Blog Tour: Court of Lions by Somaiya Daud

Title: Court of Lions
Author: Somaiya Daud
Series: Mirage #2
Pub Date: August, 4th

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Following the events of Mirage, Court of Lions follows two identical girls with very different lives. Maram is a princess, the heir to a powerful empire. Amani is a rebel, the daughter of farmers, kidnapped to be Maram’s body double.

I read Mirage just a couple of months ago and I was hooked from the first chapter. The introduction to this world,  a well-lived and complex world set in space inspired by Moroccan culture, kept me reading. But it was Amani who settled this book as a favorite. From that first chapter we see her bravery and strength, she’s a survivor, and there’s nothing that she wouldn’t do for her people and family. That’s the kind of character that I love with all my heart.

Court of Lions is a story of resistance and power sprinkled with sapphic longing and beautiful writing. Hands down, one my favorite conclusions.

credit to me (iamrainbou)

Like I have said, something I keep coming back to Mirage is the writing. This series talks a lot about poetry and the power of words, and the writing almost feels poetic. It’s lyrical and beautiful, it flows so well. 

There’s almost a sad tone to the story; we feel Amani’s fear for her family and herself, her pain for everything lost by the hands of the colonizers. And we feel Maram and her grief, for her mother and her culture. These themes of colonization, resistance, grief, identity are complex and painful, but Somaiya always gives us hope.

This series is not exactly character-driven, we have an entire revolution plot going around, but it is character focus. We have such a great insight into Amani’s, and now Maram’s, mind, about their personal stakes and thoughts. Revolutions are for the community, the greater good, but rebellions happen with individuals and they have their own personal fears and dreams. That’s something I deeply adore with books that deal with resistance; looking at the whole picture and then all the little pieces that make it. I love when we are reminded that revolutions are more than ideas.

We follow these two girls, sisters, and their everyday resistance. I love it.

But don’t worry, the action was great and the pacing is just perfect in the story. Every chapter would leave me at the edge of my seat, turning the next page to make sure everyone was safe.

The plot, the writing, the world-building, I adore everything but for me the characters and their relationship are what makes this book shine.

In Court of Lions we get dual points of view, both Amani and Maram get to tell their own story. I adore the insight to Maram’s character. In the first book, I could see her personal conflict, but just glimpses between her relationship with Amani. Here, hearing her feelings, hopes and pain, was incredible. 

I loved Amani from that first chapter: she’s resilient, loyal and fierce. She’s more powerful that she realizes and in this book she grows so much. But it’s also very painful for her, realizing she’s not the farmer girl from the beginning, that she’s almost unrecognizable to herself. I felt that. We do what we have to survive, but we also grief for our past selves, for our past lives. As an immigrant, I felt Amani’s heartbreak in my soul.

Now Maram, Maram is my queen, I loved her too. Sure, when we meet her it is hard to know if she would be an ally or an enemy. She’s so much more than that. There’s a lot of growth and healing she has to do. It was incredible to see Maram slowly opening up to relationships, to love, to vulnerability. To survive, she had to lock her emotions, her grief for her mother, turn her back from her heritage. To see her in this book embracing her feelings, falling in love, reconnecting with her culture, it was my favorite part of the book.

credit to me (iamrainbou)

I mentioned the characters’ relationships before and I thought I would dedicate a separate space for the sisterhood and romance, as there’s a LOT to talk about and I have a LOT of love for these familial and platonic relationships. 

The sisterhood, for sure, is one of the most important things of this series. Siblings can change your life. They make you grow, they push you to be the best version of yourself, they get into your nerves, they fiercely love you, they stand by your side. This is the kind of relationship I have with my brothers, I know not everyone is privileged as me to have supportive siblings, please know I see you ❤

Amani and Maram’s relationship is complicated for sure: Amani’s a slave in Maram’s household and their lives couldn’t be any different. But unlikable friendships are my favorite thing, and unlikable friendships that keep growing to sisterhood? YES YES YES.

It’s through their relationship that they both grow and the plot moves along. They push each other to confront their ideas, to fight for their dreams, to do the impossible to protect the other. And yes, I refuse to think of their relationship like nothing less than sisterhood.

The romance, oh the romance! All the screaming I did when I found out this book would be sapphic. I did a lot of screaming for sure. A lot. Like I mentioned, I love Maram and here she gets a girlfriend! Aghraas is wonderful: a warrior, who is not afraid of being honest or vulnerable. The longing! The slowly falling for each other! Chef’s kiss all around. If you think here it’s where I lost my mind, you would be corrected. The 2020 sapphics not only saved the year, but also fixed my soul and cleared my skin. Thank you.


Mirage by Somaiya Daud is, hands down, one of the best YA SFF series that I have ever read. I mean, you may have guessed it after all the rambling I did. Stories about resistance, revolution and hope are so important and powerful. Combined with a beautiful f/f romance and one of the best sibling relationships, it makes this series a perfect read.


Somaiya Daud is the author of Mirage and holds a PhD from the University of Washington in English literature. A former bookseller in the children’s department at Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C., now she writes and teaches full time.

Thank you so much Caffeine Book Tours, I was honored to be part of this tour. Please take a moment to check out my follow hosts blog posts in this thread!

Middle Grade Recommendations For Every Occasion

Hello friends,

You know I love middle-grade books A LOT so I thought I could do a recommendation post with some of my favorite middle-grades. From graphic novels to spooky books, there’s a mix of everything for everyone!

I was inspired by the announcement of Middle Grade Magic Readathon happening from August 1st to August 16th. Check out their twitter thread for more info.


Graphic Novels

Book covers of Sheets by Brenna Thummler, Sincerely Harriet by Sarah Winifred Searle, Stargazing by Jen Wang and The Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag.

Sheets by Brenna Thummler. This story has ghosts, evil adults and a kid who’s just trying her hardest. It’s a story with soft and delightful art, charming characters and a very bittersweet tone. Making friends with ghosts while also dealing with grief. At the moment I felt very frustrated by the “adults-don’t-listen-to-the-kids” thing, but looking back now, this was a very good read.

