In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire Review

In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuireIn An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire (Wayward Children #4)

Publisher: Tor.com (Tor Books)

Release Date: January 8, 2019

Pages: 204

Available Through The Book Depository: In An Absent Dream

Cover Design: Robert Hunt

Summary: This fourth entry and prequel tells the story of Lundy, a very serious young girl who would rather study and dream than become a respectable housewife and live up to the expectations of the world around her. As well she should.

When she finds a doorway to a world founded on logic and reason, riddles and lies, she thinks she’s found her paradise. Alas, everything costs at the goblin market, and when her time there is drawing to a close, she makes the kind of bargain that never plays out well.

My Rating: ★★★★☆ 

My Thoughts: In An Absent Dream is a cozy and haunting sort of read that introduces you to a world based on an fairness, logic, and entrenched in a young girl’s journey to find home! McGuire’s fourth installment in the Wayward Children’s Series layers important themes of friendship, the impact of choice, and the worlds we choose to root ourselves in!

I’d taken a break from this series after Beneath The Sugar Sky, but I knew I’d always find a way back to it. Then, having noticed I’ve only read ONE book this month, I decided a novella was exactly what I needed! After not being able to put this book down for the past 24 hours, I can honestly say that In An Absent Dream is my favorite book in this series!

This novella delves deep into the past of Lundy, beloved therapist in Eleanor’s Home For Wayward Children. When I first read Every Heart a Doorway, I felt there was so much left to learn about her and while I had little connection to her character, Absent Dream changed that!

Set in 1964, we follow Katherine Lundy, a logical and brilliant girl who longs for more. Friendship, above all, that connection to those she can relate to and who can truly see her. She’s always been proper, an avid reader, more clever and perceptive than those her age.

However, she soon finds a door that leads her to place where she quickly feels right at home. A place founded on fairness, barters, and promises that are destined to be kept.

She makes new friends (who are very much like family) Moon (a bird-like girl) and Archivist, who teach her the ways of the puzzling Goblin Market. To me, I found this book to be above all, about loneliness and the bond one creates through friendship. Lundy has never had an real friends, but when she’s introduced to the peculiar Moon, she knows she’s found a friend she can rely on.

One trip after another, however, she quickly learns that our world no longer feels like hers. Each return leads to situations she believes are well within her control, always finding her way back through the door.

Part coming-of-age and part portal fantasy, Lundy’s adventures back and forth to the Goblin Market change her at each turn, in ways she doesn’t even realize until we reach that final page.

As established in the Goblin Market, the concept of fairness was beautifully crafted and made into such a vital piece of the novel, and like Lundy, you can’t help but keep that concept in the back of your mind with every turn of the page! It still shocks you because you know the laws and how they work, yet as values build Lundy’s approach to them change as she grows. Her way of thinking alters to where she sees that rules and collecting costs weren’t always so simple as they had once been.

This is also a novel about growing up, seeing the world not as you did when you were young, but seeing how it changes and evolves the more that time passes.

I know I’ve probably said it multiple times already, but its true: Lundy is my favorite character now! This novel gave us such an introspective look into her childhood and the years that follow. We understand her drive, her ambition, the distinct way she sees the world around her and its beautiful. There were many moments where I related to Lundy, feeling like I’m distant from the world at points, escaping to my world (similar to her, through books) and the wondrous, deep connection one feels when they have friends and faith you put in them.

McGuire does a spectacular job at building the ambiance of the Market world into a tangible, real world with history, atmosphere, and rules that present it as such a stark contrast to ours, in a quiet, fairy-tale like way! Overall, the world-building in this installment is spectacular and one of my favorites.

There’s also little details that really set this world apart from other Doors in previous books, which made it such a distinct place to be! The bird cages, the bird/feather motifs, the delicious pies, detailed rules of the market and its cost. But above all, it was also this back and forth between our world (seen as more ordinary with each return) and the vibrant, almost understanding world of the market. However it was how these both separate, but distinct worlds easily wove together through Lundy’s perspective.

Lundy’s real world journeys through school ,the complex emotions and goals she defines for herself are challenged by those around her the more she carries back knowledge from The Goblin Market. With each journey back you could see how she continued to grow and even see the market itself change from her perspective because of it.

I loved following her adventures with Moon through the stalls and just being immersed in their beautiful friendship that has so many complex layers to it. Also Archivist’s home, her comforting library, and the unchanging door that always welcomed her.

We also learn how Lundy’s family tree has a connection to the market, which makes it an even more layered tale! This is also a story about familial relationships: Such as that with her father and his own secretive connection to The Goblin Market. I also loved that during a time when there’s still many external expectations for women, her father gives her choice and she’s respected for all her different layers.

Lundy herself is a girl with ambition that not many can see or understand. Its that internal, almost detached feeling that she has from our world the more she realizes that The Goblin Market truly feels like home.

The 3rd person POV allowed for not only the world to be beautifully developed and explored, but also the themes, coming-of-age story, characters, and layered pieces that brought it all  together.

My only minor issues (which make this rating so difficult because I TRULY  loved this book), include McGuire’s common element to her writing where she repeats certain phrases too often. While I completely understand its supposed to offer that classic storytelling atmosphere, for me personally it loses the impact because they are so often thrown in. It feels like we already know what its meant to imply and it could’ve allowed for more variation and description to further expand on Lundy’s story.

Also, I did feel the ending was a little rushed as we reached that last chapter–I honestly wouldn’t have minded if this book was just a bit longer! I loved being in Lundy’s world, so it would have been fantastic to get a bit more expansion on her friendship with Moon & Archivist, her family (who aside from her father, doesn’t seem like she has such a deep connection to), and the in-between battles/adventures she had before coming back to our world.

*Side note, with the friend of the Market we never meet, Mockery, I wish I felt more of a connection to her. She sounded interesting, but she’s only ever referenced in flashbacks and when we’re back in the present she has little impact on the story.

Overall though, McGuire’s 4th book in this series is one that connected with me on such a deep level and I would gladly read this book again in the future. There were many deep, moving messages I got out of it and would probably discover more on a reread.

In An Absent Dream dives deep into the story behind its characters, builds on themes of friendship and self, while delivering a profound world such as the Goblin Market that inspires further exploration! Lundy’s story will captivate you from page 1!

Top 10 Tuesday: Books I’d Love To Read Someday

Hey everyone, 24hr.YABookBlog is back and with my first Top 10 Tuesday of 2020! I’m currently in the middle of trying to plan out my next read, uni. has gotten busy this past week, so I thought it’d be great to share a fun post today. As always, Top 10 Tuesday is now hosted by ThatArtsyReaderGirl.

I noticed today’s was a freebie and had a great idea in mind. I’ve realized there’s so many books I genuinely want to read, but with other life priorities I just never get to reading them when I want to!

So that’s why my Freebie today is:

Top 10 Books I’d Love To Get To Someday

Honestly there’s way more than 10 that would be able to go onto this list, which is why it was tough to narrow down (but due to my indecisiveness, I’m listing 8 😂) . In the comments lets discuss, are any of these books you’d love to read someday (hopefully soon like me?). Any other books you keep setting aside to definitely read later?

The Weight Of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore1.The Weight Of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore

If you didn’t know, Anna-Marie McLemore is easily one of my favorite authors. I discovered their books when I first read: When The Moon Was Ours. Not only did I rediscover my love of magical realism, but also this is an earlier read that helped me to discover more Latinx YA authors! The Weight Of Feathers was their debut and I’ve just been waiting for the perfect time to read it. There’s a rival family, traveling family of performers and the story itself sounds utterly captivating! My goal is to read it this month or at least sometime during 2020 💖

Summary: The Palomas and the Corbeaus have long been rivals and enemies, locked in an escalating feud for more than a generation. Both families make their living as traveling performers in competing shows—the Palomas swimming in mermaid exhibitions, the Corbeaus, former tightrope walkers, performing in the tallest trees they can find.

Lace Paloma may be new to her family’s show, but she knows as well as anyone that the Corbeaus are pure magia negra, black magic from the devil himself. Simply touching one could mean death, and she’s been taught since birth to keep away. But when disaster strikes the small town where both families are performing, it’s a Corbeau boy, Cluck, who saves Lace’s life. And his touch immerses her in the world of the Corbeaus, where falling for him could turn his own family against him, and one misstep can be just as dangerous on the ground as it is in the trees.

Before The Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray2. Before The Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray (The Diviners #3)

I first read this series back in 2013 and I completely fell in love with it! The ensemble cast unique world, merging the 1920’s with the paranormal, and the utterly captivating story, I’ve held onto such fond memories of this series! With the recent release of The King Of Crows, the 3rd book is high on my current TBR! 💙

Summary: New York City.
1927.
Lights are bright.
Jazz is king.
Parties are wild.
And the dead are coming…

After battling a supernatural sleeping sickness that early claimed two of their own, the Diviners have had enough of lies. They’re more determined than ever to uncover the mystery behind their extraordinary powers, even as they face off against an all-new terror. Out on Ward’s Island, far from the city’s bustle, sits a mental hospital haunted by the lost souls of people long forgotten–ghosts who have unusual and dangerous ties to the man in the stovepipe hat, also known as the King of Crows.

With terrible accounts of murder and possession flooding in from all over, and New York City on the verge of panic, the Diviners must band together and brave the sinister ghosts invading the asylum, a fight that will bring them fact-to-face with the King of Crows. But as the explosive secrets of the past come to light, loyalties and friendships will be tested, love will hang in the balance, and the Diviners will question all that they’ve ever known. All the while, malevolent forces gather from every corner in a battle for the very soul of a nation–a fight that could claim the Diviners themselves.

b7b4c010-4ab1-0133-ebe4-0aa00699013d3.The Rose And The Dagger by Renée Ahdieh (The Wrath & The Dawn #2)

This is another series on my list of “I read the first book, but I’ve been putting off reading future books” list. I still remember being left wanting to know what happened after The Wrath & The Dawn, but hadn’t found the time to pick this up! Hopefully it’ll be soon because I’d love to revisit this world and follow Shazi again! 💞

Summary: In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad is forced from the arms of her beloved husband, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once thought Khalid a monster—a merciless killer of wives, responsible for immeasurable heartache and pain—but as she unraveled his secrets, she found instead an extraordinary man and a love she could not deny. Still, a curse threatens to keep Shazi and Khalid apart forever.

Now she’s reunited with her family, who have found refuge in the desert, where a deadly force is gathering against Khalid—a force set on destroying his empire and commanded by Shazi’s spurned childhood sweetheart. Trapped between loyalties to those she loves, the only thing Shazi can do is act. Using the burgeoning magic within her as a guide, she strikes out on her own to end both this terrible curse and the brewing war once and for all. But to do it, she must evade enemies of her own to stay alive.

The Education Of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera4. Lilliam Rivera 

I’m cheating a bit here and listing an author whose books I really want to get to! I own all her books and am ready to read them all this year. My plan is to get to all of them before her upcoming book, Never Look Back is out! 💞💫

Also, it recently had a wonderful cover reveal from Entertainment Weekly which I recommend checking out here!

Summary: THINGS/PEOPLE MARGOT HATES:

Mami, for destroying my social life
Papi, for allowing Junior to become a Neanderthal
Junior, for becoming a Neanderthal
This supermarket
Everyone else

After “borrowing” her father’s credit card to finance a more stylish wardrobe, Margot
Sánchez suddenly finds herself grounded. And by grounded, she means working as an indentured servant in her family’s struggling grocery store to pay off her debts.

With each order of deli meat she slices, Margot can feel her carefully cultivated prep school reputation slipping through her fingers, and she’s willing to do anything to get out of this punishment. Lie, cheat, and maybe even steal…

Margot’s invitation to the ultimate beach party is within reach and she has no intention of letting her family’s drama or Moisés—the admittedly good looking but outspoken boy from the neighborhood—keep her from her goal.

If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio5.If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio 

I’d seen this cover floating around a couple years ago and I’d added it to my TBR asap I mean its a fantastic cover right?

I’ve actually been discovering and meaning to look into more dark academia/adult literary fiction lately and this book sounds right up my alley! Shakespeare, mystery, the arts, possible secret societies? If We Were Villains captures an aesthetic I didn’t know I needed until recently! This is a must-read for me in 2020! 💖🖤

Summary: Oliver Marks has just served ten years in jail – for a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day he’s released, he’s greeted by the man who put him in prison. Detective Colborne is retiring, but before he does, he wants to know what really happened a decade ago.

As one of seven young actors studying Shakespeare at an elite arts college, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingenue, extra. But when the casting changes, and the secondary characters usurp the stars, the plays spill dangerously over into life, and one of them is found dead. The rest face their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, and themselves, that they are blameless.

