Taking a Blog Hiatus…sort of? {Blog Discussion}

Hello everyone, on the eve of the new year that is 2021 I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my blog, reading, reviewing, basically a lot. For months I’ve been dreading making this post because 24hr.YABookBlog has been place where I’ve seen myself grow as a reader, writer, content creator, and as a person. But in the rush to keep up with new blog posts, reviewing, posting weekly content, I especially found myself being burned out during 2020. With other life priorities I see how that was reflected in my blog posts, although I’m so proud of the content I created in the past year, it’s important for me to take time for myself too.

In my 5 years as a blogger I’ve NEVER taken an official hiatus, but there’s moments like now where it’s important to remember that occasional breaks are necessary. Although I feel like with a more free schedule in 2021 I’ll definitely be reading more, I also care about bringing the best blog content I can to all of you. This means I need to take that time to find out what I’m missing and where to go from here.

At most I think I’ll take the month of January off (although I’ll be reviewing and posting still…sort of? It’s complicated). There’s other blogs and spaces where I’ve been eager to get back to creating for too and this will give me more time to reflect on my content here, like The Booked Shelf and another awesome space I’ll talk about more once I’m back! I’m also planning to catch up on lots of books in January 2021 so I’ll still be posting reviews here, I just think it’ll just be more sporadic for a couple weeks (I’ll probably make them very brief for the time being, but again not too sure yet).

My goal is to improve my reviewing, discussions, and writing in general. I’ve been caught in a routine that I’ve noticed when it comes to my book reviews and it’s important for me to change it up a bit. This means I’ll try to blog hop more and get inspired by fellow bloggers by reading more posts.

Without a doubt though, I’ll be back to posting more regularly by the end of January.

There’s many books I’d love to catch up on and lots of fun bookish lists, discussions, and content in general I’m feeling inspired to post on the blog, but I know I’ll need a bit of time to find that spark again.

I’ve also felt a frustration (as I’m sure many can relate) with wanting to post and stay active within the community, while reading ALL the books and posting consistently. Also getting a bit more personal with my blogging journey in 2020, this year especially has reminded me that while its amazing to see other bookish creators posting more varied content (book news, certain discussions/content, etc.), there’s a feeling of erasure or fear that others are “copying” you without proper credit. Maybe this is a bit of a stretch, but I’ve really felt that way this year and I want to work harder to establish myself and content, because I put a lot of heart into it and don’t want my work to go overlooked.

As with each year, I want to find my writing voice and convey more of a style into what I blog about. That’s something I try to get better at with each review and hopefully my blogging hiatus will help with that.

There’s a lot more I’m excited for in the new year and I think I’ll leave it here for now. But now some QUESTIONS for all of my wonderful fellow bloggers, readers, and followers of my blog: What is it you enjoy about my content? Is there anything you’d like to see more of? If there’s a specific review or post of mine you loved reading, which is it? All of your amazing thoughts would really help me feel motivated, inspired, and eager to reinvent myself as a creator during my hiatus. [*Still planning to create a 2020 wrap-up of sorts too, so keep an eye out for that as well 💕]

Lots of fun bookish content is coming and I’m so excited to share it with all of you! See you all again very soon in 2021! 😍🎉📚

Book Buying and Tracking Finances As A Book Blogger

Over the past couple years as a university student it’s no surprise I began to think more about my finances. As a book blogger especially, who reads and reviews books every year, it’s even less of a surprise that over 4 years later I’m considering and questioning how much is being spent on buying books.

To give a bit of background, I’d never been much of a book buyer growing up, but when I discovered my love for Young Adult fiction in about 2012, slowly the number of books being added to my personal library began to grow little by little. Now, as the weight of my 100+ collection slowly began taking root in my mind, it was clear I had to think more about my spending habits.

In late 2018 I discovered Readwithcindy’s booktube video Why I Only Own 4 Books 💸 A Chat On Booktube Consumerism’ and more specifically this video ‘how much money i saved on books| 2018 stats.’ There’s a particular idea I took from both of them that has forever changed the way I think about my bookish spending. As someone whose reading is about 80-95% through the library not once did it ever cross my mind to track those savings, until I watched Cindy’s videos!

Now for all of 2019 and 2020 I’ve created spreadsheets / lists of books I’ve checked out from the library comparing with hypothetical prices if I were to buy them (with some discounts) via Barnes & Noble, Book Outlet, or The Book Depository. There’s something rewarding about seeing the amount of dollars saved in black and white, just by writing it down. Now, I’m trying my best to limit spending as much as I can in the new year (especially as being inside more during 2020 has without a doubt caused me to splurge a bit more online). I’m fortunate to have access to a great library system and this year has put into perspective how I can do more to utilize it and save money on my reading. Especially when I’m sure many can relate that we buy books here and there, only to set them aside for months at a time and end up reading something else.