Sincerely, Harriet by Sarah Winifred Searle. This story is so quiet and beautiful, following a disabled girl (multiple sclerosis) that feels alone in her new home until she meets her neighbor. It was a heartbreaking story, too, with supportive parents and a hopeful ending that I adore.

Stargazing by Jen Wang. Okay, another beautiful story, Cande? Well, yes, my favorite type of middle grade novel! I adore Jen Wang’s art, the colors and characters expressions are spectacular. This story is about friendship and it’s explored in this messy and vulnerable way that I appreciated a lot. It feels so real and bittersweet, and it’s just such an incredible story.

The Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag. Oh this series is so sweet and amazing! All about gender roles, family and friendship. Again, beautiful art with some of my favorite world-building. I adore this family made up of witches and shapeshifters. The story has a complex and complicated family relationship, but it’s still very clear that they all love each other and they want to support Aster.

Spooky and Magical

book covers of Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega, A Dash of Trouble by Anna Meriano, The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste, and The Forgotten Girl by India Hill Brown

Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega. You have to know by now how much I enjoyed this story. But in case you missed it, my review and character interview! This book made me realized that spooky middle grade may be my favorite spooky. Ghost Squad is also a story with funny jokes, great dialogue and unforgettable characters. It balances grief, with the magic and spooky stuff very well, and I feel like this is the perfect story to start your middle grade journey.

A Dash Of Trouble by Anna Meriano. Okay, another series I talk A LOT about on here. But listen, cooking brujas + friendship + annoying older sisters + mischief? Yeah, my dose of happiness right there. I love Leo and the Logroños family a lot, I love Leo’s adventures slash troubles and I love the magic in this world. It’s the type of book that feels like a warm hug while still talking about the complicated feelings of being the youngest sibling and feeling always left out.

The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste. I don’t understand how this series can be so underhyped: very spooky, set in the Caribbean, found family, deals with grief and identity. There’s so much heartbreak in this book, but it’s so delightfully funny. I adore the all the friends Corinne makes and how the entire island always comes back together to stand by her side.

The Forgotten Girl by India Hill Brown. Again, I really love spooky middle-grade; the way books can make you tense up in fear and anticipation of the next page while also having very hilarious moments. This story also has an element of heartbreak as both the ghost and Iris feel invisible as young Black girls in their own families and communities. Brown also handled so well the jealousy and annoyance you feel as older sibling with that fierce, loyal love. This story was incredible and you can read my mini-review here.

Gut-Punching and Funny

Book covers of Pie in the Sky by Remy Lai, Front Desk by Kelly Yang, Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina, The Moon Within by Aida Salazar, and Some Places More Than Others by Renee Watson.

Pie in the Sky by Remy Lai. This story is so precious to my heart. It’s all about immigration, assimilation, grief and sibling relationships. It’s funny and heartbreaking, Remy perfectly captures being an immigrant, a stranger to an entire language, as a kid. There’s so much emotion between these pages and also so much love, it made me so happy. I see myself rereading this book many times.

Front Desk by Kelly Yang. Another story about immigration, a family of Chinese immigrants trying to manage a hotel. This one is also funny, with some of the most heartwarming moments, but it never shies away from talking about racism, anti-Blackness, xenophobia, classicism… What I adore of Kelly Yang’s book is the look at community, how immigrants form families with friends, neighbors and fellow immigrants and how beautiful that looks. This story just gives me so much hope.

Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina. This may be one of the hardest stories in this list because it deals with terminal illness of a grandparent. It’s incredibly heartbreaking how we see Merci’s life changed and her fear and frustration. But it’s also a book sprinkle with so much love, friendship and adorable moments. This is a hard one, but I highly recommended it. Review.

The Moon Within by Aida Salazar. I haven’t talked about this book that much but it’s one of my 2019 highlights. Written in verse it follows a young Mexica-Puerto Rican girl learning about family traditions and growing up. I adore how this book centers in friendship, culture and family and how honest and sometimes messy it is.

Some Places More Than Others by Renee Watson. Talking about family and traditions, that’s exactly what I love from Renee Watson’s story. All about learning about your family and community’s history while exploring a relationship with your grandfather and having honest conversations with your parents. This story was just beautiful. Review.


Have you read any of these middle grade books? Which ones are you personal favorites?

What did I just read: Burn Our Bodies Down

I have been doing so many of these “What did I just read” posts lately, it’s kind of funny that I said at the beginning of the year that I don’t rant. I guess, I have been feeling inspired and I have a lot of things to say. Or maybe this reading year has been full of books that have left me screaming.

Today I’m reviewing slash ranting about Rory Power’s newest book, Burn Our Bodies Down that came out July, 7th.

Basic plot: Burn Our Bodies Down follows Margot and her discovery of her family’s dark past. Margot lives with her negligent mom, who has a terrible temperament and many secrets. She dreams for a supportive family that will unconditional love her, so when she finds her grandmother, she truly believes this her chance. Sadly, things don’t turn out very well for Margot.

Maybe she should have freaking google this weird town before running away by herself. I don’t know, just a thought.

Here this is the thing, this book heavily relays in convenience to move along. Margot never asks or wonders for the things that would give us answers, she conveniently forgets about details she herself pointed out to us before, and she never cares about talking with people.

Don’t get me wrong, Margot has a very neglectful mother and she’s looking for love and support. I’m not frustrated by her communication by these women who are so important to her but also terrify her. No, I’m frustrated by how little she talks with the secondary characters that we’re supposed to care for, characters that we are to believe have a deep relationship with Margot. WHERE?

So if you’re keeping count these are the things I disliked of this book:

  1. The writing
  2. Underdeveloped characters
  3. Convenient plot

Burn Our Bodies Down was marketed as YA horror, but where was the horror. We don’t know, not here definitely. I’ll give it to the book: the ending was upsetting, but it also felt very anticlimactic. The thing is, we spent most of the book trying to find what happened to Margot’s mom, what’s happening in this weird town and who’s this grandma that everyone hates. And fine, it’s fair that the story has some mysteries to unravel, but never feels like it’s building up for the horror. Maybe the book is too short and that’s why I have this feeling of missing content. Or maybe the writing is just so freaking bad, it’s SO repetitive and it goes nowhere. It’s like we’re stuck in this never ending loop of Margot wondering about her grandmother, the farm and her mother. Now I’m thinking maybe that’s the whole point of this story, maybe that’s exactly what Rory Power was creating but it doesn’t feel purposeful. Actually, it just felt underdeveloped and poorly planned.

