#SpotlightTour Bruja Born by Zoraida Córdova

Today it is my turn to turn the spotlight on Bruja Born by Zoraida Córdova. It is the second book in the Bruja Born series which started off with the fast-paced and volatile Labyrinth Lost. It’s a powerful premise with plenty of potential.

About the Author

Zoraida Córdova is the award-winning author of The Vicious Deep trilogy and the Brooklyn Brujas series. Her short fiction has appeared in the New York Times bestselling anthology, Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View, and Toil & Trouble: 16 Tales of Women and Witchcraft. She is a New Yorker at heart and is currently working on her next novel.

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Buy Bruja Born

About the book

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…

Review

This is the second in the Brooklyn Brujas series, which deals with the fallout of the dark volatile and life-changing events of Labyrinth Lost (the first book in the series). Lula spends the majority of the time trying to control a bellyful of anger and taking her lack of control out on her loved ones. She resents her sister for putting her in danger and for destroying her physical appearance.

When you’re equipped with more power than you can handle the danger is not being able to control it or possibly using it for the wrong reasons. As a witch one of the golden rules is what you put out into the universe you get back tenfold, especially when it is something negative. I think trying to intervene in life or death scenarios fits into this category. Lula doesn’t hesitate to use her power to take back what Death has already claimed, which sets a series of dangerous events in motion.

Córdova likes to explore the emotional and physical limitations and boundaries of magic. What happens when you break the written and unwritten rules? Does Lula really feel as if she is above the rules and immune from the possible consequences of breaking them. There is also a focus on the tight relationship between the sisters, and why they are willing to risk their lives to satisfy the selfish needs of their sister.

The Brooklyn Brujas has a lot of potential, especially when it comes to the sisters developing their skills and powers, so it will be interesting to see where the author takes the series. Brujas aren’t a common feature in urban fantasy, there tends to be an overall focus on bog-standard witches. This allows for a more in-depth look at the cultural meaning and myths surrounding them.

What I really want to know is whether something else other than fate or the auto-schedule of Death happened on that bus. Was it just a coincidence that Lula was in the middle of an emotional upheaval? Just putting that out there into the universe.

Buy Bruja Born (Brooklyn Brujas #2) at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Kindle pub date 5th June 2018, Hardcover pub date 1st July 2018

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Excerpt of Bruja Born

They say El Corazón has two hearts:the black thing in his chestand the one he wears on his sleeve.

—­Tales of the Deos, Felipe Thomás San Justinio

This is a love story.

At least, it was, before my sister sent me to hell. Though technically, Los Lagos isn’t hell or the underworld. It’s another realm inhabited by creatures, spirits, and wonders I’d only read about in my family’s Book of Cantos. The place where I was kept—­where my whole family was imprisoned by a power-­hungry witch—­that was as close to hell as I hope I’ll ever get.

But that’s another story.

“Lula, you ready?” my sister Alex asks.

I stare at my open closet and can’t find the socks that go with my step team uniform. I riffle through bins of underwear and mismatched socks and costume jewelry.

“Lula?” Alex repeats, softly this time.

For the past seven or so months, Alex has been extra everything—­extra patient, extra loving, extra willing to do my chores. She means well, but she doesn’t understand how suffocating her attention is, how the quiet in her eyes drives a sick feeling in my gut because I’m trying to be okay for her, for our family and friends. I think I’ve gotten pretty good at faking it. But sometimes, like now, I snap.

“Give me a minute!”

I don’t mean to snap. Honestly. But everything that’s come out of my mouth lately has been hard and angry, and I don’t know how to make it stop. That’s not who I am. That’s not who I was before—­

Rose, our younger sister, walks into my room wearing long sleeves and jeans even though there’s a heat wave and it’s mid-­June. Rose has the Gift of the Veil. She can see and speak to the dead. Spirt magic runs on a different wavelength than the rest of our powers, and being so tuned-­in to that realm means she’s always cold. Rose takes a seat on my bed and picks at a tear in the blanket.

