I’m so excited for today’s post! @Mx_M_reads made this amazing challenge for December. All the prompts are about the best books we read this year and it’s just perfect for me! As I’m putting together my own best of the year lists, I realized that I have read a lot (yes, cande, we know) and that I have many favorites. So this challenge is going to be so helpful.
-Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina: *clenches fist* this book! I adore middle grade and Merci Suarez is just the perfect example of why. The story has a messy girl, who makes mistakes and has all these hidden feelings inside, she has the biggest heart and loves and cares and dreams so much. Merci is so sympathetic and charming, I adored her. It’s heavy story, that deals with terminal illness of a family member, but it’s also hopeful and very honest: Meg Medina doesn’t shy away from these hard and sad topics. But she gives her characters time to process all their emotions, all the complicated and conflicted feelings, and at the end, she gives them the ending they deserve. Wonderful story!
-Don’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno: This book is phenomenal and if you heard about it and haven’t read it yet, fix that soon. Nina gives the quiet, romantic and gut-punching Latinx romance we wanted. We didn’t deserve it, but we got it, so let’s give the Santos family all the love. This is another story that fills me with so much hope and love and pain (how dare you Nina!!). It is a story about the heartbreak of a family, of loss, of curses, of being Cuban American. It has some wonderful moments and some conversations that I will treasure forever. What a book.
-The Astonishing Color Of After by Emily X.R. Pan: So I guess books that deal with mother-daughter relationship make me very emotional… This book starts with a gut in the punch, it closely follows a girl who lost her mother and now is meeting her maternal grandparents for the first time, in a country she doesn’t know. The writing in here is *chef’s kiss*, very gorgeous and beautiful, so poetic that made me cry a lot. I adored the characters, they’re hurting and I had this terrible physical pained for them. I wanted to make it better, because Leigh and her grandparents deserve the entire world. Beautiful and magical book.
-The Austen Playbook by Lucy Parker: This is one of the things I love of London Celebrities series, how much it makes me laugh. Lucy’s characters are delightful and they have such a perfect chemistry. The dialogue is always very funny and it was a wonderful experience to listen to it on audio. I had a great time with Griff and Freddy, with their family feud and their just perfect romance. Hey, I love enemies to lovers and I love grumpy heroes, and I especially love the banter. This kind of angst with witty dialogue is my favorite thing.
-The Queen’s Game by Carla de Guzman: This book made me snorted aloud, another one with great banter and a very funny, for real funny, heroine. Plus it’s also super adorable with one of my favorite tropes: fake dating. Hey, you give me a heroine playfully teasing the hero and you got me there. I feel like it works so well here too because they used to be childhood best friends. There’s all this history they share and they used to know each other very well. I’m super excited to read book two, Stealing Luna, that looks equally delightful.
-Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure by Courtney Milan: Courtney writes some of my favorite romance build-ups. Here it’s not different with two older women who teamed to take down an evil nephew. The dialogue is chef’s kiss, very funny because I love watching the destruction of terrible nephews. Also because they have real conversations about what it means to be an old women in the 1860s and Bertrice is genuinely funny. But for real, Courtney’s books always make me laugh, the relationships just work for me. Especially here because this book is the best!
-Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust: this book was so rude, breaking my heart like that. It was a physical pain and I’m very much enjoyed it. I talked about it in my last post, November wrap up, so I don’t want to repeat myself. If you don’t know about this book is a Snow White retelling with a twist: the princess doesn’t hate the stepmother and the queen is not really evil. This book touches two of my soft spots: misunderstood and ambitious girls. Both characters are in opposites sides, they should be enemies, but they deeply care for one another (as a daughter-mother relationship). I wanted them both to win and I wanted them to be okay and my heart!!! What a painful but perfect ride this was.
-The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante: I have also talked about this book on twitter and on here. There’s nothing that makes me so soft as immigrant stories: how hard is to leave, how hard is to live in a country that doesn’t want you. Alexandra captured so well the conflicted feelings of leaving your people, your culture, your home for the United States. This book also deals with the homophobia (specifically the lesbophobia) in the Latinx community. And it’s very much a story about trauma and grief but also the bonds between sisters and a beautiful f/f love story. I… it’s a timely and powerful story.
-Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore: Another book that makes me all teary. Anna-Marie is one of my favorite authors and I think this my favorite book by them (so far). Also a book about sisters (hey, sibling stories will always make my heart hurt) and colorism in the Latinx community. A tender and bittersweet story that broke my heart in ten thousand pieces. I also talked about it in my Con Amor series because it’s a Latinx retelling. All the good things, really, not other author fills me with rage and love and pain and hope like Anna-Marie McLemore.
I hope to come back soon with more #BestBks19 prompts. Let me know what books made you cry and laugh and your heart hurt.
For the first time ever I managed to write a wrap up in time and with all the books I read. What a weird concept, a holiday miracle? As you will see, I start with longish paragraph but soon I got tired so I tried to manage two or three sentences per book. Hey, I didn’t want to write the long post and I know you didn’t want to read it.
This month I read 30 books, and I know that it’s a lot, but it wasn’t a great month. Yes, I do have some new favorites! But I also read many books that were meh or straight up terrible (I gave so many low ratings this month). Big sigh. I also know I won’t be reading as many books next month, at this point of the year, I am exhausted.
I also posted some review this month (what a miracle):
–Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust. This a retelling of Snow White, where the evil stepmother is an ambitious woman with a heart of glass, and the princess is a girl made of snow trying to live up to her father’s expectations. The story is very atmospheric and so hard to put down, both characters are so sympathetic. You know they will collide, that their friendship can’t live up, and I dreaded it. I wanted both of them to win and my heart pained for both. What a wonderful read this one was. And what a perfect ending it has, so satisfying that it keeps me smiling now. Book also has a f/f romance that was very good. Highly recommended.
–Beyond Pain (#3) and Flashed (#3.1) by Kit Rocha. Part of the post-apocalyptic/SF romance series, Beyond. These books have so much emotion and they made me so happy. After solar flares, the world went down and built itself back with the same oppressive ideas; in the center, reigns the powerful and wealthy, around it, the sectors survive as best as they can. Of course there’s way more about these sectors, where the laws and expectations of the city don’t exist. We follow Sector Four, the O’Kane family slash gang, as they keep their own safe and fight against injustice. This series is incredibly satisfying to read, the way it discusses sex, consent and desire, and its core, a strong found family that fills me with happiness. Highly recommended.
–Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai. Second chance romance + rivals to lovers. The angst of this book, omg! the heartbreak, the feelings! It shouldn’t be allowed. I feel vulnerable, soft and ridiculously happy? This was a reread and fair, I didn’t love it as much as I did the first time, I can still see why this story pulled me in the first time. The relationship built up was so good and nice, the way Alisha deals with this family feud (by not means it’s completely resolved, but taking a step closer). There’s history between both protagonists and this something they both needed to admit and process and work on for their relationship to work this time. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy this story and I very much love these characters. The depression representation is so validating. Heroine is Japanese-Hawaiian. Highly recommended.
–Merry Inkmas by Talia Hibbert. Delightful and smutty holiday romance. Equally heavy and adorable. Content warning: for recollection of physical and emotional abuse. Bad boy in the outside, cinnamon roll in the inside. Witty and sweet as I’ve come to expect from Talia. Well deserved happy endings. Curiously, the second romance in a row that I read that has a tattoo artist (first one, Hate to want you heroine). Highly recommended.
–Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure by Courtney Milan. Beautiful, delightful, hopeful, political, hilarious and clever historical romance with two older women falling in love, and fighting against an evil nephew. Everything I love from Courtney plus more because sapphic! This historical series is my favorite: the angst, the hilarious jokes, the perfect endings. Highly recommended.
–In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Manchado. A personal memoir, a past abusive relationship and the way society makes it so difficult to discuss LGBTQ toxic and abusive partners. Carmen makes some excellent points that left me with so many thoughts. I think the thing I can’t keep coming back to is the way we, gay folks, put some much work in showing we are good and decent and humans, to the point we forget that being human also means we can be terrible people. And how much we hurt our own when we refuse to recognize this. Highly recommend if it’s a read you can do.
–The Queen’s Game by Carla de Guzman. So fun and adorable, fake dating + childhood friends. Royalty! Political and romantic. He’s a farmer, a dreamer and a romantic, she’s wild, party girl with not strings attached. This seriously a delighted of a romance novella. Highly recommended.
–The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite. Sapphic historical romance, an astronomer and an artist slowly falling in love, fighting men, science and a hopeful ending. I was super excited to get to this book because the cover! Omg!! You need to know that I love dresses, especially dresses in 1800s, so two sapphic women in dresses in the cover of a romance novel? *intense scream* Made just for me! One of the heroine is a an astronomer and she loves science so much and I’m too soft. This is everything I needed in my life and it didn’t disappointment at all. Highly recommended.
–Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez. Oh this book! It gave me so many feelings, happy and good feelings. A beautiful story of a Cuban-American boy who tries his best at his new school, making friends and breaking the universe, you know, regular Monday stuff. I’m trying to write a full review because there are so many wonderful things happening here. Sal is a very charismatic character, with a magnet for trouble. But he’s also honest and deeply cares, he’s not afraid to show his feelings and love. His relationship with his family is beautiful, the development of his friendship with Gabi was perfect. I’m also so delighted and touched with how wonderful the Type I diabetic representation is. Seriously, I will write a proper review. Highly recommended.
–Crier’s War by Nina Varela. The banter! The slowburn! The will they won’t they!! This a very atmospheric and good fantasy read. I think I’m still processing the ending, how dare you Nina?? I’m very sad that the sapphics have hurt me so much this year. I will try to put down my thoughts in a review later, because right now I have many feelings. Something I do want to mention, not the book’s fault, but the way people talked about this book lead me to think this would a romance story… and it’s not. As a romance reader, I have some specific expectations and this book is clearly not romance. It’s not something I hold against the book or the author, Nina didn’t do anything wrong. I just think I will be more careful with my expectations from now on so I won’t feel sightly disappointed with endings. Highly recommended.
–A Season of Wishes by Lydia San Andres. This a holiday novella set in the imaginary Caribbean town of Arroyo Blanco. Alba Reyes comes home to take care of her mother and so does her childhood sweetheart, Marcos Ramirez. A second chance romance that it’s magical and adorable and so perfect for the holiday season. I really like Lydia’s characters, they are all so charming always, and her stories feel like a warm hug. Highly recommended.
–His Hideous Heart edited by Dahlia Adler. Oh friends, what a disappointment. I love anthologies, love them. So far all the ones I have read, I have loved. Sure, not ALL stories but definitely most of them. Not here, sadly. I did love some of them (Kendare Blake, Rin Chupeco and Stephanie Kuehn were my favorites), but I felt very meh about the majority. To be honest, I have never been a Edgar Allan Poe’s fan at all, like I had only read like 3 of the original stories before? So maybe I didn’t get this at all, maybe it didn’t pull me because it wasn’t meant for me. I don’t know, friends, I’m just sad that it didn’t work. I wouldn’t discouraged anyone in picking it up, but I won’t be rereading. Recommended, question mark.
–Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. Have some complicated feelings about this book. The characters were okish except for Amari, who I loved because her journey was breathtaking to see. The romance? Disgusting for the most part, when I say give the rivals to lovers this is not what I mean!! Very satisfying ending but overall, it was too long and slow paced for my liking. Big problem: ownvoices reviewers called the Nigerian rep not great (I recommend read the reviews to know more). So everything involving the world-building makes me feel sightly uncomfortable to call anything. Like anything at all. So I don’t have any opinions about it, which leaves me with a meh plot and meh characters. Conclusion, I’m not sure if I would be reading the next one? Recommended, question questions question mark.
–Picture Us In the Light Kelly Loy Gilbert. Yes? No? Complicated feelings because the ending feels so dissatisfying, I don’t know. Part my own fault for not reading content warnings, I wasn’t expecting how heavy it is. Yes, depression and panic attacks discussions. But not the child trafficking, that was too much for me and it sent me into an anxiety spiral. I do think this book is wonderful: a messy teenager who’s trying his best, but messes up. He carries all these expectations as son of immigrants, plus a secret crush and the fear of not knowing about his sister, but also about knowing about her. I think now, rereading this book knowing exactly what happens, I would love it so much more. So maybe that’s what I will do next year. Recommended.