King Of Scars by Leigh Bardugo6. King Of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

Alongside Language Of Thorns, this is yet another YA Fantasy author whose books I’ve been meaning to catch up on and just haven’t yet! I mean I feel like everyone’s read this book and I’m the only one Ever since I did my Bookish Theories, I’ve really wanted to sit down and continue all the Grishaverse adventures and see if I’m right about some of them! Also, I’ve heard this is a more political installment in the universe and I’m looking for more political fantasy so this one is a must! ✨

Summary: Nikolai Lantsov has always had a gift for the impossible. No one knows what he endured in his country’s bloody civil war—and he intends to keep it that way. Now, as enemies gather at his weakened borders, the young king must find a way to refill Ravka’s coffers, forge new alliances, and stop a rising threat to the once-great Grisha Army.

Yet with every day a dark magic within him grows stronger, threatening to destroy all he has built. With the help of a young monk and a legendary Grisha Squaller, Nikolai will journey to the places in Ravka where the deepest magic survives to vanquish the terrible legacy inside him. He will risk everything to save his country and himself. But some secrets aren’t meant to stay buried—and some wounds aren’t meant to heal.

Secondhand Origin Stories by Lee Blauersouth7. Secondhand Origin Stories by Lee Blauersouth

Its only up until the last couple years where I’ve gotten back into superheroes again and this book has been on my TBR shelf just waiting to be read! Not much else to say other than this is diverse, Queer YA about superheroes? I’m in! 💥

Summary: Opal has been planning to go to Chicago and join the Midwest’s superhero team, the Sentinels, since she was a little kid. That dream took on a more urgent tone when her superpowered dad was unjustly arrested for protecting a neighbor from an abusive situation. Now, she wants to be a superhero not only to protect people, but to get a platform to tell the world about the injustices of the Altered Persons Bureau, the government agency for everything relating to superpowers.

But just after Opal’s high school graduation, a supervillain with a jet and unclear motives attacks the downtown home of the Sentinels, and when Opal arrives, she finds a family on the brink of breaking apart. She meets a boy who’s been developing secret (and illegal) brain-altering nanites right under the Sentinel’s noses, another teenage superhero-hopeful who looks suspiciously like a long-dead supervillain, and the completely un-superpowered daughter of the Sentinels’ leader. Can four teens on the fringes of the superhero world handle the corruption, danger, and family secrets they’ve unearthed?

The Bear And The Nightingale by Katherine Arden8.The Bear And The Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Every time I encounter this book or series on social media, I see nothing but praise! I also adore historical fantasy, so this is a series I’ll hopefully get to this year during winter or fall! I bought this book last year when Barnes & Noble had a sale and its been sitting on my TBR shelf ever since! Also, this looks like one of those series that’ll have such magical writing, lush world building, a gripping story and great characters that’ll have me eager to start the sequel! ✨❄

*Also random side note, but have you SEEN the beautiful UK covers?

Summary: At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

Thanks for joining me for my first Top 10 Tuesday of 2020! Any books you’d love to read someday? Any from my list that you recommend? Lets discuss! 😍📚💖✨

The Mystwick School Of Musicraft by Jessica Khoury ARC Review

The Mystwick School Of Musicraft by Jessica KhouryThe Mystwick School Of Musicraft by Jessica Khoury

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Release Date: January 21, 2020

Pages: 368

Available Through The Book Depository: The Mystwick School Of Musicraft

Cover Design: Federica Frenna

Summary: Amelia Jones always dreamed of attending the Mystwick School of Musicraft, where the world’s most promising musicians learn to create magic. So when Amelia botches her audition, she thinks her dream has met an abrupt and humiliating end—until the school agrees to give her a trial period.

Amelia is determined to prove herself, vowing to do whatever it takes to become the perfect musician. Even if it means pretending to be someone she isn’t. Meanwhile, a mysterious storm is brewing that no one, not even the maestros at Mystwick, is prepared to contain. Can Amelia find the courage to be true to herself in time to save her beloved school from certain destruction?

My Rating: ★★★★☆ 

*Received an unsolicited ARC from the publisher* 

My Thoughts: The Mystwick School Of Musicraft is a charming middle grade that follows Amelia Jones when she attends her dream school of Mystwick to continue learning about creating magic through music! Khoury’s novel layers an intriguing magic system, delightful cast of characters, adventure, mystery, and ultimately delivers a vibrant character-driven tale!

I was not expecting to get an ARC of this in the mail, so when I did I was thrilled! I adore Khoury’s writing and the way she creates such unique worlds and memorable characters (such as those in The Forbidden Wish). Hers were some of the earlier YA Books I’d read before becoming a blogger and I was excited to have a chance to read Mystwick, her middle grade debut!

Allowing the story to be told from Amelia’s 1st person POV, you could sense with each page her unique voice/energy that presented a wonder, comedic tone, and fun delivery to such a fascinating story! Her vibrancy as a character shines through, bringing the story to life and you can’t help but want to keep turning the page (I mean not only does the book have such amazing chapter titles, but it also starts with her trying to charm a chicken!!).

On the day of her exam to get into Mystwick (a school for students who want to continue learning how to create magic through music), Amelia knows she still needs a bit of practice, but she quickly makes a new friend at auditions, Jai Kapoor! Loved how their friendship was really developed throughout the book.

Amelia’s audition doesn’t go as planned and her dreams to attend the magical school, start to feel further away! However, due to a mix up she’s given a trial period allowing her to stay. What I really appreciated about the story was how Khoury delivered a tale of growth as we see Amelia overcome this internal conflict, giving it her all to prove that she does belong! Even as she struggles to catch up with the more advanced students, while also keeping her “trial period” situation a secret, she still can’t help but feel even more distant.

Knowing that her (now deceased) mother attended many years ago, she continues to pursue her dream and it gives her the inspiration/motivation to continue to try and boost both her courage and confidence. It also was very interesting to explore the dynamic between Amelia, her grandmother (who’s now her guardian) and why Mystwick is such a tough topic between the 2 of them!

Also one of the even more intriguing parts of this novel was the element of mystery and how it seamlessly wove into the story as a whole.

If you love magical boarding school books, I recommend checking this one out. There’s always something fun to learn about or explore on the Mystwick campus. It also allowed for a lot of time to be spent with the world-building, character development, friendship, and overall magical atmosphere that beautifully weaves itself into our world.

For a standalone, there’s such a deep connection that I felt with the setting (maybe it was because I took my time to read it), but either way it feels incredibly expansive and tied to our world where there’s so much care and development put into it! If you love detailed magic systems, the world of Mystwick is great, there’s lots of explanation as to the different types of magic and instruments, musicians around the world, how the rules of Mystwick make the magic system feel so grand and much more!

Here were a couple of additional details that I wanted to highlight: Novices vs. Maestros, the colors that symbolize different types of magic, Spellstones (a store for magical music sheets), and how magicians can use magic for all sorts of things: Weather, nature, and almost anything else you can think of! *There’s also a sense of limitations to the magic which was explored as well. Also there’s some left unsaid when it comes to some of the magic, which leaves a lot to the imagination which I really appreciated.

A big focus of the plot not only follows Amelia’s daily school life at Mystwick (classes, practicing, trying to fit in with the students, including her roommate Hamako Bradshaw aka Darby), but also her attempts to solve a mystery as to who could be trying to sabotage her chances at staying! The different pockets of mystery become such big parts of the story that unravel throughout the book. It offers a lot to not only the story, but also the characters and their development.

The Mystwick school had a sense of legacy to it that was indescribable. Maybe it was the knowledge of the instructors, the structure to the rules that were laid out, the campus traditions and well-established buildings or perhaps it was the bits and pieces of knowledge we learn through Amelia over the course of the story. There’s an internal skill and strength that Amelia discovers is essential to her growth as a musician and I appreciated the slow progress of that journey.

There’s also a friend trio (what I thought was originally going to be a duo) which really grew on me throughout the book: Amelia, Jai, & Darby! Their dynamic and wacky adventures were so much fun to follow! There was also a good amount of page-time given for Amelia to interact more with other students of the campus–it was those kinds of moments that made Mystwick come to life.

However one of my personal gripes is that Amelia, Jai, & Darby’s friendship felt like it could have been a bigger part of the story too–it breaks off for a little, when a bit of drama/conflict happens throughout the book. I felt it would have shined much better if their friendship was given more page time to develop! But I also appreciated how this is a story about personal growth, hence a lot of internal page time/development with Amelia.

Family (legacy even), friendship, and personal growth were all big themes of this story and really shined through. Khoury really cemented those themes into the story and alongside the plot, were such shining moments of the book.

There’s also such a diverse cast (characters from around the world that attend Mystwick), even a side character mentioned to have a wheelchair. Overall you sense how inclusive the world is, with characters from different backgrounds, ages–even getting small glimpses as to how magic operates outside the US which was great!

There’s even illustrated pages throughout the novel, done by Federica Frenna (who also designed the cover) and it just adds a little something special to the already magical story!

Again while it seems that the story wraps up in a great way for a standalone with all the major plot threads tied up, there’s somethings left unsaid and some new threads included for a possible sequel? I’m not sure if that’s a plan, but I would ABSOLUTELY love another book set in this magical world! It really comes to life and once I reached that last page, I was sad to be leaving the wonderful world of Mystwick!

Also, I’ve heard the audiobook is fantastic! I’ve read that it even includes original compositions and orchestral music throughout the audio! I’m hoping to give it a listen!

The Mystwick School Of Musicraft is a charming middle grade fantasy which blends a character-driven tale with mystery, humor, and a delightful magic system sure to captivate! There’s a lot of depth to the world, its characters, alongside a tale about finding the confidence within yourself. This is a middle grade you don’t want to miss!

Love In Focus Vol. 2 by Yoko Nogiri {Manga Review}

Love In Focus Vol. 2 by Yoko NogiriLove In Focus Vol. 2 by Yoko Nogiri (Love In Focus #2)

Publisher: Kodansha Comics

Release Date: May 21, 2019

Pages: 176

Available Through The Book Depository: Love In Focus Vol. 2

Summary: After earning Mitsuru’s trust, Mako’s beginning to get the hang of living in Lens Inn with the high school photo club. Behind the scenes, however, Mako’s best friend Kei warns Mitsuru to keep his distance. This ominous message exposes Kei’s feelings for Mako, but Mitsuru is the only one who knows!

Later, when the club members all go on a field trip together, a sudden downpour strands Mako and Mitsuru. What will the two do?! 

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Love In Focus Vol. 2 is the continuation to the manga series that follows Mako Mochizuki’s new life in Hokkaido when she joins her childhood friend Kei in a photography club! From the focus on its characters, to the blossoming of both quiet and sweet romantic moments, this volume delves more into the emotional sides of the slowly developing love triangle! 

Love In Focus Volume 1 easily became one of my new favorite manga series in the YA Contemporary Romance/slice of life categories, when I read it last year! There was such an attention to characters, where they felt incredibly real: from our passionate photographer Mako, her easy-going friend Kei, to Mako’s new photography muse Mitsu, including everyone else in their boarding house!

The story itself just hit all the perfect notes for a contemporary that still had underlying elements of romance, without making it feel too rushed and while also bringing the main characters and the atmosphere of Love In Focus to life.

There was even a deep exploration to the beauty and impact that art can bring, alongside the wonderful art-style which brought quite a bit of emotion and metaphorical depth to the story.

At the end of Volume 1 however were left with a surprising twist about Mako’s childhood friend, Kei is in love with her and wants Mitsu to stay away!

Where the first volume introduces us to these characters on a deep, emotional and present level, Volume 2 takes its time to delve more into the emotional sides of the main characters and focuses more on the romance as we delve more into the past, specifically from Kei- not only where his love of photography came from, but how he grew up and later realized he was in love with Mako!

I found what made this volume stand out compared to the previous one, was how it managed to deliver interesting developments to both of Mako’s relationships with Kei and Mitsu, while increasing the romantic tension!

Because I absolutely fell in love with Volume 1, I reread it right before delving into this one and just have to say it wasn’t a disappointment, but more of an underwhelmed feeling when I reached the end of Love In Focus Vol. 2…

With the twist from the previous volume, we learn more about Kei’s past all while we begin to see Mako and Mitsu get closer together from going to class and it all gets even more complicated when the photography club decides to spend Golden Week at a club retreat. I just really wish there was more plot threads in this volume because I’ll probably mention this a lot in the review, but our main trio are what make this series SO good! Their interactions, the dialogue, the subtle expressions, they all shine through Mako, Kei, & Mitsu!

