Blog Tour & ARC Review: LABYRINTH LOST by Zoraida Cordova

Hey, everyone! We are very excited to be a part of the LABYRINTH LOST blog tour, which features a ton of awesome blogs. Here’s more info on the blog tour (be sure to check out the others blogs, too, if you can!)

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Now, here’s the cover + synopsis via Goodreads:

27969081“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…


 

Before we get to our review, we had the chance to ask Zoraida a question, which she answered for our tour! Check out the mini Q&A:

Q: Did you always have the same vision for LABYRINTH LOST from start to finish, or did it change a lot along the way? (If so, how?) Thanks so much!

A: The original outline for Labyrinth Lost did not include another realm. It was going to
stay in Brooklyn. After a while, I started wondering where her family had gone. The world of Los Lagos unraveled around me. Each part of Los Lagos started to take shape. I wrote down what every part of the land looked like and meant. Then, I had to get Alex there. I asked myself questions like “What does this land represent to her? Who are her allies? Who are her enemies?” I love the way Los Lagos turned out.

Thanks for answering our question, Zoraida!


**Disclaimer: I received the ARC from Raincoast. This has in no way biased my review.**

Now, for the review portion! I picked this up on a whim–knowing I’d have to read and review it soon, for this blog tour, and for being a part of the Resting Witch Face Squad!–and I’m so glad I did. There’s something about the writing style that makes me fall into the world; it’s first-person present, which is normally typical for more dystopian-esque books, but the narration really worked in this instance.

I haven’t read an urban fantasy in a while, or a paranormal novel. While LABYRINTH LOST isn’t exactly ‘paranormal’ it fits with that vibe, and often the whole mythology aspect reminded me of Percy Jackson! Of course, it’s YA, but I think MG readers would enjoy this book, too.

The characters all stood out distinctly: I adored the sister relationship with Alex, Lula, and Rose, and I’m super excited they will get books with their own perspectives, too! (The author announced a trilogy, each told from a different sister.)

Nova was a spectacular addition to the cast, with his dark mysteries and strange tattoos–I found myself guessing what his true backstory was, and was definitely satisfied! The story and idea of Los Lagos really came to life on the page (I’m happy there was a map!) and I felt it was a great contrast from the Brooklyn setting. But still, no matter where Alex was, everything had a signature hint of magic. The brujas/brujos mythos (as the author explains in the Author’s Note) was really well planned out, and stemmed from true Ecuadorian-inspired mythology. It kept the book very fresh and distinct in today’s book market, and I’ve never read another book like it.

Which brings me to the final (and most important!) point: DIVERSITY! There were so many elements of diversity in the novel, whether ethnically or romantically. I loved the subtle hints at an LGBTQ+ relationship, and that aspect of the story was so well-written. The author manages to convey authentic teen girl thoughts while not shoving romance down our throats. I’m not a huge fan of romance in books, and the more minor focus on romance was refreshing! (Though the romance at the end was definitely satisfying.)

Overall, the book was narrated well, and I enjoyed the overall story of Alex and finding herself, while finding her family. The ultimate battle, however, did feel a bit short–I wished it were longer, and that the enemy, the Devourer, had a bit more complexity. I think I wished there was a bit more of a motive to back everything up.

The novel also ended a cliff-hanger (WHAT?!) which I loved. I’m a huge sucker for cliffies. In fact, this book reminded me a lot of our own book (The Gemstone): with magic, a somewhat lower YA feel, and an awesome cliff-hanger, as well as a family focus.

Rating: 4.5/5 

Definitely worth picking up! (*Shows Resting Witch Face*)

-S&S

A Super-Late August Wrap Up & September Releases! [2016]

It’s almost halfway through September, and we haven’t posted our August Wrap-Up yet… (blame school!). Well, here it is! We’re going to go through all the fun things we did in August (there were a lot!), all the things we posted on our blog, and what we read during the month! Followed by our *most anticipated* September releases–and buckle in, because there are tons on this list!

WHAT WE POSTED: 

ARC August TBR [2016]

GIF Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Waiting on Wednesday #32: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

The Book Buzz #7: The Cursed Child, Ascendant, + More!