–Meal by Blue Delliquanti and Soleil Ho. This a graphic novel following Yarrow, a young chef that dreams of making her mark on the insect-based cuisine. Story explores the intersection of culture and food, from chef Chanda Flores’s Cambodian-Mexican family to Yarrow’s Japanese grandparents. This world is full of multicultural food and characters, and I very much enjoyed it. The sapphic couple was adorable and that build up was so satisfying. Highly recommended.
–Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo. Sometimes middle-grade books are hit or miss with me, and this one was definitely a miss. Big sigh. I appreciated books that deals with heavy topics but are hopeful and heartwarming, but it didn’t work here for me. From the start, I didn’t like the writing, Louisiana was purposely mean to people just because? and I feel very frustrated with an ending that doesn’t deal with the emotional repercussions of big plot twist (not really big plot twist). Her relationship with her grandmother was not healthy at all and that it’s never addressed. I don’t know, I’m not here to forgive adults that don’t do the work for forgiveness. I feel like you can probably skip this one.
–What Does Consent Really Mean? by Pete Wallis, Thalia Wallis, Joseph Wilkins. This graphic novel was a Mess with capital M. The story supposedly explores consent and sex and relationships, but I’m not sure who’s the audience here? For the writing, I would say young teens? But with the topics it deals, I guess not? I understand what they were trying to do here, I don’t think it works. It feels violent and at the same time, so condescending. The way they talked about sexual assault in the beginning made me so uncomfortable. There are a couple of messages here that left me very angry, too, very misleading. I just think this could have gone way better. You can probably skip this one.
–Mortal and Immortals of Greek Mythology by Françoise Rachmuhl and Charlotte Gastaut. This was a real mess. I used to loved Greek mythology, so I was excited to read this book with this gorgeous cover. It was a terrible disappointment. Not only repetitive and tedious writing, but the same old glorification of gods that I’m too tired to even discuss. There was not nuanced or compassion for the goddesses, but all the love for the gods. The selection of heroines was ridiculous and almost laughable. All the Olympians have committed terrible things to humans, all of them. This book is so unnecessary, doesn’t add anything new or substantial to all the mythology books out there. Oh, maybe it just adds more misogyny in the world, I don’t know. Please I beg you, skip this one.
–Shadow Warrior by Tanya Lloyd Kyi and Celia Krampien. Yeah, this was another yikes eARC. Terrible storytelling, amazing illustrations, interesting plot. Following three people in 16th Century Japan as their lives intersect and a network of female spies that would change the entire country. The thing is, as far as I can tell this is not written by a Japanese author and it’s easy to tell. The lacked of nuanced, almost crossing the line to disrespect, and at the same time, with an admiration that it’s uncomfortable. This wasn’t written for Japanese readers and I’m not sure how to explain better? You can probably skip this one.
–Thornhill by Pam Smy. Part text, part illustrations, first time that I have seen the two medias combined like this and they create a quite unique story. This was, overall, a good book. It just not my genre, the ending was very unsatisfying for me. But the built up was spectacular, the story very atmospheric, the characters very sympathetic. Follows two girls in different moments of history; an orphaned girl trying to survive from her tormentor, and a new girl escaping from her loneliness. Their stories get intertwined as they unraveled what happened. Recommended.
–Surviving the City by Tasha Spillett and Natasha Donovan. Breathtaking graphic novel about what it means to be a young Native woman in today’s world. The art is gorgeous and storytelling so gripping and terrifying. Terrifying because this a reality of so many. There is so much grief between these pages, so much pain and rightful anger, but also love and hope. Surviving the City is a celebration of culture and community. A must-read for everyone, really. So short but very important. Highly recommended.
–You Are Here and This is the last time I’ll write about you by Dawn Lanuza. These are two poetry collections by Filipina author, Dawn Lanuza. I was very excited for these collections, really, I have heard so many good things about the author… sadly, the style didn’t work as I hoped. These are very deeply emotional and personal poems, but I just felt meh about it. I’m not sure what exactly is that didn’t work for me? I appreciate them for the care, heartbreak and hope between these pages. Recommended.
–Clara Voyant by Rachelle Delaney. This was another middle-grade miss. The writing was sightly better but I couldn’t care about the story. The main character is so judgmental. Yes, I know that I have said that I love unlikable characters, but they have to be sympathetic. Being mean to the people who care and love you, laugh at their passions just because, it’s not something that I have a lot of patience for. I kept reading expecting Clara to apologize to her mother for how rude, because she is just plain disrespectful to her mother, but she never did?? Also feel very uncomfortable about a group of white people practicing herbal medicine with a character that despises and mocks the idea of magic. I don’t think Rachelle understands the connotations of having a white girl calling smelly and dumb a practice done, historically, by people of color. Skip this one.
–The (Other) F Word: A Celebration of the Fat & Fierce edited by Angie Manfredi. Anthology/collection of illustrations, pieces, and poems by fat creators. A love letter to all the fat teenagers out there. Pretty diverse, touches a variety of topics like gender identity, sexuality, fashion, love, media representation… Very personal pieces, beautiful design of the book. A must for anthology lovers (like me!). Highly recommended.
–Honeybee by Trista Mateer. I realized that I’m not really into Trista’s poetry. There’s nothing wrong with it, but the poems didn’t work as I expected. And what I mean, I was expecting to feel so touched from these very personal words, and I didn’t. I was expecting that feelings would overwhelm me, that didn’t happen. I wouldn’t discourage anyone to read Trista, these collections are not for me. Recommended.
You might ask the obvious question: What do I, a seventeen-year-old Haitian American from Miami with way too little life experience, have to say about anything?
Actually, a lot.
Thanks to “the incident” (don’t ask), I’m spending the next two months doing what my school is calling a “spring volunteer immersion project.” It’s definitely no vacation. I’m toiling away under the ever-watchful eyes of Tati Estelle at her new nonprofit. And my lean-in queen of a mother is even here to make sure I do things right. Or she might just be lying low to dodge the media sharks after a much more public incident of her own…and to hide a rather devastating secret.
