My Next Life As A Villainess: All Routes Lead To Doom! Vol. 1 by Satoru Yamaguchi and Nami Hidaka {Manga Review}

My Next Life As A Villainess: All Routes Lead To Doom! Volume 1 by Satoru Yamaguchi and Nami Hidaka

Publisher: Seven Seas

Release Date: August 6, 2019

Pages: 230

Available Through The Book Depository: My Next Life As A Villainess Vol. 1

Summary: A high school girl is stunned to find herself reincarnated as the conniving villainess from her favorite dating sim game, Fortune Lover. Now, as Catarina Claes, the impossibly rich and spoiled daughter of a Duke, her new life seems to perfectly sync up with the world of the game. This means big trouble! No matter how the game turned out, there were only two fates for Catarina: exile or death!

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: My Next Life As Villainess is an utterly brilliant manga series that follows Katarina whose reborn into the villain of an otome game and now, she’s trying to avoid her doom at all costs! The comedic, page-turning story is driven not only by humor, but also it’s refreshing plot that at its core, is about friendship!

What first drew me to this series was the concept!! A villainess whose trying to avoid her destruction at all costs? Little did I know it would end up being an Isekai (following a character who gets transported to another world/universe). I recently started watching the anime because its been on my to-watch list and its seriously been phenomenal (I’m obsessed), so I had to check out the manga.

Katarina Claes from page 1 has now realized she had a past-life as a modern-day 17-year-old and has now been transported into an otome called “Fortune Hunter,” where she’s currently the villain of the series at 8 yrs. old, but the problem is, all her storylines lead to destruction! When she regains some memory of her past life, she records everything she can about the story, characters, and its fantasy world of royals and nobility to start working on a plan (at only 8 yrs!!) to prevent any possibilities of her execution or death!

There’s dukes, princes, royalty of all kinds, and as Katarina not only builds up her strength through magic and combat, she finds that her main plan is to befriend her future enemies to change her fate! It wasn’t until I revisited the story as a manga that I ultimately realized, Katarina is not only befriending and helping the royals around her, but she’s even helping them overcome insecurities. Its just refreshing to see in a fantasy setting, not only the incredibly genius comedy, but also the underlying concept of friendship.

Yamaguchi and Hidaka tell a brilliant story where they understand their audience. Because of that, the reader becomes so self-aware of the tropes being introduced, and yet it’s almost effortlessly subverted or interwoven with a comedic moment of Katarina slipping up in her royal status, or using her knowledge of the “capture targets” to her advantage. In her efforts to evade all doom, it leaves the reader wanting to know more and immersed in her journey even more than when it began!

Also, just seeing Katarina act like a normal person in this world makes for so many hilarious moments!

She meets her adopted brother Keith, Mary (an introverted noblewoman whose ignored, or bullied by her older sisters), Prince Jerod (Katarina’s fiance), and his brother Prince Alan. There’s also Sophia and Nicol, who are children of the prime minister. Katarina not only befriends all of them, but also starts mysteriously taking over romance lines or moments from them before the game has officially even begun!

Friendship is such an important and underlying driving force of this series and its just refreshing to see this as a main focus (mixed with comedy) in a YA Fantasy setting! Katarina builds such deep bonds with royals and nobles she meets, despite all the hilarious situations. Although she understands she’s the villain, she works to evade it as much as she can to live a comfortable life, not only by taking up sword fighting, but also taking up gardening to improve her magic.

I truly believe a story of this caliber truly shines as an animated series. While the book is just as fun and revisiting it allowed me to remember some plot points I may have forgotten, the anime does make it more fast-paced and offers those little layers of intrigue and mystery into the story. The anime is a crafty amalgamation of inverting tropes, humor, and at its core, is something you would gladly invest hundreds of hours into to see what happens next!

Hidaka’s art style makes each character stand out and they all have their own unique designs. There were some wonderful pages with details to the background, FOOD, setting, and so on that make the world come to life! While the magic is a common elemental-based system, there’s little details like dirt dolls, Katarina improving her magic through gardening, that gives it unique and comedic twists! However for the most part, there really hasn’t been too much magic showcased, but I’m eager to learn more about it through the other characters.

I’m very much invested to see where the story is headed (I’m actually already on Vol. 2 story-wise in the anime). Katarina is an incredibly funny, at times dense, but amazing protagonist, so I’m looking forward to what happens with all her new friends and the main heroine of “Fortune Hunter,” Maria!

My Next Life As A Villainess: All Routes Lead To Doom Vol. 1 is great introduction to a unique, entertaining series in the Isekai genre! There’s a dynamic cast of characters, meaningful exploration of friendship, some intrigue, but its above all a tale brimming with comedy you won’t be able to put down! This is genius series and I highly recommend it!

Indie Press Books From Latine Authors {Latinx Heritage Month Series 2020}

Its Week 3 of Latinx Heritage Month and today’s post will be highlighting books from Indie (or independent) presses by Latinx authors!

Indie publishers are releasing such fantastic books and for this week’s bookish list, I’m highlighting 10 Young Adult books from Latine / Latinx authors! Don’t forget to support the smaller presses out there! Enjoy today’s recommendations and let’s chat about them in the comments 📚✨

1. The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary by NoNieqa Ramos

Available Through Bookshop and The Book Depository
Publisher:
Carolrhoda Lab

Summary: Macy’s school officially classifies her as “disturbed,” but Macy isn’t interested in how others define her. She’s got more pressing problems: her mom can’t move off the couch, her dad’s in prison, her brother’s been kidnapped by Child Protective Services, and now her best friend isn’t speaking to her. Writing in a dictionary format, Macy explains the world in her own terms—complete with gritty characters and outrageous endeavors. With an honesty that’s both hilarious and fearsome, slowly Macy reveals why she acts out, why she can’t tell her incarcerated father that her mom’s cheating on him, and why her best friend needs protection . . . the kind of protection that involves Macy’s machete. 

2. Throw by Ruben Degollado

Available Through Bookshop and The Book Depository
Publisher: Slant Books

Summary: Llorona is the only girl Güero has ever loved. A wounded soul, she has adopted the name of a ghost from Mexican folklore. True to her namesake, Llorona cast Güero away with the coldness of the apparition she has become. But Güero—though he would never admit it to his friends—still wants to get back together with her.

Güero spends time with his friends Ángel and Smiley—members of the HCP (Hispanics Causing Panic) gang—roaming the streets of the South Texas border towns they inhabit, trying to forget Llorona even as she seems to appear around every corner.

Over three days Güero’s increasingly violent confrontations with Llorona’s current boyfriend will jeopardize the lives of Ángel and Smiley and the love he hopes to regain.

As events begin to accelerate toward their conclusion—and gang signs are thrown as both threats and claims of identity—the question arises: will Güero throw the HCP sign, or will he throw off that life? Güero’s life will be irrevocably changed by violence and loss, but who will he lose, and will he—somewhere along the way—lose himself?

3. Secrets Of The Casa Rosada by Alex Temblador

Available Through Bookshop and The Book Depository
Publisher:
Piñata Books (Arte Público Press)

Summary: Sixteen-year-old Martha and her mother move constantly, never staying anywhere for long. So she knows better than to ask if they’ve been evicted again when her mom says they’re going on a “vacation” to meet the grandmother Martha didn’t know existed.

Laredo, Texas, is like no other city she has seen. Driving past businesses with Spanish names and colorfully painted houses with burnt lawns, Martha can’t imagine her mother living somewhere so … Mexican. At her grandmother’s pink house, she’s shocked and hurt when her mom abandons her, even though a part of her had been expecting it.

Suddenly Martha must deal with a way of life that is completely foreign. Her grandmother doesn’t speak English, so communication is difficult, and she’s not the typical, sweet grandma who dotes on her grandchildren. Even weirder, it turns out that her grandmother is revered as a healer, or curandera. And there are tons of cousins, aunts and uncles all ready to embrace her!

