Blog Tour: Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust {Book Recommendations}

Girl Serpent Thorn by Melissa BashardoustGirl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Release Date: July 8, 2020

Pages: 336

Available Through The Book Depository: Girl Serpent Thorn

Summary: A captivating and utterly original fairy tale about a girl cursed to be poisonous to the touch, and who discovers what power might lie in such a curse…

There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.

As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.

Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster.

As part of today’s blog tour for Girl Serpent Thorn, I’ll be recommending some YA Sapphic fantasy books! Many of these I’ve read and adored, so the recommendations will definitely feature some underrated favorites that deserve more hype.

The Little Queen by Meia Geddes

The Little Queen by Meia Geddes

I read this charming novella back in 2017 and more people should read it! The Little Queen is unsure of whether she’s fit to rule. This leads her to embark on a journey across her kingdom making friends, learning more about the world, and to better understand who she is meant to be.

The magical/fantasy elements are presented in a quiet sort of way and the story overall reads like a timeless fairy tale. Out little queen finds friendship, love, and its such a delightful read.

The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Words cannot describe the love I have for this book! It follows twins Lil and Kizzy who find themselves taken from their Traveller community and forced to work at a prince’s castle, but at its core its about the bond these sisters share despite the horrible situation that’s upon them, to take charge of their own destinies. The novel features Romani culture and underlying vampire lore.

Hargrave’s writing evokes the style of an old historical fairytale, while her stories center on the journey of young women seeking independence, while navigating friendship and family. The Deathless Girls however is a much different tale that is essentially a dark, gothic retelling of The Brides Of Dracula! Themes of love and sisterhood are woven into every page of this book, though at times it is heartbreaking.

Crier's War by Nina Varela

Crier’s War by Nina Varela

Ayla seeks vengeance against the automae, but finds herself falling in love with the heir Crier instead! The politics, intrigue, unique world, and poetic writing are just some of the many things I love about this book.

Its a story about vengeance, hope, revolution and the way Varela weaves those masterfully into the story just highlight how brilliantly the world is crafted! Crier and Ayla each have their own personal journeys that teach them so much about the world they thought they knew. They each have their secrets, but it also explores the ferocity of emotion and how that also influences the automae/human philosophy that’s established.

Shatter The Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells

Shatter The Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells

This is also a more quiet fantasy that follows Maren who essentially goes undercover and becomes an aromatory for the palace to figure out where her girlfriend was taken. Along the way she learns more about dragons, the world’s empire and much more on her quest of rescuing someone she loves! Its a character-driven story with a fun, unique plot.

Also, what makes this book incredible is how it really is a story about Maren who starts off as a reluctant hero, but as she learns more about the world around her there seems to be a transformation to her as a character too and I really appreciated that! Overall if your looking for a character-driven, YA fantasy adventure with dragons, I recommend this!

To conclude the tour, I wanted to recommend some upcoming 2020/2021 Sapphic fantasy books (YA & SFF) that you should have on your radar:

The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart

The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart
Release Date:
September 8, 2020

Summary: In an empire controlled by bone shard magic, Lin, the former heir to the emperor will fight to reclaim her magic and her place on the throne. The Bone Shard Daughter marks the debut of a major new voice in epic fantasy.

The emperor’s reign has lasted for decades, his mastery of bone shard magic powering the animal-like constructs that maintain law and order. But now his rule is failing, and revolution is sweeping across the Empire’s many islands.

Lin is the emperor’s daughter and spends her days trapped in a palace of locked doors and dark secrets. When her father refuses to recognise her as heir to the throne, she vows to prove her worth by mastering the forbidden art of bone shard magic.

Yet such power carries a great cost, and when the revolution reaches the gates of the palace, Lin must decide how far she is willing to go to claim her birthright – and save her people.

Each Of Us A Desert by Mark Oshiro

Each Of Us A Desert by Mark Oshiro
Release Date:September 15, 2020

Summary: From the award-winning author Mark Oshiro comes a powerful fantasy novel about finding home and falling in love amidst the dangers of a desert where stories come to life.

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.

These Feathered Flames by Alexandra Overy

These Feathered Flames by Alexandra Overy
Release Date: April 20, 2021

A queer #ownvoices retelling of “The Firebird,” a Russian folktale, by debut author Alexandra Overy.

When twin heirs are born in Tourin, their fates are decided at a young age. While Izaveta remained at court to learn the skills she’d need as the future queen, Asya was taken away to train with her aunt, the mysterious Firebird, who ensured magic remained balanced in the realm.

But before Asya’s training is completed, the ancient power blooms inside her, which can mean only one thing: the queen is dead, and a new ruler must be crowned.

As the princesses come to understand everything their roles entail, they’ll discover who they can trust, who they can love—and who killed their mother.

Hope you enjoyed checking out my Girl, Serpent, Thorn Blog Tour & thank you to the publisher! 📚🐍💗

Are you planning on reading Girl Serpent Thorn? Any Sapphic fantasy books you recommend?

The Avant Guards Vol. 2 by Carly Usdin Review {Graphic Novel}

The Avant Guards Vol. 2The Avant-Guards Vol. 2 by Carly Usdin (writer), Noah Hayes (artist), Rebecca Nalty (colorist) & Ed Dukeshrire (Letterer)

Publisher: Boom! Box (Boom Studios)

Release Date: February 18, 2020

Pages: 112

Available Through The Book Depository: The Avant-Guards Vol. 2

Summary: The Avant-Guards have been on a roll when it come to their newly-formed basketball league and Charlie has been getting more comfortable with her new teammates, but when they hit the end of their winning-streak, will these new friendships survive? As the Avant-Guards struggle to move forward, they’ll soon learn just what it means to truly be a team― on the court, and most importantly, off the court too.

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: The Avant-Guards Vol. 2 is phenomenal continuation to a female-led sports series that at its core, is about friendship! This volume delves more into the team and their lives off the court as the season continues! The series art is colorful, features a great cast of characters and a page-turning story!

Although I don’t talk about it much on my blog, The Avant-Guards is easily one of my favorite graphic novel series (tied up there with Sera and Tea Dragon Society). I fell completely in love with Vol. 1 last year and there was no surprise I’d be continuing with the series.

As Charlie has become more comfortable with the team, found her loyal group of friends, also navigating her relationship with Liv, this volume very much focuses on the rest of the team and what they’re up to when not on the court.

While there are many things I love about this series, it’s very clear how much care is given to our delightful cast from Jay to Ashley, Nicole, Tiffany, Liv, and Charlie. No matter how much page time they have, their personalities shine through in every moment.

As the team continues their season at away games, you learn even more about their hobbies and them as a whole while they aren’t practicing. Jay has their art, Ashley has been recovering from an injury and we see its keeping her from playing a game she loves. There’s a joy she feels from coaching the team despite missing the game and her budding relationship with her physical therapist.

