ARC Review: Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women & Witchcraft by Various Authors

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*Spoiler Free* ARC Review: Bruja Born (Brooklyn Brujas #2) by Zoraida Cordova

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Halloween Non-Horror Recommendations!

Top Ten Tuesday(93)

So as I promised I’ve done up a post for those of you who want to read some spooky books for Halloween but don’t necessarily like horror or want your pants scared off! These are mostly all thrillers or have a paranormal factor present.

If you want to see my Halloween Horror Recommendations you can check that out here.

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Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

(Review Here)

A great diverse read featuring a Latino family of brujas (witches) and when Alex tries to rid herself of her powers her entire family vanishes. This is a very magical adventure full of family love and who doesn’t love a good witch book?


The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas

(Review Here)

This is a thriller about a girl who lied about who murdered their babysitter when they were younger and must now hunt for the true killer. This doesn’t have much for Halloween vibes but it is a very dark and twisted story full of surprises. It definitely gets gritty and you’ll get chills reading through it!


Coraline by Neil Gaiman

(Review Here)

Who doesn’t think “Coraline” is a Halloween classic now? Because I sure do! It’s subtly creepy and just absolutely perfect for reading this time of year.


The Hanging Girl by Eileen Cook

(Review Here)

Another thriller but this one has some psychics involved making it all the more perfect for some Halloween reading. A girl who fakes being psychic must now help the police find a missing girl but she may just have some insider information….


Black Bird of the Gallows by Meg Kassel

(Review Here)

Harbingers of Death? That screams Halloween in my opinion! A mysterious boy shows up in town accompanied by flocks of strange crows and when he saves Angie from something supernatural she realizes he may not be human either. Paranormal elements and a slightly creepy atmosphere makes this another great read for non-horror fans!


The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Another book that shouldn’t surprise many of you but “The Graveyard Book” is about a boy who is raised by the supernatural residents of a graveyard. It’s full of adventure and just straight up adorableness.


I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

A mystery thriller revolving around Jasper Dent the son of the most infamous serial killers in the world. Jasper was being groomed to take over the “family business” and therefore can see crime scenes from a criminal’s POV so when a new serial killer shows up in his small town he’s determined to prove it’s not him.

So, so, sooooo many twists and turns with this one it’s especially great if you have a morbid curiosity about serial killers, like me.


The Grownup by Gillian Flynn

(Review Here)

I could honestly recommend any of Flynn’s books but this short story fits the best in my opinon. It’s about a woman who fakes psychic readings and help from the beyond for money. When a woman wants her help ridding her house of something evil our main character may just start believing in ghosts….

Super quick read and open ended so if open endings aren’t your thing I’d skip it.


The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

(Review Here)

Psychics, ancient sleeping kings, ley lines, and magic trees I think it’s safe to say this isn’t your run of the mill paranormal romance or urban fantasy. It’s full of magic and sets a very fast pace not to mention you will definitely fall in love with the characters!


The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch by Joseph Delaney

This is more Middle Grade than YA but it’s still super interesting and full of supernatural spirits and creatures and there’s more than a few creepy moments too as Thomas learns about how to be a Spook.


The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

(Review Here)

This one is filled with monsters, demons, undead, and spirits and while it has a few dark moments it mostly follows a girl named Tea learning to control her powers of necromancy.


This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

(Review Here)

This book fits into a kind of neat genre but it’s about a girl who wants to hunt monsters and boy who is one of those monsters in a city torn into two sects. The monsters are very unique and fun to read about and the characters are a bit morally grey, definitely a fun read though and the monsters aren’t TOO creepy either!


Bad Blood by Demitria Lunetta

(Review Here)

Another witch book makes the list! This one is about a girl who visits Scotland and learns a bit more about her family’s past as she continues having visions of two women and a bit more about witchcraft and blood magic. Honestly the background of Scotland makes this book worth the read as well!

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Have you read any of this books? What did you think?

Will you give any of these books a try?

What are some of your favorite non-horror Halloween reads?

Let me know in the comments!

The Sassy

Top Ten Tuesday: Books With Diverse Main Characters

Top Ten Tuesday(9)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by  The Broke and the Bookish.

