Mid Year Book Freak Out Tag │2021

There’s no way we’ve already made it towards the halfway point of 2021 — it’s been a unique year for me when it comes to reading and media in general (I’ve definitely seen myself gravitate towards different genres and categories of books, plus I’ve been watching a lot more anime too). Surprisingly I’ve never EVER done the Mid Year Book Freak Out Tag before in my 5 years of blogging, but have always had such fond memories of watching them on booktube, being super curious about others reading progress. So, I thought it was time to finally share one of my own!

I’ve also noticed there’s not always too much chatter on here about the books I’ve read once a review’s been posted. Though constantly I’m always thinking about how a book I’ve read has stuck with me in some way and doing this tag gives me more opportunity to go more in depth on how some of these amazing books have left an impact!

Before diving into all the bookish questions, I also wanted to share one of the super fun projects I’ve been trying out this year and that’s: Tracking my bookish stats! (though I have been behind on updating it…whoops!) But what’s made it such a great experience so far is how personal it can be with the fact I can create my own categories, isn’t something stressful and can be more about discovering my own personal reading preferences! I’m hoping to keep the momentum going till the end of the year to see what the statistics say about my reads and any other interesting things I find. Now onto the questions:

Best book you’ve read so far in 2021?

The Mary Shelley Club by Goldy Moldavsky: There are no words to describe the sheer brilliance of this novel…okay maybe some! I knew going into it that I would end up loving it but wow, did it surprise me!

Rachel Chavez is starting over at a new school and finds herself tangled up in the Mary Shelley Club, a secret society on campus obsessed with horror. I loved Rachel, there’s a sarcastic voice to her, but in the end all she truly wants is to fit in and overcome her dark, traumatic past.

I’m honestly a novice when it comes to the horror / thriller genre, but Moldavsky’s novel really delivers on those classic elements even for a beginner like me, I understood how she was utilizing the genre in such a clever way to tell this story.

Moldavsky effortlessly brings a descriptive, sharp language with her writing that evokes all those classic horror or thriller movie vibes. The story is an absolute page-turner, the cast of characters are so well developed, alongside atmosphere, suspense, and fantastic storytelling The Mary Shelley Club was easily a 5-star read for me this year. Such a phenomenal book, I LOVED it. [Full ARC Review]

Best sequel of 2021 so far?

Oculta by Maya Motayne: Do I have a series finishing problem? Absolutely! I can think of at least 5 where I stopped after a certain point and just never continued reading. However, this year there quite a number of sequels that blew me away. If I were to pick one it would definitely have to be Oculta, the second book in the Nocturna Trilogy.

The development that Alfie and Finn undergo in this book are just unparalleled in ways I cannot describe. This book has got everything, more worldbuilding, politics, intrigue mystery, magic, humor, adventure its got it ALL. I could not put it down, the speed at which I read through this book (according to goodreads like..a day?!) was astonishing even to me because its at over 400 PAGES! With every fiber of my being I wanted to take my time reading this and not speed through, but it was just TOO good how could I put it down?

Truly loved being in the world of Castallan again and especially how personal Alfie and Finn’s journeys felt while reading this book. The growth highlighted in this story was just absolute perfection, they each have their own responsibilities and complicated emotions, but still manage to find a way to each other even when things get complicated. Am completely stoked for the third book, how will I possibly wait? I’m not even sure.

New releases you haven’t read yet, but want to?

The year of 2021 has been filled with many amazing books without a doubt and I have I read a majority of them? Sadly…no. But here’s a list of some that I definitely have on my radar still: Yolk by Mary HK Choi, Wings Of Ebony by J. Elle, Ace Of Spades…SO MANY fantastic YA are out this year I need to catch up on lots! Other’s that come to mind:

  • The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe
  • Ravage The Dark by Tara Sim
  • June Hur’s books
  • The Ones We’re Meant To Find by Joan He
  • Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant

Most anticipated release for the second half of 2021?

During June, I actually got an ARC of this in the mail which is Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed: 15 Voices From The Latinx Diaspora edited by Saraciea J. Fennell. Though I haven’t read it yet, I flipped through and skimmed some of the entries and cannot wait to take my time reading through its entirety. It’ll feature poems and personal essays from some amazing writers in the Latine community, so I’m pretty excited about this one! I think what stuck out to me about this one was how with lots of YA anthologies they focus more on presenting fiction, but I like that these are more personal and how some are written from the authors own unique experiences. Eager to read and review this one for the blog!

Biggest disappointment?

For this I’d probably have to say Those Not-So-Sweet Boys volume 1 from Yoko Nogiri! I’m still pretty new to shojo manga and one of the first mangas that introduced me to the demographic was Nogiri’s Love In Focus series. However, with Not So Sweet the more I think about it the more I realize the characters were quite bland and there’s nothing too memorable about them. The concept is interesting, but being 200+ pages it felt there could have been more time given to establishing the characters themselves to offer them some extra dimensions. Still on the fence about continuing this series, so this was probably one of the more disappointing reads for me as I was really hoping to like this one more!

Biggest surprise?

Aren’t the best kinds of books the ones you pick up out of nowhere and end up loving? The biggest and best surprise for 2021 was definitely Wondercat Kyuu-Chan Vol. 1 from Sasami Nitori, which is a full-color manga series about a guy who adopts an abandoned cat who’s very extraordinary and unique. I’ve probably re-read this volume like 5 times already!! It’s incredibly funny, heartwarming, silly, wholesome and FUN! You can expect a full review on the blog in the near future, still debating whether I should review by volume or after a few more have released (stay tuned for that!).

I love that its in full color, it just adds to the charm of the story, but everything from the artwork, to the vignettes, and humor comes together so spectacularly…ahh this manga makes me wish I had a wonder cat!!

Favorite new author?

Going to cheat with this one and say basically all the new-to-me authors this year. There’s definitely lots of books that I ended up loving this year from either debuts or established writers whose work I picked up in 2021. However, I love discovering more writers and overall I’m happy to have had my reading be at least over 50% new authors.

Newest fictional crush?

Okay those familiar with my blog will probably know I’m a Qifrey stan, he’s a patient and understanding mentor who also harbors a covert desire for vengeance (against an evil group of witches) as he offers main character Coco, the chance to be his apprentice and learn how to become a witch herself. He’s from the Witch Hat Atelier series and the most recent volume that released this year Vol. 7 is in one word: Intense. There’s such an aura of mystery surrounding his story, he’s also incredibly well-written, and there’s only a tidbit of his past we learn in the latest volume, but I can’t wait to learn more about his backstory as the series continues. Kamome Shirahama seems to be developing a lot of intricate plot threads to her cast, Qifrey included and I am here for it!

Newest favorite character?

Gotta say Charlie from Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado. She is just FABULOUS! She’s tackling first love, learning to love herself as she is, and working to pursue her dreams as a writer. But overall she’s learning to be more confident as a fat girl and her story is filled with so many heartfelt, inspiring messages! I truly wish there could be more books with her Brian, her best friend Amelia, and her mom ahh I just adored reading Charlie’s story. I’d been really looking forward to reading this book for a couple years now and wow, it was phenomenal, I’m still thinking about it (also Parvin too, uhh I adore them both equally). Fat Chance, Charlie Vega is a YA Contemporary that should be on your radar if it isn’t already!

Book that made you cry?

Oculta yet again, which I was not expecting! But of course, falling completely in love with the worlds / characters once more, there’s a lot of intrigue, conflict, and mystery to this book that of course some Alfie and Finn moments had left me a puddle of emotions okay?

Book that made you happy?

Having read more manga this year, there were quite a few series that left smiles on my face! Wonder Cat of course and also my first read of the year Nicola Traveling Around The Demon’s World. Both of these were light-hearted series and I’m so glad to have given them a chance, they’ve quickly become new favorites and I’m eager to continue.

Favorite book to movie adaptation you’ve seen this year?

I was pretty excited to watch Shadow & Bone, however despite some issues and critiques I have (mainly the unnecessary racism), what made this a great adaptation was how it didn’t follow the traditional plot of the books. Merging together the original Grisha Trilogy plus Six Of Crows, for me, added more to the world and offered unique opportunities to delve into the world in a completely fresh way.

Favorite review / post you’ve written this year?