Olympic Book Tag! 

Stalking Jack the Ripper Blog Tour: Reasons Why We Need SJTR in Our Hands!

We’re #PitchWars 2016 Mentees!

[Review] The Thousandth Floor By Katharine McGee

#IndigoBookPreview and Frenzy Presents Event Recaps

As you can see, we did quite a bit this month! We voraciously read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, watched the Olympics (who didn’t?!), entered an amazing contest by the name of #PitchWars (and got in!) and attended some amazing events like #IndigoBookPreview at their headquarters in Toronto, as well as the HarperCollins Canada offices! Oh, and on top of that, we got out G2 drivers’ licenses. Woohoo!

In terms of what we actually read… well, let’s just say we didn’t exactly stick to our ARC August TBRs. Let’s take a look at what we did manage to read in the hectic month of August!

Sasha read six books:

  1. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (still not sure how to rate this one…) by Jack Thorne
  2. Ruined by Amy Tintera (4/5*)
  3. Trick or Trap by R.L. Stine (3/5*)
  4. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (4 – 4.5/5*)
  5. More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera (4.5/5*)
  6. The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee (4.5/5*)

Sasha’s favourites were a tight tie between More Happy Than Not (so emotional!) and The Thousandth Floor (so good to fill your PLL hangover!). 

Sarena read five books:

  1. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne
  2. Shiny Broken Pieces by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton (5*)
  3. The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi (5*)
  4. Mirror in the Sky by Aditi Khorana (4.5*)
  5. A Torch Against the Night (5*)

Sarena’s favourite book this month was A Torch Against the Night–and her favourite book of 2016 so far! 

And now, onto the SHINY September releases! Many of which have already come out…

EMPIRE OF STORMS by Sarah J. Maas

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THE FEVER CODE by James Dashner

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STALKING JACK THE RIPPER by Kerri Maniscalco

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CROOKED KINGDOM by Leigh Bardugo

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GIRL MANS UP by M-E Girard

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AS I DESCENDED by Robin Talley

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BRIGHT SMOKE, COLD FIRE by Rosamund Hodge

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EVERY HIDDEN THING by Kenneth Oppel

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THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES by Mindy McGinnis

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LABYRINTH LOST by Zoraida Cordova

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STEALING SNOW by Danielle Paige

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And we’re sure there are many more that we’re missing! What are your most anticipated September releases? Sasha’s is definitely EMPIRE OF STORMS (and she’s currently working her way through it–no spoilers, please!).

Until next time,

-S&S

[ARC Review] Mark of the Plague by Kevin Sands

Hey, all! Today we’re here to review MARK OF THE PLAGUE by Kevin Sands, the action-packed sequel to THE BLACKTHORN KEY. We read and reviewed THE BLACKTHORN KEY last year, and really enjoyed it! Now the series continues with even more codes and riddles and fun things to uncover! Let’s get into the non-spoiler review–but first, here’s a synopsis off Goodreads, along with the book’s cover:


28954112Christopher Rowe is back and there are more puzzles, riddles, and secrets to uncover in this follow-up to the Indie Next pick The Blackthorn Key, which was called a “spectacular debut” by Kirkus Reviews in a starred review.

The Black Death has returned to London, spreading disease and fear through town. A mysterious prophet predicts the city’s ultimate doom—until an unknown apothecary arrives with a cure that actually works. Christopher’s Blackthorn shop is chosen to prepare the remedy. But when an assassin threatens the apothecary’s life, Christopher and his faithful friend Tom are back to hunting down the truth, risking their lives to untangle the heart of a dark conspiracy.

And as the sickness strikes close to home, the stakes are higher than ever before…


***Disclaimer: We received this book from Simon and Schuster Canada in exchange for an honest review. This in no way impacts our thoughts.

Sounds epic, right? Well, this book was definitely full of twists and turns, as promised. Let’s begin with the characters–starting with Christopher. Christopher’s a smart, intelligent kid, but it’s no secret to him that he’s struggling financially. Something I loved about this book was the aspect of adventure toward finding treasure; it gave the main character something to look forward to, something to guide him along as this dark plague began taking root in London.