There’s more internal dialogue from both Kei & Mitsu, surrounding their complicated feelings for Mako and trust me, I love emotionally-driven stories, but there was just something about it in this volume that made it feel like a different departure from Vol. 1. With a mix of how romantic tropes felt more obvious to me, Mako taking a bit of step back in the story (development wise until the end at least), and including Kei’s backstory (which actually made me like him less in this volume? Which I was NOT expecting because the characters in this series are just so likeable?) overall I felt the pacing of story too was just a lot slower.

Though this series does continue to be a favorite and I will of course be reading Vol. 3, it would have been a much stronger volume for me personally if it was focused more on plot and character progression (and less of a focus on the past). Where this series really shines (aside from other elements) is through the characters, so I was hoping for more of a focus on the complex layers that make them incredibly compelling to follow.

However, I will say that one of the biggest highlights of this volume was the Mako & Mitsu dynamic (1 of my theories is that they’ll be together in Vol. 3, but we’ll see!! 💖).

Nogiri’s art as with the previous volume, just draws you in and is beautiful in many ways! The characters and their subtle expressions allow them to further develop through the art style, which I find is an incredibly unique and captivating element to this series.

Additionally what I love about the backgrounds is how they influence the emotional depth and atmosphere of a scene― they continue to beautifully showcase a depth to the series that weaves its way into many different layers of the story. The choice of nature backgrounds and specific panels that are highlighted with bigger panel space build a beautiful sense of place and emotion unlike any other manga series I’ve read before!

Nearing the end of the story, we delve more into how Mako’s making sense of the complex emotions that literally give her a cold, while also better understanding how she feels about Kei & Mitsuru. I personally really enjoy the love triangle and romance (and all its subtleties) in general throughout this series because as whole it’s our fascinating main characters and their dynamics that make the interesting development of it, so fun to follow!

The writing itself was something I surprisingly paid even more attention to in this volume and what really stood out to me was how metaphorical it was, adding in the symbolism of the panels (maybe that’s just my interpretation?), but I felt both gave a lot of emotional weight to each of the scenes. There’s also a much slower and quieter pace to the plot that does allow for more time to build on our characters in interesting ways! I’m hoping to see a lot of these great elements develop or carry over into the last volume!

There’s also more of a metaphorical and internal depth to the impact of photography, especially for Mako. Alongside that, it was layered into the story in such a beautiful way through the writing.

“…whether the picture comes out well or not, the photo will still be a precious memory…” (110).

As with the previous volume, this one also leaves you wanting to read the next ASAP! I’m sad that Love In Focus will end with Volume 3 because I’ve really grown attached to Mako and her journey, alongside Kei & Mitsu! ❤ So even though I’m very excited to see what happens next, I don’t think I’ll be picking it up right away because I’m just not ready to say goodbye to these characters!

Love In Focus Vol. 2 delves more into the emotional depth of the characters as it follows Mako and the her new life as part of a school’s photography club! The wonderful cast of characters, gripping story and impactful art continue to make this such a dynamic series! This is a pretty underrated manga series and I recommend checking it out for those of you who love contemporary romance and quiet slice of life stories!

2019 YA Books by Authors Of Color You May Have Missed!

Now that we’re well into 2020, I wanted to reflect on the wonderful Young Adult books written by authors of color that released in 2019!

With my first ever readathon, #QuietReadathon, well underway I thought it would be great to highlight 50+ YA books that may have gone under the radar! My readathon focuses on quiet/underrated books and not only does this list of reads by authors of color (many of which can fall into #OwnVoices) fit perfectly with some of the prompts, but I also wanted to recommend these titles because AOC’s are releasing phenomenal books and they should definitely be talked about!

From YA Contemporary to Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and much more, I’ve listed books by month & date! I hope you find more books for your TBR 📚📚🎉

Now, with SO many book releases having filled the bookshelves last year I may not have been able to list every single one, but I’ll leave additional links below. Also, let me know if you’ve read any of these or have any recommendations to share! 📚💖

January

Oh My Gods by Alexandra Sheppard
Release Date:
January 3, 2019

Summary: Life as a half-mortal teenager should be epic.
But, for Helen Thomas, it’s tragic.

She’s just moved in with her dorky dad and self-absorbed older siblings – who happen to be the ancient Greek gods, living incognito in London!

Between keeping her family’s true identities secret, trying to impress her new friends, and meeting an actually cute boy, Helen’s stress levels are higher than Mount Olympus.

Oh My Gods by Alexandra SheppardShe needs to rein in her chaotic family before they blow their cover AND her chances at a half-normal social life.

Or is Helen fated for an embarrassment of mythical proportions?

Black Enough edited by Ibi Zoboi
Release Date:
January 8, 2019

Summary: Black is…sisters navigating their relationship at summer camp in Portland, Oregon, as written by Renée Watson.

Black is…three friends walking back from the community pool talking about nothing and everything, in a story by Jason Reynolds.

Black is…Nic Stone’s high-class beauty dating a boy her momma would never approve of.

Black is…two girls kissing in Justina Ireland’s story set in Maryland.

Black is urban and rural, wealthy and poor, mixed race, immigrants, and more—because there are countless ways to be Black enough.

Inventing Victoria by Tonya Bolden

Summary: As a young black woman in 1880s Savannah, Essie’s dreams are very much at odds with her reality. Ashamed of her beginnings, but unwilling to accept the path currently available to her, Essie is trapped between the life she has and the life she wants.

Until she meets a lady named Dorcas Vashon, the richest and most cultured black woman she’s ever encountered. When Dorcas makes Essie an offer she can’t refuse, she becomes Victoria. Transformed by a fine wardrobe, a classic education, and the rules of etiquette, Victoria is soon welcomed in the upper echelons of black society in Washington, D. C. But when the life she desires is finally within her grasp, Victoria must decide how much of herself she is truly willing to surrender.

The Girl King by Mimi Yu (TGK #1)
Release Date: January 8, 2019

Summary: Sisters Lu and Min have always known their places as the princesses of the Empire of the First Flame: assertive Lu, will be named her father’s heir and become the dynasty’s first female ruler, while timid Min will lead a quiet life in Lu’s shadow. Until their father names a new heir—their male cousin, Set.

Determined to reclaim her birthright, Lu goes in search of allies, leaving Min to face the volatile court alone. Lu soon crosses paths with Nokhai, the lone, unlikely survivor of a clan of nomadic wolf shapeshifters. Nok never learned to shift—or to trust for the empire that killed his family—but working with Lu might be the only way to unlock his true power.

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani ChokshiAs Lu and Nok form a tenuous alliance, Min’s own power awakens, a forbidden magic that could secure Set’s reign . . . or allow her to claim the throne herself. But there can only be one emperor, and the sisters’ greatest enemy could very well be the other.

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi (TGW #1)
Release Date: 
January 15, 2019

Summary: It’s 1889. The city is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. Here, no one keeps tabs on dark truths better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. When the elite, ever-powerful Order of Babel coerces him to help them on a mission, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.

To hunt down the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin calls upon a band of unlikely experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian banished from his home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in arms if not blood.

Together, they will join Séverin as he explores the dark, glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the course of history–but only if they can stay alive.

Firestarter by Tara Sim (Timekeeper #3)
Release Date: January 15, 2019

Summary: The crew of the Prometheus is intent on taking down the world’s clock towers so that time can run freely. Now captives, Colton, Daphne, and the others have a stark choice: join the Prometheus’s cause, or fight back in any small way they can and face the consequences. But Zavier, leader of the terrorists, has a bigger plan—to bring back the lost god of time.

As new threats emerge, loyalties must shift. No matter where the Prometheus goes—Prague, Austria, India—nowhere is safe, and every second ticks closer toward the eleventh hour. Walking the line between villainy and heroism, each will have to choose what’s most important: saving those you love at the expense of the many, or making impossible sacrifices for the sake of a better world.

Circle Of Shadows by Evelyn Skye (COS #1)
Release Date: January 22, 2019

Summary: Sora can move as silently as a ghost and hurl throwing stars with lethal accuracy. Her gemina, Daemon, can win any physical fight blindfolded and with an arm tied around his back. They are apprentice warriors of the Society of Taigas—marked by the gods to be trained in magic and the fighting arts to protect the kingdom of Kichona.

As their graduation approaches, Sora and Daemon look forward to proving themselves worthy of belonging in the elite group—but in a kingdom free of violence since the Blood Rift Rebellion many years ago, it’s been difficult to make their mark.

So when Sora and Daemon encounter a strange camp of mysterious soldiers while on a standard scouting mission, they decide the only thing to do to help their kingdom is to infiltrate the group. Taking this risk will change Sora’s life forever—and lead her on a mission of deception that may fool everyone she’s ever loved.

Spin by Lamar Giles
Release Date:
January 29, 2019

Summary: Sixteen-year-old Paris Secord’s (aka DJ ParSec) career–and life–has come to an untimely end, and the local music scene is reeling. No one is feeling the pain more than her shunned pre-fame best friend, Kya, and Paris’s chief groupie, Fuse. But suspicion trumps grief, and since each suspects the other of Paris’s murder, they’re locked in a high-stakes game of public accusations and sabotage.

Everyone in the ParSec Nation (DJ ParSec’s local media base)–including the killer–is content to watch it play out, until Kya and Fuse discover a secret: Paris was on the verge of major deal that would’ve catapulted her to superstar status on a Spin by Lamar Gilesnational level, leaving her old life (and old friends) behind. With the new info comes new motives. New suspects. And a fandom that shows its deadly side. As Kya and Fuse come closer to the twisted truth, the killer’s no longer amused. But murdering Paris was simple enough, so getting rid of her nobody-friends shouldn’t be an issue…

The Love & Lies Of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan
Release Date:
January 29, 2019

Summary: Seventeen-year-old Rukhsana Ali tries her hardest to live up to her conservative Muslim parents’ expectations, but lately she’s finding that harder and harder to do. She rolls her eyes instead of screaming when they blatantly favor her brother and she dresses conservatively at home, saving her crop tops and makeup for parties her parents don’t know about. Luckily, only a few more months stand between her carefully monitored life in Seattle and her new life at Caltech, where she can pursue her dream of becoming an engineer.

But when her parents catch her kissing her girlfriend Ariana, all of Rukhsana’s plans fall apart. Her parents are devastated; being gay may as well be a death sentence in the Bengali community. They immediately whisk Rukhsana off to Bangladesh, where she is thrown headfirst into a world of arranged marriages and tradition. Only through reading her grandmother’s old diary is Rukhsana able to gain some much needed perspective.

Rukhsana realizes she must find the courage to fight for her love, but can she do so without losing everyone and everything in her life?

February

Enchantée by Gita Trelease
Release Date:
February 5, 2019

Summary: When smallpox kills her parents, seventeen-year-old Camille Durbonne must find a way to provide for her frail sister while managing her volatile brother. Relying on petty magic–la magie ordinaire–Camille painstakingly transforms scraps of metal into money to buy the food and medicine they need. But when the coins won’t hold their shape and her brother disappears with the family’s savings, Camille must pursue a richer, more dangerous mark: the glittering court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

With the dark magic she learned from her mother, Camille transforms herself into ‘the Baroness de la Fontaine’ and is swept up into life at the Palace of Versailles, where aristocrats both fear and hunger for la magie. Her resentment of the rich at odds with the allure of glamour and excess, Camille is astonished to find that her would-be suitor Lazare, a handsome young inventor whom she thought shared her dreams of liberty, is also living a double life.

Enchantée by Gita TreleaseAs the Baroness de la Fontaine, Camille gambles at cards and flirts, desperate to maintain her place at court and keep herself and her sister off the streets. But la magie has its costs. When a scheming courtier blackmails her and Lazare’s affections shift, Camille loses control of her secrets. Then revolution erupts, and she must choose–love or loyalty, democracy or aristocracy, reality or la magie–before Paris burns.

The Weight Of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf
Release Date:
February 5, 2019

Summary: A music-loving teen with OCD does everything she can to find her way back to her mother during the historic race riots in 1969 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in this heart-pounding literary debut.

Melati Ahmad looks like your typical moviegoing, Beatles-obsessed sixteen-year-old. Unlike most other sixteen-year-olds though, Mel also believes that she harbors a djinn inside her, one who threatens her with horrific images of her mother’s death unless she adheres to an elaborate ritual of counting and tapping to keep him satisfied.

But there are things that Melati can’t protect her mother from. On the evening of May 13th, 1969, racial tensions in her home city of Kuala Lumpur boil over. The Chinese and Malays are at war, and Mel and her mother become separated by a city in flames.