I’ve been incredibly proud of my discussions and new blog series that I’ve launched this year, however if I was to pick one I’d probably say my favorite of 2021 has been:

Where’s All The Book-to-Video Game Adaptations?: I loved researching for this post and wondering, as a gamer myself, which books would make for unique video games and even speculating what style would work best! I’m hoping to bring more unique discussions like this one and had the best time writing this for the blog.

Aside from my favorite post from my own blog I’m also super eager to shout-out a few fellow bloggers from the community, who I’m grateful to have chatted more with, discovered, or commenting more on their content this year (tbh I’d love to do a whole blog post just shouting out some awesome bloggers because there’s SO MANY):

– Alienor from A Fox’s Wanderings: I recently discovered her blog just this year and am in love with her content! From the beautiful graphics to fantastic layout of her posts, I’m always review, check-in or reading up on the newest video game she’s playing! 💗

– Lisa from Way Too Fantasy: She makes this incredible TBR Shelf Cleanup Series that never fails to make me ponder more about my own book collection. By deciding what to get rid of or keep in her shelf, she’s always delving into a new obscure fantasy that I probably would have never heard of before if it wasn’t for her series. Its super fun and a staple in my weekly blog reading! 💫

– Joy from Ohsrslybooks: As someone who doesn’t read a lot of romance on the blog (especially adult, because this is mainly a YA space) I’m always appreciative of Joy’s content. She’s always reviewing some great romance reads and no doubt, I’m discovering some awesome recommendations through her blog! 😍

Library In The Tower: There’s always fun bookish lists and features on Library’s blog, that have such creativity! For example: On A Theme is about a particular “theme” for certain books that are listed together in a post, which is lots of fun! Super thrilled to have discovered Library’s blog this year! 📚💗

– Cossette from Tea Time Lit: After discovering Cossette through her amazing edits, I fell in love with her content! Also around the same time I started Down Comes The Night, she was an avid supporter and passionate about it and I loved reading her tweets or blog posts that really showed how Saft’s novel impacted her. Of course, I also adore reading her other content on the blog she co-runs with a few other people. Very glad to have found Cossette’s blog and read all her wonderful posts! 🥳

– Cherelle from A Bolt Out Of The Book: I distinctly remember discovering Cherelle’s blog early into January and not only fell in love with her blog graphics, but the amazing way she talks about books in her reviews! Am in awe of the way she describes all the books she reads and how her posts make it impossible for me to figure out what amazing books to read next (…like Spin The Dawn or The Ones Were Meant To Find, cannot decide)! 🤩💗

Most beautiful book you bought or received this year?

There are so many I could probably list for this post, but I wanted to highlight a more recent purchase that I’m super excited about and that’s A Trial Of Sorcerers by Elise Kova!

Back in the early days of my blog I delved into more indie YA through Elise’s Air Awakens series, which has a special place in my heart. So, this year now that a new spin-off title set in this world was finally releasing I of course had to buy a copy.

As I was delving more into who the cover artist was for this post, I thought that the original cover designer Merilliza Chan was the illustrator for Trial Of Sorcerers, but it turns out it was actually Marie Magny! I like how the cover evokes the same feel of the original series and am of course thrilled to have a copy in my collection.

Can’t wait to dive back into the Air Awakens world and this cover is just 🤩✨ I love the detail of Eira’s outfit, the colors, and beautiful background.

What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

Well I’m sure us bibliophiles can agree there’s always a never-endling list of books we’re looking to read! Here’s a few for me that come to mind:

The sequel to Anna K., The Jasmine Throne, upcoming volumes of Spy X Family, Latinx-authored releases, also let’s just add any YA books published in 2019 and 2020 that I still haven’t read. 😂📚

That’s been the Mid-Year Freak Out Book Tag created by Ely & Chami. Hope you enjoyed learning more about my reading so far this year, but now I’d like to hear from you!

What are some of your favorite reads so far this year? Any you desperately want to read before 2021 ends? Have you done this tag? (If so, feel free to share below so I can read it too 💕)

Perfectly Parvin by Olivia Abtahi Review

Perfectly Parvin by Olivia Abtahi (Perfectly Parvin #1)

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers (Penguin Teen)

Release Date: May 18, 2021

Pages: 320

Available Through The Book Depository & Bookshop

Cover Designer: Jasmine Moshiri (Photography) & Samira Iravani

Summary: Parvin has just had her heart broken when she meets the cutest boy at her new high school, Matty Fumero–with an emphasis on fumero, because he might be the smoking hot cure to all of her boy troubles. If Parvin can get Matty to ask her to homecoming, she’s positive it will erase all the awful and embarrassing feelings He Who Will Not Be Named left her with after the summer. The only problem is Matty is definitely too cool for bassoon-playing, frizzy-haired, Cheeto-eating Parvin. Since being herself has not worked for her in the past (see aforementioned relationship), she decides that to be the girl who finally gets the guy, she should start acting like the women in her favorite rom-coms. Those girls aren’t loud, they certainly don’t cackle when they laugh, and they smile much more than they talk. Easy enough, right?

But as Parvin struggles through her parent-mandated Farsi lessons on the weekends, a budding friendship with a boy she can’t help but be her unfiltered self with, and dealing with the ramifications of the Muslim Ban on her family in Iran, she realizes that being herself might just be the perfect thing after all.

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

Perfectly Parvin was truly a marvelous, funny, and all-around SPECTACULAR YA debut that deserves more hype! Following 14-year-old Parvin Mohammadi, she’s a girl whose starting high school with a broken heart, so she decides to reinvent herself in order to get the ultimate homecoming date!

I’ve realized hyping up my favorite books on social media is a lot harder than it looks. Trying to capture the sheer brilliance of an author’s words and storytelling putting it into your own words (for me anyways) is always difficult. So perhaps my review can convince you to read this fantastic book! If you love a witty protagonist, plots about friendship, romance (of course), but ultimately a journey about accepting yourself as you are, then you MUST pick up Abtahi’s debut!

Iranian-American Parvin thinks everything is going well with her summer boyfriend Wesley, pulling pranks and hanging out at the beach…that is until, he breaks up with her for being “too much.” Now feeling devastated and hurt, Parvin’s gearing up to overcome this obstacle into freshman year by asking out her cute sophomore classmate, Matty Fumero, to homecoming! But when she decides to use romantic heroines from her favorite movies to accomplish her goal, will she accept her new “quiet” self and be willing to sacrifice the true Parvin to find love?

Throughout this journey, she’s not alone! She’s got her supportive best friends Ruth Song and Fabian Castor by her side at ever step of the way. However, when Parvin becomes consumed with her plans on winning over her crush, she doesn’t even realize she’s ignoring and missing the special moments with her bffs, leaving them to the side.

I mentioned this in my June TBR and am still thinking about the amazing friend group that Parvin has, despite its ups downs there’s never a moment when these friends aren’t supporting and sticking by one another!

In addition to her new start at James K. Polk High, she’s also attending Farsi classes and confronting her anxieties about not being “Iranian enough.” Despite her fears though, her parents and favorite aunt Sara especially, help her to juggle it all. Being 1/2 white and Iranian, Abtahi explores the deep bond and connection Parvin has with her parents as she uncovers more about what it means to be the “real Parvin,” who loves hot cheetos, pulling pranks and has a clever sense of humor. Being biracial as well, the story explores the hardship that Parvin’s mom endures as she realizes she can’t always help her daughter connect with her Iranian side, but assures that family (and friends) are always there to assist.

As the fall semester is well underway and prepping for homecoming, Parvin meets Amir in her Farsi class and slowly begins to realize she’s more herself around him. While I won’t spoil how the romantic storyline ends, both of boys are so well developed and I genuinely loved seeing the delightful Parvin navigate her feelings + personal journey with her oh so brilliant and witty humor amid her boy-focused goals (this book is SO funny, adored it being told through her POV). Her character felt incredibly relatable and real because Abtahi builds so much depth, giving Parvin a distinct voice that carries throughout the novel. She’s hilarious both introspectively and outward as well making tons of scenes, even with something as simple as school feel utterly hilarious and charming!

Abtahi built such a distinct voice to her characters, especially for our hilarious protagonist that it was one of my many favorite parts about this book! Parvin felt like such a real character and kind of like a friend too, I genuinely loved reading from her perspective (I’m also not usually a rereader, but this book is one I wouldn’t mind experiencing all over again <3). Despite the story focusing on Parvin’s search for love, friendship and family are just a big (if not bigger) pieces of her story that Abtahi takes her time to develop throughout the novel. She also covers big topics such as the Muslim ban and racism, creating a conversation that Parvin deeply explores through her internal pov.

