According to her website, Zoraida Cordova says, “(I) write YA Urban Fantasy about mermaids and other things that go bump in the night. I also write about 20-something-year-old-girls searching for love and the meaning of life. I often wish my life were a cross between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Sex and the City. I’m a contributing writer to Latinos in Kid Lit because #WeNeedDiverseBooks.” Her newest novel is Labyrinth Lost.
Alex is a bruja in a family of powerful witches. But Alex doesn’t want her powers. She wants to be normal. She’s hated magic for years, ever since it made her father disappear. Instead of a Quinceañera, Alex prepares for her Death Day: the most important event in a witch’s life, and her one chance to get rid of her magic.
But the curse she performs during the ceremony goes wrong, and her entire family disappears, leaving her alone and with all of their magic. Nova is the only one she can turn to, a brujo with ambitions of his own. They must travel to Los Lagos, a land in-between two places that makes Wonderland look like a cartoon fairy tale.
The characters in Labyrinth Lost are so vivid they almost step off the page. The magic system is unique (with a hint of the feel of voodoo). Alex is conflicted over her heritage, but not her love of her family, and she grows so much in this book. There are a few twists in the book that will catch the reader by surprise.
(Galley provided by Sourcebooks Fire via NetGalley.)
Catherine Carvell was born in England but moved to Australia at age 8. She loved nature and stories, so she studied biology and journalism. Now she lives in Singapore with her family and pet turtles.Darcy Moon and the Aroona Frogs is her first middle-grade book.
Darcy Moon has enough problems, her father’s wacky job and her mom’s hairy armpits are just the tip of the iceberg. When she wanders into the local swamp and an old turtle asks for her help, she is understandably freaked out. The Aroona frogs are disappearing, and Darcy is an Earth Guardian. She has to help, but she’s up against a local millionaire while she tries fix the food-chain and save the swamp. And that doesn’t count the talking frogs.
Darcy Moon and the Aroona Frogs is a unique, humorous middle-grade book dealing with environmental issues, greed, and quirky families. It’s totally worth reading…and I don’t even have kids!
(Galley provided by Star Bright Books via NetGalley.)
Cristy Watson is a teacher who writes poetry and YA. Her newest story is Cutter Boy.
Travis is bullied at school and ignored at home. He has no one to talk to. The only thing that gives him peace is cutting himself with a razor blade. When he meets new girl Chyvonne at school, he wants to get to know her better, but he’s afraid she’ll find out his secret.
As Travis grows closer to Chyvonne, he wonders what causes his mother to hate him so much. Then he finds the art of paper cutting, which seems to be the only other option to make himself feel better. Will Travis ever win his struggle with self-harm?
Cutter Boy is a difficult and dark short novel that delves into an area seldom explored in literature: self-harm among guys. Travis’ journey is wrenching and emotionally gripping.
Jenni Fagan is a poet, screenwriter, and the author of short stories, essays, articles, plays, and novels. She has won prestigious awards, including Scottish Author of the Year (2016) and one of the Granta Best of Young British Novelists (2013). Her newest novel is The Sunlight Pilgrims.
In November of 2020, the world is freezing over. The consequences of global warming are in full effect. The ice caps are melting. There’s snow in Israel. The Thames is overflowing. People are fleeing London for warmer temperatures to the south. But Dylan is headed north to bury the ashes of his mother and grandmother in the Scottish islands they came from.
Twelve-year-old Estella and her survivalist mother, Constance, live in a Highlands caravan, getting by scavenging the landfill for things to restore and trade. Stella is not who she one was, and Constance is fiercely protective of who her child is, and of her own choices. When Dylan arrives, he will change both their lives as they wait for the worsening winter to arrive.
This is a beautiful, evocative book filled with compelling characters. The potential return of the ice Age—set only four years from now!—adds a chilling backdrop to the experiences of the characters. Very well-done and worth reading.
(Galley provided by Crown Publishing via NetGalley.)
Elise A. Miller is a fitness instructor and a writer of both fiction and essays. Her first novel, Star Craving Mad, was first published in 2004. Tracing the Bonesis her second novel.
Eve Myers is a housewife haunted by her husband’s long-ago affair. She has two kids, chronic back pain, and scribbles story ideas on scraps of paper as she drifts numbly through her monotonous life. Until a new family moves into the house next door.
Now Eve is obsessed with beautiful life coach Anna and sexy alternative healer Billy. Anna has abilities Eve never imagined, and Billy is haunted by a dark, troubled past. While Eve starts healing sessions with Billy, tragedy strikes, drawing Eve into a tangled web of suspicion and sending her marriage careening towards a precipice of mistrust and betrayal.