Writing down those figures, tracking the expenses, and preparing new goals for the upcoming year has made me especially conscious of my habits to save more where I can, and this is not a surprise…Now for a bit of psychology! According to Forbes, the neuroscience involved in simply jotting down goals helps with external storage and encoding to help you accomplish them. Essentially it’s best summed up by this quote, “Study after study shows you will remember things better when you write them down.” That includes storing them within your long-term memory and identifying the “Generational Effect” which basically means you remember information more when you’ve personally generated it for yourself.

Something as simple as writing down the number of books being borrowed from the library has made a big impact on how I’m calculating spending. For a majority of 2020 I’ve followed the Japanese budgeting method of Kakeibo and it completely changed the way I not only think about, but also view finances. All year the journal that’s been by my side, Kakeibo: The Japanese Art Of Saving Money, has made it easy to jot down month by month, how many dollars have gone towards my book-buying habits. Although it faltered now towards the latter half of this year, there was never a moment I forgot about this concept with each purchase I made. Writing these numbers by hand has created much more awareness as to where it’s going and how I can personally do more to save what’s already there.

From Thomas Oppong in The Ladders, this article breaks down the essential questions that Kakeibo asks with each monthly budget: How much money do you have available, How much would you like to save, How much are you spending, and How can you improve?

Created by Japan’s first female journalist, Hani Motoko had another idea to keep in mind too: “saving money is about spending it well.”

So if your struggling with saving money on books, don’t be afraid to just start writing these numbers down and see where you can reduce your spending. There’s also the underlying (very nuanced) topic of consumerism, even how we are propelled to pick up the newest releases more and more because of our access to various platforms, etc.! We’re often unintentionally encouraged by seeing other bookish creators on other platforms with their monthly hauls, overflowing bookshelves, and passionate recommendations to find a way to access those books as well. This is amazing as a community that we encourage each other to discover new reads, however when it comes to finances and access, it may not always be possible for everyone.

I’m not sure I have the time to delve into this topic too much here, but perhaps I’ll save this for another post if your interested? In which I can talk more about consumerism in the community, minimalism, and how that can be impacted by book influencers.

To sum up, I think tracking how much money I’ve contributed to my book buying hobby has really helped me put it into perspective. This not only applies to the amount of spending, but where I can start saving as well, which I plan to continue for years to come!

What are your thoughts on this discussion? Do you track your book spending? Any tips you personally use to save money? OR any websites you recommend for book buying on a budget? 📚✨

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

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

Suncatcher by José Pimienta Review {Graphic Novel}

Suncatcher by José PimientaSuncatcher by José Pimienta

Publisher: Random House Graphic

Release Date: May 19, 2020

Pages: 224

Available Through The Book Depository: Suncatcher

Summary: Beatriz must create the perfect song in order to free her grandfather’s soul . . . but what will be the cost?

If life wasn’t already hard enough for Beatriz — being a teenager, trying to start a band, and going to school — then she discovers that her grandfather’s soul has been trapped in an old guitar, and that the only way to free him is to play the perfect song . . . his perfect song, a song that he never actually wrote down. She’s determined to save her grandfather, but as music slowly takes over her life, she soon finds herself growing obsessed with his song, and making it absolutely flawless, at the expense of her friendships, her band, and her health.

Beatriz won’t let anything stop her, not even her own limitations. Creating a magical song is already a lot of pressure, but Beatriz will have to make some hard choices before it’s too late for her grandfather . . . and for herself.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Suncatcher is a standalone graphic novel about music, family, and striving for perfection! Set during the 90’s and early 2000’s in Mexicali, Beatriz makes a promise to her grandfather to complete his perfect song! 

Though I have yet to read more Random House Graphic books, their lineup has looked fantastic and I’m glad to have finally picked my first book from their imprint. This graphic novel not only features great artwork, but explores beautiful themes from music to family.

Beatriz’s love for music came from her grandfather, Tata Mario. They had a powerful bond and Tata Mario allowed her to discover her passion. However, when he passes some of his final words still haunt her: “That melody is a killer.”

As she’s still processing her grief and his loss, it felt like a piece of her heart had been taken, replaced with a feeling of emptiness.

One day she finds an old guitar in her family’s attic and realizes her dear grandfather’s returned in an unlikely way, his soul is trapped inside. The only way to set him free is for Beatriz to finish his “perfect song.”

Determined to help her grandfather in any way she can, Beatriz decides to join a band that’ll be a good fit for her and her music. As she finds her perfect band, filled with classmates and mutual friends: Ed, Diana, and Fausto, she’s sure that the melody won’t be too far.

But, as Beatriz becomes consumed with finishing and perfecting the song at any moment inspiration strikes, she doesn’t realize how far she’s sinking in order to help her grandfather. At the expense of her health, even missing the day-to-day right in front of her, we see how Beatriz’s goal is impacting her friends and the band.