The setting of Parvin’s Northern Virginia town, home, alongside her high school just come to life on the page. No matter what the setting was, Abtahi’s great writing built Parvin’s world with each and every chapter (though another FUN tidbit here is that the “chapters” are more split up by days / time which adds a unique flow to the story).

This novel also features an incredibly inclusive cast where main characters include: Parvin whose 1/2 Iranian, Fabian is Mexican-American who is gay, Ruth is Korean-American who identifies as pan, Matty is Argentinian-American, and the novel of course follows an Iranian-American family / culture.

Luckily this is the first of a duology, so there’s many more hilarious hijinks with Parvin to come and I could not be more thrilled! The ending, though feels like it does wrap up just a bit too quickly, just has the reader feel joy and hope for Parvin who grows so much over the course of the story. All in all there’s so much love I have for these characters, setting, impactful messages, storytelling, each of which come to life through Parvin’s eyes. Abtahi has crafted a genuine treasure of a book in the span of just 300+ pages leaving me eager to know where Parvin’s high school adventure is headed next!

Perfectly Parvin is a true gem in 2021 YA Contemporary you don’t want to miss! Hilarious hijinks, great storytelling, and lots of meaningful messages make this a fantastic debut that promises more friendship, family, and uplifting Parvin adventures to come!

Hot British Boyfriend by Kristy Boyce Review

Hot British Boyfriend by Kristy Boyce

Publisher: Harper Teen

Release Date: February 9, 2021

Pages: 336

Available Through The Book Depository & Bookshop

Cover Artist: Jacqueline Li and Chris Kwon (designer)

Summary: After a horrifying public rejection by her crush, Ellie Nichols does what any girl would do: she flees the country. To be more precise, she joins her high school’s study abroad trip to England. While most of her classmates are there to take honors courses and pad their college applications, Ellie is on a quest to rebuild her reputation and self-confidence. And nothing is more of a confidence booster than getting a hot British boyfriend.

When Ellie meets Will, a gorgeous and charming Brit, she vows to avoid making the same mistakes as she did with the last guy she liked. Which is why she strikes up a bargain with Dev, an overachieving classmate who she’s never clicked with, but who does seem to know a lot about the things Will is interested in—if he helps her win over her crush, then she’ll help him win over his.

But even as Ellie embarks on a whirlwind romance, one that takes her on adventures to some of England’s most beautiful places, she still needs to figure out if this is actually the answer to all her problems…and whether the perfect boyfriend is actually the perfect boy for her.

My Rating: ★★★☆☆ ¾

My Thoughts: Hot British Boyfriend is a fun, entertaining YA romcom filled with adventure, academia, and friendship! Ellie joins a study abroad program in England after a humiliating video goes viral. But, along the way she learns to boost her self-confidence and discovers what she’s truly passionate about. A light-hearted, fluffy debut!

Before going into my review I will say that despite my 3-star rating, I liked this debut a lot because I could see what the author was trying to do in terms of Ellie’s development throughout the book and it surprised me by putting a focus on friendship for about 50% of the story!

So, Ellie has recently moved to Washington DC with her mother and is anxious of what the new year will bring now that her friend Crystal is joining a study abroad program. However, she’s convinced her crush Andy is going to ask her to be his girlfriend at a party. After misreading the situation and humiliating herself, she can no longer face her classmates. Then, when a spot opens up for Waterford’s study abroad program at Emberton Manor in England, Ellie takes the opportunity to step away for a bit and also gain some self-confidence along the way.

As she adjusts to her new surroundings for the semester, higher-level classes, and her studious roommate Sage, Ellie quickly finds herself hatching a plan sure to give her the confidence she’s looking for, by finding a British boyfriend!

After meeting Will and his best friend Hank at a flea market, she believes in order to reinvent herself during her time there, the only thing she can do is slowly lie to her boyfriend, which in turn leads her to not be fully honest with him about her interests like unicorns and fairy gardens. There’s this underlying anxiety she feels that he may not embrace the real her, which propels her emotional arc. There’s an authenticity to this as Boyce portrayed both Ellie’s anxiety and lack of confidence consistently to emphasize her development throughout the story.

However as Ellie begins to hang out with Will more, she can’t help but feel a pull towards the new friends she’s made. Even with the help of her classmate Dev, they team up to help each other win over their crushes/loves which adds a fun layer to their dynamic. But as Ellie begins to realize Dev is really the one she can be honest with, will she make the right choice and follow her heart?

This is a nice YA Contemporary. Boyce builds in the wanderlust / adventure and academic atmospheres very well through Ellie’s perspective. From the descriptions of the locations they visit, classes, and lots more, the setting becomes such an integral part of how the character dynamics are explored. While the summary doesn’t hint at this too much either, there is a lot of focus + development on friendship and Ellie’s new friend group. Established early on, Ellie only had one friend (now ex) and has moved a lot in the past, so she’s never really had many.

Seeing how Ellie connects more and grows in ways she never realized because of her friends like Sage who inspires her to be more studious and appreciate the uniqueness of her hobbies, Dev for how they can be so honest with each other, even Huan for just being a supportive friend…these dynamics were such strong layers and I appreciated how Boyce gave this theme such an important role in Ellie’s story.

Now in England, she’s given the opportunity to meet new people and classmates she never really bonded with before. Also I know friendship is a big part of the story here, but her moments with Dev were very adorable and the slow development of their relationship kept me wondering what would happen next.

A relatable element and also interesting observation of this novel was how everyone around Ellie seems to have some sort of life plan heading into senior year, but she is still learning to accept her hobbies (gardening, building fairy houses, etc.) and learning to embrace them, while at the same time figuring out what her own academic future holds.

There’s a relatability to that feeling that consistently builds Ellie’s character as well while she’s trying to figure out what she wants to do after high school. Not many will know, but I appreciated how Boyce normalized that idea and showcased the importance of using your passions and hobbies to guide you.

Another observation I had was my personal interpretation into some “privilege” that certain characters had. Where Ellie’s classmates like Dev, Sage, and Huan are there to prepare themselves for college/uni, there’s many scenes that remind her they are there to focus on their studies. While Ellie struggles and does improve along the way, little by little, she does mostly spend that time to think more about her love life, while leaving her studies at the back of her mind. Then with Will, he comes from a rather privileged family and he is eager to break away from his family’s business to start his own, however he doesn’t have much of a solid plan and does have advantages of not needing to worry about schooling (or finances) for the time being. This isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing but an interesting observation that stuck with me as I read.

Overall I think what left my rating is left at 3.75 stars despite how much I liked it, was the more I realized seeing Ellie’s relationship progress with Will throughout the book not only felt too fast, but also rather hollow? Whenever she would meet up with him, I would think ‘what is even the point?’ He’s nice and all, but there’s literally nothing interesting about his character the more I read. He was also at points being unintentionally self-centered and was always focused on his own issues not really listening to Ellie that much anyways (in my opinion). Then coupled with the fact that Ellie and Dev has a WAY better dynamic, there was this superficial/pointless feeling to her relationship with Will. Then it was only about waiting about 100 pages left in the book where Ellie could finally realize that too.

However, above all I personally loved seeing the focus on Ellie’s growth as a character in figuring out what she wants to do with school and her life after high school was a nice arc to explore. Despite being the point of the book, I still think her romance with Will, surprisingly, bogged it all down. While this novel was just an okay, fun read for me personally, wouldn’t mind checking out the author’s 2nd book in this “series” (which she recently announced in March). Despite my overall feelings on it, what will stick with me was the personal journey that Ellie took and the focus on friendship!

Hot British Boyfriend is a fluffy, light YA romcom that despite some flaws, puts a focus on friendship, boosting self-confidence, and discovering ones passions!

Mija Podcast Review {Literary Listens}

Mija PodcastMija Podcast created by Lory Martinez

Release Date: September 25, 2019

Episodes: 14 (Across 2 Seasons)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Latinx Book Recommendations For Your 2019 TBR!

Hey, 24hr.YABookBlog here (~˘▾˘)~ 💞📚✨ Latinx Heritage Month has recently begun and to celebrate, I’d love to share a list of #OwnVoices books written by Latinx authors you should add to your TBR!