Next up is Tom. Tom is the comic-relief of the series–and for good reason! He’s the perfect foil to Christopher, who wants to blow things up all day; meanwhile, Tom tries to stay away from the fire/booms/cannons/all-around-fun-but-unsafe stuff. Tom was definitely our favourite character, because he’s funny and witty and always has the best responses to all of Christopher’s explosive–literally–ideas.

As always, Bridget the pigeon and Sally were a plus. They also provided a bigger scope to the MC’s life, friends, and relationships.

The mystery element of the book was by far the best part–Christopher not only had to find a treasure, but work through understanding what these mysterious prophets, apothecaries, and assassins were hiding about the plague. I mean, everyone loves a good conspiracy, right?

A lot of the twists and turns had us gasping and wide-mouthed. Like, whoa! Christopher was able to decode a very tough riddle his Master had left him, all the while the plague was killing those around him–and the sickness was looming closer to him and his home.

The only thing that held us back from giving this book a full 5* was length. It was a bit too lengthy, strangely enough, though it’s an easy, quick read. Still, there was enough action and suspense at the end to tie things together and make for an intriguing read! Though this is an MG, we felt that certain things–perhaps it’s because it takes place in the 1600s–were slightly violent, but maybe that’s just our anachronistic perception, looking back on the text and the time it takes place in.

Overall, a solid, enjoyable installment in the BLACKTHORN KEY series. It’s the perfect gift for young readers, and even older(ish) ones like ourselves!

We rated this book a 4/5 stars.

Until next time,

-S&S

[ARC Review] A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

Hey, all! Welcome back to our blog. If you’ve kept up with our social media lately, you’ll see that we’ve been so excited to read (and receive!) Sabaa Tahir’s new book, A TORCH AGAINST THE NIGHT. It just released this past Tuesday, August 30. Way back last year, I (Sarena) won a giveaway from Indigo Teen on Twitter for an ARC of An Ember in the Ashes. That book quickly made its way to the top of my 2015 faves list — and the sequel is, shockingly, even better.

Here’s the cover and synopsis: Continue reading

#IndigoBookPreview and Frenzy Presents Event Recaps

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Swag bag from Indigo Book Preview. *Certain ARCs were not included in the bag, which we either won or got from the displays around the room!

Hey, everyone! This post is long overdue (about two weeks, almost) and we’re super excited to talk about two cool events we attended this August: the Indigo Book Preview and Frenzy Presents (HarperCollins Canada Preview!)

First up, let’s talk about the Indigo Preview. It was held August 17 at Indigo Headquarters in Toronto. This was our first time ever going to Indigo HQ, so that was really exciting! We got there around 5:40, and the event was due to start at 6. We entered the room and signed in before grabbing some pizza and snacks!

Then, it was time to sit down and prepare for the presentation. On everyone’s seats were I Read YA swag bags with awesome books and swag! (Some of which is pictured above; certain ARCs we took were also ones being offered around the room.)

We also got these Red Queen notebooks and Throne of Glass colouring sets on our tables!

We talked about some awesome upcoming reads, most notably EMPIRE OF STORMS and HEARTLESS, which were two faves from Indigo (and of course, the readers there, like us!)

Discussing great new contemps! Both of which were available to pick up as ARCs.

Display of Indigo merch and some upcoming books! (Yes, that’s only the EoS dust jacket–not the book itself. Otherwise, there would’ve been a stampede!)

During the break we talked to some of our bookish friends, like Dani and Adriyanna. Later, author EK Johnston came in to talk about her books: two of them were also at the event to get signed! (A THOUSAND NIGHTS and SPINDLE ARCs!)

Said SPINDLE ARCs plus swag, including CARVE THE MARK chapter samplers and EPIC READS booklets!

The Thousandth Floor ARCs!

Super pretty TSIAAS arcs!

The best part was probably the trivia giveaways … because, guys. We won my (Sarena’s) most anticipated read of the year, A TORCH AGAINST THE NIGHT! (*Cue dancing*)

Book A Torch Against The Night by Sabaa Tahir

And let me tell you … that book is crazy good. And explosive.