We learn there’s more to “cynic” Nicole and resident witch Tiffany too!

What makes this such a fantastic sequel is because not only are the girls loyal and passionate about what they love, but the series itself realizes this too! With each page you see the love and appreciation for these phenomenal characters! Each of these women have their own quirks, personalities, and energy that shines whenever their on the page.

There’s specific plot points/arcs in this volume that allow the cast to shine: Jay’s art exhibit, Ashley’s birthday, the film fest night for Liv, even when we learn more about Tiffany and her family! Even though Charlie is more in the background during this volume, I adored getting the cute moments between her and Liv!

But what stands out the most across both volumes so far is how Charlie, Liv, Jay, Ashley, Tiffany, and Nicole are there for each other, to lift each other up always! Their dedication to friendship and teamwork always fills me with so much joy and is just inspiring! I cannot pick a favorite character, I LOVE them all ♥♥

I can’t wait to see how the team dynamic/friendship develops across the rest of The Avant-Guards series! Some of my favorite moments include their practice and when their hanging out together, like at Jay’s art exhibit.

This second volume also delves into an underlying and subtle conflict, where their league is struggling financially. While it weaves into the story in a quiet sort of way, I liked how this obstacle further emphasized their dedication towards teamwork and finding a way to solve the issue!

The writing is really good, it delivers great dialogue and helps to build the development of our main cast! With this installment focusing more on the other teammates, one detail that just adds more to the already wonderful cast is the internal 1st -person dialogue bubbles that tells us a bit more about how the ladies are feeling at a particular moment. Although its brief, it shows us how these characters perceive themselves in ways we probably didn’t expect.

As with Volume 1 also, the panel and art continue to be a highlight of the series! The colors are bright and eye-catching, making the series an absolute visual delight! Paneling is also metaphorical in a way, limiting the use of full or large panels for impactful moments or action-packed scenes during the games, another example of this would be the final panel during Jay’s art exhibit with their partner Tyler.

The bright colors and dynamic art style showcase the fun, lighthearted ton of the series.

The emphasis on small, overlapping, tighter-fitting panels also leaves tons of room for seeing more of the characters, setting, and visuals! The paneling also emphasizes the action, movement, and expressiveness of both characters + scenes.

One example of this where it was cleverly drawn was: When Jay & Ashley are passing out flyers, even the full page spread of Jay and Tyler looking at a painting together. There was also a moment in Ch.6 where the paneling brilliantly was presented in the shape of a basket to emphasize the action! (It mirrored a similar scene in Vol. 1 where there were panels shaped in the form of a basketball). Overall, the way the panels are presented in this series is phenomenal!

Friendship continues to be a hallmark of the series and no matter what, the Avant-Guards always come together to support each other in different ways! The series also continues to feature characters of color and Queer women, and just continues to be a diverse/inclusive series! For ex. we get introduced to Jay’s partner Tyler (who also goes by they/them).

My only issue with this volume is that I wanted more page & plot time with these characters, because the last page does leave the ending somewhat abrupt leading into Vol. 3. It just felt like there needed to be MORE whether it was more Liv/Charlie moments, Tiffany/Nicole bonding, or just the team hanging out. The story is just so wholesome and they deserve the world!!

The Avant-Guards Vol. 2 is a fantastic sequel to a series that can only continue to get better and better! Its a series dedicated to its characters and focuses on friendship, centering around a college basketball team! The colorful artwork, wonderfully diverse cast, and immersive story makes The Avant-Guards one of the best sports series out there!

Mid Year Wrap-Up Discussion {2020}

Happy July everyone! We’re well past the halfway point of 2020 and today’s post is to highlight all the bookish and blog-related things that happened this year so far! 📚💞✨

In my (almost) 5 years of book blogging, I’ve never written any kind of mid-year post and this year felt especially different in many ways. 2020 reminded me that although we put copious amounts of effort, time, passion, and dedication into our book blogs, platforms, you name it…we can’t forget to take time for ourselves.

For many of us this year may have been challenging, but we have to acknowledge and remind ourselves of how far we’ve come in 2020. Now, onto all the bookish things!

Adaptations

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze ChooOut of all the book-to-movie / film / tv adaptations I’ve seen, one of the most memorable for me has been The Ghost Bride on Netflix which launched this year!! From its cinematography, screenplay, gorgeous visuals, chemistry between characters― it worked as an adaptation because it took risks to differentiate itself from Choo’s novel while also keeping the spirit of the story.

Set in 1890’s Malaya, you follow Li Lan who finds herself becoming a ghost bride to support her family. But, she quickly finds herself caught between her world and the afterlife, solving the mystery of the now dead son, Lim Tian Ching and more along the way.

While only 6 episodes long, you feel so connected to the cast, world, and captivating story of magic, sacrifice, love, the paranormal, and much more. Li Lan (Peijia Huang), alongside her spirit guide Er Lang, Tian Bai, everyone in the show just brought these characters to life in such a surreal way that I’m just HOPING there’ll be more seasons to explore in the show because it was phenomenal. Also, the series does a fantastic job at highlighting more of the comedy/humor of the story over the more present melancholy of the original novel (which is done in such a FANTASTIC way).

Out of all the book adaptations I’ve heard of, The Ghost Bride has honestly not gotten the love it deserves. Its such an underrated series that deserves more love & hype! Choo herself is an author of Malaysian descent and the cast/crew are of a Taiwanese and Malaysian background as well. To add onto that, I loved that this was a Malaysian-language drama because there’s so many English-language book adaptations out there and this was the very first non-English one I’ve ever seen!

If I were to pick my all-time favorite adaptation, I would not hesitate to say The Ghost Bride, if your looking for a book adaptation that will captivate you start to finish, please watch this one!

As I’m sure many are already aware, Shadow And Bone has wrapped up production as of February and I’ve had a lot of fun covering the news over at The Booked Shelf . Excited in getting more updates, seeing Alina’s story and the Grishaverse world come to life on the small screen!

Blogging

So far this year I’ve posted 35 times on the blog and have reviewed 22 books. My goal for reviews has been to delve deeper into characters, themes, basically like a blog essay to explore different layers to a book. I’ve been extremely proud of this so far in 2020 and a recent review that I feel highlights all these different elements is for Scavenge The Stars  by Tara Sim.

I created a new feature called Backlist Bookshelf to highlight books on my physical TBR and hopefully I’ll find time to feature more books soon! There was a special author interview featuring June Hur to celebrate her debut novel The Silence Of Bones posted in April.