This year I’m making it even bigger, even though my blog primarily focusing on YA, I’d love to highlight even more genres/categories this year from YA to SFF, Poetry, and more!

I’ll also be featuring a “Backlist Boost” with as many books as I can to promote more Latinx authors & their books!

Which Latinx books are on your TBR? Any on this list your looking forward to reading? 📚✨

Contemporary (Young Adult):

Analee, In Real Life by Janelle Milanes1. Analee, In Real Life by Janelle Milanes

Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: September 18, 2018

Summary: Ever since her mom died three years ago, Analee Echevarria has had trouble saying out loud the weird thoughts that sit in her head. With a best friend who hates her and a dad who’s marrying a yogi she can’t stand, Analee spends most of her time avoiding reality and role-playing as Kiri, the night elf hunter at the center of her favorite online game.

Through Kiri, Analee is able to express everything real-life Analee cannot: her bravery, her strength, her inner warrior. The one thing both Kiri and Analee can’t do, though, is work up the nerve to confess her romantic feelings for Kiri’s partner-in-crime, Xolkar—aka a teen boy named Harris whom Analee has never actually met in person.

So when high school heartthrob Seb Matias asks Analee to pose as his girlfriend in an attempt to make his ex jealous, Analee agrees. Sure, Seb seems kind of obnoxious, but Analee could use some practice connecting with people in real life. In fact, it’d maybe even help her with Harris.

But the more Seb tries to coax Analee out of her comfort zone, the more she starts to wonder if her anxious, invisible self is even ready for the real world. Can Analee figure it all out without losing herself in the process?

↠ ARC Review: Analee, In Real Life by Janelle Milanes (5 stars)

Barley Missing Everything by Matt Mendez2. Barley Missing Everything by Matt Mendez

Publisher: March 5, 2019
Release Date: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books (Simon Teen/Riveted Lit)

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…

↠ Backlist Boost: American Road Trip by Patrick Flores-Scott

Color Me In by Natasha Diaz3. Color Me In by Natasha Diaz

Publisher: Delacorte Press
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.

It’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?

Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite4. Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika & Maritza Moulite

Publisher: Inkyard Press
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.

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

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

↠ Backlist Boost: American Street by Ibi Zoboi

↠ ARC Review: Dear Haiti, Love Alaine (4 Stars)

Don't Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno5. Don’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno

Publisher: Disney Hyperion
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?

↠ Book Review: Don’t Date Rosa Santos (4.5 Stars)

The Education Of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera6. The Education Of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: February 21, 2017

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.

The Fall Of Innocence by Jenny Torres Sanchez7. The Fall Of Innocence by Jenny Torres Sanchez

Publisher: Philomel Books (Penguin Teen)
Release Date: June 12, 2018

Summary: For the past eight years, sixteen-year-old Emilia DeJesus has done her best to move on from the traumatic attack she suffered in the woods behind her elementary school. She’s forced down the memories–the feeling of the twigs cracking beneath her, choking on her own blood, unable to scream. Most of all, she’s tried to forget about Jeremy Lance, the boy responsible, the boy who caused her such pain. Emilia believes that the crows who watched over her that day, who helped her survive, are still on her side, encouraging her to live fully. And with the love and support of her mother, brother, and her caring boyfriend, Emilia is doing just that.

But when a startling discovery about her attacker’s identity comes to light, and the memories of that day break through the mental box in which she’d shut them away, Emilia is forced to confront her new reality and make sense of shifting truths about her past, her family, and herself.

Backlist Boost: Because Of The Sun by Jenny Torres Sanchez

The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante8. The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers (Penguin Teen)
Release Date: June 11, 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.

The Library Of Lost Things by Laura Taylor Namey9. The Library Of Lost Things by Laura Taylor Namey

Publisher: Inkyard Press
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.

The Quiet You Carry by Nikki Barthelmess10.The Quiet You Carry by Nikki Barthelmess

Publisher: Flux (Flux Books)
Release Date: March 5, 2019

Summary: Victoria Parker knew her dad’s behavior toward her was a little unusual, but she convinced herself everything was fine—until she found herself locked out of the house at 3:00 a.m., surrounded by flashing police lights.

Now, dumped into a crowded, chaotic foster home, Victoria has to tiptoe around her domineering foster mother, get through senior year at a new school, and somehow salvage her college dreams . . . all while keeping her past hidden.

But some secrets won’t stay buried—especially when unwanted memories make Victoria freeze up at random moments and nightmares disrupt her sleep. Even worse, she can’t stop worrying about her stepsister Sarah, left behind with her father. All she wants is to move forward, but how do you focus on the future when the past won’t leave you alone?

The Resolutions by Mia Garcia11. The Resolutions by Mia Garcia

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (Harper Teen)
Release Date: November 13, 2018

Summary: New Years are for fresh starts, but Jess just wants everything to go back to the way it was.

From hiking trips, to four-person birthday parties, to never-ending group texts, Jess, Lee, Ryan, and Nora have always been inseparable—and unstoppable. But now, with senior year on the horizon, they’ve been splintering off and growing apart. And so, as always, Jess makes a plan.

Reinstating their usual tradition of making resolutions together on New Year’s Eve, Jess adds a new twist: instead of making their own resolutions, the four friends assign them for each other—dares like kiss someone you know is wrong for you, show your paintings, learn Spanish, say yes to everything.

But not even the best laid plans can take into account the uncertainties of life. As the year unfolds, Jess, Ryan, Nora, and Lee each test the bonds that hold them together. And amid first loves, heart breaks, and life-changing decisions, beginning again is never as simple as it seems.

↠ Backlist Boost: Even If The Sky Falls by Mia Garcia

The Truth Is by NoNieqa Ramos12. The Truth Is by NoNieqa Ramos

Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
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.

↠ Backlist Boost: The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary by NoNieqa Ramos

The Universal Laws Of Marco by Carmen Rodrigues13. The Universal Laws Of Marco by Carmen Rodrigues

Publisher: Simon Pulse
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.
Reason 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.

↠ ARC Review: The Universal Laws Of Marco (4.5 Stars)

Dystopia & Sci-Fi (Young Adult):

Dealing In Dreams by Lilliam Rivera1. Dealing In Dreams by Lilliam Rivera

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
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 roles brings with it violent throw downs and access to the hottest boydega clubs, but the sixteen-year-old grows weary of the life. Her dream is to get off the streets and make a home in the exclusive Mega Towers, in which only a chosen few get to live. To make it to the Mega towers, Nalah must prove her loyalty to the city’s benevolent founder and cross the border in a search for a mysterious gang the Ashé Ryders. Led by a reluctant guide, Nalah battles other crews and her own doubts, but the closer she gets to her goal, the more she loses sight of everything—and everyone— she cares about.

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

The Last 8 by Laura Pohl2. The Last 8 by Laura Pohl (The Last 8 #1)

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
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.

We Set The Dark On Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia3. We Set The Dark On Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia (WSTFDOF #1)

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (Epic Reads)
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.

And 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?

↠ ARC Review: We Set The Dark On Fire (4 Stars)

Graphic Novels:

Hotel Dare by Terry Blas and Claudia Aguirre1. Hotel Dare by Terry Blas (Writer), Claudia Aguirre (Artist), & Mike Fiorentino (Letterer)

Publisher: Boom! Studios
Release Date: June 11, 2019

Summary: It’s not your typical family vacation when Olive, and her adopted siblings Darwin and Charlotte find themselves falling into other worlds as they explore Grandma Lupé’s strange hotel.

OPEN THE DOOR. ADVENTURE AWAITS.

Olive and her adopted siblings Charlotte and Darwin are spending the summer with their estranged grandma at her creepy hotel and it’s all work and no play. They’re stuck inside doing boring chores but they soon stumble upon an incredible secret… Behind each room door of the hotel lies a portal to a different strange and mysterious place. The simple turn of a knob transports them to a distant magical world filled with space pirates. Behind the next door are bearded wizards. Down the hall is a doorway to a cotton-candied kingdom. But once the doors are opened, worlds start colliding, and only one family can save them before they tear themselves apart.

