Monday, 19 September 2016

Blog Tour: Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter - Review & Book Excerpt!

Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

Publishing Date: September 20, 2016
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Pages: 304
Young Adult Magical Realism/Fantasy

The Premise from the Publisher: "In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they've arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now-but not Vassa's working-class neighborhood. In Vassa's neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling out again could become an issue. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters-and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa's stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission. But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg's help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch's curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won't be playing fair...." (TDA).

My overall thoughts and review: For starters, one thing that I left out in the premise is that the book is based on an old Russian fairy tale/folktale called "Vasillisa The Beautiful" - if you haven't heard of it before, a quick google search gives you the premise, but essentially, it is more along the lines of "Grimm/Anderson" in terms of fairy tales instead of the "Disney" version we are used to. So I think that knowing that it is a modern interpretation on the original tale is important before you plunge into the book. That said, you can easily read it without knowing it, but I found it really helped me understand certain aspects of the book. The book follows Vassa and her wooden doll, Erg, as they go out searching for light bulbs from the terrifying Babs Yagg (Baba Yaga - in the original! I liked that Porter kept all the names close to the original source text) and from there, things get quite complicated. I would characterize this book as magical realism as its finest. I love reading magical realism books and I found that Porter did an amazing job incorporating an old fairy tale into modern day Brooklyn. The story does move quite quickly and sometimes, it can be quite hard to keep up with the weirdness that Vassa encounters, but I think that is what I enjoyed about it so much. I loved how it kind of reminded me of "Alice in Wonderland." I never read the old fairy tale in it's entirety but I knew bits about it and overall, it had that very topsy turvy feel that I enjoy in books. I like when you don't know where the text is going next because then it isn't predictable and that is exactly what Porter delivers. I also really enjoyed the relationship between Erg and Vassa.. so much so that sometimes, I forgot that Erg was a wooden doll in Vassa's pocket. My favorite parts were definitely the dialogue between the two. Overall, I would recommend this book for fans of magical realism who want a good YA read about friendship, family and loss.

My rating of the book: ✮✮✮✮ (4/5 stars)

Now available for purchase at:
Chapters/Indigo, Kobo Books, Amazon and Book Depository (Free Worldwide Shipping)

And as part of the blog tour, some stops will have an excerpt from the book! I have the prelude to share with you all today. So give it a read! Hopefully along with my review.. that will be enough to nudge you to run out and pick up a copy! ;)

Excerpt from Vassa in the Night: "Prologue" 
When Night looked down, it saw its own eyes staring back at it. Two big black eyes, both full of stars. At first Night ignored them. Probably that strange gaze was its own reflection in a puddle, or maybe in a mirror left shattered in the street. Then it noticed something that made it curious: those eyes were full of stars, but the constellations inside them were unfamiliar. It was like gazing into the sky above another world. 
Night decided to investigate. It reached out tendrils of darkness to examine this odd phenomenon. The eyes nestled, as eyes often will, inside a human face, at the top of a strong man’s body. But how could night— another, different, unimaginable Night— live inside a human being? 
The man waited, unmoving, on a dark field ringed by houses. Between his widened lids stars flurried through expanding black. Planets circulated like blood. Night had never seen anything so much like itself before, and a terrible longing surged through it. Maybe, finally, it had found a companion; maybe it was saved from being forever alone! 
Night drew closer to him, and then closer still. The man waited, as rigid as death. He did not react in the slightest when Night came and perched on his cheekbones to get a better look. It breathed across his lashes and set them trembling. The man did not answer, not even with a blink. When Night shyly kissed him he felt very cold.  
All of that should have been enough to make Night wary. It should have drawn back in alarm, floated safely above the streetlamps. But Night had been lonely for too long, and it forgot all about caution. It did not even notice that the man’s face had peculiar coloring: pearly grayish white from the bottom of the nose down and coal black above. All that interested Night was what it saw inside his eyes. A meteor shot through their depths trailing brilliance after it. Night yearned, more than anything, to follow that streaking light. 
If only it had been honest with itself, it would have admitted that the situation was suspicious. But Night, which hides everything in folds of shadow, is not in the habit of honesty. Since the man did not react to its caresses, it decided to touch him more deeply. A bit nervously, it stroked between his eyelids. His skull seemed to be hollow. He wasn’t breathing. Night prodded again, curling a dark tendril through one empty socket. But the man still didn’t move or even smile. Didn’t he notice that Night was there? Didn’t he realize Night loved him? Having gone already so far, too far, Night lost all restraint and licked and coiled its way into those eyes. It tried to speak. To beg for some reply.
And then the eyelids snapped shut, slicing right though Night’s soft body.