“Can I go to the pregame with you and Maks?” she asks me. “I’ve never been to one before.”

“No,” I say.

“Why not?” When she frowns, her round face gets flushed. Sometimes I forget that underneath all her power, she’s just a fourteen-­year-­old kid trying to fit in.

“Because,” I say, digging through my dirty laundry. “It’s just for the team. You can drive to the game with Ma and Alex.”

“And Dad.” Rose’s voice is a quiet addendum.

Right. Dad. After seven years of being missing and presumed dead, he’s in our lives again. It’s an odd feeling having him back, one we all share but haven’t talked about. He has no memory of where he’s been, and even if we can’t say it out loud, maybe we’ve moved on without him. Alex was always the one who said he was gone for good, and perhaps deep down inside, I thought that too. But I always corrected her. I was the one who believed he’d return, because sometimes false hope is better than being completely hopeless. I believed in lots of things once.

“And Dad,” I say.

The three of us exchange a look of unease. There are too many things that are unsaid between us. I wish we could go back to being loud and rowdy and something like happy. But it’s taking longer than I thought.

So here are the things we leave unsaid:

One, we’re brujas. Witches. Magical BAMFs with powers gifted by the Deos, our gods. A house full of magic is bound to cause some friction, and after what Alex did, there is plenty of friction.

Two, my sister Alex cast a canto that banished our entire family to a realm called Los Lagos. She got to traipse across its magical hills and meadows with Nova, the hot brujo we never talk about, and her now-­girlfriend, Rishi.

Meanwhile, I was trapped in a freaking tree. A big, evil tree. I was surrounded by all-­consuming darkness, and even though we’re home and safe, I still feel that pull, like something is sucking at my soul and my light, and this house is too small and crowded, and I don’t know how to make this fear stop. I don’t know how to get over it.

Three, I can’t stand looking at my own reflection anymore.

I took all the mirrors in my bedroom down, even the one that was on my altar to keep away malicious spirits. They don’t need it. One look at my face, and they’ll be scared off.

“Ready when you are,” Alex says again, her guilt radioactive.

Technically, technically, the attack that left my face hideously disfigured with scars was Alex’s fault. I’m a terrible sister for thinking it. Forgive and forget and all that. But the maloscuros that came looking for her attacked me. Their vicious claws raked across my face. Sometimes, when I’m alone, I can smell the rot of their skin, see the glow of their yellow eyes, feel their presence even though they’re long gone and banished.

To be fair, Alex has scars from the maloscuros too. Right across her heart. But she can cover them up. I can’t.

Not naturally, anyway.

Having a sister who is an all-­powerful encantrix has its benefits. There are a million problems going on in the world, and here I am, worrying about scars. But deep down, I know it’s more than the scars. I’ve been called beautiful my whole life. I’ve been aware of the way men’s eyes trailed my legs since I was far too young. The way boys in school stuttered when they spoke to me. The way they offered me gifts—­bodega-­bought candies and stolen flowers and handwritten notes with yes/no scribbled in pencil. My aunt Maria Azul told me beauty was power. My mother told me beauty was a gift. If they’re right, then what am I now? All I know is I left fragments of myself in Los Lagos and I don’t know how to get them back.

So I turn to my sister, because she owes me one. But before we can get started, my mother knocks on my open door, Dad trailing behind her like a wraith.

“Good, you’re all together. Can I borrow you guys for a minute?” Ma asks. She rests a white laundry basket against one hip and waves a sage bundle like a white flag. “I want to try the memory canto on your father before we leave. The sun’s in the right—­”

“We’re busy,” I say, too angry again. I don’t like talking to my mother like this. Hell, any other time I’d catch hands for speaking to her like that. But we’re all a mess—­guilt, anger, love, plus a lot of magic is a potent mix. Something’s got to give, and I don’t know if I want to be here when it does.