You know I love character-driven stories, but this novel is not that. So what’s exactly Burn Our Bodies Down about? I have no idea. It had an interesting concept: exploring the relationship of mothers and daughters, but it takes that to… well, nowhere. The ending was so anticlimactic and disappointing, really, because we already knew??? Kind of??? It just feels like we spent so little time with the secondary characters and their relationships with Margot were so bland and superficial. I didn’t care about the plot twists because I didn’t care about what was happening to these characters.

This book has an interesting concept, the plot twists are upsetting, but the characters and writing are so underdeveloped that I closed this book feeling disappointment only. And a little bit of anger because this was such a waste of time.

Also, I just realized that I never mentioned this so adding at the end: Margot is lesbian, which makes this book another case of gays not saving boring plots (check out my review of The Circus Rose). Sorry Margot.


*ARC was provided through Netgalley in exchange of a honest review.*

ARC Review: Lobizona by Romina Garber

Trigger Warnings: menstruation, ICE arrest, discussions about immigration and fear of deportation, homophobia (called out by the characters)


Lobizona is about Manuela Azul, an undocumented Argentinian immigrant living in Miami, whose discovery of a magical world turns her life upside down. When I saw this book, ownvoices Argentine rep, I was cautiously curious. I mean, internally, I was screaming of excitement, but I didn’t want to place my expectations too high. Oh, but friends, this book climbed out of my expectations chart and broke it into pieces. This book!!

Romina Garber has created a beautiful and magical world that feels like going home. I have read this book twice now, and both times, I have kept it close with tears in my eyes. This is a story about an undocumented teen girl, about identity, about Argentine myths. 

I have such a difficult time talking about this book without adding ten thousand exclamation points. This story left me eternally screaming; it’s beautifully written, the world-building is fascinating, Manu is one of my favorite characters, and the themes of immigration and identity were well done.

I will keep this story close to my heart for a long time, and I’m so excited for everyone to read it soon (come out August 4th). Yes, Lobizona is so worth the hype, and let me tell you why.

“No matter how many borders we cross, we can’t seem to outrun the fear of not feeling safe in our own homes.”

Lobizona by Romina Garber

It was my first time reading Romina Garber, and it will not be the last. Her writing was beautiful, it is not poetic necessary, but it evokes emotions so well. The story has a very emotional undertone because, as an undocumented immigrant, Manu always fears deportation or separation from her family. She has to hide herself to survive, and it is scary, frustrating, and so exhausting. 

I highlighted so many quotes. Manu’s internal monologue felt like an open conversation with a friend, so raw and unfiltered, it brought tears to my eyes. You cannot look away from Manu’s reality as an immigrant. Lobizona is a story about immigration, yes, but from the perspective of one girl. This story is deeply personal, these are her feelings and thoughts. There’s so much power on that.

Also, a small side note that means nothing in the big scheme of the story, but the way they described Buenos Aires? I love it! Leather, coffee, and old paper. So nostalgic! 

“I think I was born waiting to see the stars.”

Lobizona by Romina Garber

Manu lives in Miami with her mom and her surrogate grandmother, Perla, with the number one rule of never call attention to yourself. As undocumented immigrants, their best chance to survive is to be invisible. To protect them, Manu has to hide inside their building, dreaming of a better future and the stars. Because you see, Manu’s irises are yellow suns and her pupils are silver stars. Then one day, Perla is attacked and Manu’s only option is to leave her and find her mom at work. This sparks a series of events where she ends up finding a new, magical world in the middle of Miami where she actually may belong.

As Manu learns about witches and lobizones (werewolves), she learns about her own identity. This is a coming of age story, she comes to her power and strengths throughout the book. But there’s also a distance from the world-building because Manu doesn’t feel like she quite belongs in El Laberinto. As an immigrant, all her life she has felt like other, always foreign in all the spaces she occupies, never at home because she doesn’t belong anywhere. That was so powerful and heartbreaking.

As she unravels this world of Argentine myths, she learns about how rigid and gender binary it is. 

The story is also about resistance because Manu’s entire existence is an act of rebellion in this society, but she’s also pushed to see how the system hurts everyone. I really appreciated some of the discussions the characters have about gender roles, misogyny, and homophobia in this society. I do hope we get to see more in the next book, but this was a great starting point.

This world feels like Argentinian society in many ways, both good and bad, and I found it so powerful that in this fantastical setting we can still discuss how, although we have progressed, Argentina’s gender roles are still so rigid and harmful. Manu and her friends’ challenge feels like a direct challenge to the country and I appreciated that.

Yes, Lobizona is a coming of age story with discussions of immigration but it’s also a story about revolution. When your existence is not wanted, everything you do is an act of resistance. Manu understands this better than anyone else. And yes, maybe she also gets some wonderful new friends who want to start a little revolution in their world. Sometimes that happens!

I know I’m being very vague about the plot, but I think that’s the best way to get into this story. I was so pleasantly surprised, it has been a while since a book left like this. The reveals and plot twists were perfect, and that ending may be one of my favorites.

There’s a magical school, witches, werewolves, dangerous forests and a lot of Argentine folklore and I love every single thing about it. I don’t want to spoil you, so I won’t go into the particulars of the school just yet, maybe after the book is out.  

This is one of the fantasy books where culture is part of the world and we see glimpses of Argentine life everywhere; they eat carne al horno, drink mate, play futbol, dance tango…These things are part of the world, of course, they are because a magic system that exists at the par with society will be heavily influenced by it. 

Such a small thing, a detail that in the overall plot is nothing, but I’m still thinking about it: they use their magic to cook asado, Argentinian barbecue. I mean!!! 

Manu funko pop designed by Melanie

I adore Manu a lot. A LOT. Her love for space and books, her bravery and fierce love, her frustration, and anger. My heart broke for her and her happiness brought me so much joy. She finds her voice during the story. And I know, that’s something we have seen in YA books before, but not with an undocumented Argentinian immigrant and there’s a lot of value in that story. 