At her new school, Martha can’t be anonymous like before because everyone knows she’s Doña González’s granddaughter. Meanwhile, a girl who has it out for her makes things unpleasant. As Martha struggles to adjust to her new life, she can’t help but wonder why her mother left Laredo. No one is willing to discuss it, so she’ll have to unravel the secret herself.

4. Skip by Molly Mendoza

Available Through Bookshop and The Book Depository
Publisher: Nobrow Ltd.
Book Review

Summary: A colorful, unpredictable postapocalyptic world comes alive in Skip, when two unlikely friends, Bloom and Gloopy, find themselves tossed from dimension to dimension. Gloopy is running toward adventure, and away from their home and friends who don’t understand their creative talent. Bloom is desperately trying to return home to their lake, and avoid the terrible violence of the city. Instead, both Bloom and Gloopy find what they need in each other, and bravely return home to challenge their fears and create beauty in their own worlds.

As Bloom and Gloopy skip through dimensions and encounter weeping giants, alligator islands, and a topsy turvy 2D world, they find comfort in each other and learn that sometimes, your greatest fear reveals where your strengths lie.

5. This Train Is Being Held by Ismée Amiel Williams

Available Through Bookshop and The Book Depository
Publisher: Amulet Books

Summary: When private school student Isabelle Warren first meets Dominican-American Alex Rosario on the downtown 1 train, she remembers his green eyes and his gentlemanly behavior. He remembers her untroubled happiness, something he feels all rich kids must possess. That, and her long dancer legs. Over the course of multiple subway encounters spanning the next three years, Isabelle learns of Alex’s struggle with his father, who is hell-bent on Alex being a contender for the major leagues, despite Alex’s desire to go to college and become a poet. Alex learns about Isabelle’s unstable mother, a woman with a prejudice against Latino men. But fate—and the 1 train—throw them together when Isabelle needs Alex most.

6. Tigers, Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry

Available Through Bookshop and The Book Depository
Publisher:
Algonquin Young Readers

Summary: The Torres sisters dream of escape. Escape from their needy and despotic widowed father, and from their San Antonio neighborhood, full of old San Antonio families and all the traditions and expectations that go along with them. In the summer after her senior year of high school, Ana, the oldest sister, falls to her death from her bedroom window. A year later, her three younger sisters, Jessica, Iridian, and Rosa, are still consumed by grief and haunted by their sister’s memory. Their dream of leaving Southtown now seems out of reach. But then strange things start happening around the house: mysterious laughter, mysterious shadows, mysterious writing on the walls. The sisters begin to wonder if Ana really is haunting them, trying to send them a message—and what exactly she’s trying to say.

7. Holly Hernandez And The Death Of Disco by Richie Narvaez

Available Through Bookshop and The Book Depository
Publisher: Piñata Books (Arte Público Press)

Summary: Holly Hernandez, voted “Miss Bright of ’79” and valedictorian at her previous school, is excited to start fresh at Flatbush Technical High School, one of the most competitive public schools in New York City. She’ll be one of thousands; anonymous. But her dreams of a normal school life disappear when her mother, a homicide detective, has to investigate the murder of Mr. Friedman, the social studies teacher.

One of her classmates, Xander Herrera, quickly becomes the primary suspect. The tall, awkward boy is socially inept, but Holly doesn’t think he’s a murderer. She is intent on exonerating him—but he wants nothing to do with her. To Xander, Holly is the overly enthusiastic student who always sits in the front row and answers all the teachers’ questions—correctly. He hates perky people!

Eventually cleared of the crime, Xander is determined to find the killer before Holly. As they race to solve the case, their separate investigations lead to a slew of suspects, including another teacher seen arguing with Friedman and a mysterious person named Steve who met with him several times before his death. Could it have been a disgruntled student? Ultimately, a trophy for a disco-dancing contest leads the intrepid young detectives to the Mission Venus nightclub and a murderer intent on killing again!

8. Furia by Yamile Saied Méndez

Available through Bookshop and The Book Depository
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Summary: An #ownvoices contemporary YA set in Argentina, about a rising soccer star who must put everything on the line—even her blooming love story—to follow her dreams.

In Rosario, Argentina, Camila Hassan lives a double life.

At home, she is a careful daughter, living within her mother’s narrow expectations, in her rising-soccer-star brother’s shadow, and under the abusive rule of her short-tempered father.

On the field, she is La Furia, a powerhouse of skill and talent. When her team qualifies for the South American tournament, Camila gets the chance to see just how far those talents can take her. In her wildest dreams, she’d get an athletic scholarship to a North American university.

But the path ahead isn’t easy. Her parents don’t know about her passion. They wouldn’t allow a girl to play fútbol—and she needs their permission to go any farther. And the boy she once loved is back in town. Since he left, Diego has become an international star, playing in Italy for the renowned team Juventus. Camila doesn’t have time to be distracted by her feelings for him. Things aren’t the same as when he left: she has her own passions and ambitions now, and La Furia cannot be denied. As her life becomes more complicated, Camila is forced to face her secrets and make her way in a world with no place for the dreams and ambition of a girl like her.

9. Blazewrath Games by Amparo Ortiz

Available Through Bookshop and The Book Depository
Publisher:
Page Street Kids

Summary: Lana Torres has always preferred dragons to people. In a few weeks, sixteen countries will compete in the Blazewrath World Cup, a tournament where dragons and their riders fight for glory in a dangerous relay. Lana longs to represent her native Puerto Rico in their first ever World Cup appearance, and when Puerto Rico’s Runner—the only player without a dragon steed—is kicked off the team, she’s given the chance.

But when she discovers that a former Blazewrath superstar has teamed up with the Sire—a legendary dragon who’s cursed into human form—the safety of the Cup is jeopardized. The pair are burning down dragon sanctuaries around the world and refuse to stop unless the Cup gets cancelled. All Lana wanted was to represent her country. Now, to do that, she’ll have to navigate an international conspiracy that’s deadlier than her beloved sport.

10. Cecilia’s Magical Mission by Viola Canales

Available Through The Book Depository
Publisher: Piñata Books (Arte Público Press)

Summary: Everyone in fourteen-year-old Cecilia’s Mexican-American community has a don—a special gift or talent. Her father, who’s named after St. Anthony, helps people find things, or parts of themselves, that they’ve lost. Paco, the janitor in the building where she lives, can tell fortunes. Cecilia can’t figure out hers, and she really needs to since her confirmation is coming up.

The truth is, Cecilia doesn’t really believe people have celestial gifts. Her opinion begins to change when she gets apprenticed to Doña Faustina, who has a magic way with coffee. Soon Cecilia realizes that her apprenticeship involves something more sinister than a mystical brew! And on a trip back to the special Mexican village of Santa Cecilia, she and her friends Julie and Lebna learn something about friendship, community and the powers of good and evil.

Thank you for joining me in the 3rd post of my Latinx Heritage Month series! Next week, you can expect another bookish list and ICYMI: I interviewed Lilliam Rivera about her newest book NEVER LOOK BACK! (WordPress actually hid this post from the tags/Reader for a few days so if your able to check it out, I’d appreciate it) 🌿✨

Any Indie authors or books your looking forward to reading from this list? 📚💖

For today’s post I’m recommending the Puerto Rican bookstore: The Bookmark PR

The Tea Dragon Tapestry by Katie O’Neill ARC Review {Graphic Novel}

The Tea Dragon Tapestry (Tea Dragon Society #3)

Publisher: Oni Press

Release Date: October 27, 2020

Pages: 128

Available Through The Book Depository: Tea Dragon Tapestry

Summary: Over a year since being entrusted with Ginseng’s care, Greta still can’t chase away the cloud of mourning that hangs over the timid Tea Dragon. As she struggles to create something spectacular enough to impress a master blacksmith in search of an apprentice, she questions the true meaning of crafting, and the true meaning of caring for someone in grief. Meanwhile, Minette receives a surprise package from the monastery where she was once training to be a prophetess. Thrown into confusion about her path in life, the shy and reserved Minette finds that the more she opens her heart to others, the more clearly she can see what was always inside.