Skip by Molly Mendoza2. Skip by Molly Mendoza

Publisher: Nobrow Ltd.
Release Date: July 23, 2019

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

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

Magical Realism (Young Adult):

All The Wind In The World by Samantha Mabry1. All The Wind In The World by Samantha Mabry

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Release Date: October 10, 2017

Summary: Sarah Jacqueline Crow and James Holt work in the vast maguey fields that span the bone-dry Southwest, a thirsty, infinite land that is both seductive and fearsome. In this rough, transient landscape, Sarah Jac and James have fallen in love. They’re tough and brave, and they have big dreams. Soon they will save up enough money to go east. But until then, they keep their heads down, their muscles tensed, and above all, their love secret.

When a horrible accident forces Sarah Jac and James to start over on a new, possibly cursed ranch called the Real Marvelous, the delicate balance they’ve found begins to give way. And James and Sarah Jac will have to pay a frighteningly high price for their love.

↠ Backlist Boost: Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore
↠  Book Review: All The Wind In The World (4 Stars)

Blanca &amp; Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore2. Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release Date: October 9, 2018

Summary: The biggest lie of all is the story you think you already know.

The del Cisne girls have never just been sisters; they’re also rivals, Blanca as obedient and graceful as Roja is vicious and manipulative. They know that, because of a generations-old spell, their family is bound to a bevy of swans deep in the woods. They know that, one day, the swans will pull them into a dangerous game that will leave one of them a girl, and trap the other in the body of a swan.

But when two local boys become drawn into the game, the swans’ spell intertwines with the strange and unpredictable magic lacing the woods, and all four of their fates depend on facing truths that could either save or destroy them. Blanca & Roja is the captivating story of sisters, friendship, love, hatred, and the price we pay to protect our hearts.

↠ ARC Review: Blanca & Roja (4.5 Stars)

when-the-moon-was-ours-anna-marie-mclemore3. When The Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Release Date: October 4, 2016

Summary: To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town.

But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

↠ Backlist Boost: The Weight Of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore

Middle Grade:

Love Sugar Magic-A Dash Of Trouble by Anna Meriano1. A Dash Of Trouble by Anna Meriano (Love Sugar Magic #1)

Publisher: Walden Pond Press
Release Date: January 2, 2018

Summary: Leonora Logroño’s family owns the most beloved bakery in Rose Hill, Texas, spending their days conjuring delicious cookies and cakes for any occasion. And no occasion is more important than the annual Dia de los Muertos festival.

Leo hopes that this might be the year that she gets to help prepare for the big celebration—but, once again, she is told she’s too young. Sneaking out of school and down to the bakery, she discovers that her mother, aunt, and four older sisters have in fact been keeping a big secret: they’re brujas—witches of Mexican ancestry—who pour a little bit of sweet magic into everything that they bake.

Leo knows that she has magical ability as well and is more determined than ever to join the family business—even if she can’t let her mama and hermanas know about it yet.

And when her best friend, Caroline, has a problem that needs solving, Leo has the perfect opportunity to try out her craft. It’s just one little spell, after all…what could possibly go wrong?

↠ Book Review: Love Sugar Magic: A Dash Of Trouble (5 stars)

Silver Meadows Summer by Emma Otheguy2. Silver Meadows Summer by Emma Otheguy

Publisher: Knopf Books For Young Readers
Release Date: April 30, 2019

Summary: Eleven-year-old Carolina’s summer–and life as she knows it–is upended when Papi loses his job, and she and her family must move from Puerto Rico to her Tía Cuca and Uncle Porter’s house in upstate New York. Now Carolina must attend Silver Meadows camp, where her bossy older cousin Gabriela rules the social scene.

Just as Carolina worries she’ll have to spend the entire summer in Gabriela’s shadow, she makes a friend of her own in Jennifer, a fellow artist. Carolina gets another welcome surprise when she stumbles upon a long-abandoned cottage in the woods near the campsite and immediately sees its potential as a creative haven for making art. There, with Jennifer, Carolina begins to reclaim the parts of the life she loved in Puerto Rico and forget about how her relationship with Mami has changed and how distant Papi has become.

But when the future of Silver Meadows and the cottage is thrown into jeopardy, Carolina and–to everyone’s surprise–Gabriela come up with a plan to save them. Will it work?

The Other Half Of Happy by Rebecca Balcárcel3. The Other Half Of Happy by Rebecca Balcárcel

Publisher: Chronicle Books
Release Date: August 20, 2019

Summary: Quijana must figure out which parts of herself are most important, and which pieces come together to make her whole.

One-half Guatemalan, one-half American: When Quijana’s Guatemalan cousins move to town, her dad seems ashamed that she doesn’t know more about her family’s heritage.

One-half crush, one-half buddy: When Quijana meets Zuri and Jayden, she knows she’s found true friends. But she can’t help the growing feelings she has for Jayden.

One-half kid, one-half grown-up: Quijana spends her nights Skyping with her ailing grandma and trying to figure out what’s going on with her increasingly hard-to-reach brother.

The Storm Runner by J.C. Cervantes4. The Storm Runner by J.C. Cervantes (The Storm Runner #1)

Publisher: Rick Riordan Presents
Release Date: September 18, 2018

Summary: Zane has always enjoyed exploring the dormant volcano near his home in New Mexico, even though hiking it is challenging. He’d much rather hang out there with his dog, Rosie, than go to middle school, where kids call him Sir Limps a Lot, McGimpster, or Uno — for his one good leg. What Zane doesn’t know is that the volcano is a gateway to another world and he is at the center of a powerful prophecy.

A new girl at school, Brooks, informs him that he’s destined to release an evil god from the ancient Maya relic he is imprisoned in — unless she can find and remove it first. Together they return to the volcano, where all kinds of crazy happens. Brooks turns into a hawk, a demon attacks them in a cave, and Rosie gives her all while trying to protect Zane. When Zane decides to save his dog no matter the cost, he is thrust into an adventure full of surprising discoveries, dangerous secrets, and an all-out war between the gods, one of whom happens to be his father. To survive, Zane will have to become the Storm Runner. But how can he run when he can’t even walk well without a cane?

Mystery/Thriller (Young Adult):

Five Midnights by Ann Dávila Cardinal1. Five Midnights by Ann Dávila Cardinal

Publisher: Tor Teen
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?

The Tenth Girl by Sara Faring2. The Tenth Girl by Sara Faring

Publisher: Imprint (Fierce Reads)
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.

One 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.

Poetry:

Chula by Amanda Alcántara1. Chula by Amanda Alcántara

Publisher: Self-Published via Amanda Alcántara
Release Date: March 21, 2019

Summary: “Chula” is an imaginative bilingual collection of intimate poems, short stories, memories and vignettes about the life of a Dominicana before and after moving to the United States.

Dealing with childhood curiosities, struggles faced by women, identity, pleasures, heartache, and joy, this work is an exploration of self.

↠ Backlist Boost: Nocturna by Maya Motayne (Dominican YA Fantasy)

The Carrying by Ada Limón2. The Carrying: Poems by Ada Limón

Publisher: Milkweed Editions
Release Date: August 14, 2018

Summary: Vulnerable, tender, acute, these are serious poems, brave poems, exploring with honesty the ambiguous moment between the rapture of youth and the grace of acceptance. A daughter tends to aging parents. A woman struggles with infertility—“What if, instead of carrying / a child, I am supposed to carry grief?”—and a body seized by pain and vertigo as well as ecstasy. A nation convulses: “Every song of this country / has an unsung third stanza, something brutal.” And still Limón shows us, as ever, the persistence of hunger, love, and joy, the dizzying fullness of our too-short lives. “Fine then, / I’ll take it,” she writes. “I’ll take it all.”

↠ Backlist Boost: Bright Dead Things by Ada Limón
↠  Book Review: The Carrying: Poems (5 Stars)

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo3. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Publisher: Harper Teen (Epic Reads)
Release Date: March 6, 2018

Summary: A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.

So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

↠  Backlist Boost: The Moon Within by Aida Salazar (Middle Grade in verse)
↠  ARC Review: The Poet X (4.5 Stars)

SFF:

Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes1. Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes (Chilling Effect #1)

Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release Date: September 17, 2019

Summary: Captain Eva Innocente and the crew of La Sirena Negra cruise the galaxy delivering small cargo for even smaller profits. When her sister Mari is kidnapped by The Fridge, a shadowy syndicate that holds people hostage in cryostasis, Eva must undergo a series of unpleasant, dangerous missions to pay the ransom.