I adore the secondary characters, especially Manu’s new friends. Tiago, Saysa, and Cata are the best and I adore how they all slowly become team Manu, ride or die kind of friends. Especially love the rivals to friends, my favorite kind of trope. This story has a little bit of found family and you know I love that too. Oh god, my little found family, tears to my eyes! I love them.

Also, a big shout out to Perla, Manu’s grandmother, I adore her so much. She teaches Manu’s literature and she’s so strong. Perla left Argentina escaping the horrors of the dictatorship and this is something that keeps coming back to the story. I appreciate that a lot because that’s something that never leaves my mind, the ways the dictatorship affected my grandmothers and the way it indirectly affected me. That trauma that Manu doesn’t completely understand because it wasn’t her reality, but she also sees in her own trauma… Anyway, I thought it was such a small detail that made a great point in the story. 


This has been a long review and a lot rambling, I feel like. I’m sorry, I tried to be coherent, I wanted this to be a good review, but I just have a lot of love and I just want to keep screaming. But please, if there’s something I want you to take away from this post is LOBIZONA IS NOT MAGICAL REALISM.

Okay, that and also, this is a phenomenal story with so much heart and vulnerability, and an incredible world-building and characters. Romina Garber redefined, for me, the boundaries of fantasy and created a story that deserves to be loved and admired. 

Also, have you seen the finished copies of this book? Yeah, you need your copy!


Important links

Add to Goodreads

Preorder here

Lobizona virtual launch with Tomi Adeyemi

Link to Melanie’s shop, commission your funko pop!

#StartOnYourShelfathon update II

credit to CW (The Quiet Pond) for the graphic

Hello friends,

Let’s start with the big news, have you seen my new banner? Isn’t it beautiful? It feels so me, I want to cry a little. The lipstick! The yellow shirt! The ‘Read Latinx Books’! I love it so much. I commissioned the banner from Aza (femmeandfrills over twitter), so please check her out!

Now that we’re in July (how that happened?), I thought I should start updating about my goals and challenges. StartOnYourShelfathon is hosted by CW from The Quiet Pond, you can read my original post with my TBR here.

Last April I did my first update of the readathon, I liked how it turned out. I talked about the books I read, my thoughts about them, the books I unhaul and why, and I did a final countdown about how many books I have to read now. You can check out that post here. Now it’s time for the second update!


Books Read

Random Act of Kittens by Yamile Saied Mendez. Delightful middle-grade novel sprinkle with a little bit of mischief and adorable cats. The book deals with friendship and feeling left out by your family as the younger sibling. I wished it had been a tiny bit longer and the resolution more developed, but I very much enjoyed this book!

Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay. This book was phenomenal, I couldn’t put it down. It’s YA Contemporary set in the Philippines with a mystery element. But mostly, this book is about grief, family, privilege, addiction and the war on drugs. I cried reading this a lot, it is a very emotional read with wonderful characters. I appreciated how the book discussed feeling not part of your culture because you’re from the diaspora but at the same time, recognizing the privileges from being American.

Hungry Hearts: 13 Tales of Food & Love anthology. This anthology was incredible, like for real incredible. Stories about food and magic is so my thing, so I knew I would like this. But the way I loved these stories? with all my heart? I wasn’t expecting that. Of course, I didn’t love all these stories the same but my favorites were Rin Chupeco’s and Anna-Marie McLemore’s.

Butterfly Yellow by Thanhha Lai. I didn’t like this one very much. And it makes me so sad because it was one of my 2019 anticipated releases! I have enjoyed the middle-grade novels from the author so I was excited to see her take with YA historical fiction. It just didn’t work for me. At all.

A Mixture of Mischief by Anna Meriano. Last book of the Love Sugar Magic series! I have been talking about this series and this last book for so long and I finally read it. I loved it, I love this trilogy at lot and I love these characters with all my heart. We got to see more about the world-building and the magic in this book and I adored it, I adore to see how much Leo has grown and her beautiful family and friends. This is one of my favorite middle-grade series for sure. I can’t recommend it enough if you like magic + food + a little bit of mischief and a lot of love.

Mirage by Somaiya Daud. I freaking love this book so much! Science fiction with discussions about colonization and resistance. It has a rich and wonderful world-building inspired by Moroccan culture, complex and charming characters, and a beautiful romance. Amani is forced in impossible positions to protect her family, but she never gives up. Her love, for her family and country, was so powerful and I love every second I spent with this story. Book 2 is coming out in August and I’m screaming! I will probably be rereading before reading Court of Lions.

The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi. I have had this book on my tbr since January, so I’m glad I finally read it. It sounded like everything I love: friendship + puzzle games. And I enjoyed this book a lot! I loved this world, The Gauntlet, the puzzles they have to solve and their tied friendship. I love Farah, her quick mind and fierce love. This book is described as Jumanji with a Middle Eastern flair. And I can’t wait for the sequel!

La Carta de Ivy-Aberdeen Al Mundo by Ashley Herring Blake. This is the Spanish translation of Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World. This is a delighted and heartbreaking middle-grade novel about coming out, identity, friendship and feeling invisible in your own family. I love this story so much, I can’t even explain. The way I sobbed reading this? Ridiculous, but this book gave me so much joy to. There’s something so special about a middle-grade book that explores queerness and it has this wonderful and hopeful ending. All the love to Ivy.

The Disasters by M.K. England. I have mixed feelings about this book. It was fun and action-packed, I flied through. The characters are so charming and the dialogue is hilarious… But that it’s also what worries me, having this book talking about colonization and genocide with such a light tone. Sometimes there would be this big revelations and the main character, Nax, would break the tension with a ridiculous joke. And I get it, that’s the character but at the same time, it felt like the book never really took any of these thing serious? And I find that very troubling.

The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow. I have been so excited about this book since I saw how much everyone loved it. So I was sure that I would love it too. And I did not. Don’t get me wrong! This book is a beautiful love letter to the power of music and love and resistance, that I very much appreciated. But this story has many of the things I don’t like from Science Fiction. So you know, this was, very much, a me problem.