[Received a digital ARC via Netgalley and the publisher]

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: The Tea Dragon Tapestry is a satisfying, heartwarming conclusion to the series! Reunited with Greta and her friends, this third installment tells a gentle, quiet story about embracing change! O’Neill’s art, storytelling, and color palette make this a perfect read for fall!

The second you open up the beautifully illustrated pages of a Tea Dragon novel, you’ll always know your in for a comforting and wholesome tale. Picking up the last novel feels like a goodbye and yet it also doesn’t. There’s a timeless quality to the world of tea dragons and its been an honor to follow it with each installment.

As Greta prepares for an upcoming blacksmith apprenticeship, while also trying to take care of her tea dragon Ginseng. Minette is grappling with the lost memories of her past, also struggling to gain a better understanding of her sense of identity and purpose. While there’s definitely a lot of sweet Greta & Minette moments, they each go on their own individual journeys too!

It’s wonderful to see all of the characters from Society again! Seeing Heskiel, Erik, Greta, Greta’s parents, Minette, also seeing the whole Tea Society crew together (they are such a wholesome found family 💕). We also get introduced to one of their old friends Klietos, who goes on a journey himself as he learns to find the spirit for blacksmithing again while staying to test Greta for her apprenticeship!

The world of Tea Dragon has always felt expansive, despite the very focused and central stories it tells. That’s something I will forever admire about this series because its quiet, intimate storytelling emphasizes such meaningful messages about family, friendship, self, identity, and the beauty of time.

The art, as with previous books, is absolutely lovely. There’s a lot of panels without dialogue that allow you to take the necessary moments to take in the soft art style and warm colors. The color palette is a rainbow of oranges, purples, yellows, and is a perfect read for getting you into the cozy fall spirit.

Next, I wanted to discuss a mini, personal gripe. I personally felt there were SO many circle panels and while its nice because they give you insight into a character’s deeper emotions, it did feel overused at points. You already know how a particular character is feeling (Minette for example when she’s reflecting on the tapestry and her lost memories) based on context, so it felt unnecessary to the overall story. The circle panels also interfered with the stunning full page artwork / panels at times.

Also, an interesting observation is that because the series takes on a very timeless feel to it, there’s never such a sense of urgency in the plot. However this one is obviously meant to wrap-up the series, so the conflict does feel straightforward. Yet, it captures such powerful messages of healing and finding your way despite the passion or motivation becoming lost somewhere through. Our tapestry is still being woven and this book reminds us that despite the challenges, we are still being

Having originally read this series while it was still being published as a webcomic, its no surprise Tea Dragon will forever be incredibly special to me! Was I also sobbing because this was the final book? Absolutely! What makes it such a beautiful ending is that it doesn’t really feel like one either. You know Greta, Minette, and the group have tons of long journeys, especially adventures, ahead of them! It never feels like a goodbye! 🧡

I just had a lot of fun returning to this world for one last adventure! This series is just so wholesome, comforting, and has the most beautiful storytelling, if you haven’t read this series, PLEASE do!! Its an absolute gem and I cannot recommend it enough. If you love diverse, inclusive, heartwarming stories, dragons, and meaningful, deeply moving messages set in a quiet, fantasy world, you have to read The Tea Dragon Society!

The Tea Dragon Tapestry is the highly anticipated and perfect conclusion to The Tea Dragon Society series! O’Neill navigates important themes and tells an equally beautiful story! Your heart will be filled with joy as you’re reunited with beloved characters again one one more journey! From its quiet, loving story to its vibrant colors, and immersive storytelling, this is a delightfully crafted installment to the series! Readers will not want to miss this fantastic conclusion!

For this review I’m also shouting out fellow bloggers: Tea Time Book Review, AnneMieke from A Dance With Books, & Local Bee Hunters Nook! If you prefer short, concise reviews I recommend checking these bloggers as they delve into important themes that O’Neill explores in Tapestry! ☕🐉💗

Author Interview With Lilliam Rivera Featuring Never Look Back {Latinx Heritage Month Series 2020}

For the second post in my Latinx Heritage Month Series today’s guest is Lilliam Rivera, award-winning author of YA novels such as The Education Of Margot Sanchez and Dealing In Dreams! Her latest novel Never Look Back released just last week and this modern-day retelling follows 2 Afro-Latinx teens navigating love, identity, and much more! 🌿🌺

Here’s Lilliam to introduce what Never Look Back and what its all about:

“Never Look Back is a modern retelling of the Greek myth Orpheus and Eurydice set in New York with Pheus, a wannabe bachata singer who meets and falls in love with Eury, a Puerto Rican displaced from her home by Hurricane Maria and followed by an angry spirit. It is a story about generational trauma, faith, and love.”

Next, I asked Lilliam what inspired her novel and she shared that at its root, this a novel about hope:

“My novel is inspired by Hurricane Maria and how it affected my family living on the island. I needed to find a way to write about the rage I felt during that time while I watched our government do nothing to help those on the island. Never Look Back was my way of searching for hope.”

I also recommend reading Lilliam’s phenomenal essay from Elle titled “One Year After Hurricane Maria, We Are Still Picking Up The Pieces.”

All 3 of Lilliam’s novels have been set in the Bronx, so she delved into what unites these stories:

“My first novel The Education of Margot Sanchez is a contemporary coming of age story. Dealing In Dreams is a dystopian tale set in a world where girl gangs rules the streets. And finally, Never Look Back is my retelling. What unites them is that they are all love letters to the place I was born and raised.”

Never Look Back is told through dual POV, so I then asked Lilliam what inspired this and whose she enjoyed writing the most:

“I wrote them in alternating POV because I wanted to challenge myself. I had a lot of fun writing Pheus. It was the first time writing from the POV of a boy. Eury was harder to write because she was shy and dealing with many difficult emotions.”

Lilliam’s contemporary novel delves into magical realism and is also a retelling! So I then asked her if there was any particular element of these genres she enjoyed writing the most (mini spoiler):

“I didn’t really think about the different craft elements I was introducing. I only thought about the story and what the characters wanted to say. Although I don’t have a favorite, it was a lot of fun to explore the underworld.”

Alongside that, I asked Lilliam what she was most excited for readers to discover about her new novel:

“I just want them to follow the journey Pheus and Eury take and to root for them. I love these characters and I hope readers love them too.”

To conclude our interview, I had to ask Lilliam if there are any Latine/Latinx YA books she recommends:

“These novels are coming out this year and should be on everyone’s radar:

Mark Oshiro’s Each Of Us A Desert

Yamile Saied Méndez’s Furia

Amparo Ortiz’s Blazewrath Games

Zoraida Córdova’s Wayward Witch

Thank you to Lilliam for joining me on the blog today and hope you’ll all join me for next week’s 3rd post in my Latinx Heritage Month Series!

You can order Never Look Back from Rivera’s local independent bookstore Skylight Books or from today’s featured Latinx-owned indie called The Lit Bar located in the Bronx! 💖📚

City Of Secrets by Victoria Ying Review {Graphic Novel}

City Of Secrets: Secret Of The Switchboard by Victoria Ying

Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers

Release Date: July 28, 2020

Pages: 256

Available Through Bookshop and The Book Depository

Summary: Ever Barnes is a shy orphan guarding a secret in an amazing puzzle box of a building.

Most of the young women who work at the building’s Switchboard Operating Facility, which connects the whole city of Oskar, look the other way as Ever roams around in the shadows. But one of them, Lisa, keeps an eye on the boy. So does the head of the Switchboard, Madame Alexander . . . a rather sharp eye.

Enter Hannah, the spunky daughter of the building’s owner. She thinks Ever needs a friend, even if he doesn’t know it yet.

Good thing she does!

Lisa and Madame Alexander are each clearly up to something.

Ever is beset by a menacing band of rogues looking to unlock the secret he holds–at any cost. And whatever is hidden deep in the Switchboard building will determine all of their futures.

