’ Mysteries & Thrillers: Fact or Fiction, and Adding the “What if” in Storytelling.

Barrett is a graduate of Auburn University and a retired air traffic controller. He also holds a Commercial Pilot Certificate, Flight Instructor Certificate, and a Dive Master rating. He enjoys fly fishing, hiking, and most things outdoors. He and his wife, Debi currently reside in Colorado.

Buy links : Amazon  ~  Barnes & Noble  ~ Audible

Connect with Chuck : Website  ~ Twitter  ~  Facebook

To follow rest of the tour, click here 

iRead Book Tour Logo Medium

[Tag Tuesday] Miranda Sings Tag

miranda-copy

I have no idea who Miranda Sings is so I looked her up online.. Uh, I just got through couple of her videos and I didn’t find it that funny.

This tag inspired by Miranda Sings is a lot cooler though I had a hard time coming up with 7 things I am comfortable sharing :p. Thank you for tagging me Amber!!

Rules

  • Announce your win with a post and link the blogger who nominated you.
  • Nominate 10 bloggers (or as many as you can think of) and link your awardees in the post.
  • List 7 things you love about yourself (This can be about your appearance, your personality, your achievements, etc.)
  • Don’t use negative connotation. (I.e. Don’t say things like – I’m prettier than an average person or People have told me I’m smart. You ARE pretty. You ARE smart.)

I am nominating:

Lorraine Ambers

Jesalin@JBelkBooks

A Book A Thought

Jasmine@HowUsefulItIs

Liis@CoverToCover

Betty@TheGeekyBibliophile

Reg@shelatitude

The Facts:

I am good at/love about myself:

  1. Documenting and proofreading – Give me the most basic software and take back atleast a 50 page manual
  2. Sticking to a diet plan (Well, just recently realized that I find it very easy)
  3. Curbing impulsive spending
  4. Avoiding peer pressure
  5. Enjoying my own company
  6. Relishing even the most “ordinary” of streets or views as much as some world-class tourist destinations..
  7. Cruising through moments of social-awkwardness with a smile.

Feel free to skip the tag if you have already done it or don’t feel like doing it! 🙂

(pic bg credit: brusheezy.com)

[Mini Reviews] The Vegetarian by Han Kang & Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

The Vegetarian Rating:

Buy Links:

Paperback           Hardcover         Kindle

This was pretty unsettling to read. Hard to really summarize the essence of what this was about. On the surface it was about a woman with severe mental health issues, but dig deeper (well, more like scratch the surface a bit..) and it is about renunciation – of societal expectations to get in touch with your most primitive reflections. This story is told in three POVs and interestingly, none of them is Yeong-hye’s. The story progresses with her turning vegetarian to finally giving up on food altogether because of certain recurring dreams and her finally interpreting what they really meant. We get glimpses into Yeong-hye and her sister In-hye’s childhood as they grew up in a patriarchal family system with an abusive father. In-hye later muses whether that was one reason for her sister’s current state. As her “dream” triggers her “madness”, we see the men in Yeong-hye’s life unable to understand her decision to go vegetarian. Instead, they literally try to force-feed her in one scene. Throughout the book, Yeong-hye keeps retreating further away from everyone else and well.. into herself as she resists everyone else’s attempt to tell her what to do to her own body.

I considered quitting this book mid-way quite a few times because I couldn’t connect to a lot of devices used in this story, be it the characters chosen for the three POVs, the three-part narration itself which felt disjointed or the depiction of vegetarianism. I mean, I understand that this book wasn’t really about “vegetarianism” as such, but since so much of the book was about her giving up meat, I really can’t look past it. I didn’t get the people’s reactions around her, and I am not talking about husband and father (both were A-Grade MCPs who were upset for reasons that had nothing to do with her well-being) but I couldn’t understand why the general reaction was one of shock and distaste rather than being supportive or well, checking out more healthy, wholesome vegetarian food options. There were also some other things about the book that I didn’t understand – like the triggering circumstances that caused Yeong-hye’s psychiatric condition. It felt like some sort of half-baked attempt by giving her the background of childhood abuse (like some sort of afterthought, because hey, I need to give a reason, so let me throw in some random reminiscences of childhood). Another aspect of this book that I found irritating is that it isn’t just Yeong-hye plagued by dreams; we also have two of the three narrators getting abstract, creepy dreams and being tortured by it as they are trying to decipher it. Honestly, it was overkill, and well, just way too many people for a less-than-180 pages book that I, as a reader am trying to make some sense of.

This is just one of those books that I can’t rave about, but I am glad I read it, and would definitely not shy away from recommending.