ARCs

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas. I still haven’t written a review for this book, which proves how much it destroyed my brain. It was so funny, like I haven’t laughed with books like this probably ever. The puns! The flirt! This a story about being trans in the Latinx community, but also falling in love with a ghost boy when you’re trying to solve their murdered. Cemetery Boys is phenomenal in so many ways and you should probably check out ownvoices reviewers instead. Like Adri’s wonderful video.

Lobizona by Romina Garber. OH MY GOD. Another wonderful ARC, truly blessed by Latinx authors this year. I love this book a lot: Argentine rep, werewolves and witches and a story about undocumented immigrants and magic. I’m still trying to write my review, so you will see it soon hopefully.


Unhaul

I did this in my last post and I liked it. I unhaul books quite often but I never I have talked about these books, although I always want to. So yeah, unhaul section! Plus I feel it goes well with this challenge because it makes me rethink about the books I have and if I want to keep reading them now.

Salty, Bitter, Sweet by Mayra Cuevas. I received this ARC last year but I never read it, oops. The book came out this March and it’s set in France with a Cuban mc and a cooking competition sprinkle with romance. Sounds like my thing, right? But the thing is, the love interest is the main character’s new stepmom’s stepson. I know that was a messy, but although they’re not related, I guess, they are still treat as siblings? And they live in the same house? You can read Caro’s review if you want to know more but this book, plus they talk about the internalized misogyny that just makes this novel a big nope for me.

Into the Mystic, Volume Two anthology. I got this anthology years ago because it was on sale and it’s described as a collection of lesbian/bisexual paranormal short stories. The thing is, I read the first pages and I nope out. There was nothing terrible but the writing was pretty bad and the formatting of the book is kind of weird. I’m also not really interested in any of these authors anymore.

Don’t Check Out This Book! by Kate and M. Sarah Klise. This book was sent to me for a promotional instagram photo (you can check out here) and I had a lot of fun with that! Not so much with this book, like it was okay but not even the mixed media made me enjoyed it. It was just meh.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray. I read this book ages ago when I was a teen learning about feminism and I loved it so much. When I moved to the States, I got my own copy and reread it, and I saw a lot of cracks in this very white feminism. The only reason I have kept this book for so long is part of the nostalgia, but its representation is so harmful and I’m not keeping this anymore with me.

El psicoanalista by John Katzenbach. I received this book as a gift from my cousin but the truth is, I would never read this. It’s the Spanish translation of The Analyst. I don’t read thrillers so I don’t see myself pick this book up at all.

Cartas de Amor a los Muertos by Ava Dellaira. Spanish translation of Love Letters to the Dead. Another book I got from my cousin that I’m never going to read. From the starters, it doesn’t sound like my thing at all. But I also really disliked what I read from the author, I felt like it was very insensitive and racist. You can read my review about In Search Of Us here.

The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai. I had high hopes for this one, but I ended up DNFing it. I have realized that Alisha Rai’s not an author for me. I was very irritated with the heroine in this book and I know I said that I love unlikable heroines, but I make the line at being to mean to your mom just because and stalking. I guess the idea was to make her a grumpy heroine in contrast of the soft hero, but she just kept getting on my nerves. So DNFing was for the best.


From the graphic;

  • initial books: 75
  • read: 12
  • unhaul: 7
  • acquired (purchased + ARCs): 32
  • total unread: 88

Yeah, this is not going very well. I ended up with more books than the last time. BUT in my defense, with the pandemic, I have been buying more books to support authors and this is how it looks like now. My goal from now on is to get this 88 number smaller. Even if it’s only five books down.


Let me know if you’re also participating in Start On Your Shelfathon and how you’re doing! Did you find any new favorites?

What did I just read: when the gays can’t save plots

I was incredibly excited for The Circus Rose when it was announced, I very much enjoyed Betsy Cornwell’s debut when I read it the first time. And this book is set in the same world, where magic and technology coexist. Sadly, the things I liked from Mechanica and its sequel, Venturess, weren’t there in The Circus Rose.

Mechanica handled, in my opinion, very well emotional abuse and queerplatonic relationships. The characters were charming and the world-building, the conversations about technology and magic, had me at the edge of my seat.

So let’s start there because I really didn’t like this story BUT I went with all the good intentions, hoping to really like it at least. It was a disappointing read and this review, although negative, deeply pains me. But god, sometimes gays can’t save terrible plots.


The Circus Rose follows two very different sisters: Rosie, the performer, and Ivory, the stagemaster. They were raised in their mother’s circus, between acts and tricks, traveling all around the world. When the circus is back to Esting City, the place where their fathers are from but not really their homes, things start to go all wrong. Now it’s up to Ivory to do something? It’s not very clear what the plot is, actually.

The synopsis is very misleading, talking about an accident and Ivory and her crush solving a mystery, when that happens, not kidding, in the latter half of the book. So what’s this book about? I have no idea. Ivory is, apparently, wondering about her role in the circus and about if she wants to do something else. Apparently, because it’s mostly telling at the end but never really discuss?

The writing doesn’t help, the book is told from a dual point of view: Ivory’s chapters are written in prose while Rosie’s are written in verse. Rosie’s chapters were bad, like really bad. Not only they didn’t add anything to the story at all, but the poetry was also pretty terrible. And I love novels in verse! But here it was a mix of metaphors that did absolutely nothing for me except confused me. Ivory’s chapters at least had substance, I guess, but the dialogue was so cringing? I can’t enjoy a book where I don’t like the writing or the plot or care about the characters at all.

Okay, I’m making a mess of this like the book, so let’s go in parts.


The Missing Plot

Like I said, we don’t really see much about the hints of religion and hatred until the latter half of the book. Which it’s ridiculous, there’s no set up for the “mystery thing” about the missing people. In this world, we have the Faerie, who have magic and were colonized by humans. Many humans, of course, still resented the idea of living alongside the Faerie, especially the religious leaders of the kingdom. Faerie has a completely different culture, they live in polyamorous and platonic families and everyone is non-binary.