On a journey that twists and turns as much as the mechanical building Ever Barnes calls home, he and his new friend Hannah have to – and out what’s really going on in this mysterious city of secrets . . . or else!

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: City Of Secrets is a wondrous graphic novel set in an immersive steampunk world! The story follows a shy orphan and upper-class girl who embark on an adventure to uncover the secrets of a notable facility! Colorful, cinematic artwork, alongside friendship, adventure, and a page-turning story bring this graphic novel to life!

What first drew me to City Of Secrets was the magnificent artwork! Ying’s unique style brings a depth and immersion to the steampunk city of Oskar that enthralls you with each panel. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the author expands on the world, story, and cast of characters after the amount explored in this first installment!

From the very first page, the artwork transports you to this fascinating steampunk world and more importantly, the renowned Switchboard Operating Facility where many young women work, run by the strict Madame Alexander. Ever Barnes, an orphan who lives in the shadows of this building, remains quite elusive to many, but a worker by the name of Lisa helps him out by leaving food.

Ever not only manages levers and mechanisms behind the scenes, but also protects a mysterious safe hidden within the buildings depths. Hannah Morgan, the daughter of the building’s owner, is prone to adventure! Right away she’s fascinated by the intriguing building and learning more about Ever!

Though Ever’s hesitant at first, the two slowly build a lovely friendship. One of my many favorite parts about this book was seeing how it develops over the course of the story.

When we uncover secrets about Ever’s past, including his father and what led him to look after the facility, the story introduces a mysterious guild of assassins who’re not only trying to get rid of Ever, but also uncover the building’s secrets!

What follows is a plot steeped in mystery, conspiracy, and your left shrouded in uncertainty as to what could possible be inside the facility’s safe!

The cast of characters in this graphic novel were all so great! You sense that pain and loneliness Ever feels after the death of his father, mixed with knowing he really has no other option, but to follow his father’s footsteps and protect the switchboard’s secrets at any cost, despite the danger he faces at countless moments.

Hannah’s spunky and curious nature inspires her to figure out who Ever is and learn more about the switchboard building! Despite her mother’s insistence she not ignore her lady-like responsibilities, Hannah never lets anything get in the way of her exploration and sense of adventure!

The world building in City Of Secrets feels expansive, entrenched in politics, intrigue and wonder! The city of Oskar is wavering on the edge of war with neighboring city of Edmonda. Although its very much an underlying plot point, the way Ying builds the layers to that particular storyline is very interesting and I’m interested in seeing more of what’ll happen with these cities and our main cast in the next book! The city is divided by levels all powered by mechanisms, gears, and all those little details really make the steampunk elements such a vital part of the world!

Now for the artwork– where to begin? Its magnificent and almost cinematic with how quickly the pages fly by! The use of warm, almost a cozy fall color palette bring a sense of wonder as you immerse yourself in this elaborate steampunk setting! The backgrounds, character designs, facial expressions, and overall atmosphere make it feel like your reading an animated film! Although for me at points it did feel like the paneling cut a bit too quickly between scenes (because there’s a lot of action), each page was a work of art. Ying’s style brings a lively and captivating energy to the story and it will not disappoint!

This is just such a fun story that layers in the theme of friendship, conspiracy, and above all ADVENTURE! If you like ensemble casts, this is a perfect read because there’s always something new your learning about these characters. There’s a nice mix of political intrigue, some dark moments, but overall it has such a light-hearted feel to it that you will sense that uplifting, comforting, adventurous spirit!

My only issues which made me lean towards 4 stars, although this graphic novel is easily one of my new favorites, was the rushed pacing of this story despite it being over 200 pages. Particular scenes or panels would transition swiftly and there were moments I had to reread it to double check what had happened. But again, that’s also its strength because at every moment you just want to keep reading to know where the story’s headed. I also feel like for me personally, the ending kind of caught me off guard because it was rather rushed. While I definitely love the unique way Ying builds towards it and wraps everything up, it felt like it was just a very sudden twist!

However, I will say the more I let the wonder of this book simmer, I really do appreciate the surprises at the end. While the ending is kind of abrupt and rushes with those last 30-ish pages, overall I’m happy with how nicely plot threads wrap up! (I also feel like the more I reflect on this book, my rating will probably increase in the future).

The sequel is definitely going onto my TBR because this book was just so magical and whimsical! The story really connected with me and I adored the sense of adventure + very wholesome friendship between Ever and Hannah! I loved their dynamic a lot and can’t wait to see where their next adventure is headed! 💖🗝✨

City Of Secrets is an absolutely charming graphic novel set in an immersive steampunk world! As Ever and Hannah team up to solve a conspiracy, they embark on an adventure of epic proportions! The enchanting art and story, fuses with intrigue, even mystery to deliver a delightful read start to finish! You’ll adore Ying’s cast of characters, unique story, and world, eager to see what’s next!

Latinx YA Fantasy Recommendations {Latinx Heritage Month Series 2020}

Here at 24hr.YABookBlog, I’m celebrating Latinx Heritage Month with a series of weekly posts that will highlight Latine/Latinx literature and storytelling via bookish lists, even featuring some wonderful interviews!

I’ve never planned a series of this scale before, but this year especially has given me time to reflect on how my content can continue to celebrate and uplift inclusive voices. As a Latina book blogger, I was struck with immediate inspiration on launching a series of posts during September 15 – October 15 to highlight Latinx stories and creators!

I hope you check out all the weekly posts that are planned here on the blog and join me! My goal is to inspire you to seek out and celebrate these wonderful Latinx stories. Today’s post highlights 10+ YA Fantasy titles!

Young Adult fantasy has easily become one of my go-to categories for reading in recent years. Latinx authors are crafting such a diverse range of tales and magical worlds for us to transport ourselves to! This list will feature both a mix of secondary world fantasy and contemporary fantasy, however there will be a focus on more specific fantasy in a future list. Enjoy the recs and lets chat about them in the comments 📚✨

1. Sweet Black Waves by Kristina Pérez (SBW #1)

Available through Bookshop and The Book Depository
Publisher: Imprint (Fierce Reads)

Summary: Not you without me, not me without you.

Two proud kingdoms stand on opposite shores, with only a bloody history between them.

As best friend and lady-in-waiting to the princess, Branwen is guided by two principles: devotion to her homeland and hatred for the raiders who killed her parents. When she unknowingly saves the life of her enemy, he awakens her ancient healing magic and opens her heart. Branwen begins to dream of peace, but the princess she serves is not so easily convinced. Fighting for what’s right, even as her powers grow beyond her control, will set Branwen against both her best friend and the only man she’s ever loved.

Inspired by the star-crossed tale of Tristan and Eseult, this is the story of the legend’s true heroine: Branwen.

2. Beneath The Citadel by Destiny Soria

Available through Bookshop and The Book Depository
Publisher: Amulet

Summary: In the city of Eldra, people are ruled by ancient prophecies. For centuries, the high council has stayed in power by virtue of the prophecies of the elder seers. After the last infallible prophecy came to pass, growing unrest led to murders and an eventual rebellion that raged for more than a decade.

In the present day, Cassa, the orphaned daughter of rebels, is determined to fight back against the high council, which governs Eldra from behind the walls of the citadel. Her only allies are no-nonsense Alys, easygoing Evander, and perpetually underestimated Newt, and Cassa struggles to come to terms with the legacy of rebellion her dead parents have left her — and the fear that she may be inadequate to shoulder the burden. But by the time Cassa and her friends uncover the mystery of the final infallible prophecy, it may be too late to save the city — or themselves.

3. We Set The Dark On Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia (WSTDOF #1)

Available through Bookshop and The Book Depository
Publisher:
Katherine Tegen Books (Harper Teen)

Summary: At the Medio School for Girls, distinguished young women are trained for one of two roles in their polarized society. Depending on her specialization, a graduate will one day run a husband’s household or raise his children, but both are promised a life of comfort and luxury, far from the frequent political uprisings of the lower class. Daniela Vargas is the school’s top student, but her bright future depends upon no one discovering her darkest secret—that her pedigree is a lie. Her parents sacrificed everything to obtain forged identification papers so Dani could rise above her station. Now that her marriage to an important politico’s son is fast approaching, she must keep the truth hidden or be sent back to the fringes of society, where famine and poverty rule supreme.

