Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova (Book Review)

I have been waiting to read this for SO LONG! I'm too cheap to buy hardcovers generally--why buy them when I can get TWO trade papers for basically the same price?--so I've been hovering and waiting for Labyrinth Lost to come out in paperback. I follow the author, Zoraida Córdova, on Twitter, and the hype for this book had me in a tizzy. 

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From Goodreads: 

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 she can’t trust, but who may be Alex’s only chance at saving her family. 

Going into this I wasn't very familiar with the Latin magic mythos, and I found the newness of it engaging and exciting. I loved that the book didn't pander to readers by over-emphasizing Spanish words, because italicizing every non-English word is a huge pet peeve of mine. 

Alex was a really interesting character; she was deeply flawed, but also likeable, which had me Team Alex all the way. Even though I REALLY wanted to love Rishi, and the ensuing bisexual love triangle, I really had a hard time with it. I didn't find the circumstances that had Rishi join in on the action to be believable, and the love triangle came out of nowhere and felt forced in a lot of places. And it really bothered me that the only thing I really knew about Rishi by the end of the book is that she's quirky and wears funny clothes, and that she had been in love with Alex for a while. 

My issues with the romantic plot and development of Rishi aside, I really did love Labyrinth Lost. The premise was unique and exciting, the pacing of the story was great, and I really loved the world that Zoraida Córdova created. I think it was a master class in writing magical realism, even if the character work suffered a little. 

4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 on Goodreads because they don't do half stars (which is stupid). 

Cork Dork by Bianca Bosker (Book Review)

I love receiving books as presents, and I especially love receiving wine books as presents, so I was overjoyed that my husband had put Cork Dork into my stocking! I've been looking forward to reading it since it was published last March, but for some reason I hadn't ended up buying it for myself. As soon as all of the presents were open, and the paper had been hastily cleaned up, I dove right in. 

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From Goodreads:

Like many of us, tech reporter Bianca Bosker saw wine as a way to unwind at the end of a long day, or a nice thing to have with dinner and that was about it. Until she stumbled on an alternate universe where taste reigned supreme, a world in which people could, after a single sip of wine, identify the grape it was made from, in what year, and where it was produced down to the exact location, within acres. Where she tasted wine, these people detected not only complex flavor profiles, but entire histories and geographies. Astounded by their fanatical dedication and seemingly superhuman sensory powers, Bosker abandoned her screen-centric life and set out to discover what drove their obsession, and whether she, too, could become a cork dork.

I was excited about the premise--a journalist abandoning her comfortable job in order to pursue wine fill time--and for the most part I was with Bianca all the way. It bugged me that she leveraged her connections to weasel her way into competitions and events that normally would have required skill in order to participate because it meant that she was taking a spot away from someone who might have earned it, but other than those few issues I really loved the book. It delved into the science behind olfactory sensing and how the brain reacts to sommelier training without being overwhelming, and experiencing her descent into the wine world, and it's ensuing obsession, was fascinating. 

You don't have to enjoy wine in order to enjoy Bianca's journey, but you'll probably come out the other side with an appreciation for the art of wine making and the industry as a whole. 

5 stars. I'd give more if I could, but that would defeat the purpose of a 5 star rating system, wouldn't it?