These are some of the themes Mechanica, especially its sequel, discuss. But if you haven’t read the books, you’re missing a great deal of context here as the author doesn’t really spend a lot of time talking about the events in the past. And then we’re supposed to believe The Circus Rose is about coming against hatred and discrimination? Okay…

I really think it was terrible handled, there wasn’t any built up and the resolution was so anticlimactic? The main villain was a caricature, truly, a ridiculous figure that had nothing.

The big thing with Bear? Boring, predictable and kind of eye rolling as it was, again, never built up.

The Undeveloped Characters

So this another big thing for me, as I’m a character-driven reader. Maybe it was the nonexistent plot or the bad writing, but I didn’t care about the sisters at all. I didn’ feel like I knew them at all, especially Rosie as I hated her chapters. Sure, we get some descriptions about their personalities and a lot of telling of their relationship but we never really see it. It was very frustrating because characters in Mechanica were so charming and sympathetic and I cared a big deal about them. Meanwhile, I just felt a lot of nothing with Ivory and Rosie.

And that included Ivory’s personal conflict about what to do with her life and her space in the circus, I didn’t care.


I’m so sad to say The Circus Rose failed me at every level: terrible execution, vague world-building, and poorly written. Not even the f/enby romance could save it. It was a very cute and adorable romance, but it didn’t erase the frustration. And you know what, if this book has been a romance instead, if we hadn’t had all that ridiculous thing at the end, I would have enjoyed this a lot more.

Read this book or not, it’s fine. I don’t hate hate it as much I want to forget I read it. Please brain, let’s forget it and move on.

What did I just read: two YA messes

Hello friends,

Bringing back my What did I just read series, where I talk about books that I didn’t like. I don’t really rant that often, but sometimes books just deserve it. Or maybe I just have too many thoughts that I need to share. I’m lucky that this year I have read MANY wonderful books, sadly, I have also 1 star a couple. So here we are today, with two YA books that I really disliked. Oops.

One of my summer projects is to read and review backlist eARCs. Yes, I’m trying to improve my Netgally ratio, don’t judge me. I’m going to be reading a lot of books that I requested and then I put off. Okay, you can judge me, I deserve it.

I knew I wouldn’t enjoy all these titles, there’s a reason why I haven’t even touch these books, but I didn’t really want to start with two bad ones this project. Too late now, I guess. These books are not necessary terrible, I just didn’t like the writing, plot, characters or like you know, anyt

hing about them. Maybe they are bad after all.

So let’s talk about Rebel Girls by Elizabeth Keenan and You’d Be Mine by Erin Hahn.


Rebel Girls by Elizabeth Keenan follows Athena Graves, a high schooler who loves to listen to punk rock and create mixtapes. Although she and her sister don’t share views, when Helen needs her help, Athena and her friends won’t turn away. They all go to this very conservative Catholic school that is taking very seriously the rumors about Helen’s supposedly abortion during the summer. She could be expelled! The girls team up to defeat the rumors and to let everyone in school know that it doesn’t matter what Helen did or did not (but she did not, okay?!). Revolution!

I’m sorry, this is a poor summary of this book but I did not like this story at all, so I don’t really know how to objectively tell you what’s about without screaming a little. I had high hopes for this book, before I learned about how stories sold as “YA feminist” are just white feminism at its peak.

Literally, there was nothing about this story that I enjoyed. And sure, I didn’t start this with high expectations. I requested this ARC last year and never read it, I should have realized my procrastinator brain was trying to protect me.

I mean, Rebel Girls is badly written. Like one of the worst books I have read type of badly written. It had too many annoying repetitions and a lot cringy dialogue. I felt at arm’s length from the characters, maybe that was for the best because I hated Athena.

Athena is so judgmental and hypocritical that it’s almost ridiculous, I couldn’t care about her boy problems less. One could argue she learns about this throughout the book but I don’t think it was very well done. And it infuriates me so much because one girl Athena keeps judging is her own sister, Helen, and I do not want to sympathize with a pro-life girl. Ugh.

This book has many of my most hated tropes: girl hate (some of it is challenged), mean girls trying to ruin MC just because, and a brown girl having to teach the whites everything. Actually, I’m not sure if she’s brown… she’s described with “olive skin” but that really doesn’t mean anything… Whatever, because Rebel Girls feels extremely white. 

Also, I get this is a 1990s book, an historical YA, but all the references to movies and music just went over my head and kind of annoyed me a lot. I get it! I promise I do! But come on, this nostalgia is for the author only, we already know.

So yes, disliked the writing, Athena, the whiteness, and how this book handled abortion. Sure, it had a good heart but I didn’t like the final message? Like I get it, but at the same time, I don’t like it. 

Or maybe I just really disliked how cheesy and kind of dumb that ending was, so it didn’t sit well with me how it was handled. There were so many moments in this story that made zero sense and were just plain laughable.

Yeah, I don’t have anything good to say about it and I actually read just the first half and skimmed the rest and read the last chapters. And I didn’t feel like I missed anything at all. What a waste of time.


You’d Be Mine by Erin Hahn follows two country stars: Clay, the rising superstar, and Annie, American’s sweetheart. They have no choice but to work together for their musical future, the label wants them together so together they go in tour. Opposite attracts and a lot of media speculation about their relationship, Clay and Annie do get closer. But they’re both dealing with grief, their building romance needs more than chemistry.

Ok, I knew from the first chapter I wouldn’t enjoy this book at all, but I push through anyway because of some many good reviews. Yeah, my bad. I completely understand why people have enjoyed this… but it didn’t work for me at all.

The writing is not particularly good, repetitive and some very ridiculous (almost funny) dialogue. But the thing is, I really didn’t care about the characters. And I’m a character-driven reader, I need to care about my characters to care about the book… Besides, you know, I found the plot kind of bland but that’s another point.

I didn’t have any sympathy for these two teenagers. I understand they both were dealing with trauma and grief, but besides their pain, they really didn’t have any personality. I finished this book knowing two things about them: Clay pretends to be a bad boy, but inside he’s not, and Annie is a superstar who doesn’t want to be like her parents. And although I think it could be a good starting point, the book does nothing about it. Or better said, nothing I cared enough about. For example, the resolution with Clay felt very anti-climatic, after waiting for pages. Maybe it’s that weird time jump that lost me along the way. 