All things considered, there are some pretty nice perks…like flirting with Tati’s distractingly cute intern, getting actual face time with my mom and experiencing Haiti for the first time. I’m even exploring my family’s history—which happens to be loaded with betrayals, superstitions and possibly even a family curse.
You know, typical drama. But it’s nothing I can’t handle.
Dear Haiti, Love Alaine is about Alaine (duh) who after presentation trouble (understatement of the year) is sent to Haiti for a new school project. But staying with her aunt and mother sparks Alaine’s curiosity about her family’s history, a history of betrays and injustices, even some family curses (maybe?). As her world starts to change around her, Alaine holds on to these pieces of her history. The past, however, has other plans, and Alaine decides to put an end to this family curse.
I picked this one up for Latinx Heritage Month and I was so curious, already half in love because of THAT cover. And it blew me away. I was sure I was going to like it! But I wasn’t prepared for how much I adored every single sentence. The characters! The story! The relationships! The love and heartbreak and pain and hope! I mean, I finished this book like two months ago? And I’m still tearing up thinking about it.
Let’s talk about the story
The book is mostly told via emails, notes, and articles. Alaine’s voice is so honest and funny, the story feels like talking with a friend, slowly unraveling each little piece. I’m always in awe of authors who can create such emotional, connected and well-explored stories with shared emails and small notes, even LISTS. There’s a power in making you care for characters that you’re not directly interacting with.
What I mean, I seriously loved the writing; there’s a vulnerability here, a raw, honest vulnerability that it’s quite heartbreaking. I wouldn’t say that the tone of the story is sad, it does deal with many heavy topics, but Alaine is so freaking funny that I couldn’t stop smiling.
Maritza and Maika created something beautiful here; a story about a mother and her daughter, but also about their country and their dreams. It’s a very bittersweet story, please be aware that it deals with the illness of a parent and recollection of sexual assault, miscarriage and physical violence. You will cry, you will scream, you will probably want to burn the world a little, but friends, it’s so worthy.
I enjoyed every single moment in this book, there’s magic between these pages. Magic from the love the authors feel for these characters, so clear from page 1. I’m not sure how to explain it? But thinking of Dear Haiti, Love Alaine makes me so soft. I think it’s the amazing writing and Alaine’s love for Haiti, in discovering this country that it’s her heritage but she doesn’t really know. There’s something wonderful in seeing Haiti through Alaine’s eyes. She has so much adoration and respect, and it’s so gratifying to see her grow.
Let’s talk about the characters
One thing I deeply loved was the characters and their relationships. Alaine is such a wonderful character. She’s clever and sarcastic, very honest and funny. My heart hurt for her, for her pain.
Her relationship with her mother was spectacular. A messy with hard feelings mixed in, it takes time for Alaine to open up to her mother, to see her, the real person her mother is outside the role of recognized journalist and the absent parent. Alaine is disappointed and angry, and she’s allowed a full range of emotions, conflicting emotions: fear, frustration and also a little bit of desperation. There are such tenderness and softness from the authors, they treat their character’s pain so respectfully. Omg, now I’m all soft again.
Dear Haiti, Love Alaine is a heartfelt and beautiful story with fantastic characters and one of the best voices that I have ever read in YA. I highly recommend it, it’s a wonderful YA Contemporary with the perfect balance of heartbreak and laughs. A very important story of a Haitian-American girl who’s suddenly forced to confront her broken relationship with her mother, and their family’s history. It’s one of my highlights of this year, hoping will be one of yours, too.
A high-stakes survival story about eight teenagers who outlive an alien attack—perfect for fans of The 5th Wave
Clover Martinez has always been a survivor, which is the only reason she isn’t among the dead when aliens invade and destroy Earth as she knows it.
When Clover hears an inexplicable radio message, she’s shocked to learn there are other survivors—and that they’re all at the former Area 51. When she arrives, she’s greeted by a band of misfits who call themselves The Last Teenagers on Earth.
Only they aren’t the ragtag group of heroes Clover was expecting. The group seems more interested in hiding than fighting back, and Clover starts to wonder if she was better off alone. But then she finds a hidden spaceship, and she doesn’t know what to believe…or who to trust.
One day, Clover Martinez is a teenager in her school science fair, dreaming of flying in the sky, like her abuelo. And then, strange spaceships arrive on Earth and everything goes downhill. Suddenly, she finds herself all alone, surviving as best as she can, hiding from the aliens who took everyone she loves. Clover spends months traveling without course, until the day she hears a voice on the radio: she isn’t the last teenager on Earth.
It’s a gripping story about aliens, an honest depiction of trauma, a raw survival story. Book starts with a content warning for depression, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempt and post-traumatic stress disorder. Clover carries grief and fear with herself, and it’s quite heartbreaking to read. The pacing, sadly, was all over the place. Although the first part had me intrigued, flying through the pages, the rest of the book was a disappointment after the other.
The thing is, as I was writing this review, I realized that The Last 8 is not a book for me. There’s nothing wrong happening here, this is just not my genre. So be aware that my review reflects my very personal feelings.
Let’s talk about the story
Part one was atmospheric, heartbreaking. I couldn’t put the book down and my heart hurt for Clover. But for the next two parts, the pacing was terrible. Too slow about the bits I didn’t care about, too fast in the relationship built up. It was frustrating that I was supposed to feel things for these characters when Clover barely knows them. Fair, that’s the whole point, I guess. But for me, so the found family can work, I need more. I was supposed to root for this gang that I still couldn’t quite see together.
About the plot, meh. As I said, the first part was my favorite part of the book. If the story would have been about Clover surviving, instead of alien fighting, I would have loved this. Fair, I’m not an alien fan, don’t really read science fiction. So yeah, everything involving the aliens? Meh for me. Plot twists were pretty predictable? I wouldn’t mind much if I cared about what was happening, and I didn’t. I was so frustrated with how rushed the climax felt.
And the ending was incredibly disappointing. The book sets itself up as high stakes, fast-paced adventure and everything involving the Big fight is a mess. I don’t know, I just felt like I was expecting something BIG to happen, and when it does, we barely have time to digest before changing the scene. Sure, the plot twist wasn’t surprising for me but it could have worked so well if Clover and friends had time to mentally grasp the implications of the revelations. For a book that so heavily deals with trauma, it was very disappointing.