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Most of what we got is in the first picture of the post, including the RED QUEEN poster and a poster for The Thousandth Floor (not pictured). We also got extra TTF posters + Red Queen notebooks at the HCC Frenzy Presents event, which is a perfect segway into the 2nd event of that week!

I’ll keep the Frenzy Presents recap to a minimum since this post is already really long–bear with us! If you haven’t heard, HCC Frenzy is essentially the teen division of HarperCollins Canada (like Epic Reads is, but in the U.S.).

We entered the shiny HarperCollins office a bit late; the event started at 2, but the subway had stopped working at St. George station, so we had to walk the rest of the way (about 10 mins). Luckily we were there when the presentation began!

   Above: GIRL MANS UP, and the TO-based author was here to talk to us and sign ARCs!

At the event, in front of a really cool book wall! (Yes, we got to keep the THREE DARK CROWNS poster board!)

Here are the books / some of the swag we got: Do you see any you’re excited about? (We really can’t wait for REPLICA! Such a unique reading experience!)

Some other books we discussed that we’re looking forward to: THE UPSIDE OF UNREQUITED, FROST LIKE NIGHT, QUEEN OF BLOOD, KING’S CAGE, CARVE THE MARK and more!!

Suman at HCCFrenzy was super nice–it was our first time meeting her–and we were so happy to have the opportunity to go to a publishing house. (This was our first time ever at a publishing house in Toronto!) We met some other amazing bloggers and booktubers, like Andreya from Little Yellow Bookshop and Jamie from Books and Ladders. Like we mentioned before, we have some duplicate swag, so look out for a GIVEAWAY!😀

Thank you so much for reading this post–and to Indigo and HarperCollins Canada for the awesome events (and, of course, free books!). Until next time,

S&S

 

[Review] The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee

Welcome to Manhattan 2118–a world where nothing is as it seems, and everyone has something to hide. THE THOUSANDTH FLOOR by Katharine McGee is the perfect read for fans of Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and anything sci-fi/futuristic. Before I get into my spoiler-free review, I’ll post the (awesome) Goodreads synopsis and (UTTERLY GORGEOUS) cover down below!


24921954 New York City as you’ve never seen it before. A thousand-story tower stretching into the sky. A glittering vision of the future, where anything is possible—if you want it enough.

Welcome to Manhattan, 2118.

A hundred years in the future, New York is a city of innovation and dreams. But people never change: everyone here wants something…and everyone has something to lose.

Leda Cole’s flawless exterior belies a secret addiction—to a drug she never should have tried and a boy she never should have touched.

Eris Dodd-Radson’s beautiful, carefree life falls to pieces when a heartbreaking betrayal tears her family apart.

Rylin Myers’s job on one of the highest floors sweeps her into a world—and a romance—she never imagined…but will her new life cost Rylin her old one?

Watt Bakradi is a tech genius with a secret: he knows everything about everyone. But when he’s hired to spy by an upper-floor girl, he finds himself caught up in a complicated web of lies.

And living above everyone else on the thousandth floor is Avery Fuller, the girl genetically designed to be perfect. The girl who seems to have it all—yet is tormented by the one thing she can never have.

Debut author Katharine McGee has created a breathtakingly original series filled with high-tech luxury and futuristic glamour, where the impossible feels just within reach. But in this world, the higher you go, the farther there is to fall….


***DISCLAIMER: We received an ARC of this book from the Indigo Book Preview event in Toronto; this has in no way impacted our review.

This novel follows 5 teens in a 3rd-person POV, who all have something to hide. First, living on the thousandth floor, is Avery Fuller. Avery is not your typical teen—she was genetically designed to be perfect. Flawless on the outside, but brimming with secrets on the inside. I quite liked Avery’s perspective in this novel! She’s complex and interesting, and kind of reminded me a bit of Aria from PLL (maybe it’s just the A alliterations!). Though I thought her character might veer in one direction, she went the total opposite. Can’t say much more than that, ’cause I want y’all to find out just what her secret is!

Next, there’s Leda Cole. Leda’s an ever-changing character in this story, and by the end of it, I was enthralled to see the character dynamics/actions she took throughout the story. One thing I really loved about this novel was all the dramatic irony. One character (i.e., Leda) would know something, but her BFF, Avery, wouldn’t. It made for an intriguing read, and it was interesting to see how these characters unwrapped certain mysteries surrounding others.