Books

A Good Girl's Guide To Murder by Holly Jackson

One of my biggest reading surprises so far this year has been without a doubt, A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder by Holly Jackson! As mentioned in my review, contemporary mystery novels aren’t my go-to genre and if I do decide to read them, it really depends on the summary. I was wholly invested in Pippa’s case, the journalism aspect, and just the unique story overall! This mystery really left me guessing till the very end and I recently bought the sequel, so hopefully I’ll find the time to add it to my TBR.

One of my most disappointing reads so far has been Fence Volume 2 by C.S. Pacat. No doubt, its such a fun and fast-paced story about a guys fencing team, plus its super entertaining! But, it feels like the story is way too fast-paced and yet it also feels like nothing even happened. The characters still feel a bit static and I have lots to say about the art! So overall not my favorite, but I can see why people enjoy it! It was really really difficult to narrow down my favorite books of the year so far as of this month (because there’s so many), but hopefully in the coming months I’ll talk more about them.

One of my recent book reviews has been for Upright Women Wanted and if I were to pitch it, I’d say its about Queer librarians on horseback fighting for justice! Its a unique mix of genres that shows a unique setting of Dystopian/Sci-Fi Western! Esther (our main heroine) goes on a journey to grow and discover what she wants as she faces truths

Upright Women Wanted

around her, but she’s not alone and has librarians to help her out like Cye: our nonbinary library assistant who shows Esther all that she needs to know and there may be some sparks that fly between them! This novella has been one of my recent favorites and not only is it tons of fun, but I also feel not many have talked about this one so definitely pick it up!

Inspired by my 2020 Readathon (more details below under #QuietReadathon) I wanted to prioritize more backlist and underrated books. As I reviewed my reads of the year so far, one of my biggest reading accomplishments has been checking out books that have been under the radar. I hope to continue this well into the rest of the year.

I’ve also realized that a highlight of my reading has been getting into audiobooks more! Its been hard for me to focus on reading recently, so they’ve been super helpful. Not only has my reading speed gotten a bit slower, but I’ve come to the realization that this year has really turned me into a ‘mood reader’ too. Book ratings have also become a complicated thing for me recently, but I can say in 2020 I’m really appreciating the 4-star rating!

Also, I got myself a TBR basket and I’m in love with it ❤

Discussions

So far this year I’ve posted 1 blog-related discussion which asked the question: “Are Book Bloggers Getting Paid?” and why its important to talk about. Included in the post are some stats, among other facts & figures. I feel its an important conversation to have and was one of the with the quickest “draft to post” discussions I’ve ever written.

joyce-mccown-791673-unsplash books

In 2020 I’ve reflected on whether I should review every book I read and I’ll definitely try to experiment with this more in the year. Its easy for me to want to review every book I read because there’s always some thoughts that linger in my mind with each one. However, the dilemma is although I want to talk about a book from my own unique perspective, it takes time. I have noticed its put a hold on the number of books I’m reading yearly. So, maybe at some point this year I’ll try different kinds of reviews or review styles to still share some of my thoughts, while still making time to read more.

I also have some fun discussions and posts in the works and hopefully I’ll have them up during the summer! Here’s a sneak peek as to some of the topics: library, manga, reviewing books, fun bookish lists/recommendations, underrated books!

#QuietReadathon

My first readathon, #QuietReadathon launched this year and its really made me reflect on choosing more underrated and lesser-known books, even adding more to my TBR. Its a fun and stress-free readathon that’s brought a good variety to my reading this year.

The Booked Shelf

The Booked Shelf is a passion project that I’ve really put in a lot more time/effort to keep up and its been such a fun adventure. For those who don’t know, I launched it in the summer of last year to highlight YA Book news and keep people up-to-date in the YA booksphere. So far this year a lot of the news has featured cover reveals, but I hope to get back into posting more general bookish news too.

Misc.

If you didn’t know, I’m launching a PODCAST this year!! The trailer has been live since June and I’m gonna be working on EP. 1 this week (though I said it’d be out by June 😂😅). But don’t worry, the podcast will be up and running soon!

Now onto a more personal update. Its not something I talk about often, but I’ve really been neglecting my mental/physical health recently and *nothing serious, however I found myself more stressed than usual and it really took a toll on me these last couple weeks. Thankfully I’m doing yoga, mediation, among other things to keep myself active and manage my stress. And in all honesty, I’m feeling a lot better. This also got me thinking I may (?) take a small Twitter break this month or next to focus more on reading, my blog, and more importantly, myself. Twitter has made such an impact on my blog, the blogger friends I’ve made, etc., and its been a really important platform for me and my blog, but what these past few weeks have taught me is that there comes a point where you need a break and that’s okay!💞

This has been a wrap-up of some bookish things from 2020 so far! Thanks so much for reading and hope you’ve celebrated your book accomplishments too! 🥳💞

What are some book or blog-related things that’ve happened to you this far into the year? Let’s discuss! 🤩📚🎉

Mija Podcast Review {Literary Listens}

Mija PodcastMija Podcast created by Lory Martinez

Release Date: September 25, 2019

Episodes: 14 (Across 2 Seasons)

Summary: Hosted by a narrator known only as Mija (daughter in Spanish), each episode tells the story of how members of her family experience immigration.

My Thoughts: Mija is a phenomenal podcast everyone should listen to! With each episode, our charming narrator delves into her family’s history, Colombian heritage, and what it means to a Latina living in New York City. Martinez layers such deep character profiles across the series, weaving together a heartfelt tale of family, growing up, and the meaning of home!

Where audio drama fiction is filled with an abundance of sci-fi and fantasy tales, its nice to see podcasts like Mija that delve into modern-day contemporary to deliver a story so heartfelt and authentic, it reminds me why podcasting is one of the best spaces for fictional storytelling right now!

Throughout each episode of the Mija Podcast, our narrator (Mija) chronicles her family history from parents to cousins, even brother and grandparents! In doing so, she delves into her Colombian roots and heritage, while also exploring what it means to be a Latina (Colombian-American) in New York City.

The writing is charming, moving, and delivers personal, complex character profiles in under 10 minutes. From the very first episode I fell in love with this podcast because as someone with Latin-American roots, there’s such deeply interwoven messages about family, that really is are at the heart of Latinx culture. One of the most distinct messages that really builds over the course of this first season is that family really is connected, regardless of distance.

While each of the 8 episodes does chronicle a different family member, you begin to see how they overlap as you delve deeper into Mija’s Colombian roots, especially as we travel with Mija across different timelines.

Sound design is fantastic, not only when it comes to the exceptional soundtrack and sfx, but also Mija’s narration in general, as it explores Latinx-American culture, touches on Colombian history, immigration, and spotlighting Colombian representation. Also its no surprise that Spanish is organically woven into the narrative, but just having it spoken aloud in a fictional (but very real) story was just beautiful to hear.