Let’s talk about the characters
Listen, I can always ignore how I feel about plots with the characters. I have read many stories that meant everything because of its nuanced, sympathetic characters, even if I couldn’t care less about what was happening around them.
Sadly, I didn’t love Clover. She’s a bisexual, aro Mexican-American girl, dealing with grief, depression and suicide ideation. She’s resourceful and sharp, forced to impossible things to survive. She’s also impulsive, full of revenge and curiosity. But I felt nothing? Here I guess, it’s the writer’s style plus the pacing and the irritable plot points that didn’t let me fall in love with the characters. Too rush for me to feel like I knew these characters, I didn’t even feel like I knew Clover. Literally, I was surprised with her decisions, I felt like they were out of character. More like I really didn’t know her at all.
The Last 8 is a YA science fiction following a bisexual, aromantic Mexican-American girl and the seven teenagers who become her friends, her family. It’s a book, I have to accept, not for me. Although its first 50 pages, fascinated me, the rest of the story was like hitting a sudden wall. I wish I could have a different story here, I don’t think the book is necessarily bad or terrible. I wouldn’t discourage anyone to check it out.
Ana Maria Reyes has a plan, she’s going to get a scholarship for the prestigious private school that her family can’t afford with her piano recital. She’s going to be big, going places very far away from her crowded, tiny apartment. Of course, nothing comes easy in her life. Her parents announce a new baby is coming and her aunt invites them to the Dominican Republic, which ends up opening Ana Maria’s world open.
Ana Maria Reyes Does Not Live in a Castle is ultimately a book about family and culture, about helping and supporting your community, about the sacrifices we made for the people we care about.
There were many wonderful things happening with this book that I adored! Ana Maria is a vibrant and sympathetic character who gets herself in all sorts of troubles, she’s ambitious and focused. Although she doesn’t want to admit it, she has a soft spot for her sisters. She definitely has a place with my Messy Girls With Big Hearts.
The story wonderfully captures the struggles of being the big sister, the love and the fights, the fears and jealousy. Ana Maria has all these big dreams for herself and she wants them all, sometimes going through other people to get them. She is selfish, but she’s also a child tired of feeling like she always goes last. Which it’s a very big sibling feeling.
That’s exactly the reason I love middle grade: there’s more space for their protagonists to explore ugly and complicated feelings, bad choices and terrible intentions than in YA books. We sympathize with Ana Maria while we shake our heads at her ideas. I adore how satisfying it becomes seeing these children grow throughout their stories. And yes, that’s exactly how I felt with this book. Sadly, I had some problems with some plot points.
In her first visit to the Dominican Republic, Ana Maria learns about her family and their privilege. But I’m not 100% comfortable about how this is dealt. Ana Maria’s curiosity and misunderstanding about a particular situation cost a girl her job. Sure, she apologizes and tries to fix it, but then it’s too late. She’s hit, then, with the reality of how shelter her life has been so far, how lucky she is. This is a significant part of the story and I don’t feel so comfortable that Ana Maria’s journey comes from someone else’s misfortune. It feels oppressive? Why does this girl need to explain to the main character her life again and again? I can’t exactly pinpoint what it’s bothering me but maybe you get it, friends? Like it feels like the main character receives all this emotional labor that costs so much to the other girl and we’re supposed to congratulate Ana Maria at the end.
Another thing I didn’t like: the way the story dealt with her uncle, the accident and alcoholism. This thing of being family thus we have to be forgiven is something that I’m not here for. Being family doesn’t excuse any behavior and it most definitely doesn’t mean you don’t need to do the work to be forgiven. And I feel like this book does exactly that. The situation is resolved pretty quickly and the characters don’t talk about it. And I get what the book is trying to say about family and blah blah blah, but it’s just so dangerous and careless for a middle-grade book.
Overall, I just feel very conflicted about the book. It does well so many things but these two big themes of the story left me feeling uncomfortable.
Let me know what your latest middle-grade reads, I’m always down for recommendations!
TW: death of a loved one, mourning, addiction, corpses
Without the dead, she’d be no one.
Odessa is one of Karthia’s master necromancers, catering to the kingdom’s ruling Dead. Whenever a noble dies, it’s Odessa’s job to raise them by retrieving their soul from a dreamy and dangerous shadow world called the Deadlands. But there is a cost to being raised: the Dead must remain shrouded. If even a hint of flesh is exposed, a grotesque transformation begins, turning the Dead into terrifying, bloodthirsty Shades.
A dramatic uptick in Shade attacks raises suspicions and fears around the kingdom. Soon, a crushing loss of one of her closest companions leaves Odessa shattered, and reveals a disturbing conspiracy in Karthia: Someone is intentionally creating Shades by tearing shrouds from the Dead–and training them to attack. Odessa is forced to contemplate a terrifying question: What if her magic is the weapon that brings the kingdom to its knees?
Fighting alongside her fellow mages–and a powerful girl as enthralling as she is infuriating–Odessa must untangle the gruesome plot to destroy Karthia before the Shades take everything she loves.
“And maybe, in the days to come, everything that rises from the ashes will be better than before.”
Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh
Reign of the Fallen is about Odessa, a recently new master necromancer, who finds herself in the middle of a plot that could destroy the delicate balance between the Dead and the Living. This book was on my gay radar when it came out last year, I didn’t know much really: it had a pretty cover, #ownvoices bisexual rep and an f/f relationship. That’s it. That was everything I knew and really, everything I needed. And oh gays, I was so pleasantly and happily surprised by this one.
As I said, I wasn’t sure what the book was about, and when reading Fantasy, that’s the way I like to keep things. So when I realized this story had 1)necromancers and 2)found family storyline, I screamed in joy. Combined with the way this story deals with grief and addiction, and a beautiful slow burn sapphic romance, Reign of the Fallen gladly takes a seat in my 2019 favorites table.
Let’s talk about the world
In this kingdom of Karthia, where the Dead lives among their families and neighbors, necromancers are respected and praised by the royalty. King Wylding has ruled for decades, set in his old ways, keeping the traditions and customs generation after generation. This is a world of magic, but things are changing, technology and invention looking at a place to grow.