On her graduation night, Dani seems to be in the clear, despite the surprises that unfold. But nothing prepares her for all the difficult choices she must make, especially when she is asked to spy for a resistance group desperately fighting to bring equality to Medio. Will Dani cling to the privilege her parents fought to win for her, or to give up everything she’s strived for in pursuit of a free Medio—and a chance at a forbidden love?

4. Nocturna by Maya Motayne (Nocturna #1)

Available through Bookshop and The Book Depository
Publisher:
Balzer + Bray (Epic Reads)

Summary: To Finn Voy, magic is two things: a knife to hold under the chin of anyone who crosses her…and a disguise she shrugs on as easily as others pull on cloaks.

As a talented faceshifter, it’s been years since Finn has seen her own face, and that’s exactly how she likes it. But when Finn gets caught by a powerful mobster, she’s forced into an impossible mission: steal a legendary treasure from Castallan’s royal palace or be stripped of her magic forever.

After the murder of his older brother, Prince Alfehr is first in line for the Castallan throne. But Alfie can’t help but feel that he will never live up to his brother’s legacy. Riddled with grief, Alfie is obsessed with finding a way to bring his brother back, even if it means dabbling in forbidden magic.

But when Finn and Alfie’s fates collide, they accidentally unlock a terrible, ancient power—which, if not contained, will devour the world. And with Castallan’s fate in their hands, Alfie and Finn must race to vanquish what they have unleashed, even if it means facing the deepest darkness in their pasts.

5. Diamond City by Francesca Flores (The City Of Diamond & Steel #1)

Available through Bookshop and The Book Depository
Publisher:
Wednesday Books

Summary: Good things don’t happen to girls who come from nothing…unless they risk everything.

Fierce and ambitious, Aina Solís as sharp as her blade and as mysterious as the blood magic she protects. After the murder of her parents, Aina takes a job as an assassin to survive and finds a new family in those like her: the unwanted and forgotten.

Her boss is brutal and cold, with a questionable sense of morality, but he provides a place for people with nowhere else to go. And makes sure they stay there.

DIAMOND CITY: built by magic, ruled by tyrants, and in desperate need of saving. It is a world full of dark forces and hidden agendas, old rivalries and lethal new enemies.

To claim a future for herself in a world that doesn’t want her to survive, Aina will have to win a game of murder and conspiracy—and risk losing everything.

6. Incendiary by Zoraida Córdova (Hollow Crown #1)
Available through Bookshop and The Book Depository
Publisher:
Little Brown Books for Young Readers (The NOVL)

Summary: I am Renata Convida.
I have lived a hundred stolen lives.
Now I live my own.

Renata Convida was only a child when she was kidnapped by the King’s Justice and brought to the luxurious palace of Andalucia. As a Robari, the rarest and most feared of the magical Moria, Renata’s ability to steal memories from royal enemies enabled the King’s Wrath, a siege that resulted in the deaths of thousands of her own people.

Now Renata is one of the Whispers, rebel spies working against the crown and helping the remaining Moria escape the kingdom bent on their destruction. The Whispers may have rescued Renata from the palace years ago, but she cannot escape their mistrust and hatred–or the overpowering memories of the hundreds of souls she turned “hollow” during her time in the palace.

When Dez, the commander of her unit, is taken captive by the notorious Sangrado Prince, Renata will do anything to save the boy whose love makes her place among the Whispers bearable. But a disastrous rescue attempt means Renata must return to the palace under cover and complete Dez’s top secret mission. Can Renata convince her former captors that she remains loyal, even as she burns for vengeance against the brutal, enigmatic prince? Her life and the fate of the Moria depend on it.

But returning to the palace stirs childhood memories long locked away. As Renata grows more deeply embedded in the politics of the royal court, she uncovers a secret in her past that could change the entire fate of the kingdom–and end the war that has cost her everything.

7. Lobizona by Romina Garber (Wolves Of No World #1)
Available through Bookshop and The Book Depository
Publisher:
Wednesday Books

Summary: Some people ARE illegal.

Lobizonas do NOT exist.

Both of these statements are false.

Manuela Azul has been crammed into an existence that feels too small for her. As an undocumented immigrant who’s on the run from her father’s Argentine crime-family, Manu is confined to a small apartment and a small life in Miami, Florida.

Until Manu’s protective bubble is shattered.

Her surrogate grandmother is attacked, lifelong lies are exposed, and her mother is arrested by ICE. Without a home, without answers, and finally without shackles, Manu investigates the only clue she has about her past–a mysterious “Z” emblem—which leads her to a secret world buried within our own. A world connected to her dead father and his criminal past. A world straight out of Argentine folklore, where the seventh consecutive daughter is born a bruja and the seventh consecutive son is a lobizón, a werewolf. A world where her unusual eyes allow her to belong.

As Manu uncovers her own story and traces her real heritage all the way back to a cursed city in Argentina, she learns it’s not just her U.S. residency that’s illegal. . . .it’s her entire existence.

8. Each Of Us A Desert by Mark Oshiro
Available through Bookshop and The Book Depository
Publisher:
Tor Teen
Release Date: September 15, 2020

Summary: Xochital is destined to wander the desert alone, speaking her troubled village’s stories into its arid winds. Her only companions are the blessed stars above and enimagic lines of poetry magically strewn across dusty dunes.

Her one desire: to share her heart with a kindred spirit.

One night, Xo’s wish is granted—in the form of Emilia, the cold and beautiful daughter of the town’s murderous mayor. But when the two set out on a magical journey across the desert, they find their hearts could be a match… if only they can survive the nightmare-like terrors that arise when the sun goes down.

9. Blazewrath Games by Amparo Ortiz
Available through Bookshop and The Book Depository
Publisher:
Page Street Kids
Release Date: October 6, 2020

Summary: Experience the World Cup with dragons in this debut fantasy, set in an alternate contemporary world, in which riders and their steeds compete in an international sports tournament

Lana Torres has always preferred dragons to people. In a few weeks, sixteen countries will compete in the Blazewrath World Cup, a tournament where dragons and their riders fight for glory in a dangerous relay. Lana longs to represent her native Puerto Rico in their first ever World Cup appearance, and when Puerto Rico’s Runner—the only player without a dragon steed—is kicked off the team, she’s given the chance.

But when she discovers that a former Blazewrath superstar has teamed up with the Sire—a legendary dragon who’s cursed into human form—the safety of the Cup is jeopardized. The pair are burning down dragon sanctuaries around the world and refuse to stop unless the Cup gets cancelled. All Lana wanted was to represent her country. Now, to do that, she’ll have to navigate an international conspiracy that’s deadlier than her beloved sport.

10. The Cup And The Prince by Day Leitao (Kingdom Of Curses and Shadows #1)
Available through Bookshop and The Book Depository
Publisher:
Sparkly Wave
Release Date: October 15, 2020

Summary: One prince wants her out.
Another wants her as a pawn.
Someone wants her dead.

Zora wants to win the cup and tell them all to screw themselves.

Yes, 17-year-old Zora cheated her way into the Royal Games, but it was for a very good reason. Her ex-boyfriend thought she couldn’t attain glory on her own. Just because she was a girl. And he was the real cheater. So she took his place.

Now she’s competing for the legendary Blood Cup, representing the Dark Valley. It’s her chance to prove her worth and bring glory for her people. If she wins, of course.

But winning is far from easy. The younger prince thinks she’s a fragile damsel who doesn’t belong in the competition. Determined to eliminate her at all costs, he’s stacking the challenges against her. Zora hates him, hates him, hates him, and will do anything to prove him wrong.

The older prince is helping her, but the cost is getting Zora entangled in dangerous flirting games. Flirting, the last thing she wanted.

And then there’s someone trying to kill her.