The plot is packed with so much to explore, from Beatriz’s obsession with the song, the band’s origins to their many gigs, exploring the different group dynamics, and learning more about Tata Mario’s past.

While brief, I loved the pages that gave us background into Tata Mario’s past to learn more about how music impacted his life and the legacy Beatriz can carry on. I also loved the exploration of friendship with Beatriz, Diana, and Ed ― their friendship was pretty instantaneous and their dynamic was fun to read about. Which juxtaposed her dynamic with newcomer Abel, as she was trying to play her grandfather’s perfect song with the band, trying not to include his lyrics.

Throughout the entirety of this graphic novel, you get the unwavering strength of family and how powerful that bond is through Beatriz and her grandfather. Its such an important part of Latine/Latinx culture and Pimienta made it a vital and underlying theme of the story. The Mexicali culture is also woven into the story as seen through the colorful backgrounds, architecture, and Mexicali music scene/references.

When it comes to the plot, there are occasional time jumps and flashbacks, but they are all woven together with such care that unlock new layers to the intriguing contemporary-paranormal story with each page!

I’m no expert on art styles, but it appears to have detailed and unique fine tip linework on every panel. Character designs are all varied and diverse, as are the backgrounds which are layered with a unique range of muted colors from purple, yellow, and orange to name a few. The colors and artwork offer such striking visuals to further emphasize the magic of music.

My only critique is that because the narrative really is about Beatriz and her goal, some plot points of her with the band seem more slow-paced and at moments it was difficult to fully immerse myself in those parts of the story, but overall I loved how the band evolved with each new session. I also appreciated how the 2 stories really weave together near the end.

Sunctcatcher is a detailed graphic novel that captures the spirit of music and the sacrifices artists make for their work! From its rich color palette, art style, introspective storytelling, and impactful themes, this is a fantastic graphic novel debut. Suncatcher is a musically-fueled tale about the sacrifices we make for family!

Hunted By The Sky by Tanaz Bhathena ARC Review

Hunted By The Sky by Tanaz BhathenaHunted By The Sky by Tanaz Bhathena (The Wrath Of Ambar #1)

Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux (Fierce Reads)

Release Date: June 23, 2020

Pages: 384

Available Through The Book Depository: Hunted By The Sky

Cover Design: Elizabeth Clark

Summary: Gul has spent her life running. She has a star-shaped birthmark on her arm, and in the kingdom of Ambar, girls with such birthmarks have been disappearing for years. Gul’s mark is what caused her parents’ murder at the hand of King Lohar’s ruthless soldiers and forced her into hiding to protect her own life. So when a group of rebel women called the Sisters of the Golden Lotus rescue her, take her in, and train her in warrior magic, Gul wants only one thing: revenge.

Cavas lives in the tenements, and he’s just about ready to sign his life over to the king’s army. His father is terminally ill, and Cavas will do anything to save him. But sparks fly when he meets a mysterious girl–Gul–in the capital’s bazaar, and as the chemistry between them undeniably grows, he becomes entangled in a mission of vengeance–and discovers a magic he never expected to find.

Dangerous circumstances have brought Gul and Cavas together at the king’s domain in Ambar Fort . . . a world with secrets deadlier than their own.

*Received ARC through Goodreads*

My Rating: ★★★☆☆ ¾

My Thoughts: Inspired by Medieval India and Persia, Hunted By The Sky is a novel that follows Gul, a girl who can wield powerful magic and Cavas, a palace stableboy who’s only looking to heal his ill father. Filled with intrigue, revenge, and romance, Bhathena’s fantasy debut is set in a vibrant world, brimming with magic!

Perhaps its because I recently finished watching all of Avatar, but the expansive feel of Ambar gave me major ATLA vibes! I feel this is the kind of fantasy that blends the subtle world building and underlying character development in a way that’ll appeal to people that liked the show.

This was a fantasy I was really looking forward to because, I’ve read a bit of the author’s contemporary books and adored her writing style, so I was interested in seeing how her style transitions to a fantasy setting. No doubt this is a novel that takes risks as it introduces many elements to its world and expand on them over the course of the novel. Its layered and detailed setting hint at more to come in future books.

A series debut that’s definitely gone under the radar, Hunted By The Sky revolves around Gul and Cavas, two people brought together each for their own reasons. Gul’s parents were killed by Sky Warriors (who were seeking the legendary Star Warrior) and so, she’s forced to flee until she finds a mysterious rebel group of women. They help her understand her magic and aid her in taking revenge on the kingdom that took her family away.

Cavas, whose lived among the palace for years only wants to help his ill father from a fever that’s taken a toll on him for years. The death of his mother has also left him feeling lost in the world. The 2 find themselves drawn together as Cavas is tasked with helping Gul into Ambar Fort where the ruthless King Lohar lives.