With a 24-hour curfew in place and all lines of communication down, it will take the help of a Chinese boy named Vincent and all of the courage and grit in Melati’s arsenal to overcome the violence on the streets, her own prejudices, and her djinn’s surging power to make it back to the one person she can’t risk losing.

Watch Us Rise by Renée Watson and Ellen Hagan
Release Date:
February 12, 2019

Summary: Jasmine and Chelsea are sick of the way women are treated even at their progressive NYC high school, so they decide to start a Women’s Rights Club. They post everything online—poems, essays, videos of Chelsea performing her poetry, and Jasmine’s response to the racial macroaggressions she experiences—and soon they go viral.

But with such positive support, the club is also targeted by online trolls. When things escalate, the principal shuts the club down. Jasmine and Chelsea will risk everything for their voices—and those of other young women—to be heard.

We Set The Dark On Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia (WSTDOF #1)
Release Date:
February 26, 2019

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. Both paths promise 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 pedigree is a lie. She must keep the truth hidden or be sent back to the fringes of society.

We Set The Dark On Fire by Tehlor Kay MejiaAnd school couldn’t prepare her for the difficult choices she must make after graduation, 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 will she give up everything she’s strived for in pursuit of a free Medio—and a chance at a forbidden love?

The Beauty Of The Moment by Tanaz Bhathena
Release Date:
February 26, 2019

Summary: Susan is the new girl—she’s sharp and driven, and strives to meet her parents’ expectations of excellence. Malcolm is the bad boy—he started raising hell at age fifteen, after his mom died of cancer, and has had a reputation ever since.

Susan’s parents are on the verge of divorce. Malcolm’s dad is a known adulterer.

Susan hasn’t told anyone, but she wants to be an artist. Malcolm doesn’t know what he wants—until he meets her.

Love is messy and families are messier, but in spite of their burdens, Susan and Malcolm fall for each other. The ways they drift apart and come back together are testaments to family, culture, and being true to who you are.

March

Opposite Of Always by Justin A. Reynolds
Release Date: March 5, 2019

Summary: Jack Ellison King. King of Almost.

He almost made valedictorian.

He almost made varsity.

He almost got the girl . . .

When Jack and Kate meet at a party, bonding until sunrise over their mutual love of Froot Loops and their favorite flicks, Jack knows he’s falling—hard. Soon she’s meeting his best friends, Jillian and Franny, and Kate wins them over as easily as she did Jack. Jack’s curse of almost is finally over.

But this love story is . . . complicated. It is an almost happily ever after. Because Kate dies. And their story should end there. Yet Kate’s death sends Jack back to the beginning, the moment they first meet, and Kate’s there again. Beautiful, radiant Kate. Healthy, happy, and charming as ever. Jack isn’t sure if he’s losing his mind. Still, if he has a chance to prevent Kate’s death, he’ll take it. Even if that means believing in time travel. However, Jack will learn that his actions are not without consequences. And when one choice turns deadly for someone else close to him, he has to figure out what he’s willing to do—and let go—to save the people he loves.

Dealing In Dreams by Lilliam Rivera
Release Date: March 5, 2019

Summary: At night, Las Mal Criadas own these streets.

Nalah leads the fiercest all-girl crew in Mega City. That role brings with it violent throw downs and access to the hottest boydega clubs, but the sixteen-year-old grows weary of the life. Her dream is to get off the streets and make a home in the exclusive Mega Towers, in which only a chosen few get to live. To make it to the Mega towers, Nalah must prove her loyalty to the city’s benevolent founder and Dealing In Dreams by Lilliam Riveracross the border in a search for a mysterious gang the Ashé Ryders. Led by a reluctant guide, Nalah battles other crews and her own doubts, but the closer she gets to her goal, the more she loses sight of everything—and everyone— she cares about.

Nalah must do the unspeakable to get what she wants—a place to call home. But is a home just where you live? Or who you choose to protect?

Barley Missing Everything by Matt Mendez
Release Date: March 5, 2019

Summary: Juan has plans. He’s going to get out of El Paso, Texas, on a basketball scholarship and make something of himself—or at least find something better than his mom Fabi’s cruddy apartment, her string of loser boyfriends, and a dead dad. Basketball is going to be his ticket out, his ticket up. He just needs to make it happen.

His best friend JD has plans, too. He’s going to be a filmmaker one day, like Quinten Tarantino or Guillermo del Toro (NOT Steven Spielberg). He’s got a camera and he’s got passion—what else could he need?

Fabi doesn’t have a plan anymore. When you get pregnant at sixteen and have been stuck bartending to make ends meet for the past seventeen years, you realize plans don’t always pan out, and that there some things you just can’t plan for…

Like Juan’s run-in with the police, like a sprained ankle, and a tanking math grade that will likely ruin his chance at a scholarship. Like JD causing the implosion of his family. Like letters from a man named Mando on death row. Like finding out this man could be the father your mother said was dead.

Soon Juan and JD are embarking on a Thelma and Louise­–like road trip to visit Mando. Juan will finally meet his dad, JD has a perfect subject for his documentary, and Fabi is desperate to stop them. But, as we already know, there are some things you just can’t plan for…

The Last 8 by Laura Pohl (TL8 #1)
Release Date:
March 5, 2019

Summary: Clover Martinez has always been a survivor, which is the only reason she isn’t among the dead when aliens invade and destroy Earth as she knows it.

When Clover hears an inexplicable radio message, she’s shocked to learn there are other survivors—and that they’re all at the former Area 51. When she arrives, she’s greeted by a band of misfits who call themselves The Last Teenagers on Earth.

Only they aren’t the ragtag group of heroes Clover was expecting. The group seems more interested in hiding than fighting back, and Clover starts to wonder if she was better off alone. But then she finds a hidden spaceship, and she doesn’t know what to believe…or who to trust.

Ruse by Cindy Pon (Want #2)
Release Date: March 12, 2019

Summary: Jason Zhou, his friends, and Daiyu are still recovering from the aftermath of bombing Jin Corp headquarters. But Jin, the ruthless billionaire and Daiyu’s father, is out for blood. When Lingyi goes to Shanghai to help Jany Tsai, a childhood acquaintance in trouble, she doesn’t expect Jin to be involved. And when Jin has Jany murdered and steals the tech she had refused to sell him, Lingyi is the only one who has access to the encrypted info, putting her own life in jeopardy.

Zhou doesn’t hesitate to fly to China to help Iris find Lingyi, even though he’s been estranged from his friends for months. But when Iris tells him he can’t tell Daiyu or trust her, he balks. The reunited group play a treacherous cat and mouse game in the labyrinthine streets of Shanghai, determined on taking back what Jin had stolen.

When Daiyu appears in Shanghai, Zhou is uncertain if it’s to confront him or in support of her father. Jin has proudly announced Daiyu will be by his side for the opening ceremony of Jin Tower, his first “vertical city.” And as hard as Zhou and his friends fight, Jin always gains the upper hand. Is this a game they can survive, much less win?

The Universal Laws Of Marco by Carmen Rodrigues
Release Date: March 19, 2019

Summary: Told through the lens of a guy in love with the cosmos (and maybe two girls), The Universal Laws of Marco explores the complicated histories that bring us together and tear us apart.

In the summer before eighth grade, Marco Suarez kissed his best friend Sally Blake. This was his first spark.

And since then, whenever he’s thought about that moment, he’s traveled through a wormhole—of sorts—to relive those brief seconds when time sped up (or, rather, his view of time distorted) and he kissed her.

And then, at the end of that year, she disappeared, leaving in that way that people sometimes leave—alive and well and somewhere out there but gone, nonetheless. She never even said why.

And now in their senior year, Sally unexpectedly returns and Marco is shaken. Still, he holds tightly to his carefully choreographed life. A life that is full of reasons why first sparks don’t matter:

Reason 1: He has a girlfriend. Her name is Erika Richards.
Reason 2: He’s leaving on a full scholarship to college.
The Weight Of Stars by K. AncrumReason 3: He’s busy with his friends and making money to help support his family.

But as Marco navigates the final days of high school, he learns that leaving home is never easy and a first spark is hard to ignore.

The Weight Of Stars by K. Ancrum
Release Date:
March 19, 2019

Summary: Ryann Bird dreams of traveling across the stars. But a career in space isn’t an option for a girl who lives in a trailer park on the wrong side of town. So Ryann becomes her circumstances and settles for acting out and skipping school to hang out with her delinquent friends.

One day she meets Alexandria: a furious loner who spurns Ryann’s offer of friendship. After a horrific accident leaves Alexandria with a broken arm, the two misfits are brought together despite themselves—and Ryann learns her secret: Alexandria’s mother is an astronaut who volunteered for a one-way trip to the edge of the solar system.

Every night without fail, Alexandria waits to catch radio signals from her mother. And its up to Ryann to lift her onto the roof day after day until the silence between them grows into friendship, and eventually something more . . .

April

Descendant Of The Crane by Joan He
Release Date: April 9, 2019

Summary: Tyrants cut out hearts. Rulers sacrifice their own.

Princess Hesina of Yan has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, but when her beloved father is murdered, she’s thrust into power, suddenly the queen of an unstable kingdom. Determined to find her father’s killer, Hesina does something desperate: she engages the aid of a soothsayer—a treasonous act, punishable by death… because in Yan, magic was outlawed centuries ago.

Using the information illicitly provided by the sooth, and uncertain if she can

Descendant Of The Crane by Joan He

trust even her family, Hesina turns to Akira—a brilliant investigator who’s also a convicted criminal with secrets of his own. With the future of her kingdom at stake, can Hesina find justice for her father? Or will the cost be too high?

The Tiger At Midnight by Swati Teerdhala (TTAM #1)
Release Date:
April 23, 2019

Summary: Esha is a legend, but no one knows. It’s only in the shadows that she moonlights as the Viper, the rebels’ highly skilled assassin. She’s devoted her life to avenging what she lost in the royal coup, and now she’s been tasked with her most important mission to date: taking down the ruthless General Hotha.

Kunal has been a soldier since childhood, training morning and night to uphold the power of King Vardaan. His uncle, the general, has ensured that Kunal never strays from the path—even as a part of Kunal longs to join the outside world, which has been growing only more volatile.

Then Esha’s and Kunal’s paths cross—and an unimaginable chain of events unfolds. Both the Viper and the soldier think they’re calling the shots, but they’re not the only players moving the pieces. As the bonds that hold their land in order break down and the sins of the past meet the promise of a new future, both rebel and soldier must make unforgivable choices.

Love From A To Z by S.K. Ali
Release Date: April 30, 2019

Summary: A marvel: something you find amazing. Even ordinary-amazing. Like potatoes—because they make French fries happen. Like the perfect fries Adam and his mom used to make together.

An oddity: whatever gives you pause. Like the fact that there are hateful people in the world. Like Zayneb’s teacher, who won’t stop reminding the class how “bad” Muslims are.

But Zayneb, the only Muslim in class, isn’t bad. She’s angry.

When she gets suspended for confronting her teacher, and he begins investigating her activist friends, Zayneb heads to her aunt’s house in Doha, Qatar, for an early start to spring break.

Fueled by the guilt of getting her friends in trouble, she resolves to try out a newer, “nicer” version of herself in a place where no one knows her.

Then her path crosses with Adam’s.

Since he got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November, Adam’s stopped going to classes, intent, instead, on perfecting the making of things. Intent on keeping the memory of his mom alive for his little sister.

Adam’s also intent on keeping his diagnosis a secret from his grieving father.

Alone, Adam and Zayneb are playing roles for others, keeping their real thoughts locked away in their journals.

Until a marvel and an oddity occurs…

Marvel: Adam and Zayneb meeting.

Oddity: Adam and Zayneb meeting.

May

The Candle And The Flame by Nafiza Azad
Release Date:
May 14, 2019

Summary: Fatima lives in the city of Noor, a thriving stop along the Silk Road. There the music of myriad languages fills the air, and people of all faiths weave their lives together. However, the city bears scars of its recent past, when the chaotic tribe of Shayateen djinn slaughtered its entire population — except for Fatima and two other humans. Now ruled by a new maharajah, Noor is protected from the Shayateen by the Ifrit, djinn of order and reason, and by their commander, Zulfikar.

But when one of the most potent of the Ifrit dies, Fatima is changed in ways she cannot fathom, ways that scare even those who love her. Oud in hand, Fatima is drawn into the intrigues of the maharajah and his sister, the affairs of Zulfikar and the djinn, and the dangers of a magical battlefield.