Mom throws the sage stick on top of the clean laundry, scratches her head with a long, red nail. Her black-lined eyes look skyward, as if begging the Deos for patience. She makes to speak, but Dad places his hand on her arm. She tenses at his touch, and he withdraws the hand.

“We all have to pull our weight around here,” Ma tells me, a challenge in her deep, coffee-­brown eyes that I don’t dare look away from.

“Dad doesn’t,” I say, and feel Rose and Alex retreat two paces away from me. Traitors.

“He’s trying. You haven’t healed so much as a paper cut since—­”

I widen my eyes, waiting for the her to say it. Since Los Lagos. Since the attack. But she can’t.

“You have Alex,” I say, turning my thumb toward my sister. “She’s an encantrix. Healing comes with the package.”

“Lula…” Ma pinches the bridge of her nose, then trails off as my father tries to be the voice of reason.

“Carmen,” he whispers, “let them be. It’s okay.”

But my mother doesn’t fully let up. “How much longer will you keep having your sister glamour you?”

Alex looks at her toes. All that power in her veins and she can’t escape being shamed by our mother. I might be just a healer, but I match my mom’s gaze. We share more than our light-­brown skin and wild, black curls. We share the same fire in our hearts.

“Until it stops hurting,” I say, and I don’t let my voice waver.

We share a sadness too. I see it in her, woven into the wrinkles around her eyes. So she just hands me a black bundle—­my uniform socks—­and says, “We’ll see you at the game.”

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#BlogTour The Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco

Today it is an absolute pleasure to take part in the BlogTour for the sequel to The Bone Witch. Rin Chupeco does not disappoint, The Heart-Forger is absolutely a must read for YA Fantasy and Fantasy readers.

About the Author

Despite uncanny resemblances to Japanese revenants, Rin Chupeco has always maintained her sense of humor. Raised in Manila, Philippines, she keeps four pets: a dog, two birds, and a husband. She’s been a technical writer and travel blogger, but now makes things up for a living.

Follow @RinChupeco @SourcebooksFire on Twitter or @rinchupeco on Instagram

Visit rinchupeco.com

About the book

In this dark, engrossing sequel to The Bone Witch, Tea has mastered resurrection—now it’s time for revenge.

Tea, a bone witch who can resurrect the dead, is done with her self-imposed exile. She now possesses all seven bezoars she needs to revive the powerful daeva. With the help of these terrible monsters, she can finally enact her revenge against the royals who wronged her and took the life of her one true love.

Alliances and allegiances are shifting, and danger lurks in and out of the kingdom. But Tea’s heart is set on vengeance, even if it turns her against her now-estranged brother, who supports her enemies. War is brewing, and when dark magic is at play, no one is safe.

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Excerpt from The Heart Forger:

He does not look so formidable, I lied to myself, staring at the warped, decaying body before me. I can defeat his will. I will break him. It is a wonder what Mykkie had ever seen in him.
It was not the first time I had deceived myself in this manner. Neither was this the first time I had raised King Vanor from the grave. But if I repeated that mantra enough times, I thought I could finally believe my words.
The dead king refused to look at me, his eyes distant. The royal crypts were built to strike both fear and awe in those who visited, but I had grown accustomed to the stone faces looking down at me with quiet scrutiny from their high precipices. But King Vanor’s continued silence unnerved me every time—more than I cared to admit.
“A wise philosopher once said,” Fox drawled from the shadows, “that doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result is the mark of a fool.”
“Why do I bring you along?”
“Well, a wise philosopher once said—”
Read More here…

Review

In both The Bone Witch and The Heart Forger Tea has a so-called bard, who accompanies her on her path to personal justice. It is important to Tea that there is someone to hear the truth, her truth, and for that person to tell future generations what really happened. To an outsider she appears to be violent, irrational and capable of extreme actions, and that is why she needs the bard to see and experience beyond the lies of her enemies. Then again perhaps she has just been driven insane like all the other dark asha before her.