Told through a first and 3rd-person perspective, the storytelling really is beautifully written and so heartfelt. You can’t help but feel such JOY when listening to Mija as it puts the focus on family not only its history, but legacy and the important values that family passes down.

In fiction, I personally feel like there is still such a long way to go in terms of Latinx rep., but podcasts such as Mija remind me that is happening little by little. Stories of hope, joy, family, are important to hear from all cultures and Martinez has really made that a hallmark of this series.

From the values, stories about traveling to visit relatives, how each family member is connected to Mija, etc. these are all pieces of much larger story that I really felt connected with and hopefully you will to.

I won’t delve into too many plot-specifics because this really is a story you need to experience for yourself! You won’t be disappointed.

While my family isn’t Colombian, hearing Mija’s stories in a way felt like hearing my family’s stories too.

Also what makes the Mija Podcast such an accessible one is that it’s available in French, English, and Spanish. Even more wonderful is that Season 2, focuses on a Chinese family who now lives in Paris!

Podcasts such as Mija are absolute gems in audio drama fiction that deliver stories you really can’t get anywhere else. Please listen to this fantastic podcast, I got through the entirety of Season 1 in 1 sitting and can’t recommend it enough, add this one to your list!

Mija Podcast is a heartfelt tale about family and home! The writing is poetic, charming, and explores deeply complex themes! With each episode, Mija delves into the life of a different family member and tells their story. Martinez has crafted a truly unforgettable podcast you don’t want to miss!

Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey Review

Upright Women WantedUpright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey

Publisher: Tor.com (Tor Books)

Release Date: February 4, 2020

Pages: 176

Available Through The Book Depository: Upright Women Wanted

Cover Design: Will Staehle

Summary: “That girl’s got more wrong notions than a barn owl’s got mean looks.”

Esther is a stowaway. She’s hidden herself away in the Librarian’s book wagon in an attempt to escape the marriage her father has arranged for her–a marriage to the man who was previously engaged to her best friend. Her best friend who she was in love with. Her best friend who was just executed for possession of resistance propaganda.

The future American Southwest is full of bandits, fascists, and queer librarian spies on horseback trying to do the right thing.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Upright Women Wanted is a dystopian novella that follows Esther, a stowaway who joins a group of Librarians as they travel across the American southwest! Set in a near-future Wild West, Gailey delivers a character-driven, atmospheric tale of adventure featuring a band of Queer women librarians!

Pride Month has recently started and I’m thrilled to have picked up this novella! It was so much fun and the unique fusion of genres is something I admire about Tor’s work. My love of fiction podcasts has made me realize that I adore genre mashups and that became even more clear as I read Upright Women Wanted. Also, this book has definitely gone under the radar so please pick it up!

After Esther Augustus witnesses the execution of her first love Beatriz, she finds herself hiding in a Librarians wagon, who travel across towns to deliver “Approved Materials” by the State.

Daughter of a high-ranking official/ Superintendent, she isn’t entirely sure of what her plan is…even after being told to marry someone she has no interest in and her love is dead, but one thing is certain…she had to flee. What follows is traveling across deserts and towns in the American Southwest, fighting bandits, deputies, and more importantly, fighting for justice!

Esther, whose lived a very sheltered life, wants nothing more than to avoid bringing trouble to her fellow Librarians: Bet, Leda, and Cye (who uses they/them pronouns). But she realizes that living on the fringes of this dystopian world means she must learn to finally accept herself and grow, despite the challenges ahead.

Told through a 3rd person POV, its so easy to find yourself in the atmosphere of the wild west and the unique world that Gailey has delivered. In the near-future, the US is divided into Quadrants and while there’s knowledge about our modern-day technology, now people have preferred to live in an old western society. There’s a grittiness to the world that sticks in your mind as you turn each page.

After some convincing, Esther sticks with the Librarians to become a bookbinder and learns their job is something so much more than just delivering books and media. As they reach isolated towns across the states, she learns more about the government she’s known all her life and the Librarians who are changing it!

While this is very much a journey story, Gailey puts such a focus on Esther’s own personal story and her own internal development. She’s finding the confidence within, alongside accepting herself as she is. From her fears about bringing harm and trouble to the Librarians, even her uncertainty of where she belongs in the world are beautifully cemented into the narrative.

As the Librarians take Esther towards Utah, she also meets Genevive, Trace, and Amity who become part of the crew. Among all of them, I felt Amity really got more page-time/development, especially nearing the end! She gets Esther to face some truths about the world around her. Amity is mysterious, clever and all around great character who I had fun reading about. Her dynamic with Esther was another one of my favorite character moments in the story!

Esther and Cye had such a beautiful dynamic that develops throughout the entirety of the novella and I adored them so much!! Cye shows her the ropes and I loved seeing the both of them grow together.

From the beginning of Upright Women Wanted, we see there’s this internalized misogyny and Queerphobia throughout this futuristic society. It was fascinating to explore those ideas and challenge them through a near-future and Western setting (where in reality, the history of the Wild West has been incredibly diverse). Gailey brilliantly juxtaposed this idea of a typically assumed non-diverse part of history with Queer representation and powerful female characters!

The world itself was fantastic and getting to explore it through the tiniest of details, was a lot of fun! There’s specific types of gravel that highlight a town’s wealth, different roles for Librarians, even minor hints as to life before the Quadrants / territories. I was also fascinated with learning how vital the Librarians job is in getting Materials across the country. The descriptions develop a clear setting in your mind and above all, its such an atmospheric story.

Its incredibly easy to lose yourself in this world and not only follow the journey, but also learn about the different characters and layers to them that get revealed little by little.

The themes explored throughout this novel are layered and subtle in some ways, but are so present when you look at this story as a whole. From the element of found family, themes of friendship, and hope of rebellion for a better society. The exploration of love and self are also present as Esther connects more with the Librarians.

Upright Women Wanted also presents Queer rep.! There’s f/f rep. (Bet and Leda), even a lovely relationship that develops between Esther and Cye. There’s also nonbinary representation as Cye uses they/them pronouns (however uses ‘she’ when in town).

After reaching that last page, I NEED more adventures with Cye and Esther!! 💖

While this is an all-around fantastic novella, I wanted to delve into why its 4 stars, for me personally. The concept of the Librarians and the Materials they deliver across the country, alongside their underlying rebellion and their roles as librarians in general was so fascinating…BUT, I felt the novella just barely got through the surface of what they are capable of. I really just wish the concept was developed a bit more, because its such a highlight of the world.

I also wish there were additional plot points to become more familiar with the Librarians and just get to know these characters a bit more. Overall there’s a brilliant and unique idea that Gailey presented I just felt there needed to be more plot-wise to explore it.

