Bruja Born by Zoraida Córdova

Inside cover blurb:

Three sisters. One spell. Countless dead.

Lula Mortiz feels like an outsider. Her sister’s newfound Encantrix powers have wounded her in ways that Lula’s bruja healing powers can’t fix, and she longs for the comfort her family once brought her. Thank the Deos for Maks, her sweet, steady boyfriend who sees the beauty within her and brings light to her life.

Then a bus crash turns Lula’s world upside down. Her classmates are all dead, including Maks. But Lula was born to heal, to fix. She can bring Maks back, even if it means seeking help from her sisters and defying Death herself. But magic that defies the laws of the deos is dangerous. Unpredictable. And when the dust settles, Maks isn’t the only one who’s been brought back…”

-from publisher

Thoughts:

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More, more, more! Give me more now! Thank you to Sourcebooks Fire for sending me this ARC.

I loved Labyrinth Lost and I was actually a little surprised to find that I enjoyed Bruja Born just as much- you don’t always get lucky the second time around.

Bruja Born is more urban fantasy- everything takes place in New York and the fight comes to the girls, as opposed to Labyrinth Lost, where Alex went to Los Lagos. This means that Bruja Born gives us more of a glimpse at the Mortiz’s sisters home life and relationships with one another, which let me just say, I personally would not mess with them. They are three badass babes.

Both stories have a flavor and style that is unique to the sister it’s focused on. Lula’s journey focuses on her emotions and how she learns to accept imperfection. My spidey senses tell me that perhaps the next book in the series will center on the third Mortiz sister, Rosie. I sure wouldn’t be mad- I definitely want to hear more about her and her powers!

I learned from the afterward that some of the characters/organizations that appear in Bruja Born were first introduced in The Vicious Deep, Corodova’s series about mermaids. I always thought those books sounded kind of dweeby, to be honest, but now I’m kind of intrigued…maybe that’s what I’ll read while I sit here waiting for the third installment of Brooklyn Brujas.

Plus: Powerful female brujas and magic that disturbs the balance of the universe. I’m so into it.

Minus: The plot didn’t always flow as well as I would have liked, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying it overall.

If you like this book, try:

Undead Girl Gang

Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson- A teen Wiccan finds out she has the power to raise the dead after her best friend dies under suspicious circumstances. Pretty similar to Bruja Born in some ways, but with a bit more dark humor.

Down and Across by Arvin Ahmadi

Inside cover blurb:

Scott Ferdowsi has a track record of quitting. Writing the Great American Novel? Three chapters. His summer internship? One week. His best friends know exactly what they want to do with the rest of their lives, but Scott can hardly commit to a breakfast cereal, let alone a passion.

With college applications looming, Scott’s parents pressure him to get serious and settle on a career path like engineering or medicine. Desperate for help, he sneaks off to Washington, DC, to seek guidance from a famous professor who specializes in grit, the psychology of success.

He never expects an adventure to unfold out of what was supposed to be a one-day visit. But that’s what Scott gets when he meets Fiora Buchanan, a ballsy college student whose life ambition is to write crossword puzzles. When the bicycle she lends him gets Scott into a high-speed chase, he knows he’s in for the ride of his life. Soon, Scott finds himself sneaking into bars, attempting to pick up girls at the National Zoo, and even giving the crossword thing a try–all while opening his eyes to fundamental truths about who he is and who he wants to be.”

-from publisher

Thoughts:

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Did I like this book? Did I dislike this book? I still can’t really say one way or the other.

I read Down and Across in two chunks because I kind of lost interest mid-way through. But I did finish it, so that has to say something right?

I feel like I was set up to be disappointed because Adam Silvera (one of my all time favorite authors) blurbed this book. So naturally I expected that it would be like and Adam Silvera book. Alas, it was not.

The premise alone should have tipped me off: boy lacks direction in life and runs away to Washington D.C. in pursuit of his life’s passion. It sounds like a better idea in theory than it is in practice, trust me.

But maybe it’s just me. I typically don’t enjoy male coming of age stories, unless they’re written by Adam Silvera that is. I appreciate that Ahmadi tried to avoid casting Fiora as your typical manic pixie dream girl…but she still kind of is.

I think there was maybe some potential to this story, but it all just fell flat for me.

Plus: Crossword puzzles, diverse characters, random (sometimes illegal) adventures.

Minus: Feels like a cheap John Green knock off. And I don’t even like John Green…

If you like this book, try:

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Kids of Appetite by David Arnold– Shocker, I’m not recommending an Adam Silvera book here! When I think coming of age stories, I think David Arnold. Kids of Appetite has everything- submarines, a police investigation, love, and a gang of kids who look out for each other no matter what.

 

The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

Inside cover blurb:

Welcome to the cursed town of Sparrow…

Where, two centuries ago, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery. Stones were tied to their ankles and they were drowned in the deep waters surrounding the town.

Now, for a brief time each summer, the sisters return, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted girls so that they may seek their revenge, luring boys into the harbor and pulling them under.

Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the fate of the town. But this year, on the eve of the sisters’ return, a boy named Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into.

Mistrust and lies spread quickly through the salty, rain-soaked streets. The townspeople turn against one another. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swiftly to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters.

But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself.”

-from publisher

Thoughts:

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First impression: this book is dumb.

Second impression: this book is dumb, but I am up past my bedtime reading it…

Third impression: OHMIGOD I am actually so into this book!