Nocturna by Maya Motayne (A Forgery Of Magic #1)
Release Date: 
May 7, 2019

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.

Nocturna by Maya MotayneAfter 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.

Don’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno
Release Date:
May 14, 2019

Summary: Rosa Santos is cursed by the sea-at least, that’s what they say. Dating her is bad news, especially if you’re a boy with a boat.

But Rosa feels more caught than cursed. Caught between cultures and choices. Between her abuela, a beloved healer and pillar of their community, and her mother, an artist who crashes in and out of her life like a hurricane. Between Port Coral, the quirky South Florida town they call home, and Cuba, the island her abuela refuses to talk about.

As her college decision looms, Rosa collides – literally – with Alex Aquino, the mysterious boy with tattoos of the ocean whose family owns the marina. With her heart, her family, and her future on the line, can Rosa break a curse and find her place beyond the horizon?

There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon (WDMR #2)
Release Date: 
May 14, 2019

Summary: Ashish Patel didn’t know love could be so…sucky. After he’s dumped by his ex-girlfriend, his mojo goes AWOL. Even worse, his parents are annoyingly, smugly confident they could find him a better match. So, in a moment of weakness, Ash challenges them to set him up.

The Patels insist that Ashish date an Indian-American girl—under contract. Per subclause 1(a), he’ll be taking his date on “fun” excursions like visiting the Hindu temple and his eccentric Gita Auntie. Kill him now. How is this ever going to work?

Sweetie Nair is many things: a formidable track athlete who can outrun most people in California, a loyal friend, a shower-singing champion. Oh, and she’s also fat. To Sweetie’s traditional parents, this last detail is the kiss of death.

Sweetie loves her parents, but she’s so tired of being told she’s lacking because she’s fat. She decides it’s time to kick off the Sassy Sweetie Project, where she’ll show the world (and herself) what she’s really made of.

Ashish and Sweetie both have something to prove. But with each date they realize there’s an unexpected magic growing between them. Can they find their true selves without losing each other?

I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn
Release Date:
May 28, 2019

Summary: Kimi Nakamura loves a good fashion statement. She’s obsessed with transforming everyday ephemera into Kimi Originals: bold outfits that make her and her friends feel brave, fabulous, and like the Ultimate versions of themselves. But her mother sees this as a distraction from working on her portfolio paintings for the prestigious fine art academy where she’s been accepted for college. So when a surprise letter comes in the mail from Kimi’s estranged grandparents, inviting her to Kyoto for spring break, she seizes the opportunity to get away from the disaster of her life.

Let Me Hear A Rhyme by Tiffany D. JacksonWhen she arrives in Japan, she loses herself in Kyoto’s outdoor markets, art installations, and cherry blossom festival–and meets Akira, a cute med student who moonlights as a costumed mochi mascot. What begins as a trip to escape her problems quickly becomes a way for Kimi to learn more about the mother she left behind, and to figure out where her own heart lies.

Let Me Hear A Rhyme by Tiffany D. Jackson
Release Date:
May 21, 2019

Summary: In this standalone novel, Tiffany D. Jackson tells the story of three Brooklyn teens who plot to turn their murdered friend into a major rap star by pretending he is still alive.

Biggie Smalls was right. Things done changed. But that doesn’t mean that Quadir and Jarrell are okay letting their best friend Steph’s tracks lie forgotten in his bedroom after he’s killed—not when his beats could turn any Bed-Stuy corner into a celebration, not after years of having each other’s backs.

Enlisting the help of Steph’s younger sister, Jasmine, Quadir and Jarrell come up with a plan to promote Steph’s music under a new rap name: The Architect. Soon, everyone in Brooklyn is dancing to Steph’s voice. But then his mixtape catches the attention of a hotheaded music rep and—with just hours on the clock—the trio must race to prove Steph’s talent from beyond the grave.

Now, as the pressure—and danger—of keeping their secret grows, Quadir, Jarrell, and Jasmine are forced to confront the truth about what happened to Steph. Only each has something to hide. And with everything riding on Steph’s fame, together they need to decide what they stand for before they lose everything they’ve worked so hard to hold on to—including each other. 

Fake It Till You Break It by Jenn P. Nguyen
Release Date:
May 28, 2019

Summary: Mia and Jake have known each other their whole lives. They’ve endured summer vacations, Sunday brunches, even dentist visits together. Their mothers, who are best friends, are convinced that Mia and Jake would be the perfect couple, even though they can’t stand to be in the same room together.

After Mia’s mom turns away yet another cute boy, Mia and Jake decide they’ve have had enough. Together, they hatch a plan to get their moms off their backs. Permanently. All they have to do is pretend to date and then stage the worst breakup of all time—and then they’ll be free.

The only problem is, maybe Jake and Mia don’t hate each other as much as they once thought… 

The Voice In My Head by Dana L. Davis
Release Date: 
May 28, 2019

Summary: For Indigo Phillips, life has always been her and her identical twin—Violet. The perfectly dressed, gentle, popular sister. But now Violet is terminally ill and, in a few hours, plans to die on her own terms via medically assisted suicide. Even though she and Violet have drifted apart lately, Indigo doesn’t know how to face life without the only person who really understands her. Until suddenly she hears a mysterious voice claiming to be God, insisting that if she takes Violet to a remote rock formation in the Arizona desert, her sister will live.

Indigo is sure she’s losing it. But Violet agrees to go—if their incredibly dysfunctional family accompanies them on their trek from Seattle to Arizona. Indigo can barely be in the same zip code as her distant mother and controlling big sister, much less keep the peace on a road trip. Speaking her mind is the only way she can deal. But between facing senseless mishaps and strange lodgings, and meeting even stranger folks along the way, Indigo will learn shocking things about those she thought she knew too well. When a sequence of wrenching secrets detonates, Indigo must figure out how to come to terms with her sister, her family…and the voice in her head.

June

I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest
Release Date:
June 4, 2019

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

I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest

Five Midnights by Ann Dávila Cardinal
Release Date:
June 4, 2019

Summary: Five friends cursed. Five deadly fates. Five nights of retribución.

If Lupe Dávila and Javier Utierre can survive each other’s company, together they can solve a series of grisly murders sweeping though Puerto Rico. But the clues lead them out of the real world and into the realm of myths and legends. And if they want to catch the killer, they’ll have to step into the shadows to see what’s lurking there—murderer, or monster?

If It Makes You Happy by Claire Kann
Release Date:
June 4, 2019

Summary: High school finally behind her, Winnie is all set to attend college in the fall. But first she’s spending her summer days working at her granny’s diner and begins spending her midnights with Dallas—the boy she loves to hate and hates that she likes. Winnie lives in Misty Haven, a small town where secrets are impossible to keep—like when Winnie allegedly snaps on Dr. Skinner, which results in everyone feeling compelled to give her weight loss advice for her own good. Because they care that’s she’s “too fat.”

Winnie dreams of someday inheriting the diner—but it’ll go away if they can’t make money, and fast. Winnie has a solution—win a televised cooking competition and make bank. But Granny doesn’t want her to enter—so Winnie has to find a way around her formidable grandmother. Can she come out on top?

Virtually Yours by Sarvenaz Tash
Release Date:
June 4, 2019

Summary: Modern love plus online anonymity is a recipe for romantic disaster in this lighthearted new romance from the author of The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love.

How bad can one little virtual lie be?

NYU freshman Mariam Vakilian hasn’t dated anyone in five months, not since her high school sweetheart Caleb broke up with her. So, when she decides to take advantage of an expiring coupon and try out a new virtual reality dating service, it’s sort of a big deal.

It’s an even bigger deal when it chooses as one of her three matches none other than Caleb himself. That has to be a sign, right?

The Grief Keeper by Alexandra VillasanteExcept that her other match, Jeremy, just happens to be her new best friend IRL.

Mariam’s heart is telling her one thing, but the app is telling her another. So, which should she trust? Is all fair in modern love?

The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante
Release Date: June 4, 2019

Summary: Seventeen-year-old Marisol Morales and her little sister Gabi are detainees of the United States government. They were caught crossing the U.S. border, to escape the gang violence in their country after their brother was murdered. When Marisol learns that the old family friend who had offered them refuge in America has died and they are going to be sent home, they flee.

They hitchhike, snagging a ride with an unassuming woman who agrees to drive them to New Jersey, but when Marisol wakes up in D.C. she learns the woman is actually a government agent. Indranie Patel has a proposal for Marisol: she wants Marisol to be a Grief Keeper, someone who will take another’s grief into their body. It’s a dangerous experimental study, but if Marisol agrees she and Gabi will be allowed to stay in the United States. If the experiment fails the girls will be sent home, which is a death sentence. Things become more complicated when Marisol meets Rey, the wealthy daughter of a D.C. Senator, and the girl she’s helping to heal. Marisol likes Rey’s short hair and sarcastic attitude. But she didn’t expect the connection from their shared grief to erupt into a powerful love.

Suddenly being forced from the United States isn’t just a matter of life and death, but a matter of the heart.

Patron Saints Of Nothing by Randy Rinbay
Release Date:
June 18, 2019

Summary: A powerful coming-of-age story about grief, guilt, and the risks a Filipino-American teenager takes to uncover the truth about his cousin’s murder.

Jay Reguero plans to spend the last semester of his senior year playing video games before heading to the University of Michigan in the fall. But when he discovers that his Filipino cousin Jun was murdered as part of President Duterte’s war on drugs, and no one in the family wants to talk about what happened, Jay travels to the Philippines to find out the real story.

Hoping to uncover more about Jun and the events that led to his death, Jay is forced to reckon with the many sides of his cousin before he can face the whole horrible truth — and the part he played in it.

July

The Best Lies by Sarah Lyu
Release Date:
July 2, 2019

Summary: Remy Tsai used to know how her story would turn out. But now, she doesn’t even know what tomorrow will look like.

She was happy once. Remy had her boyfriend Jack, and Elise, her best friend—her soulmate—who understood her better than anyone else in the world.

But now Jack is dead, shot through the chest—

And it was Elise who pulled the trigger.

Was it self-defense? Or something deeper, darker than anything Remy could have imagined? As the police investigate, Remy does the same, sifting through her own memories, looking for a scrap of truth that could save the friendship that means everything to her.

Symptoms Of A Heartbreak by Sona Charaipotra
Release Date:
July 2, 2019

Summary: Fresh from med school, sixteen-year-old medical prodigy Saira arrives for her first day at her new job: treating children with cancer. She’s always had to balance family and friendships with her celebrity as the Girl Genius―but she’s never had to prove herself to skeptical adult co-workers while adjusting to real life-and-death stakes. And working in the same hospital as her mother certainly isn’t making things any easier.

But life gets complicated when Saira finds herself falling in love with a patient: a cute teen boy who’s been diagnosed with cancer. And when she risks her brand new career to try to improve his chances, it could cost her everything.

It turns out “heartbreak” is the one thing she still doesn’t know how to treat.

Spin The Dawn by Elizabeth Lim (The Blood Of Stars #1)
Release Date:
July 9, 2019

Summary: Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping YA fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.

Truly Madly Royally by Debbie Rigaud
Release Date:
July 30, 2019

Summary: Fiercely independent and smart, Zora Emerson wants to change the world. She’s excited to be attending a prestigious summer program, even if she feels out of place among her privileged, mostly white classmates. So she’s definitely not expecting to feel a connection to Owen, who’s an actual prince of an island off the coast of England. But Owen is funny, charming…and undeniably cute. Zora can’t ignore the chemistry between them.

When Owen invites Zora to be his date at his big brother’s big royal wedding, Zora is suddenly thrust into the spotlight, along with her family and friends. Everyone is talking about her, in real life and online, and while Owen is used to the scrutiny, Zora’s not sure it’s something she can live with. Can she maintain her sense of self while moving between two very different worlds? And can her feelings for Owen survive and thrive in the midst of the crazy?

Shatter The Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells
Release Date:
July 30, 2019

Summary: Raised among the ruins of a conquered mountain nation, Maren dreams only of sharing a quiet life with her girlfriend Kaia—until the day Kaia is abducted by the Aurati, prophetic agents of the emperor, and forced to join their ranks. Desperate to save her, Maren hatches a plan to steal one of the emperor’s coveted dragons and storm the Aurati stronghold.

If Maren is to have any hope of succeeding, she must become an apprentice to the Aromatory—the emperor’s mysterious dragon trainer. But Maren is unprepared for the dangerous secrets she uncovers: rumors of a lost prince, a brewing rebellion, and a prophecy that threatens to shatter the empire itself. Not to mention the strange dreams she’s been having about a beast deep underground…

With time running out, can Maren survive long enough to rescue Kaia from impending death? Or could it be that Maren is destined for something greater than she could have ever imagined?