So this week’s theme is basically anything to do with characters! You can put any spin on it that you’d like and I decided to do diverse characters since we could always use more diverse book recommendations, am I right? The characters I’m including are diverse in ethnicity and sexuality and there’s also some mental illness rep here as well.

I’m slowly working my way through the diverse books on my TBR but putting this list together has made me realize I really need to read more of them faster!

These are in no particular order and I will link each book title to my full review in case you’re interested!


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Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

This book has a Latino main character who also happens to be a bruja (witch) and when she seeks to rid herself of her power she ends of losing her family and to find them again she must enter a magical realm to save them. This is a very creative and magical book, highly recommended for Halloween coming up too!


Want by Cindy Pon

While I wasn’t the biggest fan of this book I did still enjoy it and it’s diverse cast of characters (mostly Taiwanese) and Pon’s tackling of many big issues such as global warming, pollution, and poverty within the plot line. Still a very interesting book even though the pacing was a little off for me.


Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

While this isn’t the most diverse book on this list it still includes a really adorable F/F romance between the main character and another side character, I don’t want to give it away. This is a Snow White retelling that really delves into new representations of “Snow White and the Evil Queen” in a very unique way.


Timekeeper by Tara Sim

This is a very underrated book that’s set in a steampunk Victorian London with a gay main character who falls in love with a clock tower’s spirit. It’s so incredibly adorable and heart warming! Plus it’s something I’ve never seen done before!


The Steep & Thorny Way by Cat Winters

Cat Winters is an incredible writer and her books should be in the lime light a lot more than they are! This book deals with a biracial girl in the 1920’s dealing with racism and hate crimes who is starting to suspect her father’s death wasn’t an accident. There is also the inclusion of a gay character dealing homophobia and hate crimes as well. This is said to be a sort of retelling of “Hamlet” and there is a bit of the paranormal in the plot as well.


Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

Probably the most diverse book included on this list! We have bisexual characters, gay characters, characters of different ethnic backgrounds, characters with mental illness or other disabilities. Everything is also handled and represented incredibly well due to it being an #OwnVoices book and I personally can speak for the anxiety rep as well. There is so much adorableness and so many heart warming moments as well, overall fantastic book full of diversity!


A Gentleman’s Guide To Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

A story with a M/M romance and the characters both think the other doesn’t love them back, but it’s also full of some crazy shenanigans and a trip across Europe. You’ll ship these two so hard, trust me!


Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller

This was a huge surprise to me, I found it way more enjoyable than I had originally anticipated! This is what I wanted “Throne of Glass” to be, full of violence and a main character who isn’t afraid to show their skill and do anything it takes to win. The main character is also gender fluid!


The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Pretty sure everyone’s heard of this one by now! This is a fantastic story with a very powerful plot which includes an African American girl as our wonderful main character who is dealing with the aftermath of a police officer shooting her unarmed friend. As I said it’s incredibly powerful and so well written, I highly recommend reading it.


The Hollow Girl by Hillary Monahan

The main character of this book is Welsh Romani (which we definitely do not get to see very often in books at all) and is studying herbcraft (and hopefully witchcraft) under her Gran. However, her and her friend are brutally assaulted and in order to save his life she must harvest body parts from the boys who did it. I recommend checking out my trigger warnings in my review before reading this one.

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Have you read any of these books as well? What did you think?

Do you have any of these on your TBR?

What are some of your favorite books with diverse characters?

Let me know in the comments!

The Sassy

Top Ten Tuesday: Hidden Gems in Fantasy

Top Ten Tuesday(9)

Hello fellow book lovers!

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s theme is Hidden Gems in whichever genre you’d like to pick! Of course I adore hidden gem recommendations and I have more than a few to give but fantasy is my most read genre so that’s the genre I went with. Some of these may be a little more iffy as far as having them be considered fantasy but there are fantasy elements none the less and most of them are 100% pure fantasy. Some of my choices also might be a little more popular than others and some of you may not consider them a “hidden” gem but they still aren’t super popular so I’d like to recommend them!