Holding Up the UniverseRating:

Buy Links:

Hardcover         Kindle           Paperback

Synopsis2Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed “America’s Fattest Teen.” But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to know who she really is. Following her mom’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for every possibility life has to offer. In that moment, I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything. 

Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin, too. Yes, he’s got swagger, but he’s also mastered the impossible art of giving people what they want, of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a newly acquired secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He’s the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone.

Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game—which lands them in group counseling and community service—Libby and Jack are both pissed, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel.

Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world, theirs and yours.

My reviewI was a bit skeptical after reading the synopsis and wondered whether this will be one of those stories about an overweight girl transforming herself into a svelte figure by the end of the book and shocking everyone. Then there is also this male protagonist who suffers from face-blindness (known as Prosopagnosia) . But body-image and self-esteem issues are addressed so well in this book that the love story stands on its own rather than not having any relevance beyond Jack’s neurological disorder and Libby’s struggle with weight.

I think what worked for this book is that by the time we meet Libby, she has already gone through some of the darkest phases in her life. We meet her when she is re-entering the “mainstream” life (high-school after months of isolation and counseling. So, when Libby makes friends, meets Jack, faces bullies, you know it is all on her own terms.

So, what about Jack? Well, he has had a different kind of struggle. While Libby’s lowest phase was telecast across electronic media and her struggle with weight is under glaring spotlight of bullies, Jack has somehow managed to hide his condition from everyone (so that people don’t make his life further difficult in school) until an incident forces him to reveal his secret to Libby. What follows after that is definitely one of the cutest YA love stories I have read so far.

There were few things I found a bit unreal – like the fact that Jack could hide his condition from everyone and that no one, not even his parents noticed anything amiss. This felt like one of those classic “clueless YA parents” tropes. I also felt some of the quotes, though mushy and cute, felt unrealistic when thought by or mouthed as dialogues by teenage narrators (especially some super-cheesy lines.. I couldn’t really imagine anyone talking like that)

I also thought the book had a pretty abrupt and quiet ending? I mean, it felt like the book started with a bang and ending with a whimper because the author didn’t know how else to finish it.

I really liked the book though and some of Libby and Jack’s inner monologues were pure gold. I think my 2017 TBR will now comprise of Niven’s previous works.

The Diabolic – By S.J. Kincaid

The DiabolicRating:

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Synopsis2A Diabolic is ruthless. A Diabolic is powerful. A Diabolic has a single task: Kill in order to protect the person you’ve been created for.

Nemesis is a Diabolic, a humanoid teenager created to protect a galactic senator’s daughter, Sidonia. The two have grown up side by side, but are in no way sisters. Nemesis is expected to give her life for Sidonia, and she would do so gladly. She would also take as many lives as necessary to keep Sidonia safe.

When the power-mad Emperor learns Sidonia’s father is participating in a rebellion, he summons Sidonia to the Galactic court. She is to serve as a hostage. Now, there is only one way for Nemesis to protect Sidonia. She must become her. Nemesis travels to the court disguised as Sidonia—a killing machine masquerading in a world of corrupt politicians and two-faced senators’ children. It’s a nest of vipers with threats on every side, but Nemesis must keep her true abilities a secret or risk everything.

As the Empire begins to fracture and rebellion looms closer, Nemesis learns there is something more to her than just deadly force. She finds a humanity truer than what she encounters from most humans. Amidst all the danger, action, and intrigue, her humanity just might be the thing that saves her life—and the empire.

My reviewSet against an intergalactic background, this dystopian fantasy was just pure adrenaline rush!!! To be honest, I haven’t read too many fantasies set in space, so I don’t know how this novel measures up to some of the others in its genre, but just speaking as someone who was a bit bored with dystopian fiction, this was just what I needed to get back into the genre again. It had all the elements one would be familiar with, right from political coups, murderous monarchies, forbidden love, a whole lot of “post-apocalyptic” mess and a ruling elite family that thrives on renouncing past history to hold onto power. But there was something so fresh and fluid about the storytelling, that all the sheen of exciting descriptions – of the world, the humanoids, the spaceships, technology – doesn’t take your attention away from what forms the crux of the book – Just how transcendental are the lines between love, loyalty and servitude? In the beginning, I was a bit worried that Nemesis will get boring as the book progresses, for being (literally!) robotic. But, I just fell in love with how the author, S.J. Kincaid, managed to strike the balance between her being an “invention” to her actually having the capacity to develop humane feelings. It never felt ridiculous because Kincaid sets up the details and groundwork pretty well. The Diabolic’s entire “construction” is based on loyalty to one person.