The bond between Fox and Tea started to unravel slowly but surely in The Bone Witch. The siblings, who once fought side by side are now on opposite sides. As far as Tea is concerned this is unforgivable, how can her brother support the very people who killed her true love. Fox on the other hand has always been concerned about the darkness inside his sister. Now she is on the warpath and is preparing for battle, it seems as if his instincts just might have been right.

The beauty of this series isn’t just the immaculate world-building, strong characters, the fascinating plot and the intricate descriptive writing, it is also the metamorphosis of Tea. The inquisitive young girl, who is filled with immense power and lives by a strong sense of wrong and right, morphs into a dark vengeful being driven by anger and a need to punish those she perceives to be the guilty.

Chupeco is an extremely talented writer. Her creativity knows no bounds, and her characters evoke empathy even when they are bent on destruction and revenge. I would like to see the author expand beyond the restrictions of YA, her thought processes are complex and her plots compelling. A true gem of the genre, and perhaps still a wee bit underrated. The Heart Forger is a fantastic read.

Buy The Heart Forger at Amazon Uk Goodreads Amazon com Barnes & Noble BooksaMillion Indigo IndieBound

Buy The Bone Witch at Amazon Uk  Goodreads Amazon com Barnes & Noble  BooksaMillion Indigo IndieBound

Buy The Suffering at Amazon Uk  Amazon com Barnes & Noble BooksaMillion Indigo IndieBound

Read my review of The Bone Witch

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The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

Later today it is my turn on the BlogTour for The Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco, the second part in The Bone Witch series. I absolutely adored the first part, The Bone Witch, which is why I decided to feature a pre-taste of Chupeco’s talent.

About the book

When Tea accidentally resurrects her dead brother, she learns she is a different from the other witches in her family.  Her gift for necromancy makes her a bone witch, who are feared and ostracized in her community.  But she finds solace and guidance with an older, wiser bone witch, who takes Tea and her brother to another land for training. There Tea learns to wield her magic in the face of dark forces and the deceit of those who would plot against her, including the ruling royals, who are waging their own war for control of the land.

Told from Tea’s perspective while she waits in exile, collecting the strength and force to combat those who killed her one true love, and a visiting Bard’s perspective, this is another magical tale woven by The Girl from the Well author.

Review

I loved the writing and the descriptive style, it fits well with the flow of the story. Chupeco takes the reader to the past, the present and also Tea in the future. The future speaks of darkness and vengeance, the past of pain and death, and the present of uncertainty and discovery.

The parallels between the asha and Geisha’s are an interesting element of the story. Women are considered entertainment for the men, and yet the asha are also revered at the same time. Tea finds it difficult to reconcile her inner turbulence with the dainty and effeminate skills her peers excel at.

She finds a home thanks to Lady Mykaela, who intends to train her as a dark asha, but first she is asked to follow all orders blindly and instead of exciting learning opportunities she becomes nothing more than a skivvy.

The ability to read a person via their heartglass is such an interesting concept. It leaves doors open for discrimination, judgements and exclusions. Mykaela can see the potential in Tea, but has no idea just how much power she has, and neither does Tea. Unfortunately the power also escapes on occasion, which is code for loss of control.

One of Tea’s lighter dark moments is raising her beloved brother from the dead, which binds them in a way they both find it hard to cope with, especially when he starts to defy the strange connection they have.

Throughout the story the reader is given a glimpse of what Tea becomes and is heading towards, and it isn’t pretty. Which event or betrayal turns her into the powerful bone witch with an axe to grind? The dark being intent on destroying those who have wronged her.

This was hands down one of my favourite reads of 2017. Chupeco is incredibly talented, has masses of potential, and deserves to be right up there with the big names in the Fantasy genre. This is YA, so I would really like to see the author let loose beyond the borders and restrictions of young adult.