Thank you for joining me for the debut of my Latinx Heritage Month Series, I’m excited to celebrate the debut launch. next week you can expect an interview with a YA author whose upcoming book is a retelling set in the Bronx! 🌇🌿

Which YA Fantasy books from this list have you read? Are there any your looking forward to? 📚💖

With each post I’ll also be linking some Latinx-owned independent bookstores to check out during #LatinxHeritageMonth: Third House Books, Cafe Con Libros, and The Bronx Is Reading

Satoko And Nada Vol. 3 by Yupechika {Manga Review}

Satoko And Nada Vol. 3 by Yupechika (Satoko & Nada #3)

Publisher: Seven Seas

Release Date: June 16, 2020

Pages: 128

Available Through The Book Depository: Satoko And Nada Vol. 3

Summary: Abdullah, the mysterious young man who might marry Nada one day, is suddenly in America?! Satoko and her friends (not to mention Nada’s broter are in a panic, unsure if they should tell Nada or just stall the guy until he leaves. When it comes to Nada’s future, the people who love her will do whatever it takes to make her happy!

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Satoko And Nada continues to be one of the best contemporary manga series out there! Following the adventures of 2 women who continue their university studies in the US, this series is told through 4-panel pages that delve into the daily lives of two best friends and as they learn more about each other’s cultures! Satoko And Nada is a must-read series!

I think Satoko And Nada is one of those manga’s that’s gone under the radar and more people should be reading it! Where this series absolutely excels is how it delves deep into the topic of friendship and balancing the character relationships/dynamics. If you have yet to read these fantastic books, my recent tweet sums up why its so great!

For those who haven’t had the chance to read this series it follows two university students (Satoko who’s Japanese and Nada who’s Saudi Arabian) as they study abroad in the US and after becoming roommates, they instantly click and become the best of friends. Every volume explores new adventures and features wholesome moments as they learn more about not only American culture, but each others!

As with previous volumes, this series continues its 4-panel style storytelling that presents tons of slice of life moments that happen in Satoko and Nada’s day to day schedules. The main plot for this volume follows Nada’s husband-to-be, Abdullah, who comes for a visit as Satoko attempts to stall and protect Nada, unsure of how to bring up the conversation while knowing how focused she is on her studies.

What made this story arc one of the best was seeing how it not only delves into discussing how Nada and Abdullah have their own busy schedules outside of their arrangement, getting both of their perspectives on it. Also how they are respectful of each other’s personal goals and despite being distant, still find ways to stay in touch. In addition, this really highlights the deep bond both ladies have for each other when Nada learns Satoko was only trying to protect her and respect her space before introducing her to her fiance Abdullah.

Another highlight of this series is that each volume continuously shows that each of them are still learning about each other’s cultures and having fun doing so. Focusing more on Nada’s culture we learn more about abaya care, hijabs, agals, henna, and much more!

I also enjoyed that this volume had a variety of different adventures that they get into: shopping together, being part of Miracle’s volunteer fair, having a snow day, however nearing the end Satoko has her own page time for solo adventures too.

Friendship is a core piece of this series that makes for such heartfelt and memorable moments in this volume specifically, especially as its leading up to the final volume (*sob 😭💞). I had tons of favorite pages from Volume 3: ‘Someone To Rely On’ was one the most impactful and wholesome pages, ‘Did I Pray?,’ ‘Snow,’ ‘Luck,’ and ‘Second Home.’ These were just some of the pages that showcased their lovely dynamic and the wonderful friendship that they share.

What definitely stood out to me was because its also prepping for the finale, I just found myself remembering more of these pages and appreciating the heartfelt moments where they specifically state how much their friendship means to each of them. Despite being from different countries, they’ve really made a new home for themselves in the US and cherish their relationship so much. Page 82 summed it up perfectly: “You know this is our second homeland. If you couldn’t go back to Japan for some reason, I would come here to get you…”

The 4-panel manga gives the story a unique opportunity to place our main characters in tons of different situations and moments that make for really well-timed humor. Because we get to know Satoko, Nada, Miracle, Kevin, Rahman, and Abdullah fairly quickly, it allows this novel to focus more on the plot and various 1-page acts. The dialogue is great and the distinct art-style really sets the series apart.

There’s definitely more cohesive story arcs that build over Volume 3 and its more impactful, which is why I rated this one a 4.5 compared to the last volume. However, I did want even more Satoko and Nada page time together, especially with their friends Kevin and Miracle (because these two did feel a bit distant).

This series could go on for 100 volumes and I wouldn’t mind. I’m still emotionally preparing myself for the last volume because, you know that feeling when a book just connects with you on a deep level and you can’t really explain why? That’s what reading this series is like! I’m right there with Satoko and Nada on all their adventures and every volume just leaves you smiling and full of joy!!

If I were to pitch this series and explain why it needs more attention, I’d say it follows the fantastic adventures of Japanese and Saudi Arabian hijabi Muslim exchange students who become the best of friends! It feels like the book community is also usually on the lookout for more college-set YA stories that focus on FRIENDSHIP and I definitely believe this series deserves so much love and support (PLEASE read it if you get the chance, its so wonderful) ❤❤

Satoko And Nada Vol. 3 focuses more on the slice-of-life moments as it balances humor, deeply interwoven theme of friendship, and features many vignette-style plot points that keep you reading! Delving into the beauty of deep friendship bonds and exploration of culture, Satoko And Nada is an utterly brilliant manga series that will capture your heart from page 1!

I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest Review

I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina ForestI Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press (Fierce Reads)

Release Date: June 4, 2019

Pages: 272

Available Through The Book Depository: I Wanna Be Where You Are

Cover Illustration/Design: Alex Cabal and Cassie Gonzales

Summary: When Chloe Pierce’s mom forbids her to apply for a spot at the dance conservatory of her dreams, she devises a secret plan to drive two hundred miles to the nearest audition. But Chloe hits her first speed bump when her annoying neighbor Eli insists upon hitching a ride, threatening to tell Chloe’s mom if she leaves him and his smelly dog, Geezer, behind. So now Chloe’s chasing her ballet dreams down the east coast—two unwanted (but kinda cute) passengers in her car, butterflies in her stomach, and a really dope playlist on repeat.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: I Wanna Be Where You Are is a sweet YA Romance that follows dedicated ballet dancer Chloe who goes on a road trip to follow her dreams! There’s not only a road trip, but playlists, also a cute enemies-to-lovers romance that turns into something more! Forest has delivered a must-read YA that features a wonderful journey about growth, is filled with a great cast of characters and a page-turning story!

I’ve had I Wanna Be Where You Are on my TBR for quite a bit and I’m just so happy to have finally read Forest’s lovely debut! Its such a wholesome story and I have been meaning to pick up more YA Contemporaries by Black authors. It balances fun, humor, and more serious topics so perfectly, overall this is just a very cute YA Rom-Com everyone should read. After turning the final page on Chloe and Eli’s story I know I’ll have to pick up Now That I’ve Found You (her newest release) ASAP, she’s become one of my new favorite authors.

Chloe Pierce, a dedicated ballet dancer, dreams of attending the prestigious Avery Johnson Academy (named after one of her idols/inspirations) and an audition is right around the corner. The only problem is, her mother would never let her attend.

Ever since Chloe’s father died when she was young, her mother has become very protective and yet, Chloe knows she can’t let this chance slip away. Now she’s joined by her neighbor Eli who she can’t stand and his dog Geezer on a road trip to not only get to the audition, but also getting Eli to his father’s house for an important university visit.

Luckily the perfect opportunity arises when Chloe’s mom and boyfriend Jean-Marc are headed on a quick spring vacation! But, along the way some unfortunate obstacles get in the way of Chloe’s first audition in DC, now she’s traveling cross-country from Washington D.C. to Raleigh and Atlanta. She’s even reconnecting with her childhood friend Eli and they are learning much more about each other than they expect!