But Eva may lose her mind before she can raise the money. The ship’s hold is full of psychic cats, an amorous fish-faced emperor wants her dead after she rejects his advances, and her sweet engineer is giving her a pesky case of feelings. The worse things get, the more she lies, raising suspicions and testing her loyalty to her found family.

To free her sister, Eva will risk everything: her crew, her ship, and the life she’s built on the ashes of her past misdeeds. But when the dominoes start to fall and she finds the real threat is greater than she imagined, she must decide whether to play it cool or burn it all down.

Gods Of Jade And Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia2. Gods Of Jade And Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia 

Publisher: Del Rey
Release Date: July 23, 2019

Summary: The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own.

Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it—and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true.

In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey from the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City—and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld.

The Tiger's Daughter by K Arsenault Rivera3. The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera (Their Bright Ascendancy #1)

Publisher: Tor Books
Release Date: October 3, 2017

Summary: Even gods can be slain….

The Hokkaran empire has conquered every land within their bold reach―but failed to notice a lurking darkness festering within the people. Now, their border walls begin to crumble, and villages fall to demons swarming out of the forests.

Away on the silver steppes, the remaining tribes of nomadic Qorin retreat and protect their own, having bartered a treaty with the empire, exchanging inheritance through the dynasties. It is up to two young warriors, raised together across borders since their prophesied birth, to save the world from the encroaching demons.

This is the story of an infamous Qorin warrior, Barsalayaa Shefali, a spoiled divine warrior empress, O-Shizuka, and a power that can reach through time and space to save a land from a truly insidious evil.

And there’s my list of Latinx book recommendations! This was such a fun list to make and as a reader from a Latin-American background I can’t put into words how amazing it is to see this list of books grow with each year 😭💖📚📚

Many of these I have yet to read, but I’m excited!! My plan is to get to them during Latinx Heritage Month and throughout the rest of 2019–📚📚🎉

What Latinx Books are on your TBR? Any other book recommendations for Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month? 😍📚✨

I also recommend checking out these amazing Latinx read-a-thons going on currently, that are being hosted by great Latinx book reviewers in the community: Latinx Book Bingo & Latinx-A-Thon (ends Sept. 24)

Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika Moulite & Maritza Moulite ARC Review

Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika Moulite and Maritza MouliteDear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Release Date: September 3, 2019

Pages: 432

Available For Pre-Order: Dear Haiti, Love Alaine

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.

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

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

*Requested ARC from publisher*

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Dear Haiti, Love Alaine is a YA Contemporary debut from sisters Maika and Maritza who seamlessly weave together a tale of family, healing, and much more! Alaine’s narrative voice presents an intimate and personal depth to her perspective as we explore her family and her Haitian culture, alongside her journey of self-growth! The use of mixed media also offers a unique depth that provides so many layers to this complex and immersive debut!

There’s something both personal and special that comes with reading about someone’s life through the use of primary sources like letters, emails, diary entries, articles etc. It captures the depth of emotions and snapshots of one’s life in unique ways you just can’t get through prose. Maika and Maritza Moulite truly showcased the emotion and personal journey through the main character of Alaine Beauparlant!

Alaine is an aspiring journalist with dreams of pursuing this career at the same university her mother― Celeste Beauparlant― beloved GNN political talk show host and award-winning journalist, attended!

With a few remaining months from graduation, Alaine’s got everything planned out! That is until one day on Celeste’s show, she causes an uproar far and wide after slapping one of her guests and when Alaine defends her mother from a classmate jokes about the incident, Alaine takes her school project a bit too far!

Now she’s suspended. But, her teachers leave her with an assignment to complete over her suspension and when her father sends her to Haiti, she’s told to take part in a “Spring Volunteer Immersion” project to ensure she passes her last semester.

With this novel mainly taking place in Haiti, it was wonderful to explore the culture through such a personal style of storytelling, it made the plot even more special to experience this journey through Alaine’s eyes.

A big theme and element of this novel, which I found was explored so thoroughly in Dear Haiti, Love Alaine was journalism! If you didn’t know, one of the co-authors of this novel, Maritza Moulite actually has a masters in Journalism!

Considering that is also my university major, I felt such a deep connection to the references, style of storytelling, and how this novel showcased the importance of this field throughout the story!

Some references I caught onto were: leads, “giving a voice to the voiceless,” reference to Cronkite, the use of multimedia (very present in journalism) to tell this story, and of course exploring Alaine’s love for the subject and how she unfolds the story of her mother’s own personal journey as a journalist!

I’m not sure if this was intentional or not, but I also found the way the story unfolded referenced styles of journalistic writing as well! In Journalism, its often about how you present the information you’ve collected and how you choose highlight what you’ve uncovered. The way the plot, characters, and development are explored, to me, they referenced this style of writing in a seamless way where you are left looking at things from a new perspective.

Overall, I loved that this novel showed the depth and facets to this field in such a positive way, where its often downgraded in pop-culture and other forms of media/storytelling.

What I loved about the use of mixed media, was how it seamlessly delved into many plot threads, themes, characters, and their dynamics, I found that they were all explored in such a realistic way where they really came to life from the page.

Family is such a huge part of this novel and you see that develop through Alaine’s relationship with her mother (more on that in a bit), her father, her cousin Felicite and Tati Estelle! Not only just her family, but her friends as well, like the people she meets at Patron Pal (like Jason, who’s a fellow intern).

There’s a clear focus on the dynamic between Alaine and her estranged mother, who’s constantly been occupied with work. The time that the Moulite sisters take to explore family dynamics allows it to become such a layered element of the novel.

Alaine has never had such a strong connection with her mother, but is very close with her father! But, throughout the book, we see Alaine strengthen that connection with her. We even see when Alaine gets to Haiti, she learns more about her parents past and noticing them spend more time together, it gives them opportunities to talk and be more open.

Told through an epistolary style, we get an in-depth view of Alaine’s personal development through the different plot threads that find their way into this story! For example, we learn that Celeste has early on-set Alzheimer’s and a big plot thread of the novel explores Alaine’s internal struggle and confusion, as she also attempts to connect more with her mother during this transition in her life.

While there are many things that stayed with me by the end of this novel, something that really stuck with me through Alaine’s journey, was in learning about her mother’s Alzheimer’s. It allowed me to reflect and go back to a time when I was exactly in her shoes (one of my older relatives has Alzheimer’s). For me, though it was a much different journey I had to accept with a lot less time, I just can’t put into words how present I felt during those scenes and how they allowed me to reflect a lot during that time too.

From Alaine’s time at Patron Pal (her aunt’s organization/app to help kids in Haiti), learning about figures of her family and their country’s past, and much more, the plot threads are all given a great amount of page time and brilliantly weave their way together.

What I also appreciated about this novel was how it was very focused on the women of Alaine’s family, how their journeys are highlighted and are such vital pieces to the story that Alaine uncovers as she spends her time in Haiti!

I feel Marie from Drizzle And Hurricane Books interview with authors Maika and Maritza summed it up perfectly:

“…to create a story about the women who make sacrifices for themselves and their families. They are often forgotten or overlooked but vital to a family’s survival…”

Women from the past/present of Alaine’s family and the country of Haiti itself are given a spotlight and through their stories and experiences, its tied deeply to how Alaine sees her family!

Now while this is novel with many layers and depth to it, I did want to discuss a couple elements that lowered the rating, for me personally.

I did find the pacing (at points) did get a bit slow and there were times I struggled to continue immersing myself at some points of the story. Though I do feel that’s mainly because of the format of the story and how personal it is. Secondly, though there were many plot points explored really well, it felt they were given such a focus at certain points, that later on they didn’t feel too vital anymore. By the end, some threads felt incomplete and I still felt there was more to explore (light romantic story-line between Alaine & Jason, Alaine’s dynamic with her parents, & the curse).

There minor issues aside though, this is a book that delivers such a personal journey through an honest, brave, and vulnerable protagonist like Alaine! Dear Haiti, Love Alaine really needs more hype because it takes you on such a unique journey, you have to read it and experience it for yourself!

Dear Haiti, Love Alaine is a unique YA Contemporary that is introspective through its mixed media format and delivers a deep and personal story with many layered messages! The journeys Alaine and the family around her undergo throughout this novel, are explored thoroughly during Alaine’s visit to Haiti. The Moulite sisters deliver a debut that’s focus is on its complex characters and you see that through the mixed media format! Family, love, self-growth, and healing are just some of the many themes explored throughout this wonderful debut!