Besides that, the romance was just bland and boring. I didn’t get why they wanted to be together and that ending instead of cute, it was just kind of dumb? I mean, if I can’t root for the couple in a romance, there’s something very bad happening there. 

I can’t really put my finger on it, but there was something that I just didn’t like how this author talked about addiction. Also, the evil ex-girlfriend trope was eye-rolling. But I guess my biggest annoyance was how white this story feels, there’s no excuse for a book published in 2019 to feel so white. Especially when talking about country music. And no, having one token side-character who’s Latinx and very insufferable doesn’t count, okay?

It was a pain to read it. And I’m just going to be honest, I don’t care about books about musicians/superstars. I just don’t.


Cafe con Bizcochos: an interview with Zoey

Hello friends,

Today we’re having a special guest in our interview section, Cafe con Bizcochos. I got to talk with Zoey from The Dream Weaver, upcoming debut by Reina Luz Alegre. This middle-grade novel follows Cuban-American Zoey and her summer adventures to saver her grandfather’s bowling alley. In the journey, she also makes new friends and reconnects with her Cuban identity.

The book comes out June, 23rd and you can preorder here!


Cande: Hi Zoey! It’s so nice to have you on Latinx Magic today. Can you tell me a little bit about your grandpa’s bowling alley? I heard you’ve really been helping him out. 

Zoey: Hi Cande! Thank you so much for having me!

Gonzo’s has been in my family for generations! It’s a retro bowling alley and arcade on the Jersey Shore where my great grandfather worked as a janitor when he first came to the US from Cuba. It’s the place my abuelos first met and fell in love, because my Poppy was working there as a waiter with his dad. Eventually he and my Abuela bought it and raised my mom there. 

The last few years our family has gone through some serious stuff, and it seemed like Poppy might lose the bowling alley to this big mean developer who wanted to turn the real estate into condos or something.

BUT, I don’t give up that easily! Family has to help family, and I’ve made some amazing new friends in the fight to save my grandpa’s dream. 

Cande: We Latinx folks love talking and thinking about food, so I have to ask. What’s your favorite Cuban dish, Zoey?

Zoey: I love, love, love ropa vieja, which is a shredded beef dish, preferably served with plain rice to soak up every last drop. My goal is to learn my grandparents’ recipe this summer for ropa vieja, and a few other faves like pastelitos and my Abuela’s famous lentils. 

Cande: Do you have any books high on your TBR, Zoey? What upcoming middle-grade novels are you excited for? Give me all the recs!

Zoey: Oh gosh, excited for waaaay too many books to list all of them here, but some of the ones I’m currently reading and loving include Ghost Squad by Claribel Ortega and Efren Divided by Ernesto Cisneros, and I’m over-the-moon excited for The Land of the Cranes by Aida Salazar which comes out soon. Her writing is stunning. I need more of her words in my life.

Also, can I just say, I’m so happy there are more ownvoices Latinx MG books available now than when my Mami was my age in the eighties. I’ve been living in her childhood bedroom since moving in with my grandpa, and her old bookshelf has so much stuff written by dead white guys from like a million billion years ago. Thankfully, I recently discovered there’s an awesome library near Poppy’s house with a great online selection, and an independent bookstore just around the corner with a great website too for when I save up enough to buy books off my TBR!

Cande: You’ve dealt with a lot of conflict lately—from your dad leaving to friend issues to some mean shenanigans from the rival bowling team. And yet, you mentioned you’re also super close to your loved ones and community. Can you explain? 

Zoey: Sigh, people and relationships are so complicated! We all make mistakes. Sometimes kids are wrong. Sometimes adults are even wrong. Sometimes everyone is a little bit right and a little bit wrong but have good intentions and just have different perspectives. I’ve learned it’s so important to find someone you can trust to talk to about your problems. We don’t always agree on everything, but my new friends have really been there for me. And I’m trying to talk things that upset me out with my family too, not just bottle up all my feelings till I want to explode. So yeah, there’s been a lot of conflict, but we’re working through it. I used to think I’d be all alone but it turns out I’m surrounded by love, and I’m super happy about that. 


You can preorder The Dream Weaver here!

Also get the books Zoey mentioned:


ABOLISH THE POLICE

And remember to sign petitions, donate and buy from Black-owned bookstores.

16 sapphic books I want to read this year

Hello friends,

It’s Pride month, gays! I have been thinking about all the books that I want to read. And there are so many! Especially books with sapphic main pairings, because sapphics make my heart soft AND I need all of them. Or more like, I haven’t been reading as many f/f books this year as I would like. So here are 16 books that are on my tbr and I would like to read this second half of the year!

I’m so grateful to Scarllet for her goodreads list and Charlotte for her blog post of sapphic releases. Thank you for your service!


Favorite tropes: Hate to love

1.The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirbar. Intense screams! This is hands down one of my most anticipated 2020 releases. Rivals to lovers? Culture appropriation? All my friends have loved it? I’m so ready.

2.Mangos and Mistletoe by Adriana Herrera. Baking competition, they dislike each other but have to work together. Plus Dominican food and written by Adriana Herrera? I need this right now.

Favorite tropes: slow burn

3.Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner. If I remember right, this is the first f/f book from Berkley. So I’m curious, but cautiously curious as one of the heroines is Chinese-American and the author is white. So yeah, cautious curious. It also doesn’t have the greatest reviews, but I may still give it a chance.

4.Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan. I know, I know, you can scream at me because I should have read this book already. Sapphic revolution, political intrigued set in a fantasy world? Yes please!

Dreading to read: not my genres but it’s sapphic!

5.A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo. This book has been on my tbr for so long, I read Ash last year and I liked it. Didn’t love it, but it wasn’t terrible. So I have been curious about this one but I’m not sure how I will feel about it as this is a YA mystery.

6.Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey. Western vibes + antifascist + queer identity. Eh, yes please! I don’t think I have read more than five westerns but for the sapphics, I will gladly take it.

Note: This book does have a side sapphic relationship, but the main pairing is f/enby.

Sapphic softness: Happy endings in real life

7.The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus. This book looks incredibly beautiful, but also a very hard read.

8.We Are Okay by Nina LaCour. I’m not sure what this book is about but I’m so sure it will make me cry. Will it make me cry?