August

The Surprising Power Of A Good Dumpling by Wai Chim
Release Date:
August 5, 2019

Summary: Anna Chiu has her hands pretty full looking after her brother and sister and helping out at her dad’s restaurant, all while her mum stays in bed. Dad’s new delivery boy, Rory, is a welcome distraction and even though she knows that things aren’t right at home, she’s starting to feel like she could just be a normal teen.

But when Mum finally gets out of bed, things go from bad to worse. And as Mum’s condition worsens, Anna and her family question everything they understand about themselves and each other.

A nourishing tale about the crevices of culture, mental wellness and family, and the surprising power of a good dumpling.

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee
Release Date: August 13, 2019

Summary: By day, seventeen-year-old Jo Kuan works as a lady’s maid for the cruel daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Atlanta. But by night, Jo moonlights as the pseudonymous author of a newspaper advice column for the genteel Southern lady, “Dear Miss Sweetie.” When her column becomes wildly popular, she uses the power of the pen to address some of society’s ills, but she’s not prepared for the backlash that follows when her column challenges fixed ideas about race and gender.

While her opponents clamor to uncover the secret identity of Miss Sweetie, a mysterious letter sets Jo off on a search for her own past and the parents who abandoned her as a baby. But when her efforts put her in the crosshairs of Atlanta’s most notorious criminal, Jo must decide whether she, a girl used to living in the shadows, is ready to step into the light.

Color Me In by Natasha Díaz
Release Date: August 20, 2019

Summary: Who is Nevaeh Levitz?

Growing up in an affluent suburb of New York City, sixteen-year-old Nevaeh Levitz never thought much about her biracial roots. When her Black mom and Jewish dad split up, she relocates to her mom’s family home in Harlem and is forced to confront her identity for the first time.

Nevaeh wants to get to know her extended family, but one of her cousins can’t stand that Nevaeh, who inadvertently passes as white, is too privileged, pampered, and selfish to relate to the injustices they face on a daily basis as African Americans. In the midst of attempting to blend their families, Nevaeh’s dad decides that she should have a belated bat mitzvah instead of a sweet sixteen, which guarantees social humiliation at her posh private school. Even with the push and pull of her two cultures, Nevaeh does what she’s always done when life gets complicated: she stays silent.

Color Me In by Natasha DiazIt’s only when Nevaeh stumbles upon a secret from her mom’s past, finds herself falling in love, and sees firsthand the prejudice her family faces that she begins to realize she has a voice. And she has choices. Will she continue to let circumstances dictate her path? Or will she find power in herself and decide once and for all who and where she is meant to be?

The Revolution Of Birdie Randolph by Brandy Colbert
Release Date: August 20, 2019

Summary: Dove “Birdie” Randolph works hard to be the perfect daughter and follow the path her parents have laid out for her: She quit playing her beloved soccer, she keeps her nose buried in textbooks, and she’s on track to finish high school at the top of her class. But then Birdie falls hard for Booker, a sweet boy with a troubled past…whom she knows her parents will never approve of.

When her estranged aunt Carlene returns to Chicago and moves into the family’s apartment above their hair salon, Birdie notices the tension building at home. Carlene is sweet, friendly, and open-minded–she’s also spent decades in and out of treatment facilities for addiction. As Birdie becomes closer to both Booker and Carlene, she yearns to spread her wings. But when long-buried secrets rise to the surface, everything she’s known to be true is turned upside down.

Song Of The Abyss by Makiia Lucier
Release Date: August 27, 2019

Summary: As the granddaughter of a famed navigator, seventeen-year-old Reyna has always lived life on her own terms, despite those who say a girl could never be an explorer for the royal house of St. John del Mar. She is determined to prove them wrong, and as she returns home after a year-long expedition, she knows her dream is within reach. No longer an apprentice, instead: Reyna, Master Explorer.

But when menacing raiders attack her ship, those dreams are pushed aside. Reyna’s escape is both desperate and dangerous, and when next she sees her ship, a mystery rises from the deep. The sailors–her captain, her countrymen–have vanished. To find them, Reyna must use every resource at her disposal . . . including placing her trust in a handsome prince from a rival kingdom.

Together they uncover a disturbing truth. The attack was no isolated incident. Troubling signs point to a shadowy kingdom in the north, and for once, the rulers of the Sea of Magdalen agree: something must be done. But can Reyna be brave enough to find a way?

September

Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite
Release Date:
September 3, 2019

Summary: When a school presentation goes very wrong, Alaine Beauparlant finds herself suspended, shipped off to Haiti and writing the report of a lifetime…

You might ask the obvious question: What do I, a seventeen-year-old Haitian American from Miami with way too little life experience, have to say about anything?

Actually, a lot.

Thanks to “the incident” (don’t ask), I’m spending the next two months doing what my school is calling a “spring volunteer immersion project.” It’s definitely no vacation. I’m toiling away under the ever-watchful eyes of Tati Estelle at her new nonprofit. And my lean-in queen of a mother is even here to make sure I do things right. Or she might just be lying low to dodge the media sharks after a much more public incident of her own…and to hide a rather devastating secret.

The Truth Is by NoNieqa RamosAll things considered, there are some pretty nice perks…like flirting with Tati’s distractingly cute intern, getting actual face time with my mom and experiencing Haiti for the first time. I’m even exploring my family’s history—which happens to be loaded with betrayals, superstitions and possibly even a family curse.

You know, typical drama. But it’s nothing I can’t handle.

The Truth Is by NoNieqa Ramos
Release Date: September 3, 2019

Summary: A powerful exploration of love, identity, and self-worth through the eyes of a fierce, questioning Puerto Rican teen.

Fifteen-year-old Verdad doesn’t think she has time for love. She’s still struggling to process the recent death of her best friend, Blanca; dealing with the high expectations of her hardworking Puerto Rican mother and the absence of her remarried father; and keeping everyone at a distance. But when she meets Danny, a new guy at school–who happens to be trans–all bets are off. Verdad suddenly has to deal with her mother’s disapproval of her relationship with Danny as well as her own prejudices and questions about her identity, and Danny himself, who is comfortable in his skin but keeping plenty of other secrets.

Kingdom Of Souls by Rena Barron (KOS #1)
Release Date: September 3, 2019

Summary: THERE’S MAGIC IN HER BLOOD.

Arrah is a young woman from a long line of the most powerful witch doctors in the land. But she fails at magic, fails to call upon the ancestors and can’t even cast the simplest curse.

Shame and disappointment dog her.

When strange premonitions befall her family and children in the kingdom begin to disappear, Arrah undergoes the dangerous and scorned process of selling years of her life for magic. This borrowed power reveals a nightmarish betrayal and a danger beyond what she could have imagined. Now Arrah must find a way to master magic, or at least buy it, in order to save herself and everything she holds dear.

Eclipse The Skies by Maura Milan (Ignite The Stars #2)
Release Date: September 3, 2019

Summary: Ia Cōcha never thought she’d be working for the Olympus Commonwealth. But that was before she found out her trusted brother Einn was trying to tear apart the universe. Now, Ia, the Blood Wolf of the Skies, has agreed to help the Royal Star Force on one condition: when she finds him, she gets to kill Einn herself.

Brinn Tarver has just come to terms with her Tawny identity when the public lashes out against her people, crushing her family. At her breaking point, she starts to question everything she believes in—including Ia.

A Match Made In Mehendi by Nandini BajpaiAfter the death of his mentor, Knives Adams is doing his best to live up to a role he didn’t ask for as Aphelion’s new headmaster. Still, with each new step deeper into war, he feels torn between his duties and the pull of Ia’s radical—sometimes criminal—ideas.

A Match Made In Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai
Release Date: September 10, 2019

Summary: Fifteen-year-old Simran “Simi” Sangha comes from a long line of Indian vichole-matchmakers-with a rich history for helping parents find good matches for their grown children. When Simi accidentally sets up her cousin and a soon-to-be lawyer, her family is thrilled that she has the “gift.”

But Simi is an artist, and she doesn’t want to have anything to do with relationships, helicopter parents, and family drama. That is, until she realizes this might be just the thing to improve her and her best friend Noah’s social status. Armed with her family’s ancient guide to finding love, Simi starts a matchmaking service-via an app, of course.

But when she helps connect a wallflower of a girl with the star of the boys’ soccer team, she turns the high school hierarchy topsy-turvy, soon making herself public enemy number one.

How To Be Remy Cameron by Julian Winters
Release Date:
September 10, 2019

Summary: Everyone on campus knows Remy Cameron. He’s the out-and-gay, super-likable guy that people admire for his confidence. The only person who may not know Remy that well is Remy himself.

So when he is assigned to write an essay describing himself, he goes on a journey to reconcile the labels that people have attached to him, and get to know the real Remy Cameron.

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
Release Date: September 10, 2019

Summary: Pet is here to hunt a monster.
Are you brave enough to look?

There are no more monsters anymore, or so the children in the city of Lucille are taught. With doting parents and a best friend named Redemption, Jam has grown up with this lesson all her life. But when she meets Pet, a creature made of horns and colours and claws, who emerges from one of her mother’s paintings and a drop of Jam’s blood, she must reconsider what she’s been told.

The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Pet has come to hunt a monster, and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption’s house. Jam must fight not only to protect her best friend, but also to uncover the truth, and the answer to the question-How do you save the world from monsters if no one will admit they exist?

The Deathless Girlsby Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Release Date:
September 19, 2019

Summary: They say the thirst of blood is like a madness – they must sate it. Even with their own kin.

On the eve of her divining, the day she’ll discover her fate, seventeen-year-old Lil and her twin sister Kizzy are captured and enslaved by the cruel Boyar Valcar, taken far away from their beloved traveller community.

Forced to work in the harsh and unwelcoming castle kitchens, Lil is comforted when she meets Mira, a fellow slave who she feels drawn to in a way she doesn’t understand. But she also learns about the Dragon, a mysterious and terrifying figure of myth and legend who takes girls as gifts.

They may not have had their divining day, but the girls will still discover their fate…

The Tenth Girl by Sara Faring
Release Date: September 24, 2019

Summary: At the very southern tip of South America looms an isolated finishing school. Legend has it that the land will curse those who settle there. But for Mavi—a bold Buenos Aires native fleeing the military regime that took her mother—it offers an escape to a new life as a young teacher to Argentina’s elite girls.

Mavi tries to embrace the strangeness of the imposing house—despite warnings not to roam at night, threats from an enigmatic young man, and rumors of mysterious Others. But one of Mavi’s ten students is missing, and when students and teachers alike begin to behave as if possessed, the forces haunting this unholy cliff will no longer be ignored.

The Tenth Girl by Sara FaringOne of these spirits holds a secret that could unravel Mavi’s existence. In order to survive she must solve a cosmic mystery—and then fight for her life.

Slay by Brittney Morris
Release Date: September 24, 2019

Summary: By day, seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson is an honors student, a math tutor, and one of the only Black kids at Jefferson Academy. But at home, she joins hundreds of thousands of Black gamers who duel worldwide as Nubian personas in the secret multiplayer online role-playing card game, SLAY. No one knows Kiera is the game developer, not her friends, her family, not even her boyfriend, Malcolm, who believes video games are partially responsible for the “downfall of the Black man.”

But when a teen in Kansas City is murdered over a dispute in the SLAY world, news of the game reaches mainstream media, and SLAY is labeled a racist, exclusionist, violent hub for thugs and criminals. Even worse, an anonymous troll infiltrates the game, threatening to sue Kiera for “anti-white discrimination.”

Driven to save the only world in which she can be herself, Kiera must preserve her secret identity and harness what it means to be unapologetically Black in a world intimidated by Blackness. But can she protect her game without losing herself in the process?

October

Rogue Heart by Axie Oh (Rebel Seoul #2)
Release Date: October 8, 2019

Summary: NEO BEIJING, 2201. Two years after the Battle of Neo Seoul, eighteen-year-old telepath Ama works by day in a cafe and moonlights as a lounge singer in a smoky bar at night. She’s anonymous, she’s safe from the seemingly never-ending war, and that’s how she’d like to stay. But then PHNX, a resistance group specializing in espionage and covert missions, approaches her with an offer to expose a government experiment exactly like the one she fled. Soon, Ama is traveling with PHNX on a series of dangerous assignments, using her telepathic powers to aid the rebellion against the authoritarian Alliance.

As the war ramps up, PHNX is given its most dangerous mission yet: to infiltrate the base of the Alliance’s new war commander, a young man rumored to have no fear of death. But when Ama sees the commander for the first time, she discovers his identity: Alex Kim, the boy she once loved and who betrayed her.