Forest brilliantly sets up the mystery surrounding Chloe and Eli’s past, it leaves you wanting to know more about how they went their separate ways. They grew up together, but there’s a rift between them still. It’s wonderful getting to see them not only reconnect, but work out their past hurt.

Chloe’s journey throughout the book was beautiful to read and Forest delves into the obstacles (both internal and external) that Chloe faces as she learns to not only navigate her freedom, but also her choices! Same goes for Eli as we learn he’s a very talented artist and finds the courage to be honest with his parents about his dreams. At its heat, this novel explores the reach and power of art, from Chloe’s ballet to Eli’s sketches, Forest delves into why these passions mean so much to each of them. I loved hearing about both of their journeys as to why they want to continue pursuing art!!

Each moment of this road trip teaches them not only more about themselves, but each other as they rekindle their past friendships and become much more closer, realizing they may have newfound feelings for each other. There’s all these little pieces they are learning to understand and appreciate about one another, which makes the development so wholesome and adorable!

Forest splendidly delivers such driven protagonists who are inspired to follow their dreams, no matter the cost! Its the kind of story that leaves you feeling so connected with the main character and wholly invested at every moment, knowing it’ll be a joyful experience, your eager to follow them every step of the way!

If you are a fan of road trips, this is a perfect read! Although it is set during Spring Break, it reads like a perfect summer contemporary!

Through a first-person POV, Chloe’s voice instantly pulls you into the story. The deep emotion, passion, enthusiasm, and mystery are given such meaningful depth through Chloe in the entirety of the book. You sense her anxieties, melancholy, but above all its Black joy at its heart.

Forest uses flashbacks and the past to layer in many different meaningful messages and ideas, from fate even exploring philosophy, that gives an explanation for the things that comes our way or that happens throughout our lives! For example, Chloe and Eli’s childhood friend Trey moving away allowed for Chloe to meet Reina (her best friend). Chloe even questions whether things would have turned out differently for her and her ballet had it not been for all the little hurdles along the way.

Featuring a majority Black cast, also Dominican rep (Reina), this novel is a wonderful YA Contemporary about celebrating Black joy, love, and its an absolute-page turner.

My only gripe is that there were moments early on I could predict what would happen and then it was pretty easy for me to see how major points of the plot would play out. Other than that although it just felt like a 4-star read, I absolutely adored it!!

I Wanna Be Where You Are is the kind of heartwarming contemporary that captivates you from the very first page! So full of joy, a splendid cast of characters, a page-turning story, even a journey about independence, Forest’s debut navigates all that and so much more! This YA Contemporary all about Black love and joy, will leave you delighted to see what Forest writes next!

In today’s review I’ll also be shouting out a fellow blogger review! 📚🎉

I recommend WOC Read’s Review!! This review beautifully delves into how ballet is explored in the novel and perfectly sums up what you can expect in the story! This quote also stuck out to me when reading it“Chloe and Eli’s relationship is such a sweet portrayal of black teens that we don’t often see.”

Novae by Kaiju Review {Webcomic}

Novae by KaiXJu coverNovae by Kaiju 

Release Date: October 7, 2016

Available to read online: Novae WebcomicWebtoon

Pages (Currently Ongoing): 336

Cover/Comic illustration: Jen and Kate (Kaiju)

Summary: It is 17th century France, the age of discovery and scientific revolution. Sulvain, a mysterious traveler, is absorbed in the Parisian academic scene. Through his friendship with the renowned Christiaan Huygens, Sulvain has the chance to study the latest discoveries of the distant cosmos. Deep in the library of Academy of Sciences, however, our traveler will meet Huygen’s apprentice–Raziol Quamar–who will truly spark new lights in Sulvain’s universe.

My Rating: ★★★★★

My Thoughts: Novae is an outstanding webcomic set during 1600’s France, following the gentle romance between a necromancer and astronomy apprentice! KaiJu has crafted an atmospheric, charming tale, steeped in mystery, magic, alongside a tender, heartwarming romance! This utterly captivating webcomic is a must read! 

I’m incredibly grateful to have discovered this gem via KaiJu’s weekly page updates on twitter and was intrigued to see what this comic was all about. Now 3 years later, I’ve finally caught up with Novae in less than one day and am here to convey as articulately as I can how this FANTASTIC webcomic has taken over my life, from its story, to how its delicate and superb artwork are literal masterpieces??

This comforting tale begins in Paris, 1672 where a world of magic is concealed and yet even in the ordinary, one can’t escape the wonder intertwined within every page.

Raziol is a dedicated astronomer and Sulvain is a mysterious world traveler, who we quickly realize is a necromancer. The two get caught into each other’s orbits and what starts as a simple introduction on the eve of Raziol’s big presentation, slowly envelops them in a passionate, quiet relationship. There’s such a lovely chemistry and charm between them that you fall in love with these two in an instant!

As we easily familiarize ourselves with our soft, sweet protagonists such as Raziol, who lives and breathes astronomy at the Academy Of Sciences alongside enigmatic Sulvain, we quickly get swept up in their own personal journeys and history, that slowly builds throughout the series thus far.

Raziol and Sulvain’s relationship develops through intimate glances, subtle touches, and the art brilliantly details the expressions that convey so much as to who they are on the inside. But first and foremost, there’s an unmistakable sense of vulnerability that leaves you instantly swept away in their budding romance. The art beautifully evokes the emotions interlaced within each and every page that they’re unable to hide, which also speaks so much to the feelings they have for each other as their relationship quickly blossoms.

An example would be within the first chapter on pg. 15, when they first meet and have a lingering handshake in the astronomy study or pg. 30 where Sulvain says how eager he is to learn more about Raziol’s discoveries!! It feels like moments where time seems to stop (as every moment of them together feels like that <3).

From intimate conversations over tea, speculating the cosmos during late night observatory visits, to simply occupying the same space, they are unable to evade their deep feelings.

Sulvain is mute and speaks through not only sign language, but also by writing his speech down in a special notebook. This leads to very tender moments of contact between them and it magnificently illustrates the warmth and affection that develops.

As for the plot, its difficult to explain because it very much is a slow-moving, quiet, introspective story that’s really about learning all their is to know about the soft, hidden edges of our absolutely adorable necromancer and astronomer duo, that are just so precious!

However, that is without a doubt its strength as well!

Learning about these two is such an honor, they are so sweet and have I mentioned how this wholesome story has taken over my life now? There’s so much to discover about these characters, that even to what the average person seems like a “mundane” moment, reveals so much about them internally.

However what I can say without spoiling too much, is that the plot hints at all there is to know about our main cast little by little. Flashbacks of Raizol and Sulvain’s past layers in mystery and understanding that at their core, makes them some of the best fully fleshed out protagonists I’ve read in a while. There’s a variety of characters we’re just getting to know, making this to be an interesting ensemble cast as future pages get released. (Once you get further along there’s a character by the name of Viverette who is wonderful!)

The plot itself combines mystery, romance, even the paranormal that works so seamlessly together. The setting of France takes on a whole new meaning with the unique blend of genres and world building that’s being developed throughout the story. The architecture, imagery, clothing, and magic, immerses you in this vibrant world. Its so cleverly developed and I utterly adore learning more about the world and magic system through the smallest details.

The writing itself is poetic, spellbinding, and just beautiful.

“Stars I have seen, but perhaps not the way you see them…” (Novae, 46).

Also remember when I mentioned necromancy? So Sulvain has many secrets and while his ability as a necromancer has been kept a secret from Raziol so far, I love how he’s using his powers to solve a recent string of murders that he gets tangled up in. His powers play a big part into the privacy as to who he really is and it adds a really interesting layer to him as a character, especially with how hesitant he is to accept his feelings at times. It also makes for beautiful artwork imagery, aesthetics, even perhaps references of Greek myth with an alternate plane surrounded by wheat, golden threads, and other mysterious figures connected to his past. It overall makes such an interesting magic system well worth exploring.