I will link up each title to my full review as well if you’d like to be convinced some more to add these to your TBR! Also these aren’t in any particular order!

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10.) Alice (The Chronicles of Alice #1) by Christina Henry

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This is more of a horror book than anything but it still counts as fantasy in my mind especially since it’s a dark retelling of “Alice in Wonderland”. This book isn’t for the faint of heart, it’s truly terrifying, graphic, brutal, and violent and yet it’s still an addictive story. I highly recommend reading it if you’re looking for a unique retelling!

You can read my full review of “Alice” here.


9.) Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor

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A collection of three short fairy tale-esque stories all revolving around a kiss but trust me when I say it’s not the gushy romance fest you think it would be! Laini Taylor’s writing is gorgeous and she weaves together such creative tales with mythology of her own making, these stories are fantastic. Plus the illustrations are gorgeous as well!

You can read my full review of “Lips Touch: Three Times” here.


8.) The Impostor Queen (The Impostor Queen #1) by Sarah Fine

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This is such an underrated fantasy novel it isn’t even fair! The magic system is one of the best I’ve come across with both fire and ice users but the magic doesn’t come without it’s costs. The Valtia is the queen of the land who is the only wielder of both ice and fire magic and when she dies it passes on to the next but when the magic doesn’t enter Elli she is forced to flee. Great characters and great world building, go give this book some more love!

You can read my full review of “The Impostor Queen” here.


7.) The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

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This book is a little more well known but still not enough in my eyes! It’s an Aladdin retelling where the genie is female and they have a relationship, it’s got some great world building, badass female characters, and gorgeous writing! What more could you want?

You can read my full review of “The Forbidden Wish” here.


6.) Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas #1) by Zoraida Cordova

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Not only does this book have a gorgeous cover and diverse characters but it’s also filled with magic and a very Wonderland-esque adventure. Alex is a bruja (a witch) and wants to rid herself of her powers but when she tries her whole family vanishes into thin air.

You can read my full review of “Labyrinth Lost” here.


5.) Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West

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I recommend this book ALL the time and it’s probably the book on here I feel is the most underrated. It has a great story, world building, and characters plus on top of all of that it has four retellings weaved into the plot which include: Sleep Beauty, Cinderella, Hua Mulan, and Jane Austen’s Emma. It’s a fantastic story!

You can read my full review of “Kingdom of Ash and Briars” here.


4.) The Bone Witch (The Bone Witch #1) by Rin Chupeco

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This is a dark fantasy featuring a witch with the gift of necromancy who goes to train under another bone witch. She must control her powers if she is going to aid her fellow witches with the war that is brewing in the kingdoms. I really loved how dark and sometimes creepy this book got especially with the necromancy, great world building too!

You can read my full review of “The Bone Witch” here.


3.) Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

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Once again this one is a little more popular so it may not be considered a true hidden gem but it’s not a book I see tons of people talking about all of the time either. This is a Peter Pan retelling revolving around the character Tiger Lily, her backstory, and her relationship with Peter. It’s a darker version of Neverland and you’ll definitely be heart broken by the end.

You can read my full review of “Tiger Lily” here.


2.) The Hundredth Queen (The Hundredth Queen #1) by Emily R. King

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A girl raised by the Sisterhood is chosen to be the Rajah’s 100th wife and she must fight in gladiator style battles against his other 99 wives in order to secure her place. This book is full of magic and some badass females, it may not be the best written book ever but it was highly addictive and entertaining!

You can read my full review of “The Hundredth Queen” here.


1.) Mask of Shadows (Untitled #1) by Linsey Miller

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This book is pretty hyped up at the moment but still isn’t receiving as much hype as it should. This is everything I wanted and expected “Throne of Glass” to be with the brutal competition to be the Queen’s assassin, plus we get a genderfluid main character!

You can read my full review of “Mask of Shadows” here.

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Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

What are some of your hidden gems in YA fantasy?

Let me know in the comments!

The Sassy

ARC Review: Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas #1) by Zoraida Cordova

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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

****Thank you to Sourcebooks Fire and Netgalley for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review****

“Labyrinth Lost” was a very delightful surprise of a book, I loved it way more than I expected to. The entire plot of the book is very unique and unlike anything I’ve read before and there is so much diversity going on here as well. Not only do we have a cast of Latin American characters but also a LGTB romance! Yes, “Labyrinth Lost” has a lot of wonderful things going on!