Fictional Faves: Don’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno

Hey everyone 24hr.YABookBlog here! (~˘▾˘)~ 💞✨📚 Have you ever wondered what your favorite fictional characters would enjoy from our world? I know I sure have, that’s why today I’m so excited to share with you Fictional Faves !! 🎉🎊

Don't Date Rosa Santos by Nina MorenoI was inspired to create this post because as an aspiring YA writer, my favorite part of the creation process has always revolved around my characters!

So, the introduction into today’s post will feature Rosa Santos from Nina Moreno’s Don’t Date Rosa Santos! If you’re interested in reading my thoughts on this lovely contemporary you can check out my full review here!!

I’ll be listing books, video games, and other fun fictional stories that I think Rosa would really enjoy!

Books

Rosa has got a lot on her plate from finalizing her college plans, setting up for her town of Port Coral’s Spring Fest, while also trying to explore more about her family’s past to feel more connected to her Cuban roots, and maybe even find love along the way!

Analee, In Real Life by Janelle MilanesThat’s why I feel Rosa would really love books by Janelle Milanes! Milanes is a YA author who also writes contemporary stories centering around Cuban-American main characters (who also have anxiety)! With her most recent book being: Analee, In Real Life!

Rosa would feel such a deep connection to her books because she even mentions in Don’t Date Rosa Santos that although she’s grown up in Port Coral that has a Latinx community, on a personal level she still hasn’t found that connection to her own Cuban history!

Not only would Rosa easily devour Milanes’s books in one sitting, but she’d also be able to relate to them on such a personal level. Also considering that Rosa is graduating high school, she would find Milanes’s younger characters incredibly brave and inspiring (Victoria: 15 and Analee: 16 or 17 I think?). Reading about Cuban-American protagonists just like her that overcome their own obstacles, would also inspire her to to the same!

Podcasts

If Rosa were in the mood for a podcast, I think she would really enjoy the urban fantasy audio drama: Return Home!

return-home-podcast

Return Home, created by Jeff Heimbuch centers around Jonathan Barker who is told to “return home” to his home of Melancholy Falls, NJ. From there he reunites with his best friend Buddy and former girlfriend Amy as they uncover the mysterious and supernatural happenings of their town!

Rosa would really enjoy this podcast because coming from a small town herself, she’d relate to the tight-knit community presented in the show! Also, it would have her wondering maybe Port Coral has some of its own supernatural mysteries left undiscovered? (especially when she’s heard of the town’s hidden Golden Turtle).

Video Games

I’ll honestly find any reason to include Kingdom Hearts on my blog every now and again, but I truly believe if Rosa were to play video games, she would really love this series!

joyce-mccown-791673-unsplash books

Kingdom Hearts is a JRPG that follows Sora on his adventures to travel across different worlds inspired by the Disney films! Its a story about friendship + the bonds between, as he fight monsters and learns more about the light/darkness the tie the worlds together.

With Rosa’s dream to explore more beyond her small town, much like the themes within Kingdom Hearts, she would relate to the main characters of Sora and Riku! Also, I believe she’d appreciate a good adventure with unique and immersive fantasy lore, and complex storytelling!

I also feel she would listen to the Destiny Islands theme on repeat–I know I sure did while reading Moreno’s book (it gave me such Port Coral vibes)! 😂🎧💖

So those are the fictional stories Rosa would absolutely love!

What are your thoughts on today’s Fictional Faves? Any recommendations for another fictional character I should create a list for?

2019 Winter + Spring Wrap-Up

You may have noticed, since January, I haven’t really posted a single wrap-up, there’s a couple of reasons for that:

1: I was starting to feel burned out doing wrap-ups each month & though I loved my new format, it was just starting to get a bit tiring for me!

2: I’ve been working on some new blog projects, posts, etc. and that’s been taking up a lot of my time:

The biggest one, which I hope you’ll check out is a new bookish website I launched called The Booked Shelf!! 😆📚✨🎉🎊

The Booked Shelf was inspired by my Book Bytes feature! I explain more about my inspiration for launching it on the site, but basically if you want to stay updated on the latest YA book news from cover reveals, adaptation news, and more, I recommend giving it a look!

I also started The Traveling ARC Project back in May to get #OwnVoices ARCs to more #OwnVoices readers/reviewers! It went pretty well for my first time putting something like this together! 

I am also planning one for the fall and I’m really looking forward to it! My next Traveling ARC Project will be for Sara Faring’s The Tenth Girl!  😍💞

and 3: I just haven’t been reading as much as I have in the past–which is fine with me because I get to spend more time focusing on the quality of book over quantity, but that meant I wasn’t as motivated to post wrap-ups either because I felt they would be pretty brief anyways!

For my future wrap-ups on the blog though, I’m planning on them being seasonal so I can take more time to talk about the books I’ve read over a longer period! I’m looking forward to sharing not just my thoughts on the book but other factors as well!

So with that said, so far in the year of 2019 throughout Winter & Spring, I’ve read a total of 23 books! 😍💞📚✨🌸❄

My first book of 2019 was:

Fierce Fairytales Poems And Stories To Stir Your Soul by Nikita GillFierce Fairytales: Poems And Stories To Stir Your Soul by Nikita GillLibrary ∣ Started January 1 + Finished January 2 ∣ My Rating:★★★★☆

With every start to the new year I always make it a goal to have my first book be a poetry book! I’d heard of Nikita Gill before, but Fierce Fairytales was my first collection from her! Within this collection she not only included poems, but short stories too. She weaves modern twists & inspiring messages into this collection that transforms classic fairy tales!

The first 2019 book that I rated 5-stars was:

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani ChokshiThe Gilded Wolves  ARC∣ Started January 3 + Finished January 8 ∣ My Rating: ★★★★★

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi: I could gush about this book all day–I adored it! From the lush and descriptive writing, immersive setting of 1880’s Paris, scheming & heists!! Also Séverin, Enrique, Tristan, Zofia & Laila captured my heart and I adopted them all from page 1! 😭🌸✨💞

With The Gilded Wolves, this was also the first book that inspired a new blog feature, Reading Diary! I hope to get back to this feature again with upcoming books, but essentially I tracked my reading progress each day and wrote my thoughts in real-time on what I’d read so far!

Also inspired by new/upcoming releases I created these new blog features too:

1Bookish Theories:

I was inspired to create this feature while scrolling through twitter and seeing all the books people were excited for! Bookish Theories is a post where I list my thoughts or theories on what I think will happen in a book before its released–the book that started it all was: King Of Scars by Leigh Bardugo (which I still need to read 😂✨)

2Bookish Buzz

This feature was created because I always find books that are upcoming/newer releases that need more buzz surrounding them! So through this feature I plan to share anticipated releases that I want to promote more and spread the word about them!

My first post was titled  Bookish Buzz: Upcoming Books That Need More Hype!

Out of all the books I’ve read so far this year, here’s one with the lowest amount of Goodreads ratings, but I highly recommend checking it out because I think this book is really great!
↠ Its also diverse + #ownvoices (Latinx YA)

The Universal Laws Of Marco by Carmen Rodrigues1.The Universal Laws Of Marco by Carmen Rodrigues

Told through a past & present POV, Marco Suarez in his senior year of high school, who has everything planned out. But, he wasn’t expecting his childhood friend Sally to return so suddenly after having disappeared since freshman year and he can’t seem to ignore his first spark with Sally!

I’d say out of all the books I’ve read so far in 2019, this book is probably the most underrated! It focuses on friendship, love, family, and is also such an impactful and moving story that reminds us its the little moments in life that can shape who we are!

The cast is not only incredibly diverse, with Dominican, Korean/Jewish rep., but also featuring the main character Marco & his family who are Cuban-American!

The Universal Laws Of Marco by Carmen Rodrigues is such a relatable YA Contemporary that stresses the importance of the little moments in life and the important people within it, that shape us into who we are!

I can’t recommend this book enough, please pick it up if your looking for a new YA Contemporary to immerse yourself in!