Nemesis and Sidonia’s relationship was beautiful and as Sidonia keeps trying to convince Nemesis, just because she was “designed” to feel loyal to her, it doesn’t mean that “forced” love isn’t real. This is something Nemesis struggles with throughout the book, whether she can really submit herself to another person’s cause and beliefs, especially after circumstances end up bringing her and Tyrus Domitrian (the corrupt Emperor’s nephew) together as they team up and try to bring down the Domitrian clan. I was surprised that the love story didn’t bother me at all in this book though it did take up a significant part of the story. Maybe because it was written in a way that wasn’t distracting and actually felt very integral to the objectives of the main story – whether it is revenge, political power-play or just survival. It just felt natural that there had to be a Nemesis and Tyrus partnership.

I absolutely loved the female characters in this book, not just Nemesis and Sidonia but a whole lot of others. In fact, it is probably the women more than the men who not just wielded actual power, but also knew how to manipulate and use it for their version of the “greater good”.  I also liked how clear the class demarcations were vis-à-vis the planet and space dwellers. I was just so happy and .. impressed with how neat everything was – the world-building , history, tech-stuff, sci-fi, politics and power-hungry families. Was it perfect? Well, maybe not. But it was as neat as one can expect from a standalone fantasy. I was satisfied with – this is a bit of a shocker – not just the love story but also the love triangle (yup, there is one, a very unusual one).

I was a bit taken aback with the sort-of-happy ending which came after some very twisted maneuvers and shocking revelations. I would have probably preferred a darker ending which would have fit in perfectly with the rest of the book. Nevertheless, it was a really good way to end the book. Kincaid finishes it off in a way which leaves you with a slight doubt about what exactly happened and who is telling the truth. That just about sums up what a lot of the book was about – finding a way to keep your love alive amidst a whole lot of backstabbing.

[Book Spotlight] More than Madness

Today, I am featuring a spotlight of the John Kanieki’s memoir. This sounds like a wonderful life account of courage and hope, so I am really pleased to be hosting this on my blog.

 

 

 

 

Author: John Kaniecki
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Dreaming Big Publications
Release Date: October 31, 2016

Synopsis2There is MORE than the MADNESS

This book gives readers a glimpse into the life of someone living with bipolar disorder. It’s not a clinical book filled with facts and figures, but a book of humanity.

Spanning childhood to early adult, through stories of abuse, being bullied, experimentation with drugs and alcohol, inpatient stays on psych wards, a night in jail, his college days in the fraternity, hitchhiking across America, and his time in a third world country, John gives the reader a personal and up-close look into his life as a manic depressive. The stories are sad, shocking, and at times funny as he shares his antics while at his most manic and delusional. 

Throughout his journey, John also struggles with his faith in God. More than the Madness is a testament of one man’s journey to grow closer to God while gaining a better understanding of himself. 

John wrote his story to help educate others on mental illness and remove some of the stigma associated with it. It is his hope that readers will get to know the person behind the diagnosis; take away the labels and meet someone’s son, friend, and husband. See that there is More Than the Madness.

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About the Author:

John KanieckiJohn Kaniecki is an author and poet. His works has been published in over eighty outlets. He was born in Brooklyn, New York and grew up in Pompton Plains, New Jersey. He attended Steven’s Institute of Technology for two years before dropping out. At that time John became a Christian and a member of the Church of Christ. Also John began to seriously suffer from bipolar disorder. This mental illness would adversely affect John. As such the topic is dealt with in his writing. In particular in his book of memoirs “More Than The Madness”. Also the experience is poetically explored in the book “Murmurings Of A Mad Man”. John’s shining achievement is his poetry book “Poet To The Poor,Poems Of Hope For The Bottom One Percent.” This book deals with historical figures and events along with people from John’s own life. True to John’s poetic philosophy the book is written with poems that deliver a clear message. Rhyming and rhythm are prominent. John’s book “Sunset Shadows” is a book of classically written sonnets dealing with dying and death in a spiritual and wholesome way. “A Day’s Weather” completes John’s present poetry collection which is a depiction of his days as a neophyte poet. This early work is a wholesome and quaint collection. 
 
John has a science fiction anthology called Words of the Future. This book is interesting, unique and exciting. John presently has two horror books out, “Scarecrow, Scarecrow” and “Satan’s Siren”. These two books are part of a series following the main character Anne McFry. 
 
John presently lives in Montclair with his wife Sylvia. John is a volunteer minister at the Church of Christ at Chancellor Avenue which is located in the south ward of Newark New Jersey. John is also a full time caregiver for his wife. Expect more exciting stuff from John soon.