As with all Tor novellas, I’d be thrilled to see future books set in this world, perhaps even a series? But from what I’ve read, I think its a standalone. Also, because of how unique the story was and all that it explores, this was probably one of my toughest reviews I’ve written in a while. If my review has convinced you to read or check out this wonderful novella, please let me know, I’d love to chat about it with all of you! 💞

Upright Women Wanted is a spectacular dystopian, western novella featuring a great cast of characters, Queer librarian spies, adventure and so much more! The immersive world, unique concepts, and underlying themes make this a great novella worth checking out. Its Hopepunk meets the Wild West!

Are Book Bloggers Getting Paid? {Book Blog Discussion}

What makes the book community an astounding place to be is the variety of bookish content that can be created across blogs, bookstagram, and even booktube. We created these platforms because of our love for books and connect with like-minded readers who feel the exact same way.

However, inspired by Cielo @Bellerosereads recent thread, its abundantly clear that book bloggers hardly see any payment for their work. Many say in the 4 years (maybe even more) they’ve been creating content, they’ve maybe made $20 through affiliates however a vast majority have made $0.

Why could this be? Lifestyle, fashion, and beauty bloggers according to this recent 2020 Huffington Post article are making a couple thousand dollars when creating blog posts alongside other social media content.

Although these are isolated cases, it’s clear that brands are able to pay for their content not only through Instagram, but also for blog content that has a good shelf-life in regards to whatever product their looking to promote.

Before we get into more logistics lets talk a little more about what companies are usually looking for when promoting, in this case lets talk about upcoming book “X.”

If “X” is a debut that publishers are really looking to sell many will include national print publicity, social media campaigns, and I’m sure there’d also be early ARC mailings alongside word-of-mouth or influencer promotion.

So who would this blogger be and why should you care? Well it all depends on whether the publisher is looking to reach out to a micro- or macroinfluencer. Micro, much like you or me are the bloggers who have followers from 1k to 10k. Why these kinds of influencers are important is because, the close and tight-knit readership fosters and maintains direct interaction with followers, creating a sense of community.

Microinfluencers very much carry more weight over the longterm and that’s because our audience is our peers (fellow blogger friends, readers, etc.). We are not here to market, but to simply build connections over our love of books.

Additionally, Influencer Marketing Hub also shared that in response to “The State Of Influencer Marketing 2020: Benchmark Report,” 91% of brands, marketing agencies, and other industry professionals who participated, believe that influencer marketing is effective. I won’t find it surprising to see these numbers increase or the state of influencers evolve over the next year and into 2021 , especially with the impact of the virus.

I know I’ve found myself reading and picking up certain books more because fellow book bloggers or bookish creators had talked about it, even hyped it up through their posts!

For example if “Blogger A” is your fellow blogger friend, wouldn’t you want to pick up this book more because they wrote about how great it is?  This all leads back to the influence that bloggers carry and how that doesn’t really reflect necessarily in payment or compensation for our work. What we essentially are is free marketing.

However I also want to highlight the work that bloggers have done to push publishers into offering ARCs to more #OwnVoices reviewers. Through specific contact lists, blogger-run book tours, etc. I can speak for myself and say that I’ve been contacted over the past year for promotion of books from Latinx authors (Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From and Each Of Us A Desert).

It seems like publishing and the world of books is still catching up to the idea of  sponsored/paid influencer marketing like the other juggernaut industries such as lifestyle or beauty, for instance. But I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given.

Now I’m not here to say we need to be making millions of dollars on a single post, but I am hoping to highlight other industries that are able to pay for this kind of publicity. We do valuable work, so us bloggers should appreciate and recognize our contributions to the book community.

There’s such a variety of ways bloggers can be compensated (not only through reviews) there can be blog tour posts, book lists, etc. The beauty of blogging is how creative the written word can become.

Now where do we go from here?

Transparency is important and talking about these topics matters, so this is very much a great start. As bloggers, we need to acknowledge and bring more awareness to our influence in the book community. Even if we may not get paid, its important to be open with fellow creators and encourage conversation with publishers to compensate for the time and work we put into talking about their books.

This Publishers Weekly article that examines tapping into the power of influencers from 2018 states that “many influencers below that [10,000] threshold…create great content…influencer-created content works better than brand-created content, always, always, always.”

We need to remember our value and worth as content creators, even when there are days it feels like no one is reading our stuff. As bloggers it’s important to not only support each other, but help one another. Us book bloggers are part of an ever-evolving and growing community, so we need to support and hype each other up!

Let’s read each others blog posts, like tweets, donate to their Ko-fi’s, Patreons, even a simple comment can go a long way. If we want to see change for the book blog community, we have to be part of that change.

Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to your favorite bookish brands! It can even be that book subscription box or candle you like! A simple email can help establish you and your blog.

There continues to be fantastic bloggers creating such inspiring content and delving into this topic of payment for our work is an important starting point.

Thank you for taking the time to read this discussion! If you are a book content creator what’s your thoughts on this topic?  📚✨

Share your story, how long have you been a blogger and have you seen any compensation for your work? 💖📚

How Audiobooks helped my reading during Quarantine + Updates

Audiobooks usually aren’t my go-to when it comes to reading, however I noticed during Quarantine they became a pillar for structuring my reading time.

As I was focusing on my classes online and staying indoors, my reading had definitely slowed down (at least when it came to novels written in prose). It became difficult for me to stay focused on what I was reading, so I was grateful to have started using sites like Scribd to enjoy audiobooks (also utilizing my library’s digital catalog more).

joyce-mccown-791673-unsplash books

Between the two, Scribd is definitely my preferred choice for now because libraries can have a bit of a wait time on books. When seeing just how many audiobooks were available, it made me prioritize more backlist/indie titles too and that’s something I’m planning to hopefully continue for the rest of the year.

During Quarantine not only have I been able to get through my library checkouts more, but its also gotten me to think more about reaching for the backlist books on my physical TBR (which also inspired my new blog feature Backlist Bookshelf).

So far the easiest way for me to get more reading done has been to read a physical copy while listening to the audiobook. I’m also getting reading done faster because I recently noticed how short audiobooks can be! Now books are getting read in the span of 2-3 days instead of my usual reading speed.

As Way Too Fantasy mentioned, “listening to a book is a much different skill from reading print off a page…” Being more of a print reader, I’ve noticed delving into audiobooks is working with a different reading muscle than I’m used to, but its really been fun to get back into reading more books again.

There’s been such a variety of books I’ve been able to get through during my time at home too from manga to graphic novels, novellas, non-fiction and of course, YA!