While told through a dual POV, I appreciated how they each have their own storylines and distinct journeys that allow them to question their world and role within it. Its a gradually unfolding narrative led by two compelling protagonists that have been hardened by the tragedies around them. This is very much an introspective and character-driven fantasy that while slow paced, feels so immersive.

There’s mentions of Pashu (animals with human-like qualities), choli and ghagra, and an abundance of food that bring a richness in detail to the world’s culture. Also in the author’s note, Bhathena mentions that she drew on her Persian and Indian heritage to create her own myths and you can really sense the wonder and creativity woven into the tales of different deities, magic system, stories, and more!

Cavas finds he can communicate with spirits around him and yet he is labeled as a non-magi. Gul is a fabled Star Warrior who will bring an end to a tyrannical ruler and yet, she cannot come to terms with the destiny unfolding at every turn. As a magi, she grew up with parents who had magic and she herself is a whisper, able to communicate with animals telepathically.

The magic system is divided between Magi and Non-Magi, which highlights clear class division and inequality. Those with magic are treated with better schools, living arrangements, etc. compared to those without and Bhathena’s development of this system was one of the strongest throughout the novel. There’s also lots of different magical abilities from truth seekers, whisperers, and much more. Its established that powers within each magus react differently depending on the person and you can sense that with the different magis we encounter.

Because Gul is more unfamiliar with the palace, she is brought in undercover in order to infiltrate and seek the perfect moment to take down the king. However, she has to gather her intel all while feeling the stares of the court and palace at every turn. The plot overall, was very unexpected and I loved being surprised at what happened next. Also, there’s lots of scenes where the characters are very much going day-to-day in the palace and while it gives more perspective and insight to the world and characters, it does make the intrigue of the palace falter because it slows the pacing.

As she becomes familiar with the surrounding buildings of Ambar Fort, the royal siblings like Malti, Prince Amar, and the 2 other princes, she’s still trying to better understand her abilities and grasp her duty as the Star Warrior. All the while, she tries to find time with Cavas in order to learn as much as she can.

What Bhathena does so well is weave together threads of the magic system, history, lore, and character arcs that make it so much fun to try and connect it all!

The writing is descriptive and the 1st person POV really allows you to delve deep into the head space of our main characters. However, when it comes to the actual structure of the writing I felt it could have better conveyed the magic woven throughout the story with a different style.

Themes of this novel are that of destiny and how one chooses to accept it and family because its a major motivator for our 2 protagonists as they grow along their journey. The atmosphere is intriguing / fantastical as we delve deeper into the politics of the world, palace, and the developing magic system.

Now onto more about my rating! No doubt, I’m definitely interested in continuing this series, because of the unique world and its cast (including: Sisters Of The Golden Lotus, the princes, Latif, & Major Shayla). However alongside the writing, I think the pacing really impacted my reading experience. It felt like the story took more than 1/2 way to pick up as a lot of page time was spent still establishing Gul and Cavas as they had yet to meet.

This is also something I noticed while reading that actually booktuber Marines from MyNameIsMarines mentions in one of her recent videos titled “Story Elements That Worked For Me In One Book, But Not The Other” and it got the exact feeling I had while reading this book. Although I love political intrigue in novels, I think with Hunted By The Sky in particular, it really didn’t work for me. Mainly due to the slow pacing and the intrigue/court politics feeling quite brief and yet also somewhat obvious, I felt there wasn’t much room to delve into the grey area of the characters morality. I think after watching Marines’s video, I may do a blog post comparing elements that did/didn’t work with certain books, because that was definitely the case here.

I truly believe though, this was more of the case of Hunted By The Sky not being for me personally (and that’s okay!). But I do have faith that the sequel unravel new mysteries and answers left by this first book! Because wow, the ending really picks up and leaves me wondering!!

Hunted By The Sky is a character-driven fantasy tale filled with romance, intrigue, and introduces readers to a unique world! Gul and Cavas propel this story in very interesting ways that weave together an intriguing magic system, expansive world, expansive cast of characters, and page-turning story! An immersive new fantasy series definitely worth reading!

I’ll also be shouting out fellow book blogger reviews today! 📚🎉

First, I recommend Krisha’s Review which delves into character motivations, themes, and more! We also had similar ratings and I enjoyed reading her review. However, I love that its a mostly positive one if that’s what your looking for alongside a 3 star rating.

Next I recommend Fanna’s Review which is a beautifully written post that delves deeper into the #OwnVoices aspects of the culture represented in the novel. There’s also lots of detail in Fanna’s review if your looking for a more in-depth look into specific aspects of the world/story! Overall, I recommend both of these reviews if your interested in reading OwnVoices (Indian and South-Asian bloggers) thoughts on it! ✨

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!

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? 💞