The artwork is what ties all these fantastic elements together! With the use of celestial and earthy color palettes, the story takes on a very calm, comforting, cozy atmosphere. The art is wonderfully detailed and focuses on the character expressions (Raziol and Sulvain) that makes them feel so REAL. Every page and panel tells its own story and evokes a timeless fairy tale quality. Because its updating weekly page by page, every single one feels meaningful and tells you so much about what’s next in the story, leaving you wanting to know more.

As far as representation just so readers are aware, both mc’s are Queer. Sulvain and Raziol (Pakistani-Muslim) identify as bisexual and pansexual. Sulvain is also demi.

This comic succeeds in developing realistic and heartwarming protagonists that completely win you over! There’s so many positive things I have to say about this story, that if you take anything away from my lengthy review, its to read this webcomic ASAP!

Novae crafts a lovely tale of romance, mystery, and the paranormal propelled by magnificent characters you’ll be eager to learn more about! Everything about this comic from the world, artwork, pacing, and phenomenal storytelling will enchant! Every page of Novae will leave the reader awe, wondering what happens next in this Queer historical-fantasy comic!

Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From by Jennifer De Leon ARC Review

Don't Ask Me Where I'm From by Jennifer De LeonDon’t Ask Me Where I’m From by Jennifer De Leon

Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books (Simon & Schuster)

Release Date: August 18, 2020

Pages: 336

Available Through The Book Depository: Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From

Cover Design: Elena Garnu

Summary: Liliana Cruz is a hitting a wall—or rather, walls.

There’s the wall her mom has put up ever since Liliana’s dad left—again.

There’s the wall that delineates Liliana’s diverse inner-city Boston neighborhood from Westburg, the wealthy—and white—suburban high school she’s just been accepted into.

And there’s the wall Liliana creates within herself, because to survive at Westburg, she can’t just lighten up, she has to whiten up.

So what if she changes her name? So what if she changes the way she talks? So what if she’s seeing her neighborhood in a different way? But then light is shed on some hard truths: It isn’t that her father doesn’t want to come home—he can’t…and her whole family is in jeopardy. And when racial tensions at school reach a fever pitch, the walls that divide feel insurmountable.

But a wall isn’t always a barrier. It can be a foundation for something better. And Liliana must choose: Use this foundation as a platform to speak her truth, or risk crumbling under its weight.

*Received a review copy from the publisher*

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From is an introspective debut that discusses many topics such as racism and immigration. Liliana is navigating family, friendships, and a new high school after getting accepted into the METCO program! She’s also learning more about her Latina identity. This is a YA Contemporary that you need on your TBR!

De Leon’s debut is about a first-generation Latina who transfers to a new (majority white) high school and is left to adjust on her own, witnessing microaggressions, racism, and more, all while her father has been deported.

Firstly, I can’t put into words what it meant to be reading about a Guatemalan teen just living her life, going to school, and figuring things out! I was literally sobbing, it’s a book that left me with a feeling of familiarity, comfort, and I’m so happy this debut is now out in the world for readers to see pieces of themselves in Liliana and her family. This is the kind of book I would have loved reading as a teen growing up, SO please pre-order or check out this debut, which is out today!

This novel at its core is about the struggle many marginalized people face, where they feel drifted between two different worlds. However, its an unflinching look at disparity in the education system, racism, and learning to use your voice.

Liliana is an aspiring writer, loves making miniature sets, and her voice just leaps off the page!  Its as though she’s speaking to us the reader. She’s funny, filled with so much energy, and was just a fantastic main character!

When Liliana is accepted into the METCO program, she quickly realizes it was her parents (especially father’s) wishes to thrive! So this means she’s leaving her Boston school (where she was in the majority), heading to Westburg to join other METCO students despite the nerves and anxiety she feels.

Liliana’s not only navigating this new environment, but also trying to make friends, stay connected with her best friend Jade, and is experiencing a bit of romance with a fellow student named Dustin. She’s also confronting microaggressions, holding onto all these feelings inside of her, and witnessing racism towards fellow METCO students. But she’s just left feeling adrift. Liliana is struggling to show her true self and is lost, unsure what to do.

However, she luckily connects with the METCO group, like Rayshawn, her senior buddy named Genesis, and host family friend named Holly. But also learns to look deep within herself about what it means to use her voice.

De Leon weaves in so many relatable and thought-provoking lines that many marginalized or non-white, and especially Latine readers will understand. It’s also the kind of novel that introduces so many topics and gives enough page-time to discuss each, while even weaving many together.

Liliana herself is half-Guatemalan and Salvadorian. However, throughout the novel she mainly learns more about her Guatemalan culture. As an #OwnVoices reader (a Guatemalan-American), there’s just so many little details that I related too 100% and it felt surreal to see my family’s culture woven into the pages. From pepian to relative visits, and just seeing her connect more to the family’s roots was wonderful to see.

While I’ve had the chance to learn a lot about my Guatemalan culture from a bit of an earlier age (and even now), it was interesting seeing Liliana whose a teen navigate that with her own set of questions and gain her own understanding about her father’s Guatemalan roots.

That leads me into a major theme and highlight of this novel that presents itself in different ways, that’s the concept of LEARNING. Liliana realizes she doesn’t have much knowledge of her Guatemalan side, so she reads up, asks questions, and does her own research. Not just about her culture, but also when it comes to better understanding Latinx culture (like one scene that stuck out was when she learns about “Spanish” vs. “Latinx”), and navigating racism in general. De Leon masterfully presents the importance of asking questions when you don’t have all the answers and I just love how she explored that throughout the book! As mentioned in our interview, De Leon said something that I feel resonated about why this theme is important and stated she hopes her debut “inspires readers, especially young people, to learn more about their family and their background(s), because we are all from somewhere.”

The plot itself is very slice-of-life as Liliana goes to school, her home life with twin brothers and her mother (whose struggling to work while trying to do everything she can to help her husband get home), being with friends, and just her daily life at Westburg!

Both her mother and Liliana herself rightfully so, deal with moments of depression and anxiety, fearful of what’s happening to Liliana’s dad! She reminisces a lot throughout the novel about her childhood with him and how he helped shape her passions as a writer (one of my favorite scenes was a memory about a book fair he took her to when she was little).

Themes are the foundation of this novel from family, coming of age, friendship, even discussing racism, immigration, and privilege. As a whole, the book does a fantastic job at delving into all of these contemporary topics through the lens of a Latina living in Boston.

Some moments that stuck out to me that brilliantly showed the way De Leon wanted to navigate these themes was through the school! For example, the clear contrast between her former high school vs. Westburg (even how she feels out of place being in that neighborhood), hearing the conversations in her history class from students about Latin-American immigration, Dustin’s racist friend Steve, and the METCO presentation they do near the end.

Another moment that really stayed with me was how Liliana felt in her Westburg creative writing class vs. the (obviously) more diverse writing center course she learned about from her local library. Those scenes symbolized how she’s always felt caught between two worlds, but she finds solace in the place that makes her feel welcome.

The use of a 1st person POV, brilliantly allows you to see who Lil is and understand her fully as a character. She’s someone who feels the need to hide and not fully be herself, she’s also witty, observant, and if your looking for an introspective narrative, this book is perfect.

Overall, the plotting, how real the story feels, the cast of characters, and the wonderful writing voice make this a great YA Contemporary / debut you should not miss!

Although I absolutely loved this book and is one of my new favorites, my only minor critique is that I did find the writing reads very much like a “stream of consciousness,” where the story moves very quickly at points and scenes transition as your reading Liliana’s internal thoughts. But it does make her voice feel so real and come to life.

I will say that this book reminded me a lot of Elizabeth Acevedo’s The Poet X, maybe because of how it delved into themes in such a realistic way, the poignant narrative voice, and main heroine that stands out…either way if you loved Acevedo’s debut, I think De Leon’s would be perfect too!

Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From is a fantastic debut you don’t want to miss! Liliana is confronting microaggressions, racism, and learns to find her voice in order to take a stand! Character-driven, thought-provoking, and wonderfully written, its a great debut perfect for fans of Elizabeth Acevedo! Jennifer De Leon’s YA Contemporary debut is a must read for 2020!