Buy The Bone Witch at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

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Visit RinChupeco.com

Come back a little later for the BlogTour for The Heart Forger (The Bone Witch #2), the sequel to The Bone Witch!

A Summer of Witches by M. Ganendran

About the Author

M. Ganendran is the author of three books; The Song of the Mermaid, The Guardians of Rainbow Tower and A Summer of Witches. She enjoys writing stories that are suitable for children and young adults, yet which could captivate anyone.

Work is in progress for a new novel to be released in 2018. Sim’s Magic Windmill will tell the story of a twelve year old girl who finds herself a reluctant heroine in a quest to save Scotland from evil forces intent on destruction. Throughout her journey, Sim must contend with her own personal struggles with Crohn’s Disease, and comes to terms with her condition.

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Buy A Summer of Witches

About the book

Wartime witches, ghosts and smugglers abound in this dual-time supernatural mystery story.

In the summer of 1940, twelve year olds Lawrence and Rachel are evacuated to the village of Burley in the New Forest. One night, they witness a group of people dressed in strange clothing creeping into the woods. Before long, they find themselves drawn into an adventure while the very future of their country is at stake.

In 1990, teenagers Nick and Molly uncover a diary in the attic which belonged to Molly’s grandmother who was evacuated to Burley 50 years before. The diary hints at extraordinary events but creates more questions than answers before coming to an abrupt end. As they are drawn further into danger, can Nick and Molly find out what really happened in 1940?

Review

The story is split into past and present, the reader follows Lawrence and Rachel in the 1940’s, as war refugees evacuated to the countryside, and Nick and Molly in 1990 in the same village. Nick and Molly discover her grandmother’s diary she wrote as a child evacuee. It hints at a mystery, so the two them start snooping around to discover the truth.

Lawrence and Rachel experience the trauma of being separated from their parents, friends and family members. They are thrown together due to a mix-up, but eventually learn to support and depend on each other. The constant fear of being left an orphan is balanced out by the almost mundane problems they experience in their new home and school. The village children and the evacuees are at odds with each other, and not everyone is happy about having to take strangers into their homes. The children not only have to deal with the difficulties of dealing with their peers, growing up and family secrets, they also discover their own hidden potential.

The four children find themselves drawn into a world of vengeance and witchcraft. A world of supernatural power that has been hiding in the depths of the forests waiting to make a move. A secret coven is the only thing standing between the lurking evil and a viable threat against the country. What can they do to curtail the evil that is waiting to pounce and destroy anyone in its path?

This is suitable for middle-grade, YA and of course older readers. The author wants readers of all ages to be able to read and enjoy her work. What seems like an emotional read turns into a wild adventure, the kind of exciting adventure that will thrill young minds. Wild powers, secret gatherings, mysterious forests and the fact two twelve-year-old children have to try and save the world, are what make A Summer of Witches an entertaining read.

Buy A Summer of Witches  (Kindle- also available on Kindle Unlimited) at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Buy A Summer of Witches (Paperback)

Buy The Guardians of Rainbow Tower

Buy The Song of the Mermaid

Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index by Julie Israel

juniper.jpgThe idea itself is lovely. Dealing with grief by tracking it daily via a happiness index. For each person the index would be different of course, because what makes one person smile or feel a moment of happiness isn’t always the same for another person.

Think about what kind of things make you happy each day. Even the smallest things count. A memory, an interaction, a piece of chocolate or perhaps just relaxing after a long day.

Since the death of her sister Camilla, Juniper has been desperately trying to find her happy. She is so grief stricken that she is trying to grasp what she can from life.

She is also trying to fulfil what she believes to be her sister’s last wish. A letter to her love. So Juniper takes it upon herself to find the mysterious recipient. She is also really invested in making the people around her happy. She does this by playing matchmaker, by saving those around her from possible negative thoughts and bad intentions.