Odessa follows the rules, raising the Dead like she is supposed to, protecting them, taking care of them. She works alongside her boyfriend and friends, who have become her family after all the years of training. When Shades, terrible monsters hungry for the Living, start appearing in the kingdom, it’s up to the necromancers to find out what’s happening. Things, however, don’t go well and they lose two of their own.
Heartbroken by what happened, Odessa takes her grief and locks herself up in her room. But she’s forced to fight back when her boyfriend’s little sister comes looking for her. Something is happening in the kingdom, Meredy reminds her, someone is rising and the lives of the Dead and the Living are in danger. And Meredy won’t take a no for an answer.
These two unlikely friends now have to confront their fears, save Karthia and maybe don’t punch each other along the way.
Sure, the plot doesn’t sound like a new thing, we have seen the personal heroine journey in Fantasy many times. But combined with the ideas of tradition vs change, I do think Sarah Gleen Marsh gave it a nice spin. You should know, I’m a sucker for books about teenagers that want to tear systems down, who want to construct a new world, teenagers with big dreams and almost utopian ideologies. Odessa is not a revolutionary, but as the story goes on, she starts to question what she has believed about the world and her society her entire life.
Plus we get adventures, two sorts of rivals turn to friends turn to lovers and so much necromancy.
The world-building is interesting enough, although we don’t really see much. I get this would be a negative thing for many, but if the characters keep me reading, I don’t need anything else in a book. And friends, if these characters didn’t keep me reading!
Let’s talk about the characters
Odessa is so sympathetic and real, her chaotic bisexual energy so relatable. But also her pain and heartbreak, it was almost touchable. I wasn’t expecting to find this book so emotional and I ended up crying so much.
From the beginning, Odessa has a found family. Her fellow necromancers and mentors, who have been at her side since childhood, who share her grief now. I love a good story where the main character gets to make their family during their journey. But I enjoy way more books like this, where their love, shared memories, support, and loyalty, has been established already. There’s something special of watching relationships that has grown after years, watching how well the characters understand each other. It makes all happy.
That’s another high point of Reign of the Fallen, its characters relationship. The friendship, but also the bonds between Odessa and her mentor, the clear familial love in there. And of course, the sapphic romance.
Yes, this story has an f/f relationship that I very much enjoyed and adored. It’s not the center of the story and here we sort of see the beginning of their relationship, BUT OH GAYS. Their interactions are so funny and sweet. They don’t hate each other but they are not the best friends. Their feelings slowly grow and YES PLEASE.
I found this book gripping and entertaining, but also quite heartbreaking. It deals with death, loss, grief, and addiction in a very respectful way that makes me very thankful. We usually don’t see discussions about what it means to lose the people you love in fantasy settings, having incredible powers but being unable to stop the pain. There are no easy answers here and it’s made very clear that everyone deals with grief at their own pace and way.
Sure, I did find the plot a little bit predictable and lacking in the villain sector. But overall, Reign of the Fallen was a very good start for this duology. I’m very excited to dive more into this world and to see the romance grow and develop in the next book, Song of the Dead.
It’s the first time in a long time that I feel so happy writing a wrap up, not stressing about the long post, because you know, talking about Latinx book is my Thing. Latinx Heritage Month is over and I’m little bit sad. I’m so awed of the work of Latinx creators, so many wonderful content.
Having this month dedicated to reading and boosting Latinx voices was exactly what I needed. It was a reminder of how much we have accomplished and how far we still need to go. But also a reminder of why I adore the Latinx book community, the support and encouragement on my feed has been so heartwarming.
Keep supporting Latinx voices all-year long!
I read 30 Latinx books this past 30 days, dnf 3. I started SO good with my tbr and then, I threw it at the window. But still, I did read A LOT and so many good books! Like VERY good. And I’m happy that I have a mix of genres and ages and formats. I read some wonderful fantasies, YA contemporary kept blowing my mind and MG keeps consolidating itself as my comfort genre. I finally got around in reading some Picture Books (wonderful!) and Poetry collections. I may need to take a nap after all this reading, but still, so happy with all these books!!!
Lucky all of us, I already wrap up my first half of September: you can read post one here and post two here.
Some special gems?
-Lorena Alvarez’s beautiful, but BEAUTIFUL, illustrations. She’s a Colombian artist and her books, Nighlight and Hicotea, are a highlighted of this month. Colorful and adorable stories that also tackle heavy topics. It’s a delighted to read them, they make you heart all warm.
–The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia was SO good. And I don’t want to repeat myself, but Silvia is one of my favorite authors and I really have loved everything I have read by her so far. She never lets me down. I would recommend you to check out Alicia and Jocelyn’s post and Jocelyn’s video. Please, let them make you a Silvia Moreno-Garcia fan. You will not regret it.
–Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maritza and Maika Moulite. This book blew me away. I was sure I was going to like it! But I wasn’t prepare for how much I adored every single sentence. The characters! The story! The relationships! The love and heartbreak and pain and hope! Maritza and Maika created something beautiful here, a story about a mother and her daughter, but also about their country, and their dreams. It’s a very bittersweet story, please be aware that it deals with illness of a parent and recollection of sexual assault, miscarriage and physical violence. You will cry, you will scream, you will probably want to burn the world a little, but friends, it’sso worthy.
–A Dash Of Trouble by Anna Meriano. I have been meaning to read Love Sugar Magic series for a year now, but I never got around to it. I’m so glad I finally read book one, what a wonderful thing! Magic, Mexican food, sisters and a girl who tries her best and ends up in a big adventure. Leo definitely has joined my Messy Girls With Big Hearts club. I can’t wait to read book two! In what kind of trouble will Leo go now?
-Adriana Herrera and her Dreamers series are a highlighted of this year, too. I was so happy that I got to read book two, American Fairytale, and book three, American Love Story, this month. A little bit sad that now we have to WAIT for the next one. This series is so wonderful; queer men of color falling in love and getting their happy endings, found family, an unapologetic Latinx world and so much adorableness! I’m so grateful for the conversations of racism, police brutality and privilege that Adriana brings to her books. She’s always so respectful of power imbalances and boundaries. I adore all the characters and their relationships. What a beautiful series!