Please be sure to check out the other stops on the blog tour for more content! ;) 

Disclaimer: An advanced reader's copy of this book was sent to me by Raincoast Books and the excerpt was also sent over to me by Raincoast Books. The excerpt is written by Sarah Porter and comes directly from the published book. All opinions are my own. 

Monday, 12 September 2016

Blog Tour: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova - Review and Author Q&A!

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova

Publishing Date: September 6, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Pages: 336 pages
Young Adult Fantasy Adventure

The Premise from the Publisher: "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" (Sourcebooks).

My overall thoughts and review: I've always had a fascination with narratives that include Deathday celebrations/Day of the dead. I'm not completely familiar with all the components of it, but something about the Latin American tradition just immediately draws me in. I was quite curious to see how this story would unravel and let me say now that the premise does not do it justice. I went in expecting this book to be about Alex and Nova, but it was so much more than that. Firstly, Alex's relationship with her family plays a big role in the book. How she interacts with her mother and also her siblings is a big part. You get to see the dynamic within the family and I found myself really empathizing with Alex when she was dealing with her mom. This book reminds you that family is such an important part regardless of what tradition you follow. Also, another character (my favorite character tbh) that is quite important is Rishi! Rishi is Alex's bestfriend and you see in the beginning that Alex really struggles with wanting to tell Rishi about her powers. It is also very hard to be bestfriends with someone and keep such an important part of your life hidden from them. I won't spoil anything but I just loved how everything developed. The fact that friendship and family were the center of the book made my heart very happy. Onto the magic component.. I want to say a bit about this. I don't know much about brujas in general, but I really liked the concept of how magic was used. There is recoil for every time magic is used. For example, when Alex's sister Lula "heals" people, bruises form on Lula. But I really liked how the power comes from "who" they are. Lula is a healer by nature and how she wants to simply do good, and it reflects in her power. Overall, I thought this was a wonderful and fun read about traditions, magic, family, friendship and discovering one self. I would highly recommend it! I mention later (in this post) that this is apparently the first book in the series, and according to goodreads, the series will be called "Brooklyn Brujas" - I'm so excited for this. I really hope to see more of the secondary characters in the next book! I want to see more of Lula & Rose :D

My rating of the book:  (4/5 stars) 

And now it is time for the Author Q&A! For the blog tour, Zoraida has taken the time to answer a question for each blogger! Check it out: 

Author Question and Answer

1. Which character do you relate to most in the book?
I want to say that I relate to Alex Mortiz the most. When I was a kid, I felt just as lost as she does. I wanted to be normal, but didn’t feel that way. I rebelled in different ways than Alex. Instead of sending my family to another dimension, I did it through rock music and dressing in all black and spiked jewelry. Alex does not have an easy life. She has to swallow her emotions. She keeps her truth and fears hidden in a way that isn’t healthy. It gives her anxiety and stress. As her power becomes stronger, and she lets herself be herself, she changes. She becomes more confident. She learns to trust herself. Trusting your own judgement is something that she has to earn. In addition to all of this, I wanted to give Alex a very humble background. I grew up in a single parent home. My mom was a single mother, though I had my uncles and my grandmother to be part of my childhood. I never felt like I was missing anything, but Alex does. Alex and my mother are both hard working people. My mom worked hard. She moved to a country where she didn’t speak the language. She went to night school after working all day so she can  provide better for my brother and me. She’s my inspiration for everything I do and achieve. It takes Alex a big lesson and mistake to appreciate her family, but she gets there.
Thank you so much, Zoraida for answering my question. Alex's relationship with her mother was a storyline that I felt drawn to the most. I believe this is the first book in a new series and I honestly can't wait to pick up what Zoraida writes next! This was such an enjoyable book! I want to thank Zoraida again for answering questions for us bloggers. I also want to thank the lovely friends over at Raincoast for organizing this blog tour. Please be sure to check out the other bloggers on the tour!: 
Disclaimer: An advanced reader's copy of the book was provided by Raincoast Books for participation in the book tour. All opinions of the book are my own.