In all the years I’ve been reading, I rarely reached for audiobooks, so 2020 will definitely be one of the years with the highest amount I’ve ever listened to (so far its 3 total 📚). Because I’m more of a fiction podcast listener, its also been difficult for me to get into audiobooks  cause I’ve definitely gotten used to fiction/audio drama’s more scripted style of storytelling. But, I’m happy that the audiobooks I have listened to so far have been great!

I’ve listened to The Black God’s Drums, Scavenge The Stars, and more recently Upright Women Wanted (book review in-progress). Out of all of those, my favorite audiobook has definitely been for The Black God’s Drums which was narrated by Channie Waites, who did a stellar job! Because it’s a novella I thought I wouldn’t even need the audiobook, but I’m so glad to have discovered it. Waites brought such an engaging performance that looking back, I loved the novella because of the audio even more and its definitely on my list of all-time favorite audiobooks.

Overall, I’m glad I ended up having lots of luck with my audiobook choices so far! The next one I might be looking into is for Elizabeth Acevedo’s Clap When You Land its wonderful to see authors narrating their own book, so I’m looking forward to this one! (If you’ve listened her audiobooks, let me know what you think in the comments💞)

Updates

If you’ve been following me on Twitter you may have seen a tweet about a special announcement a couple weeks ago. I was really hesitant to talk about it here whether casually in a review or make an entire post about it…but I’m incredibly passionate about this special project so I guess its time I finally talked about how I’ve officially started…a PODCAST!! Titled The Booked Shelf Podcast, each episode will cover a different book/bookish/storytelling-related topic. I recently launched the trailer on YouTube and if everything works out, I’ll be debuting my first episode later this month! 😍🎙🎊

Its been a little over a week since protests began around the world in response to the recent Black lives lost. During this time, I’ve reflected on the ways I can do more (not only in my personal life) but also through the use of my platform to uplift and boost Black voices and authors / creators. So over the next few weeks, I plan to post here on the blog a list of upcoming YA Books from Black authors or even Black-authored books that need more hype (hoping I’ll have time to share both).

Hope you enjoyed today’s more casual discussion post, maybe I’ll post another one like this soon? 🥰📚💖

Have you been listening to any audiobooks recently? Any books or other media you’ve been enjoying? 📚💖 Are there any bookish / blog updates you’d like to share? 💞

Scavenge The Stars by Tara Sim Review

Scavenge The Stars by Tara SimScavenge The Stars by Tara Sim (Scavenge The Stars #1)

Publisher: Disney Hyperion 

Release Date: January 7, 2020

Pages: 327

Available Through The Book Depository or Bookshop

Cover Design: Marci Senders (designer) & Tom Corbett (photographer)

Summary: When Amaya rescues a mysterious stranger from drowning, she fears her rash actions have earned her a longer sentence on the debtor ship where she’s been held captive for years. Instead, the man she saved offers her unimaginable riches and a new identity, setting Amaya on a perilous course through the coastal city-state of Moray, where old-world opulence and desperate gamblers collide.

Amaya wants one thing: revenge against the man who ruined her family and stole the life she once had. But the more entangled she becomes in this game of deception—and as her path intertwines with the son of the man she’s plotting to bring down—the more she uncovers about the truth of her past. And the more she realizes she must trust no one…

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Scavenge The Stars is an intriguing tale of revenge! Amaya and Cayo traverse Moray, a tropical port city with an underbelly of corruption as they both seek vengeance in order to alleviate the pain of their pasts! Lush, immersive world building, a fast-paced plot, an all diverse/Queer cast, and wonderfully developed main characters makes Scavenge The Stars a highly entertaining and captivating read!

For years I’ve known about Tara Sim’s Timekeeper series, but I just have not taken the time to read it yet (hopefully I’ll get to it soon). Then, when I heard her newest series featured an epic revenge plot featuring stabby girls with knives, tropical cities, and much more, I knew I just had to pick up Scavenge!

I’m not sure how else to describe it, but this book was just SO good and lots of fun? And I feel like that’s what I needed right now. Also I will say its a YA Fantasy in the sense that it takes place in a secondary world, but there isn’t any magic!

Told through a dual POV we follow Amaya Chandra whose trapped on a debtors ship with other Water Bugs (children) controlled by the awful Captain Zhao. Then we have Cayo Mercado, son of a wealthy merchant whose recovering from a gambling addiction and trying to get back on his father’s good side (after losing quite a bit of money in the gambling dens of the Vice Sector and Slum King).

Sim layers so much development, incorporating vengeance into both Cayo and Amaya’s storylines, while also bringing a lot of character growth and this underlying hope for freedom that subtly weaves its way throughout the novel.

Amaya is almost through with her sentence aboard the Brackish and ready to see her mother again, after having spent so many years away from not only her family but also her home. But, when she saves a drowning man and risks increasing her stay, she knows there’s only one option…team up with this mysterious man named Boon and reap more wealth than she can possibly imagine, if she’s ready to enact vengeance along the way.

Amaya, now has to go undercover into the neutral city of Moray and take down wealthy merchant, Kamon Mercado.

As Cayo attempts to recover, his former lover/best friend Sebastian gets involved with Moray’s Slum King and he finds himself getting tangled back into its mysterious underbelly. As Ash Fever spreads across the city, he also has to grapple with the fact that his sister Soria has mysteriously caught it too.

Another important storyline of his journey involves his realization that he has to help keep his family afloat financially. So, as he begins to uncover more secrets about Moray and possibly his family, his entire world begins to slowly shatter.

What I feel is at the soul of Scavenge The Stars, among personal journeys of growth and reflecting on vengeance, it’s a book that heavily delves into themes of legacy and identity. Its something that I find, feels like is naturally interwoven into this story that Sim masterfully explores in this almost dual-sided city.

As Cayo and Amaya are so desperate to seek their own identities, they can’t help but be connected with the past deeds of their parents. They each grapple with understanding truths about their families and how they can overcome them despite feeling connected to that unsaid legacy. Alongside that link to a past they were never involved with, there’s another underlying truth that Sim presents and that’s how much the present is influenced by the past. The same can also be said for Romara who’s secretly trying to take over her father’s empire and destroy his legacy (FAMILIAL) in the process. I feel like these quotes from the book sum it up perfectly:

“…children are the victims of their parents’ crimes.” & “They had all been ravaged by the generation that came before them…” (154 / 195).

The world building is fantastic! From its first page, you could feel the cool sea air, navigate the double-sided nature of Moray, its tropical paradise of opulence and corruption. Traveling among the casino sectors and more historical 19th century atmosphere was just wonderfully detailed, rich with mythology, history and lavish estates, etc.