9.This Is What It Feels Like by Rebecca Barrow. This is a book I preordered because second chance friendship, music and sapphic sounds like a perfect combo for me. Please yell at me as I still haven’t read it.

10.Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake. I’m not sure why I after I loved How to Make a Wish I didn’t keep reading the books of this author. But I’ll fix it this year, starting with this middle grade sapphic novel that sounds like the gut punching and sweet book that I adore.

Once in the past: Sapphics in historical

11.A Lady’s Desire by Lily Maxton. I just saw women in pretty dresses and I knew I need this in my life.

Retellings and fantasy

12.The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember. I’m not sure why I haven’t read this book yet: bisexual mc, sapphic and The Little Mermaid retelling. It sounds like something I would love?

13.Unsung Heroine by Sarah Kuhn. This is a novella of the Heroine Complex series that deserves so much love. When portals opened from a demon world, magic entered our world. Now some people work as full time superheroes as they fight little demons. This novella follows Lucy, bodyguard slash fight trainer, and Rose, head of the police as they team up for a mission and finally confess their long-time crush. I have been waiting for their story for so long!!! The sapphics win.

14.Song of the Dead by Sarah Glenn Marsh. Book 2 of Reign of the Fallen series, I read the first book last year and I really enjoyed it. I think this second book will explore more of the f/f pairing, so I’m excited. Read my review for book 1 here.

15.Of Ice and Shadows by Aubrey Coulturst. This is the sequel of Of Fire and Stars that I reread last year so I would get to this book… but I didn’t love book 1 as much I have done the first time I read it, so I wasn’t in the mood for this sequel. It’s a pretty okay, maybe more like mediocre fantasy, but I do want to get to it at some point. Denna and Mare may not be one of my favorite sapphics anymore but they’re still in a very special of place of my heart, and I’m curious about how their relationship has grown.

16.The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood. The concept of this book sounds so cool? I mean, “queer orc assassins and magical intrigue” It looks like an intriguing but also very complex story and I may or may not be a little bit intimidated by it.


This blog post was schedule already but we can’t create content right now without addressing the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery and the protests happening all around the world. Black Lives Matter every single day and we (nonBlack folks) can do so many things to fight systemic racism. I’m leaving some links for places where you can donate, petitions to sign and resources for you. To be anti-racist, it means to be an ACTIVE activist.


Happy reading,

ABOLISH THE POLICE

Cafe con bizcochos: an interview with Minerva

Hello friends,

I’m back with another special visit, this time is Minerva Soledad Miranda from On These Magic Shores by Yamile Saied Méndez. This upcoming middle-grade book will be out June, 9th from Tu Books. It follows Minerva and her two sisters as they try to uncover what happened to their mamá and carry on their regular lives. But they are not alone, it looks like someone (maybe something) is looking out for them. Fairies?

I read this book early this year and it’s absolutely fantastic, one of my favorite middle-grade novels of all times. Yes, of all times. Yamile masterfully crafted a story for young audience that’s honest and raw, but also hopeful and sweet. The book talks about Peter Pan and racism, immigration and growing up before your time. With #ownvoices Argentinian representation, I feel like this novel and its characters gave me the biggest and warmest hug. You can read my review here.

Now let’s hear it from Minerva!


Cande: Hola, Minerva! I’m so happy that you could talk with me today. You’re very busy I see, working for your role of Peter Pan, watching over your two sisters, preparing for your future as the first Latina president of the United States.

Cande: The world can be hard and unfair, your family has made many sacrifices. You understand that better than anyone else. What gives you hope in these difficult times? Who gives you the strength to keep dreaming big? Who inspires you?

Minerva: My sisters give me the strength to keep going and they inspire me, too. And also myself. My mom trusts me and believes in me because she knows my strength and even when I don’t  share a lot of things with her, she knows about my dreams and works so hard so I can reach them. My teacher Mrs. Santos also challenged me to look beyond my circumstances. She didn’t know about what was going on at home. It was very annoying when she wouldn’t leave me alone, but she saw me. She was one of the only people who really saw me and pushed me to do things I didn’t want to do, but that in the end really helped me and I ended up loving.  

Cande: You know we can’t talk about your Argentinian heritage without food. I’m sorry, Minerva! You can pick three dishes, any dishes, to eat nonstop. What do you pick? and why?

This is an unfair question. I could never pick only three dishes, but since I must, these are my choices: Pizza argentina: it’s the perfect combination of crunchy and chewy. Not too cheesy, not loaded with complicated ingredients (pineapple? Yuck!), and it makes me happy. Anything with dulce de leche: do I need to explain myself? Tortas fritas: easy to make and so, so delicious and satisfying, especially on a gloomy afternoon. Don’t try to make it without adult supervision though! 

Cande: You have conflicted feelings about fairies and magic, I understand that. It’s pure childish tales, right? *wink* But if you could close your eyes and wish for a fairy tale to come true, which one would you pick?

Minerva: I’d love for Rumpelstiltskin to be real, but only the part about girls weaving gold from straw… 

Cande: Younger siblings can be a pain, I feel you! But we can’t imagine a world without them. As older sisters, we learn to do what they want and sometimes our wishes go unheard. So if you could plan the perfect adventure to take your sisters, something very Minerva. What would you do?

Minerva: I’d take them to Disneyland! Can you imagine Avi’s face is she saw Tinkerbell? Or Kota when she saw Tiana from Princess and the Frog? And even though I’d try not to fangirl too much, I’d probably be crying of joy (inside) if I saw Belle from Beauty and the Beast. 

Cande: I’m sorry to say we have to go, so the last question. One you will probably hear a lot when you’re a politician. Do you have any advice for immigrant girls who’re feeling hopeless right now? 

Minerva: I’d say to them to do the small things that don’t seem to matter too much, because everything adds up. Read, be curious about things that make you happy, dream big, and remember to have fun and appreciate the people around you. Every day is a gift and if you look, really look, you’ll see the magic in things that for other people might seem ordinary. 

Cande: That’s a beautiful answer, Minerva! Thank you so much for taking some time to have cafe con bizcochos with me.


Preorder On These Magic Shores!