In her quest to survive day by day and to not crumble under the weight of her personal loss, Juniper inadvertently finds herself building friendships, experiencing love and learning a few hard lessons along the way.

The focus is on the people left behind, as opposed to a lot of books that seem to make the dead the main characters. What’s done is done and those who are gone aren’t coming back, so let’s concentrate on the living.

The author tries not to delve too far into the teen drama or rather make the scenarios too candy floss sweet or unicorn eccentric. It is passionate without being soppy, witty without being ridiculous and is realistic in a down-to-earth way.

Definitely a read I would recommend.

Buy Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

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The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

flora banksThis book is one of those little gems shining through in a sea of books.

Barr manages to present a rather tragic story with an incredible amount of humour, love and compassion.

The reader meets two versions of Flora, actually make that three, because there is also an in-between grey area. We meet docile Flora, the girl who follows rules and listens to her parents. Then there is Flora the impulsive adventurer. The girl who is off her meds. Third Flora is the girl who exists in the confusion of post-tablets and pre-clarity.

Flora has problems with her short term memory. She relies on post-it notes, written messages on her arms and a handwritten book of memory props to get along every day.

Now at this point I have to wag a finger at any a parent who would leave a vulnerable child, teen or young adult alone based on the assumption that another teen will be looking in on them. Teenagers can be as flighty as birds and as dramatic as a reality TV show character on LSD.

So Flora is left to her own devices and ends up coming off her medication. Even before that she spends an unhealthy amount of time obsessing about being kissed by her best friend’s boyfriend. The kiss becomes a pivotal part of the story, her obsession and a possible recovery.

Her search for Drake is a bold one, but it is also one ridden with dangers. The fact she is lucky enough to encounter people who care, which is perhaps a scenario we all wish for, if one of our children were alone and in trouble. Flora is halfway across the globe searching for love, and the only person who is aware of her exploits is her brother.

Barr makes an important point when it comes to vulnerable people and independence. Are they hindered by their loved ones when it comes to evolving, growing up and being able to make their own decisions? The gut instinct to keep them safe may also be the factor keeping them from moving forwards.

I really enjoyed the read. It is funny without being insulting, it is realistic without bending the boundaries of imagination and it definitely pulls on the heartstrings. I would love to know what Flora gets up to next. At this rate she may end up in a tent on top of Mount Everest.

Buy The One Memory of Flora Banks at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

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Read The Truth and Lies of Ella Black by Emily Barr

Moon Chosen by P.C. Cast

moon-chosenThe beginning is a little vague on specifics or rather too specific on the dystopian world building, but with no info to go on. It takes a while to be able to see through the maze of branches and groups of new world people, and comprehend the plot.

All I can say is, stick with it. A few chapters in it starts to make a lot more sense and becomes quite an interesting read.

Moon Chosen is set in a world after technology and long after the destruction of society as we know it now. The surviving humans have split into different groups with their own newly built structures and rules. Unfortunately they all view each other as mortal enemies. The Tree people hunt and enslave the Earth Walkers and the Skin Eaters aren’t fussy they will kill and eat anyone.

Mari is a hybrid of two groups, a fact her mother keeps well hidden, because it also means she will be accepted by neither if they discover the truth.

The book is filled with the magic pulled from natural resources, such as the sun, the moon and the earth. The only thing left to rely on when all else has dwindled to to dust and ruin.

There are some tough scenes, which put the book towards the older end of YA for me. Gang rape puts it more in the sub-genre of NA, as far as I am concerned.

The epilogue seems to introduce a further story in the series with a character who just stumbles in towards the end. The emphasis appears to be on single characters and their animal counterparts, which is a shame. I do think the story Cast has built up in Moon Chosen is vast enough to be developed further without throwing in random mate selections whether they be human or not. More dystopian world and less urban fantasy methinks.

Buy Moon Chosen at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.