My only issue is that Moray is a neutral city caught between the Sun and Rain Empires. Although that itself is fascinating and leads to a lot of unique politics and intrigue, I still felt the empires (as important as they sounded) weren’t really developed all too much. We get descriptions of what they’d look like, but I never really felt that weight to how they’d impact Moray (unless it was briefly reminded to the reader). I wish there was more description/depth to the warring empires, because I did feel at a distance.

I also wish there was just a bit more description to Cayo and Amaya’s POVs to feel even more immersed in Moray.

Alongside legacy and identity, there’s also deeply explored themes of power, class, and the perils of revenge! These are delved into not only through the great world building, but mainly through Amaya who has to keep up with these various sides to herself (Silverfish, Amaya, and her role as Countess Yamaa) while still understanding who she wants to become now with her new-found freedom. There’s also this uncertainty and mystery as we learn more about her plan for vengeance will bring and what led her to the Brackish in the first place. Amaya begins to see what the price of vengeance truly brings the more she uncovers her past and tries to avenge herself and the other Water Bugs, which leaves her confronting many truths she was not expecting!

The characters are all wonderfully written and I enjoyed them all! Sebastian, Roach (Amaya’s ship mate), Romara, Kamon, etc. they all had their own personal journeys, development, and just came to life!

Also who doesn’t love a diverse cast? Cayo is bi and according to Sim from her twitter Amaya is demi! There’s Queer rep among almost all the side characters and features a non-white cast!

Now onto what lowered my rating. While I absolutely loved Cayo and Amaya as separate characters, I really wondered why there had to be a romance between them (Look I LOVE romance in YA, but this one just didn’t work― it surprised even me). They both stood incredibly well on their own and so when it came to their feelings it seemed like they thought more about each other than they were actually together (especially considering how they have few page moments together and its more reflection). It never felt like it needed a romance because there’s all these other things going on in their lives, I would have loved a bigger focus on their friendship.

Also just from personal expectations, I was hoping for just a bit more action and adventure! It focuses a lot on Cayo and Amaya doing their own investigating in Moray because of that, the intrigue and suspense of revenge is a bigger focus of the novel which does leave the action towards the more intense story moments.

Personal expectations aside, the book’s last couple chapters really leave you hooked and there’s where the action, suspense and reveals all finally come together. Its done SO well  and leaves many questions for what’ll happen in the sequel!

I’d really been looking forward to reading Sim’s books and I’m thrilled to have finally picked this one up! Looking forward to seeing where Cayo and Amaya’s adventure is headed next!

  Scavenge The Stars is a glimmering, high stakes story of revenge and a great start to a new series! Sim’s gender-bent Monte Critso retelling presents a great cast of characters, an intriguing world, and an immersive tale that will leave you wondering what else there is to explore in the captivating city of Moray! ⚔✨

↠ There was also recently a cover reveal for RAVAGE THE DARK (book 2)…if you loved stabby girls with knives like on this cover, the sequel cover is even more epic! 😍💞🗡

Love In Focus Vol. 3 by Yoko Nogiri {Manga Review}

Love In Focus Vol. 3 by Yoko NogiriLove In Focus Vol. 3 by Yoko Nogiri (Love In Focus #3)

Publisher: Kodansha Comics

Release Date: July 23, 2019

Pages: 192

Available Through The Book Depository: Love In Focus Vol. 3

Cover Illustration: Yoko Nogiri

Summary: Swept along by Kei’s suggestion to give dating a try, Mako struggles to see where she really fits in. Meanwhile, Mitsuru has become distant, and in her attempts to get back the friendship they had, Mako discovers his hidden past. Mako, Kei, and Mitsuru now have to confront their own feelings, and they might get a little lost before they find their true answers…

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Love In Focus comes to an end in this 3rd volume! When Mako first arrived to photography club’s boarding house, she never expected to find a new  muse. Kei, and Mitsuru are navigating their complicated feelings and confronting their past as Mako tries to better understand where her heart is leading her. Balancing the romantic and quiet slice of life moments, this series is ends on a satisfying note!

You know when you finally reach the end of a series and it feels like it ended too soon? That’s exactly how I felt with Love In Focus. Even though it follows typical romance tropes, there’s just something about how it was all executed that had me falling in love with this series. Maybe it was the likable cast, picturesque art style, or layered emotional depth to the characters? Possibly a combo of all of these?

Either way, Love In Focus is a series I’ll always have such positive memories of (despite my critiques) because its a soft, quiet contemporary romance that just captivated me! Its really sweet and I loved following these characters!

This is also the first full manga series I’ve ever completed and although it feels like such an accomplishment I never thought I’d reach the end of Mako’s journey so soon…

Mako decides to confront her childhood friend Kei, even though she’s still conflicted about Mitsuru too. He decides they should have a trial period for their relationship as she’s still swept up in her uncertainty to see how it works out.

However, this also gives Mako time to reflect more on her relationships (both romantic/platonic) between Mitsuru and Kei. While Mako is new to relationships, it is kind of frustrating at points to see her rely so heavily on others opinions about how the relationship should work. It felt like (with Vol. 2) her presence as a character is there, but her development was left to the side just a bit.

Vol. 3 is essentially filled with internal and emotional development to push the story forward, keeping the reader in suspense / wonder as to who Mako will choose! I liked that this volume really filled in the gaps for the mysterious Mitsuru and what led him to end his modeling career.

Another highlight was seeing how Mitsuru not only confronted his past, but finally accepted his feelings for Mako. Kei on the other hand had this selfishness to him as we realize how desperate he is to get Mako to love him. But, it was nice for him to finally accept and even make some changes of his own (learning to move on and confronting his father). Mako herself definitely goes on an emotional journey as well as she tries to better understand how she truly feels.

No spoilers, but I loved how the story came full-circle in a way through the ‘Bonus Short.’

With each volume, I loved that there was always a new element given the spotlight whether it was the characters, writing, or art. With this final volume, the art was beautifully done. Kind of reflecting back to Vol. 1, the way it uses blank space to highlight the passage of time or reflection of emotion has been brilliantly presented throughout the whole series. In a way, that’s kind of the focus of the series and the art reflects that. Whether its been from a focus on a character’s expression, the single panel of scenery that builds the emotional depth of a scene? I loved it with each volume and it was presented in a way unlike any other manga series I’d read before.

There’s always been a subtlety to the emotions of Mako, Kei and Mitsuru too that really adds a whole other layer to them as characters! The art also has some clever, artistic style choices to reflect certain panels as if they were seen through a camera lens.

The paneling is also fantastic! It varies across each page and never feels like it has wasted space. Page 113 which features Mako headed towards a shrine is especially unique and stood out to me!

Though this series will always be memorable to me and easily one of my favorites, I think this volume was definitely rushed and also slow at the same time. While I was unsure at the end of Vol. 2, this last volume makes it more obvious as to who Mako wants to be with. So it felt like Kei was given more backstory in order to stretch out more of his past with Mako. Again, he continued to be my least favorite character at least when it comes to the last couple volumes.