Now, Ama must use her telepathic abilities to pose as an officer in Alex’s elite guard, manipulating Alex’s mind so that he doesn’t recognize her. As the final battle approaches, Ama struggles with her mission and her feelings for Alex. Will she be able to carry out her task? Or will she give up everything for Alex again—only to be betrayed once more?

Rebel Heart by Axie Oh

A Kingdom For A Stage by Heidi Heilig (For A Muse Of Fire #2)
Release Date: October 8, 2019

Summary: Jetta is a prisoner. A prisoner of the armee, a prisoner of fate, and a prisoner of her own madness. Held captive in Hell’s Court—now the workshop of Theodora, the armee engineer and future queen of Chakrana—Jetta knows she needs to escape. But Theodora has the most tempting bait—a daily dose of a medication that treats Jetta’s madness.

But the cost is high. In exchange, Jetta must use her power over dead spirits to trap their souls into flying machines—ones armed with enough firepower to destroy every village in Chakrana. And Theodora and her armee also control Le Trépas—a terrifying necromancer who once had all of Chakrana under his thumb, and Jetta’s biological father. Jetta fears the more she uses her powers, the more she will be like Le Trépas—especially now that she has brought her brother, Akra, back from the dead.

Jetta knows Le Trépas can’t be trusted. But when Akra teams up with Leo, the handsome smuggler who abandoned her, to pull off an incredible escape, they insist on bringing the necromancer along. The rebels are eager to use Le Trépas’s and Jetta’s combined magic against the invading colonists. Soon Jetta will face the choice between saving all of Chakrana or becoming like her father, and she isn’t sure which she’ll choose.

The Library Of Lost Things by Laura Taylor Namey
Release Date: October 8, 2019

Summary: From the moment she first learned to read, literary genius Darcy Wells has spent most of her time living in the worlds of her books. There, she can avoid the crushing reality of her mother’s hoarding and pretend her life is simply ordinary. But when a new property manager becomes more active in the upkeep of their apartment complex, the only home Darcy has ever known outside of her books suddenly hangs in the balance.

While Darcy is struggling to survive beneath the weight of her mother’s compulsive shopping, Asher Fleet, a former teen pilot with an unexpectedly shattered future, walks into the bookstore where she works…and straight into her heart. For the first time in her life, Darcy can’t seem to find the right words. Fairy tales are one thing, but real love makes her want to hide inside her carefully constructed ink-and-paper bomb shelter.

Still, after spending her whole life keeping people out, something about Asher makes Darcy want to open up. But securing her own happily-ever-after will mean she’ll need to stop hiding and start living her own truth—even if it’s messy.

Our Wayward Fate by Gloria Chao
Release Date: October 15, 2019

Summary: Seventeen-year-old Ali Chu knows that as the only Asian person at her school in middle-of-nowhere Indiana, she must be bland as white toast to survive. This means swapping her congee lunch for PB&Js, ignoring the clueless racism from her classmates and teachers, and keeping her mouth shut when people wrongly call her Allie instead of her actual name, Ah-lee, after the mountain in Taiwan.

Her autopilot existence is disrupted when she finds out that Chase Yu, the new kid in school, is also Taiwanese. Despite some initial resistance due to the they belong together whispers, Ali and Chase soon spark a chemistry rooted in competitive martial arts, joking in two languages, and, most importantly, pushing back against the discrimination they face.

But when Ali’s mom finds out about the relationship, she forces Ali to end it. As Ali covertly digs into the why behind her mother’s disapproval, she uncovers secrets about her family and Chase that force her to question everything she thought she knew about life, love, and her unknowable future.

The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco (TNTW #1)
Release Date: October 15, 2019

Summary: Generations of twin goddesses have long ruled Aeon. But seventeen years ago, one sister’s betrayal defied an ancient prophecy and split their world in two. The planet ceased to spin, and a Great Abyss now divides two realms: one cloaked in perpetual night, the other scorched by an unrelenting sun.

While one sister rules Aranth—a frozen city surrounded by a storm-wracked sea —her twin inhabits the sand-locked Golden City. Each goddess has raised a daughter, and each keeps her own secrets about her sister’s betrayal.

But when shadowy forces begin to call their daughters, Odessa and Haidee, back to the site of the Breaking, the two young goddesses —along with a powerful healer from Aranth, and a mouthy desert scavenger —set out on separate journeys across treacherous wastelands, desperate to heal their broken world. No matter the sacrifice it demands.

I Hope You Get This Message by Farah Naz Rishi
Release Date: October 22, 2019

Summary: News stations across the country are reporting mysterious messages that Earth has been receiving from a planet—Alma—claiming to be its creator. If they’re being interpreted correctly, in seven days Alma will hit the kill switch on their “colony” Earth.

True or not, for teenagers Jesse Hewitt, Cate Collins, and Adeem Khan, the prospect of this ticking time bomb will change their lives forever.

Jesse, who has been dealt one bad blow after another, wonders if it even matters what happens to the world. Cate, on the other hand, is desperate to use this time to find the father she never met. And Adeem, who hasn’t spoken to his estranged sister in years, must find out if he has it in him to forgive her for leaving.

With only a week to face their truths and right their wrongs, Jesse, Cate, and Adeem’s paths collide as their worlds are pulled apart.

The Light At The Bottom Of The World by London Shah (Light The Abyss #1)
Release Date:
October 29, 2019

Summary: At the end of the twenty-first century, the world has changed dramatically, but life continues one thousand feet below the ocean’s surface. In Great Britain, sea creatures swim among the ruins of Big Ben and the Tower of London, and citizens waver between fear and hope; fear of what lurks in the abyss, and hope that humanity will soon discover a way to reclaim the Earth.

Meanwhile, sixteen-year-old Leyla McQueen has her own problems to deal with. Her father’s been arrested, accused of taking advantage of victims of the Seasickness-a debilitating malaise that consumes people,often claiming their lives. But Leyla knows he’s innocent, and all she’s interested in is getting him back so that their lives can return to normal.

When she’s picked to race in the action-packed London Submersible Marathon, Leyla gets the chance to secure his freedom; the Prime Minister promises the champion whatever their heart desires. The race takes an unexpected turn, though, and presents her with an opportunity she never wanted: Leyla must venture outside of London for the first time in her life, to find and rescue her father herself.

The Light At The Bottom Of The World by London ShahNow, she’ll have to brave the unfathomable waters and defy a corrupt government determined to keep its secrets, all the while dealing with a secretive, hotheaded companion she never asked for in the first place. If she fails, or falls prey to her own fears, she risks capture–and her father might be lost forever.

A River Of Royal Blood by Amanda Joy (ARORB #1)
Release Date: October 29, 2019

Summary: Sixteen-year-old Eva is a princess, born with the magick of marrow and blood–a dark and terrible magick that hasn’t been seen for generations in the vibrant but fractured country of Myre. Its last known practitioner was Queen Raina, who toppled the native khimaer royalty and massacred thousands, including her own sister, eight generations ago, thus beginning the Rival Heir tradition. Living in Raina’s long and dark shadow, Eva must now face her older sister, Isa, in a battle to the death if she hopes to ascend to the Ivory Throne–because in the Queendom of Myre only the strongest, most ruthless rulers survive.

When Eva is attacked by an assassin just weeks before the battle with her sister, she discovers there is more to the attempt on her life than meets the eye–and it isn’t just her sister who wants to see her dead. As tensions escalate, Eva is forced to turn to a fey instructor of mythic proportions and a mysterious and handsome khimaer prince for help in growing her magick into something to fear. Because despite the love she still has for her sister, Eva will have to choose: Isa’s death or her own.

Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett
Release Date: October 29, 2019

Summary: Simone Garcia-Hampton is starting over at a new school, and this time things will be different. She’s making real friends, making a name for herself as student director of Rent, and making a play for Miles, the guy who makes her melt every time he walks into a room. The last thing she wants is for word to get out that she’s HIV-positive, because last time . . . well, last time things got ugly.

Keeping her viral load under control is easy, but keeping her diagnosis under wraps is not so simple. As Simone and Miles start going out for real–shy kisses escalating into much more–she feels an uneasiness that goes beyond butterflies. She knows she has to tell him that she’s positive, especially if sex is a possibility, but she’s terrified of how he’ll react! And then she finds an anonymous note in her locker: I know you have HIV. You have until Thanksgiving to stop hanging out with Miles. Or everyone else will know too.

Simone’s first instinct is to protect her secret at all costs, but as she gains a deeper understanding of the prejudice and fear in her community, she begins to wonder if the only way to rise above is to face the haters head-on…

November

A Thousand Fires by Shannon Price
Release Date: November 5, 2019

Summary: 10 Years. 3 Gangs. 1 Girl’s Epic Quest…

Valerie Simons knows the city’s gang wars are dangerous—her own brother was killed by the Boars two years ago. But nothing will sway her from joining the elite and beautiful Herons to avenge his death—a death she feels responsible for.

Thousand Fires by Shannon PriceBut when Valerie is recruited by the mysterious Stags, their charismatic and volatile leader Jax promises to help her get revenge. Torn between old love and new loyalty, Valerie fights to stay alive as she races across the streets of San Francisco to finish the mission that got her into the gangs.

Song Of The Crimson Flower Julie C. Dao (Rise Of The Empress #2.5)
Release Date: November 5, 2019

Summary: Will love break the spell? After cruelly rejecting Bao, the poor physician’s apprentice who loves her, Lan, a wealthy nobleman’s daughter, regrets her actions. So when she finds Bao’s prized flute floating in his boat near her house, she takes it into her care, not knowing that his soul has been trapped inside it by an evil witch, who cursed Bao, telling him that only love will set him free. Though Bao now despises her, Lan vows to make amends and help break the spell.

Together, the two travel across the continent, finding themselves in the presence of greatness in the forms of the Great Forest’s Empress Jade and Commander Wei. They journey with Wei, getting tangled in the webs of war, blood magic, and romance along the way. Will Lan and Bao begin to break the spell that’s been placed upon them? Or will they be doomed to live out their lives with black magic running through their veins?

In this fantastical tale of darkness and love, some magical bonds are stronger than blood.

When The Stars Lead To You by Ronni Davis
Release Date: November 12, 2019

Summary: Eighteen-year-old Devon longs for two things.

The stars.
And the boy she fell in love with last summer.

When Ashton breaks Devon’s heart at the end of the most romantic and magical summer ever, she thinks her heart will never heal again. But over the course of the following year, Devon finds herself slowly putting the broken pieces back together.

Now it’s senior year, and she’s determined to enjoy every moment of it as she prepares for a future studying the galaxies. That is, until Ashton shows up on the first day of school. Can she forgive him and open her heart again? Or are they doomed to repeat history?

December

The Relic Spell by Jimena I. Novaro

The Relic Spell by Jimena I. Novaro (The Phyrian War Chronicles #1)
Release Date:
December 17, 2019

Summary: Magic rolls through Orion Tamura’s history classroom like a tidal wave of golden light that only he can see. The spell is deadly, and Orion has no idea who cast it or what they want.

Answers are scarce—all of Port Monica’s sorcerers vanished fourteen years before, including Orion’s father. Armed with his limited knowledge of magic, Orion is the only one left in the city who is strong enough to investigate the origins of the spell.

But the city’s leaders will stop at nothing to censor and sabotage anyone who gets close to the truth. Invisible otherworlders watch every move Orion and his friends make, and a mysterious sorcerer who knows the answers haunts Orion’s dreams.

Are there any books by AOC you feel people missed in 2019? Any other YA releases you recommend? 💖📚📚✨

Goodreads: 2019 YA/MG Books With POC Leads

Woven In Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez ARC Review

Woven In Moonlight by Isabel IbañezWoven In Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez

Publisher: Page Street Kids

Release Date: January 7, 2020

Pages: 384

Available Through The Book Depository: Woven In Moonlight

Book Of The Month YA (January 2020 YA Pick)

Cover Design: Isabel Ibañez

Summary: Ximena is the decoy Condesa, a stand-in for the last remaining Illustrian royal. Her people lost everything when the usurper, Atoc, used an ancient relic to summon ghosts and drive the Illustrians from La Ciudad. Now Ximena’s motivated by her insatiable thirst for revenge, and her rare ability to spin thread from moonlight.

When Atoc demands the real Condesa’s hand in marriage, it’s Ximena’s duty to go in her stead. She relishes the chance, as Illustrian spies have reported that Atoc’s no longer carrying his deadly relic. If Ximena can find it, she can return the true aristócrata to their rightful place.