Eris Dodd-Radson was one of the most unique characters in the novel. One thing I loved about her was that we got some LGBTQ+ representation—which kind of reminded me of another character from PLL: Emily!—in the novel. (Yay, diversity!) She went through some really tough hardships in this book, but I won’t divulge what—that’s for you to find out!

Watt Bakradi was one of my favourite characters in the novel. First off, he’s the only male POV. Second, his family’s Persian (so cool!) and third, he’s got a computer-chip-thingy in his brain by the name of Nadia, who helps him know everyone’s secrets. (Say whaaat? I know! So. Cool.)

And finally, there’s Rylin Myers—another perspective I was particularly interested in, if only for the diverse elements and the blooming romance (which I totally loved!). Rylin was definitely interesting to read about, as she lives much lower in the Tower, meaning she’s not “rich” or “high-up” like others (i.e., Avery and Leda).

The Tower itself was super interesting. I liked how the author interwove sci-fi/futuristic elements into this tower—i.e., each floor is almost a “street,” and there’s actual nature, and one of the floors has Central Park. There were also hovercars, eartennae, holos, and lots of other cool, futuristic items that worked well with the drama-esque story. The author balanced the two well, so that we almost got a “PLL in the future” vibe, in my opinion. A well-thought-out book with lots of mystery, drama, romance, and intrigue, all leading up to the ending—who is the girl who fell from the thousandth floor? I’ll keep my lips zipped until you’ve read up to the final page!

This book releases TODAY, August 30th, 2016, so go grab a copy! I was lucky enough to snag an ARC at the Indigo Book Preview two weeks ago, and you can read all about that event when the recap’s posted this week.

Until next time, readers!

-S&S

We’re 2016 #PitchWars Mentees!

TGIF, bookish friends! Today we have some amazing news to share with you … and you’ve probably already guessed by the title of this post. And the *awesome news* (which we’ve already shared on Twitter, if you follow us over there –> @PendantTrilogy #shamelessselfpromo) is …

WE’RE #PitchWars 2016 MENTEES! Everyone, let’s do a *happy dance*!

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#PitchWars is basically an annual event for writers with polished manuscripts who are seeking representation. The decision to enter was a little … spontaneous. I just kept seeing people on Twitter talking about #PitchWars. Everything was #PitchWars, #PitchWars, #PITCHWARS. Finally, we knew. We knew we had to enter this contest–at least give it a try, seeing as having the opportunity to work with a mentor would be incredibly amazing. So, we entered the contest during the submission window in early August (we were able to submit to six mentors after winning a giveaway!), and the eve of August 25th (AKA, PitchWars Mentee Announcement Day), Brenda Drake gave us a little surprise!

YA-Mentor-Picks-2Do you see our names on this *gorgeous* list? Look a little lower … lower … and stop! We’re fifth from the bottom! Brenda Drake released the mentors’ picks a DAY early (or night, rather). Our manuscript, A TASTE OF DARKNESS, was chosen by Stephanie Scott, whose YA novel ALTERATIONS releases from Bloomsbury Spark this October (!!!). We are SO excited to get to work with Stephanie, and make this novel rock. Congrats, also, to our fellow mentees–and of course, to  EVERYONE who submitted to this contest. There were approximately 2000 people who entered. Two thousand. That’s mind-blowingly awesome. Seriously. Y’all should give yourselves a pat on the back–or better yet, buy yourself a shiny new book–for achieving something so amazing. Writing a book. 

Time and time again, I hear people saying “I wish I had the time to write a book.” Well, you did. You got up, dusted off that ol’ laptop, and decided to write a novel. And not just write one, but pursue revision, and further, possible representation from literary agents and book deals with publishers. A-may-zing.

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So if you’re busy in the revision cave, or getting ready to start a shiny new project (hey, we are too! for both…), congrats. Congrats on writing a novel, and doing something that you’re truly passionate about.

Thanks for reading this post, bloggers! We’re so excited to see where #PitchWars takes us. Until next time,

-S&S