I also felt like Mitsuru’s development happened within the span of like a page? And although he is my favorite character in the series, once we realize how Mako really impacted him I knew everything else was just wrapping up Kei’s story before we finally get to see what happens with Mako and Mitsuru!

Because this last volume is so focused on the main cast, the side characters did feel kind of forgettable too. But overall though, this series just wrapped up on a great note and yet, I’m still sad its over.

I loved following Mako on her journey as a growing photographer and reminising back to the first volume, this series beautifully explores the passion and impact art can have on us. Its also a beautiful series about love and growth!

Love In Focus is wonderful manga series I’m glad I took the time to read! These characters, their emotional journeys, and the beautiful art that expresses it will definitely stay with me! Although it feels like I could tons read more books with Mako and the guys, the series really does wrap up wonderfully 💖

Love In Focus Vol. 3 wonderfully concludes Mako, Kei, and Mitsuru’s journeys! The emotional growth of our main cast, metaphorical artwork, and gripping romantic story makes this volume such a page turner! The Love In Focus Series presents romance through a more quiet, emotional, slice of life narrative that really connects you to its characters! Definitely an underrated manga series that I highly recommend picking up!

We Are Not From Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez ARC Review

We Are Not From Here Jenny Torres SanchezWe Are Not From Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez

Publisher: Philomel Books (Penguin Teen)

Release Date: May 19, 2020

Pages: 368 

Available Through The Book Depository: We Are Not From Here

Cover Illustration: Hazylle Cadungog

Summary: Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña have no false illusions about the town they’ve grown up in and the dangers that surround them. Though their families–both biological and found–create a warm community for them, threats lurk around every corner. And when those threats become all too real, the three teens know they have no choice but to run: for the border, for the hope of freedom, and for their very lives.

Crossing from Guatemala through Mexico with their eyes on the U.S. border, they follow the route of La Bestia, a system of trains that promise the hope of freedom–if they are lucky enough to survive the harrowing journey. With nothing but the bags on their backs and the desperation that courses through their very veins, Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña know that there’s no turning back, dangerous though the road ahead might be.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: We Are Not From Here is a must-read for 2020! Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña embark on perilous journey to the U.S./Mexico border. Told through an emotionally-gripping, poetic and character-driven narrative, Sanchez delivers a tale all too real that will stay with you long after the final page!

I’ll admit, it was when I finally reached the end of We Are Not From Here where I realized, moving and impactful books such as this one are incredibly difficult for me to review. How does one put into words how powerful a story is, especially when it reflects a reality for so many reaching the United States?

If you take away one thing from this review, aside from reading this novel it’s that this journey is happening every single day and this book while fictional, it details the truth for many seeking opportunity when journeying to the US (alongside the hardships that continue when they arrive).

Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña have lived in Puerto Barrios and have known each other practically their whole lives. However, they are aware of the possible dangers they can face when their paths cross with certain people in their community, like gang leader Rey.

Seventeen-year-old Pequeña at the start of the novel is having a child she doesn’t want and we soon learn it’s the child of Rey. While she has the support of her community (such as her mother and tias), when she learns of Rey’s proposal to marriage and starting a new life elsewhere, she realizes she’s trapped and there is no other option but to run.

The murder of local store owner Don Felicio spurs Pulga and Chico (both 15) into running as well when Rey coerces them into joining his group.

Pulga, carrying his walkman, that links to memories of his father, and years of information on how to reach the U.S. by riding a real life network of trains known as La Bestia, motivates Chico and Pequeña into understanding that that’s the only way they can start new.

The journey they undergo is brutal, not without hardship, it even changes their perception on their personal hopes, dreams, and visions of the future they seek. It’s an emotionally and physically enduring journey not only on the trains, but also as they cross, the thoughts of fear and uncertainty run through their mind as they take each step.

From the dangers of not securing themselves on the trains, to being robbed, running out of food/water, etc. Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña are met with struggles along the way, but also moments of kindness. It’s from fellow passengers, even shelter owners and members of local churches who provide them support along their journey. The power of kindness, compassion, and much more are beautifully highlighted into darkest moments of this novel.

Told through dual POV’s from Pulga and Pequeña, there’s just so much life, soul and history woven into our main cast that make them incredibly real. Sanchez’s writing is especially poetic and through Pequeña’s perspective, there’s even hints of magical realism that illustrate her want to escape the darkest and unhappiest of situations.

Their friendship, family dynamic and just reading about the deep connection they share with each other on this journey was just another one of the many highlights of the story.

Pulga is very much someone who is aware of the dangers the journey can bring and carries this evolving nature of solitude, mentioning its best that the 3 of them just focus on themselves. It brings moments of pain for each of them and seeing this evolve over the course of the story was painful to read.

While Chico is more of the hesitant one of the group, never letting go of the deep emotional parts of himself as he reminds Pulga of the connection and similar feelings other migrants such as themselves are surely facing too. Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña are the stars of this novel and its in their depth and core as characters that bring so much emotion, intensity, and so much more to this book.

This novel broke my heart in many ways, especially nearing the end, but underlying is such a prevalent theme of hope. The hope of dreams, the act of hoping itself, carries a lot of power that is not forgotten with each chapter. The storytelling is gripping and packed with so much emotion.

While this novel in no way reflects my family’s personal immigration story, it still connected to me in such a deep way as the main characters (and my family) are Guatemalan also. Novels such as We Are Not From Here highlight a truth which is that there’s numerous countries in Latin America with people immigrating to the United States, but its often only generalized to a few countries. That’s another vital part of what makes this novel so impactful.

This novel also reminded of a non-fiction book I read for one of my classes not too long ago called Enrique’s Journey. Its definitely a journalistic piece written more into a prose style, but a lot of what happens in that novel, alongside facts/figures are subtly woven into Sanchez’s novel as well.

The plot while mainly following their journey among each train and heading north, changes them little by little and your heart can’t help but hurt. However, at each turn they do their best to keep going. Its also a story as much internal as it is external.

While my 4 star rating is more reflected at how much this book got to me on such a deep level and the pain I felt while reading, its very much a YA book that deserves all the hype and recognition (its a 5-star reading experience). While I won’t spoil what happens at the end, it really hits you emotionally (after I finished I was just left so speechless).

We Are Not From Here is an unforgettable, powerful YA Contemporary that follows 3 Guatemalan teens on their journey to reach the U.S. Sanchez’s prose is moving and captivating! This is novel is masterfully crafted, emotional, and gripping story make this a must-read for 2020! 


🌿✨ Have you read We Are Not From Here? Are you planning on reading this novel? 🌿✨