Stick with me here because I know what you’re thinking- the plot sounds so ridiculous! Well it is ridiculous. Three girls drowned as witches in the 1800s come back every summer as ghosts to drown boys out of revenge.

But the writing is what really pulled me in. Ernshaw manages to paint such a vivid image of this sleepy seaside town, I could feel the mist on my skin and the sea in my bones. That’s what I love about fiction! Her writing has a kind of delicate quality to it, without being overly flowery. I have always been a sucker for that style.

The romance is a bit cheesy at times, but I gotta say, I really enjoyed the layering of flashbacks and present day. I don’t want to give away the twist (even though most perceptive readers will likely figure it out), but I like the parallels between the past and the present.

And while the ending wasn’t entirely perfect, it definitely pulled my heartstrings.

Plus: The atmosphere, the writing style, the melodrama! It’s basically a teen soap opera with witches, so I was obviously going to love it.

Minus: If you can get past the cheese factor, it is such an enjoyable read! And ignore that cover too.

If you like this book, try:

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To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo- Another book which sounded pretty ridiculous to me: it’s about a siren princess. Yay for another book about drownings! But The Wicked Deep taught me not to be so judgemental, so maybe I’ll be giving this one a try.

Echo After Echo by Amy Rose Capetta

Inside cover blurb:

Debuting on the New York stage, Zara is unprepared—for Eli, the girl who makes the world glow; for Leopold, the director who wants perfection; and for death in the theater.

Zara Evans has come to the Aurelia Theater, home to the visionary director Leopold Henneman, to play her dream role in Echo and Ariston, the Greek tragedy that taught her everything she knows about love. When the director asks Zara to promise that she will have no outside commitments, no distractions, it’s easy to say yes. But it’s hard not to be distracted when there’s a death at the theater—and then another—especially when Zara doesn’t know if they’re accidents, or murder, or a curse that always comes in threes. It’s hard not to be distracted when assistant lighting director Eli Vasquez, a girl made of tattoos and abrupt laughs and every form of light, looks at Zara. It’s hard not to fall in love. In heart-achingly beautiful prose, Amy Rose Capetta has spun a mystery and a love story into an impossible, inevitable whole—and cast lantern light on two girls, finding each other on a stage set for tragedy.”

-from publisher

Thoughts:

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This book is goooood. But I don’t know how to describe it?

It’s reminiscent of the feeling of being indoors wrapped in blanket while it’s cold and raining outside. It’s cozy, but in a totally unsettling way.

The writing is lush and gorgeous and Zara is written so perfectly, it’s amazing. You feel her anxieties and the pressure she is under, but also her hope and her embodiment of Echo. Zara and Eli’s relationship is beautifully portrayed. In fact, all of the supporting characters are well done and have thoroughly thought out backstories which influence their actions. I almost wish the book had a prequel to unravel some of their stories further.

But there’s also a murder mystery? And a seedy underbelly to the production of their play that affects each one of the characters. There are a lot of subtleties in that plot that I probably didn’t catch.

This book will definitely leave you with a lot to think about- it’s very timely in its portrayal of how our society idolizes creative genius.

Plus: Beautiful writing, stories within stories, a strong and relatable female lead.

Minus: It’s hard for me to critique much about this one. There are probably plot points that I would have liked to see turn out differently, if I really had to pick something.

If you like this book, try:

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Aftercare Instructions by Bonnie Pipkin- Very different writing styles, but similar in that both main characters go to New York to pursue dreams of acting. Both are great reads.

Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza

Inside cover blurb:

Empress

With a revolution brewing, Rhee is faced with a choice: make a deal with her enemy, Nero, or denounce him and risk losing her crown.

Fugitive

Framed assassin Alyosha has one goal in mind: kill Nero. But to get his revenge, Aly may have to travel back to the very place he thought he’d left forever—home.

Princess

Kara knows that a single piece of technology located on the uninhabitable planet Wraeta may be the key to remembering—and erasing—the princess she once was.

Madman

Villainous media star Nero is out for blood, and he’ll go to any means necessary to control the galaxy.

Vicious politics and high-stakes action culminate in an epic showdown that will determine the fate of the universe.”

-from publisher

Thoughts:

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I remember reading Empress of a Thousand Skies and being so PUMPED for the sequel to come out!

But when I started reading Blood of a Thousand Stars, I realized that maybe the first book wasn’t as memorable as I thought. I remembered the vague plot- girl on the lam because she’s next in line for the throne and there’s a powerful creepy man trying to steal control of the government.

Aaaand that’s all I remembered. Reading Blood of a Thousand Stars was like watching season 6 of a show you’ve never seen before.

It was still pretty enjoyable, but I found that I wasn’t so invested in the story anymore. Particularly since the narrative jumps between 3 or 4 narrators. I can’t even remember how many there were.

To be fair to the author, I did have to rush through it pretty quickly because it was going to expire off my Kindle. But I didn’t feel like I was missing much by speed reading.

Guess this one is a duology, so at least I won’t have to feel bad about bailing out on a third installment.

Plus: Good characters and the sci-fi setting is actually pretty well done.

Minus: Definitely not as enjoyable as the first one. If you’re just starting on these, you might want to read them back to back so you don’t lose momentum.

If you like this book, try:

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Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner- Currently reading! A bookish boy and a scrappy girl break into an alien temple for completely different reasons. So far it’s thoroughly enjoyable- stay tuned for my review!