She hunts for the relic, using her weaving ability to hide messages in tapestries for the resistance. But when a masked vigilante, a warm-hearted princess, and a thoughtful healer challenge Ximena, her mission becomes more complicated. There could be a way to overthrow the usurper without starting another war, but only if Ximena turns her back on revenge—and her Condesa.

*Received a print ARC from the publisher*

My Rating: ★★★★☆ 

My Thoughts: Woven In Moonlight is a Bolivian-inspired YA Fantasy that focuses on politics and history! Ximena is a stand-in for the Illustrian’s heir, whose on a mission to help her people and get Catalina on the throne. When Ximena’s role takes her deep into the palace of the Llacsans, she learns more about where she fits into this revolution and what her job as a decoy Condesa means for the future of Inkasisa! Ibañez’s standalone debut layers intricate politics, fascinating characters, and a vibrant, magical world inspired by Bolivian culture! 

I’d been looking forward to this debut for a couple years at this point and knowing it’s a Latinx YA Fantasy, I was even more hyped to read this book! Now that I’ve finally finished it, I wish I could go back and re-read it all over again!

Woven In Moonlight is a magical novel that’s deeply rooted in politics that’s explored through our introspective 1st person POV of Ximena Rojas!

Set in the country of Inkasisa, the Illustrians & Llacsans are battling over who will rule Inkasisa. The world itself is inspired by the author’s Bolivian culture! We follow Ximena, whose a stand-in for the Illustrian royal, Catalina! When the current ruler Atoc demands the Illustrian royal’s hand in marriage, Ximena has to go in her place.

It wouldn’t be a YA Fantasy novel without some magic, so early on in the novel we get beautifully written sentences that introduce the unique magic system!

“Illustris magic― magic from the heavens…manifests in different ways…” (9).

While there’s definitely a variety of abilities that are explained such as Moonsight, the ability to light darkened rooms, and reading fortunes through constellations, Ibañez beautifully described Ximena’s ability which allows her to create thread from moonlight!

There’s a deeply personal and introspective look into Ximena’s ability that you can sense through the lush, emotionally-driven descriptions. The reader really gets a sense of how this magic is so special to her! It’s also one of the more developed abilities we see throughout WIM and it was a lot of fun getting to explore the different facets to her magic from the thread to something very special that happens when she looks more closely at her woven tapestries!

As Ximena becomes immersed in the world of the Llacsans we delve even deeper into the politics, their royalty, and palace life. She’s on a mission to find the Estrella, which is an ancient relic that could give Illustrians a chance to reclaim their power. However, Ximena also has to make sure that her true identity is never found out.

Luckily, Ximena uses her ability to weave through moonlight as a way to hopefully keep in touch with the Illustrians and her closest friend Catalina. An important arc to her story and development is that throughout the novel, she learns more about the Llacsans of the palace, while also reflecting on these two sides of Inkasisa and where she fits in.

Throughout Woven In Moonlight as Ximena connects more with the Llacasan’s in the castillo like Rumi, Juan Carlos (his cousin), and the secretive princess Tamaya!

Ibañez’s writing perfectly balances the world, its layered politics, and the personal arcs of our main characters! Also woven into Ximena’s perspective is the Spanish language, weather and architecture, the most wonderful descriptions of Bolivian food, and focus on crafts such as textiles & weaving!

Some of the most memorable descriptions of this novel definitely included the delicious food and detail of Bolivian cuisine (which is mentioned in a glossary). I loved that they were often placed in quiet moments of the story when Ximena was planning or exploring the Cuidad Blanca!

I appreciated these descriptions so much because coming from a Latin American background, I felt such a deep connection to the world! There’s also deeply interwoven messages about identity, family, loss, revolution that are very clear from the start of the novel and become even more layered into the story as it progresses!

As mentioned before, the magic system was incredibly unique, especially Ximena’s ability and I appreciated how it was explored through the plot as Ximena finds a way to stay in contact with the resistance.

Just reading the descriptions of how she was weaving thread through moonlight were moving and beautifully explored why the art of crafts tied in so well with Ximena’s own personal journey to create something for herself!

While the magic itself is very light, I appreciated how it was a used more for developing the political layers of the story!

Identity was an important theme that I found was beautifully explored throughout WIM! Ximena was switched with Catalina 10 years ago when she joined the resistance and only a select few truly know that she’s a decoy. But it isn’t until she’s forced to go to Atoc’s palace where we see her skills as a decoy are truly tested. I found that Ximena’s new life in the palace forces her to confront who she really is and how her role as a decoy has made her realize she isn’t entirely sure where she fits in this revolution.

Through the use of a 1st person POV, the world of Inkasisa is painted through a unique lens where we really get a focus on politics and characters!

For me, I can often find it difficult to fully immerse myself in a world if the perspective is too driven by characters or internal emotion, but Ibañez delivered Ximena’s POV spectacularly!

I adored her narrative voice so much! Ximena is a fierce heroine who has lost a lot to the war between Illustrians & Llacsans that in realty has left her alone. Her parents died almost 10 years before and throughout the novel, she’s constantly confronted with losing those close to her! Ximena’s loneliness is present throughout the novel in distinct ways that really show how its such a vital piece to her as a character: her distance to others, how she navigates her role as Condesa while connecting with Llacsans at the palace, and how she grapples with the loss of people in her life that are like family to her!

I found that Ibañez deeply explored this element of loneliness through Ximena’s POV in such a subtle but impactful way! Ximena’s internal voice as we follow her journey is told through introspective and perceptive narrative that allows her to reflect on important choices she has to make when she begins to question her mission and how she can better help Inkasisa!

Also, what made this such a unique reading experience is that although, you go into YA Fantasy expecting epic adventure, constant action, etc. I appreciated that this was more of a slow-paced fantasy, but it really works because your able to be more rooted into the rich atmosphere and setting! So when there were big action scenes, they felt more impactful for sure!

The cast of characters were fantastic, there were always interesting dynamics to be explored throughout the story! I felt that there were many surprising sides to them that are developed throughout the novel and what made that fun was how they were perceived through Ximena’s POV. A vital thread that links all this together is Ximena’s duty to Catalina, her friend who is like a sister to her and what she’s willing to risk to get her on the throne. Their bond is incredibly important to her and alongside Ximena & Tamaya’s friendship, I adored the focus on female friendships in general throughout this novel! There’s also Rumi’s dynamic/friendship with Ximena and while I felt they could have had just a bit more page time together, it was really fun to read.

Some of my favorite characters include, the mysterious princess Tamaya, Rumi, and a mysterious vigilante known as El Lobo, who doesn’t side with either the Illustrians or Llacsans!

Ximena has grown up hearing stories about El Lobo who doesn’t really align with anyone, but fights for those who need it! She’s surprised to find him in a room of the castle one night when she’s trying to gather more intel on the Estrella, she runs into the famous vigilante! From the very beginning I loved their dynamic and how they become unlikely allies–there’s great banter between them and I loved the solving the mystery as to who he really was!

Next I wanted to discuss why I lowered my rating to 4 Stars: The plot itself continued to surprise me and I loved following Ximena’s journey. There’s tons of intrigue, mystery, and politics wrapped up into this story! However, there were moments I found the writing was very focused on Ximena’s internal POV. She really comes to life through a 1st person POV which is fantastic! But, because we’re really in her head and focus on a lot of internal/emotional dialogue, there were elements of the story could have been developed even more!

It felt like there were elements that could have been expanded on, because Ibañez made them such important and vital parts of the world itself! Such as the setting of Inkasisa, delving deeper into the history, and more interactions between the characters! I also felt the ending was a bit rushed, but left on a very real note that has me wanting more from the unique cast of characters!

With WIM being a standalone I definitely see there was a lot that Ibañez wanted to introduce in regards to Inkasisa’s setting, climate, culture, daily life, and history (which was fantastic 💞!!) I just wish there was even more exploration to all those wonderful elements!

Also as I’ve read other reviews about WIM from fellow Latinx bloggers, I wanted to highlight an important point that they’ve discussed, when it comes to how privilege was poorly handled through Ximena’s POV. These past few weeks have been hectic for me and as I read this book it really was just to escape into an immersive world, so with that said I personally had overlooked this element of the story! However, here are 2 wonderful bloggers whose reviews delve into how WIM handled colonization, privilege & how those discussions could have been improved! I recommend checking them out:

Cande from LatinxMagicbk & Alicia from AKernelOfNonsense

Woven In Moonlight is a delightful YA Fantasy that’s rooted in Bolivian culture and is deeply explored through the politics, world, and intriguing story that’s presented from Ximena’s wonderful POV! Ibañez ‘s debut is an immersive tale that delves deep into history and politics, while also being an action-packed, character-driven tale! This is a wonderful debut filled with surprises, set in a unique world that you want to keep exploring!

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WIM is one of 1 of 5 Young Adult choices for Book Of The Month YA in January! If your a new subscriber, click the link above or Here & use the promo code ‘NEWME’ to get your 1st box for $9.99!! 🎉📚

Lunar Maria by Kwan-Ann Tan Review

Lunar Maria by Kwan-Ann TanLunar Maria by Kwan-Ann Tan

Publisher: Ghost City Press

Release Date: June 7, 2019

Pages: 17

Cover Design: Charity Young

Available Through the Ghost City Press Website: Lunar Maria

Summary: This micro-chapbook is a part of the 2019 Ghost City Press Summer Micro-Chap Series. In the author’s words Lunar Maria is “a myth about the moon, a dysfunctional relationship, and some longings for home- centered around Chang’e.”

My Rating: ★★★★★

My Thoughts: Lunar Maria is a stellar poetry collection that focuses on Chang’e, Chinese goddess of the moon! Tan crafts each and every poem with a distinct message and tale to be told. While weaving in beautiful imagery of nature alongside a clear story, she chronicles a tale of self, identity, and the deep complexity of emotion!

I’ll definitely expand more on this in my upcoming 2020 Reading Goals post, but in the new year I hope to challenge myself in terms of what I read. This means branching out to explore different formats of storytelling, such as chapbooks or reading more literary magazines!

My first read of 2020 is perfect start to that goal, considering its a poetry collection from an indie publisher that publishes chapbooks + micro-chapbooks that showcase poetry and short fiction!

From its very first pages, Tan immerses you in her wonderful collection with the story of goddess Chang’e and verses such as this:

I raise my head to view the moon, bow it, longing for my hometown.

Each poem (with 10 total) is crafted through such unique and beautiful imagery. They capture striking and vivid emotions linked with the oceans, lakes, even the moon!

There’s a variety of themes that are present throughout this collection and are explored through Tan’s descriptive writing! Lunar Maria includes themes of self, balance, finding home, and the complexities of love.

The jumps across time among each of the poems flows so naturally (between Chang’e’s story and a young woman returning home from school). This further showcases the distinct story that’s woven throughout each poem that also feel incredibly personal.

While I fell in love with every poem in this collection, I wanted to highlight a couple that really stood out to me: vi. mare tranquilitatis / the sea of tranquility, mare nectaris / the sea of nectar, & i. lacus somniorum / the lake of dreams.

The Sea Of Nectar is so visual and detailed, it beautifully lists comparisons of moonlight hitting earth! Its a gorgeous poem and really stood out to me.

The Sea Of Tranquility captures through such vivid emotion, a young woman returning home, making mooncakes, and enjoying the festival with her grandmother. It beautifully illustrates family, home, also the sense of love and calm that both bring.

Tan’s writing not only allows for a captivating story to be told with each poem, but also illustrates distinct emotions that shine throughout the verses. Not only that, but there’s a certain tone and mood that’s set through Tan’s impactful use of language and vivid imagery.

Kwan-Ann Tan is a Malaysian writer and beautifully explores the Chinese legend of Chang’e, which centers around immortality and how she became goddess of the moon.

Lunar Maria is a poetry collection I’d definitely see myself revisiting in the future! I’m also looking forward to checking out more of Ghost City Press’s published works, because these poems were fantastic!

Please check out this delightful collection, because its both moving and beautifully written! If your looking for magnificent storytelling explored through poetry, Kwan-Ann Tan’s is a short but phenomenal collection that I highly recommend!

Lunar Maria weaves in powerful storytelling through a wonderful collection of poetry! This a unique set of poems unlike any I’ve ever read before, filled with impactful themes, beautiful imagery, alongside wonderful writing while evoking such distinct emotions with every verse!

This book was also my first pick for #QuietReadathon, which is a readathon I’m hosting all about reading & inspiring conversation around underrated/quiet books! 📚🌿 If your interested in joining, check out all the info here!