–With The Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo. I think I have been talking nonstop about this book so I will just say now; Elizabeth is amazing, you should be reading all her books, please do. I adore how this book deals with food, being single mother and finding this balance between taking care of your daughter but not stop going after your dreams. This is also a story about change, which Emoni has a very hard time accepting. *chef’s kiss* and yes, pun intended! Do yourself a favor and add to your tbr now!
–Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore. What a wonderful experience to reread this book now. Wild Beauty helped come to terms with my bisexuality, it meant so much to me that this book existed, that it was reading my deepest bookish dreams. Magical realism was my entire childhood and to come back now, to a story about bisexual primas with magic in their fingertips and the boy they all want to protect, oh friends, it feels like going home.
–The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante. This was LatinxLitTakeover pick, we read it alongside with Latinx-a-thon and Latinx Book Bingo and oh my heart! I think all immigrant experiences are needed and I want them all, but this book, Marisol’s story, oh how I needed that. I have talked on twitter about what it meant for me to have this book out there here and here. This is not an easy story, it deals with trauma, violence, depression, anxiety, racism, homophobia. Marisol and Rey relationship filled me with so much love, Marisol’s love for her sister made me all warm and the way the story unravels is just perfect. It’s an exploration of what this country forces immigrants to take and it’s uncomfortable and painful to read, which it’s so important. I will write a better review, because I have so many feelings and things to say. Please bear with my rambling for now.
–Flashed by Zoey Castile. This was the last book of the Happy Ending series and I’m very Sad, but also not really, because this was fantastic. Ay, dios how I love Zoey’s romance. Her characters are so sympathetic, their fears and dreams so real, and to see them grow is a wonderful thing. Flashed is a Beauty and the Beast retelling and just EXCELLENCE. I do like retellings but I have always felt very meh about Beauty and the Beast, so I was surprised how much I enjoyed the classic moments here. I guess, it does makes all the difference that this story is coming from Zoey, and there are so many conversations about consent, respecting boundaries and how the heroine is not here to save anyone. And the big gesture? PERFECT. My heart melted with this two, their very slow build romance and how sexy the book gets. I adored it, okay? I’m not sure what to do now that we won’t have more Happy Endings.
I want to be honest with you friends, I have been struggling about the content of my blog. I have been debating if I should talk about this or not, because I don’t want to be ungrateful, but the truth is, I’m kinda sad that my platforms haven’t been growing when I’ve working so hard creating new content. I’m disappointed and frustrated that my content hasn’t been doing good. Don’t get me wrong, I’m so happy for every single comment and like and follower, I really appreciate all the twitter love.
*big sigh* I just don’t know what I’m doing wrong?
What I’m trying to say is, I’m not sure how I will keep going from here with Latinx Magic. I did take a break and I don’t think I want to go away. But in terms of content, I’m not sure yet what will happen.
And I again I want to say, thank you so much for reading, for following me, for keep sharing my post! You’re all the best and I’m very VERY grateful for your love.
Nalah leads the fiercest all-girl crew in Mega City. That roles brings with it violent throw downs and access to the hottest boydega clubs, but the sixteen-year-old grows weary of the life. Her dream is to get off the streets and make a home in the exclusive Mega Towers, in which only a chosen few get to live. To make it to the Mega towers, Nalah must prove her loyalty to the city’s benevolent founder and cross the border in a search for a mysterious gang the Ashé Ryders. Led by a reluctant guide, Nalah battles other crews and her own doubts, but the closer she gets to her goal, the more she loses sight of everything—and everyone— she cares about.
Nalah must do the unspeakable to get what she wants—a place to call home. But is a home just where you live? Or who you choose to protect?
Dealing in Dreams follows a gang of fierce and violent girls who dream to climb to the top and live in the luxurious Mega towers. When the great day comes, the last battle, things go all wrong and Nalah, the leader of Las Mal Criadas, is forced to take a dangerous choice that will change everything.
This book was Latinx Book Club May pick, which I co-hosted with my dear friend Caro. I was very much excited to get to this book, 1) it has a very gorgeous cover, 2) we were all reading it for Latinx Book Club, and 3) it’s a YA Dystopian centering Latinx voices.
I went all-in for this story, very excited to dive into this world and characters. In the beginning, I enjoyed it very much. I liked the questions Lilliam’s rises, how morally grey the characters are, the found family theme. However, I found the plot predictable and all over the placed. And I had small problems that soon were big Yikes.
Let’s talk about the story
Lilliam Rivera explorers a world where violence is the reality. Survival and loyalty to your crew is what matters, nothing else. It’s a hard world that forces its characters to take tough decisions. A sort of matriarchal world (we’ll talk more about this later). As we advanced through with the story, we learned along Nalah that you can only trust your crew. This is not only a harsh, violent place, it’s also corrupted and very unfair.
I will give the book this, it does critic ableism, classicism and corruption. But I don’t think it does it well, it leaves things behind that I don’t understand. Is this a conscious choice? A careless choice? For example, this is a matriarchal society that oppresses men and boys? For what purpose? To reflect on today’s society? To say that a world ruled by corrupted women is like a machista world? Yeah, I don’t like it. I don’t think it’s well handled here, because it’s not handle at all. Sure, the book does discuss rigid gender roles but it feels a little bit uncomfortable with this flip. Like is it trying to appeal to boys? Is that why they’re the ones oppressed?
Besides the world-building, which I don’t think it’s very well handled and we barely get to see much, the plot is ridiculously predictable. Something that usually does not bother me too much if I care for the characters, which it didn’t happen here.
Let’s talk about Nalah
Nalah walks in the very thin, icy line in being an unlikable character and being an asshole. I know, I know, I’m always saying I love angry girls who are unapologetic. It’s not I didn’t like her, I just didn’t care about her. I think I need more characterization from her to feel close. Yes, I understood where she was coming from and the choices she was making, but I didn’t care how that made her feel at all. I guess this goes in hand with the writing not working for me.
Don’t get me wrong, I did not hate this book. It has a very wonderful found family relationship that it gets messy and bad before it gets better. And I do think the story raises important questions about rewriting history, being aware of what’s happening in the world around you, and the corruption of power.