Tracing the Bones is a compelling, intriguing story about flawed characters and their struggles. I understood—and sympathized—with Eve’s pain as well as her curiosity. The aftermath of tragedy, and Eve’s ever-deepening involvement in the darkness offered her a chance at resolution and redemption. I enjoyed this book very much.
Georgia Clark is from Sydney, but now lives in New York City. She has been in a band, worked as a freelance journalist, and as a copywriter. The Regulars is her first adult novel, and she has young adult novels on the shelf as well.
Evie, Krista, and Willow are best friends living in New York City. They are regular twenty-somethings with average looks and typical problems, like making rent, online dating, and making a difference in a job that makes a mockery of what they believe.
Until they come across Pretty, a magical potion that makes them beautiful, giving them a chance to discover what looking like a supermodel can give you in life. Pretty opens unexpected doors for them, but it has a darker side, too. Soon the friends must decide the answer to the question, “What would you sacrifice to be Pretty?”
Evie, Krista, and Willow are regular girls—girls all women can relate to, and they have real problems and real struggles. The Regulars is about these problems, but about larger problems as well, like the objectification of women and lies and manipulation in the dating world. There are some funny moments in this book, but it made me think about life—and about society and its faults. Don’t read this thinking it will be light and fluffy, this books deals with much deeper issues, and the characters are believable, people we would all enjoy being friends with.
Elizabeth Jane Howard was a model and actress turned novelist. She published Getting it Rightin 1982, and it was made into a movie a few years later.
Gavin Lamb is a 31-year-old hair dresser in London. He still lives at home. He’s shy beyond measure. And he has a fear of interacting with people. He likes Mozart and Tolstoy, but women scare him, even his overbearing, neurotic mother, who wants to control every facet of his and his father’s lives.
Then Gavin gets forced to attend a party, and his life changes forever when he meets two women: the colorful Joan, rich and married; and Minnie Munday, a party-crasher who claims to be royalty. Gavin has never seen so much crazy in one place, but these two women will teach him about finding true love.
Getting it Right is an interesting read about sometimes-colorful characters. I didn’t realize it was published in in 1982 when I was asked to review it, so the setting took me a few minutes to assimilate to. Gavin initially reminded me of Ignatius J. Reilly in A Confederacy of Dunces, but he grew so much as a character that that comparison faded from my mind.
(Galley provided by Open Road Integrated Media via NetGalley.)
Chris Spriggs had run several big races—marathons, half-marathons—when his uncle was diagnosed with motor neurone disease. His reaction to his uncle’s diagnosis led Chris to places he never imagined. The Reason I Run tells the tale.
Motor neurone disease, a group of diseases the most well-know of which is ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), affects the voluntary muscles of the body and eventually results in death. But before that, MND causes those who suffer from it to lose control of their body. What they could do before the disease is just a memory. So when Andrew Spriggs, runner of 39 marathons, was diagnosed with it, he knew his racing days were over.
But his nephew, Chris, decided to fight that fate. Instead, he started training to run the Brighton Marathon…while pushing Andrew’s wheelchair, giving his uncle one last chance to race. The obstacles were many: getting permission to push a wheelchair in a race, finding a strategy to keep Andrew secure, training in the rain and the snow, and Chris’ own issues with abandonment and loss. Through it all, the two men persevered, chasing their own personal dreams in the face of overwhelming odds.
The Reason I Run is a first-hand look at one family’s struggle with a horrible disease that transforms their reality. The book is honest, and doesn’t pull any punches with the truth of MND, but will also inspire readers, both the runners and those who do not run.
Raeford “Junebug” Hurley has had a hard life. At the age of eight, his parents die, and he goes to live with his grandparents on their tiny farm. There he meets Fancy Stroud and her brother Lightning, children of black sharecroppers, and they become fast friends, almost unheard of in 1950’s North Carolina. Tobacco farming is hard, desperate work, and Junebug is grateful for Fancy’s support when things grow even harder, and soon they are more than friends.
A moneymaking scheme gone bad and a visit from the KKK have Junebug and Fancy setting out in search of different dreams. She, a place free from the casual bigotry and hatred that infuse every day in the rural South. He, looking for a place he feels at home, a place where his darkest secrets will be safe. The connection between Junebug and Fancy is strong, but will it be strong enough to withstand war and thousands of miles of distance?
The Last Road Home is a deep, emotional book about friendship and love in the midst of hardship and hatred. This is not an uplifting, breezy novel, but one with unexpected depths that delves into the darkness inside us all. The ending was not what I had hoped for, but it was true to the story. This is well-worth reading.
(Galley provided by Kensington Books via NetGalley.)