PLOT

  I would say that maybe my rating is more of a 3.5 than a 4 because while I did absolutely love certain aspects of this book I also had a few problems with it as well. For instance I loved the diversity in this story I found there to be a few inconsistencies throughout my reading of it that my nit-picky little brain couldn’t handle.

One of the big ones being the pacing, it started out decently, grabbing your attention straight away but towards the end of the book it got a little….wonky. It was too fast! While I read I had to double check and make sure I hadn’t accidentally skipped a page because what was happening changed with just a sentence. I felt like the ending was crammed into a few pages which left me more than a little unsatisfied. Overall it started out strong but was all a little too rushed at the end for my liking.

I loved the plot itself it was crammed full of magic (literally), adventure, and some very interesting world building. I loved every scrap of information on the brujas (witches), the Deos (their gods), and basically just all of their lore and mythology. Yes, I would say the world building was definitely my favorite part of “Labyrinth Lost”.  There are some great plot twists that I did not see coming too because everybody loves a good plot twist, am I right? Also as you probably read in the description it’s compared briefly to “Alice in Wonderland” which is probably the best comparison I could make for this book, Los Lagos is very much a Latin version of Wonderland.

characters

Something I didn’t enjoy all that much were the characters they weren’t as developed as they could have been in my opinion, in comparison to the vibrant world and story, the characters felt a little bland. They weren’t great and they weren’t awful, they were simply just…okay. Which is why it’s kind of hard to make up my mind on how I feel about all of the characters. I liked them but they were just sort of…two dimensional and not all that relateable for me.

Alex, the heroine, wasn’t anything special or new and she didn’t really stick out all that much in my mind. She had a bit of a case of “Special Snowflake” but not to the point where it was nauseatingly bad. Overall she was just your average YA heroine.

Nova was probably one of the most developed characters in this story and I honestly really liked him, we got to see a little bit more backstory and insight into his character than we did with anyone else. Rishi, Alex’s best friend, was probably one of the blandest characters for me. I felt like she had no other purpose in the story other than to just simply BE there and to be a love interest. She never really actually did anything to contribute to the plot and was basically just kind of useless overall.

Then there’s the villain, The Devourer. Sounds badass and incredibly terrifying, right? Wrong. This was probably one of the saddest excuses for a villain I’ve ever seen and I’m really sorry to say that because there was a lot of potential there. There was zero development or backstory or insight into The Devourer’s character, so basically  we never really got a motive as to why she’s evil other than she’s just evil. How boring and very unmemorable.

My favorite characters were probably the secondary/minor characters such as Alex’s family and the inhabitants of Los Lagos, they were by far the most interesting. Probably because their characters were more “fun” and didn’t need a lot of development to be likable.

romance

Moreover we have the romance which I have mixed feelings about. On one hand I applaud the fact that it is an F/F romance which I don’t think we see often enough in YA books but on the other hand the way it was executed was pretty bad. I felt ZERO chemistry and honestly I didn’t even think there was a romance going on at all until their sweet little kiss, which is pretty bad if you think about it, I mean how hard is it to BUILD the romance up a little instead of just diving into it headfirst out of nowhere? Alex and Rishi were such an underdeveloped couple and the whole thing felt like it was trying a little too hard. I desperately wanted to love them but I just couldn’t, the lack of development and chemistry just makes me cringe. I think Alex and Nova would have been better, sadly, because I think we saw way more bonding between them.

in conclusion

Overall I really did enjoy “Labyrinth Lost” but as I said it had it’s share of flaws as well. I absolutely loved the plot and the world building but the characters and romance really fell short. My favorite parts about this book would be the unique premise, Latin American characters, and the LGTB romance even if it wasn’t executed that well.

RECOMMEND

Yes! If you’re looking for any kind of diversity in a YA book this is most definitely for you! Also how can you pass up something that can be called a Latin version of Wonderland, I mean come on!

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository

The Sassy