Sadly, my biggest disappointment was the resolution. It just felt like a letdown. After everything we went through, things change in the last 2 chapters so fast. It felt like cheating, this new development in the characters that I was supposed to believe was real now. It was abrupt and anti-climatic. I like open endings, but not untied plot points.
One last good thing, however: I stan the friendship to the max and what it’s a perfect ending for this book. And friends, it could have been so gay. sad sigh
Spooky Season is here and you are all invited to join the Latinx Squad for a readalong of Zoraida Córdova’s series.
I feel like I read Labyrinth Lost such a long time ago (it was two years) because Latinx content has changed so much ever since. Many Latinx authors have said that Zoraida’s series was the prove that we could be Latinx and exist in a Fantasy setting inspired by our culture. For me, seeing a bisexual, Latinx girl in my favorite genre changed everything. We all really appreciate the work, love and support Zoraida gives to the community. And what better way to celebrate her and her books that read them all together!
So let’s talk details!
Date: From Oct 17th to Oct 31st
Books: Labyrith Lost (book 1) and Bruja Born (book 2)
Labyrith Lost Synopsis
I was chosen by the Deos. Even gods make mistakes.
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.
Zane has always enjoyed exploring the dormant volcano near his home in New Mexico, even though hiking it is challenging. He’d much rather hang out there with his dog, Rosie, than go to middle school, where kids call him Sir Limps a Lot, McGimpster, or Uno — for his one good leg. What Zane doesn’t know is that the volcano is a gateway to another world and he is at the center of a powerful prophecy.
A new girl at school, Brooks, informs him that he’s destined to release an evil god from the ancient Maya relic he is imprisoned in — unless she can find and remove it first. Together they return to the volcano, where all kinds of crazy happens. Brooks turns into a hawk, a demon attacks them in a cave, and Rosie gives her all while trying to protect Zane. When Zane decides to save his dog no matter the cost, he is thrust into an adventure full of surprising discoveries, dangerous secrets, and an all-out war between the gods, one of whom happens to be his father. To survive, Zane will have to become the Storm Runner. But how can he run when he can’t even walk well without a cane?
Feisty heroes, tricky gods, murderous demons, and spirited giants are just some of the pleasures that await in this fresh and funny take on Maya mythology, as rich and delicious as a mug of authentic hot chocolate.
Let’s talk about the book
The Storm Runner follows Zane, a middle-schooler, who suddenly sees himself involved in a terrifying and unbelievable adventure to save the world. Part of the Rick Riordan Presents, an imprint focus on ownvoices mythological series. I was so excited to pick this one because 1) Mayan mythology !!! and 2) Zane is a disabled, Latinx kid !!!
I have such conflicted feelings about this book, that’s why when this ended up as the first pick for Latinx Book Club, I thought a reread would clear up my head. It did not end well for the book, friends. Many things I could forgive and let pass in my first read were impossible to look away this time. And here I am, more conflicted than ever.
My expectations were not wrong, the story definitely has potential, but the execution is all wrong. This an adventure story with a main character who doesn’t know everything and makes mistakes along the way, he also deeply cares about his family and friends. Family is such an important part of the story and it’s clear the love Zane feels for his mother and uncle. The world-building is fascinating and the tiny bits of Latinx culture we get to see is very satisfying.
Now, I just have a huge problem with the disability rep here. Zane uses a cane and this a very painful thing for him. He has so much internalized ableism, so much. He’s always belittling himself and is constantly reminding us how different and unwanted he is… And I get it, I’ve also had internalized ableism that I had to work on. Being disabled in an able-bodied world is not easy, I know that. But here, all this hate just made sad and uncomfortable.
Let’s talk about the world
(You can skip this part because this is all my feelings)
The first time I read the book, I devoured it. I didn’t know much about Mayan mythology, except very tiny, disconnect pieces. So everything in the book felt compelling and satisfying. This second read did not hold up at all. I found Cervantes’s writing tedious, it dragged and was way more descriptive that I would have liked. So many unnecessary pieces that didn’t add anything to the story. This was such a slow-paced book and I usually like that very much, but The Storm Runner is not a character-driven story. No, instead we get purposely cut out pieces of information to keep Zane in the dark. The story does not move forward, which was so frustrating.
The world-building is magical and complex, one of the best things about the book and we barely get to see it. I wouldn’t exactly mind because this is a trilogy and I get this the first book, but you know, instead of getting so much stillness, I would have preferred to know more about the Gods.
Let’s talk about Zane
(Ok, maybe you should this right here)
I just have so much conflicted thoughts about the way Zane’s disability is portrayed here. No, scratch that, not conflict at all because it is not okay. Sure, I think we should get all types of disability rep in fantasy settings, but by ownvoices authors. That’s exactly it, I just don’t trust able-bodied authors to handle with the respect and nuanced necessary what it means to be a disabled middle-grader. I don’t and period. And Cervantes, sadly, did not start well here.
Zane has so much hate, which I understand, but there is not ONE character, or even the story itself, giving him validation or calling him out. It’s incredibly frustrating. His disability is considered a mere inconvenience for most of the story, and even when it could potentially become a strength, Zane resents it. Which again, it would be more than fair coming from a disabled author, not from Cervantes. She should have known better.
And I do think this something that could have been explored and developed into something important. But in this book, I was hit again and again how terrible and awful is to be disabled and my heart hurt. It was so painful to read, and I’m a 20 years old, I can’t even imagine what it means for a kid to see this hate.
And I will not dwell on this, but someone needs to call out Zane’s misogynist microaggressions.
The plot dragged, I found the writing tedious and the representation was not great, but I still found myself enjoying this book sometimes. I told you, I had conflicting feelings about it. The whole theme of family is so well done, an unconditional support that leads Zane’s uncle to follow him in this dangerous adventure. Mostly, I’m just disappointed. This book had the potential to be a hopeful, heartwarming representation for disabled Latinx kids and instead, we got this.
Do I believe that it can get better? I guess all the plot-related problems certainly could with the next two books. But the representation? I really can’t trust Jen Cervantes anymore. And I don’t want to give up on her, so maybe I will read book two. Just don’t hold your breath.
Have you read any of the Rick Riordan Presents book? Let me know in the comments!