Out of the 3 sequels that I’ve read so far this year, my favorite has been:

The Phoenix Empress by K. Arsenault RiveraThe Phoenix Empress by K. Arsenault Rivera

This is the sequel to one of my all-time favorite epic fantasy The Tiger’s Daughter! As far as sequels go, The Phoenix Empress has to be one of the most memorable I’ve read so far in 2019! It expands on the world of Hokkaro, introduces a lot of great new characters, and delves deeper into empress O’ Shizuka! I don’t want to spoil much, but it expands on the lore, world, and if your looking for a series with a dynamic cast of wonderful female characters, this is a great series!!

I also read 2 books that could be categorized as nonfiction and of them, my favorite was:

planting stories--the life of librarian and storyteller pura belpréPlanting Stories: The Life Of Librarian And Storyteller Pura Belpré by Anika Aldamuy Denise + Paola Escobar

This beautifully illustrated and heartwarming picture book, chronicles and celebrates influential storyteller, librarian, and author Pura Belpré! She moves from Puerto Rico to New York, while carrying the stories and folktales she grew up hearing from her abuela!

It also chronicles her achievements as she continued her work as the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York City!

Planting Stories also emphasizes the importance of diversity in storytelling and its impact, and above all, celebrates the power of stories!

Dark Of The West by Joanna HathawayAlso out of the 23 reviews I’ve written so far in 2019, my favorite review would have to be for Joanna Hathaway’s Dark Of The West!

I did a little bit of research about Hathaway’s inspiration for Dark Of The West and I felt it added something more to my review! Additionally, I just loved how I explored the different elements of the story, characters, setting, etc. alongside my personal interpretations of this wonderful book!

I also wrote one of my first discussion posts back in June titledSlice Of Life Fantasy + Book Recommendations, where I explain this unique genre of stories I particularly enjoy and offer some recommendations from manga , middle grade, even graphic novels!😍✨💞🍃

And to conclude this seasonal wrap-up, this is my most recent read & a book I HIGHLY recommend you add to your TBR:

The Best Lies by Sarah LyuThe Best Lies by Sarah Lyu

Release Date: July 2, 2019

The Best Lies by Sarah Lyu ARC Review

If you follow me on twitter, than you’d know how much I’ve been freaking out about how amazing this book is and that this a book that I need more people to check out!

Told through a past and present POV, The Best Lies is an incredibly introspective novel that explores friendship, love, and trauma. We follow our main character Remy, whose boyfriend Jack has just been killed, but here’s the thing—its her best friend Elise who did it, but she can’t remember exactly what happened!

Now, as she becomes part of an investigation into his death, she has to recount her memories with her best friend Elise as she uncovers the truth about what happened!

This novel explores a lot of heavy topics such as toxic friendship and abuse, however, I can’t put into words just how much I fell in love with the main characters Remy and Elise!  They really came to life and this is easily one of my favorite YA Contemporary/Mystery debuts of the year & all-time!!

So I don’t want to spoil much more than that, but I hope you check out Lyu’s debut–its fantastic!! 😭💞✨

Thanks so much for joining me in my first seasonal wrap-up!! 😍💞🌸❄📚

What have been some of your favorite books so far this year? Any you recommend?

The Best Lies by Sarah Lyu ARC Review

The Best Lies by Sarah LyuThe Best Lies by Sarah Lyu

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release Date: July 2, 2019

Pages: 352

Available For Pre-Order Through The Book Depository: The Best Lies

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.

*tw: for toxic friendship, mention/discussion of abuse, trauma, & moments of gaslighting

*Requested an ARC from the publisher*

My Rating: ★★★★★

My Thoughts: The Best Lies is a 2019 YA debut that’s a must read for fans of mystery! Remy Tsai recounts her friendship with her best friend Elise during an investigation when her boyfriend Jack is killed. The story follows a brilliant narrative told through past and present POV that weaves together perfectly! Lyu’s debut is an introspective look at love, the complex bonds of friendship, and trauma!

What inspired me to read this book originally, was the summary and gorgeous cover! But, I’d also loved that the story itself would be focusing on friendship and had a mystery to solve, because I personally don’t read many of them or if I do, I’m pretty selective. So, I took the opportunity to request a copy and I’m incredibly happy I did! There’s so many positive things I have to say about this book because throughout its entirety it kept exceeding my expectations, getting better and better!

The Best Lies is a thought-provoking novel, layered with mystery that unravels a complex view of friendship! It will grip you from the very beginning!

“The best lies are at least half true..”

Katherine “Remy” Tsai’s boyfriend Jack, is dead. She can’t remember how it happened exactly, but when the police get involved, she has no choice but to recount what happened as part of an investigation. As she sifts through one years worth of memories between her and her best friend Elise, the truth of their friendship slowly unravels!

But there’s also some issues, Remy wants to desperately protect Elise (knowing she was involved) and seems to have blacked out during an ominous 14 minutes leading up to her boyfriend’s death.

At the start of this timeline we quickly learn that all Remy is desperate to do is escape the hardships in her life–her parents constant fighting, living with a brother whose seen as perfect by her mother, and her group of friends, quickly growing distant. That all changes on homecoming night after Remy has just been dumped by her boyfriend and is comforted by new student, Elise Ferro. Elise quickly allows Remy to understand that her happiness in any relationship is the most important and Remy finds herself in awe at Elise’s wisdom and this energy between the two of them because in those moments everything disappears and Remy finds this unmatched strength within her–they can conquer anything that gets in their way!

The two instantly click and become the best of friends! Whether its talking openly with one another, confiding in each other, or putting in effort to hang out and get out of their shells a bit more (like driving around & attending parties together). Remy also respects Elise for her fearlessness. As Remy finds herself continuously pulled into Elise’s orbit, we see they quickly begin relying on each other and promise to be at each others sides no matter what, but the bond between them slowly begins to change.

As they support and confide in each another, we learn that Elise’s life isn’t all too great either. She struggles to share her devastating personal life with Remy in the early stages of their friendship, but we soon learn more about it as she opens up: Elise lives with an abusive father and she’s lived with the fact that she  her estranged mother abandoned her at a young age, only to see her 9 years later at her funeral.

Elise quickly introduces Remy to her world of pranks to get back at those who’ve wronged others– this happens on the first night they meet when Elise persuades Remy to set fireworks near her ex-boyfriends room. Elise sees herself as somewhat of a vigilante, helping those who’ve been wronged by exes, former loves, or female classmates being bullied (This is made clear throughout the Kill Bill movies they watch together & the references that are made more apparent as the story progresses).

Their friendship which starts off loving and supportive, slowly alters into something toxic, that both Elise and Remy can’t seem to escape.

You know when you finish a book that has captivated you from the beginning & you finally reach the last page in disbelief that its over?? That’s what reading Lyu’s debut was like! This book has easily made it to my list of favorite books of the year & all time–this book ruined me…(;´༎ຶД༎ຶ`) It was SO GOOD, but also heartbreaking!! I’m not sure how I’ll recover; The Best Lies was–just utterly phenomenal and I’m broken…

There’s just so much I have to say about this phenomenal book from its brilliant use of past and present POV, the writing which shows Lyu’s attention/care to her characters, and the spectacular way the plot unfolds. The Best Lies also offers an incredibly introspective look at friendship while chronicling Remy & Elise’s story throughout each and every page.

Friendship throughout this novel is many things for Remy and Elise–it’s a home, it’s love, but it’s also complicated, messy, and obsessive.

The depth of their friendship and why that is such an important foundation for people in their lives, was something that Lyu explored so heavily in this novel!! Friendship is something incredibly important to me and I loved how Lyu really developed that message through her writing.

The main characters from Remy to Elise, Remy’s parents, Christian, Jack, Remy + Elise’s other friends like Melody, Julie, Jae, and others– all feel so incredibly real in ways I can’t explain. You understand this depth to their hearts, their pain, their expectations, and even the hurt they feel (especially Remy, Elise, and her parents).

More on the writing, its a style unlike any I’ve ever really read before. Its kind of hard to explain unless you read it for yourself– you really get in the character’s head space and are pretty in-tune with their emotional state. Lyu’s writing is just incredibly good and if your looking for a novel that really shows you the depth of a character’s inner thoughts, emotions, and is layered with focus on its characters and pays attention to detail, you’d really love the writing-style in The Best Lies!

Throughout the novel, Remy struggles with the fact she isn’t the typical daughter her parents expect her to be. She smokes, isn’t taking expected AP classes like her friend Melody, and isn’t “perfect” like her older brother Christian. Lyu also explores Remy’s internal battle between her expectations and who she really is, feeling like she will always be the disappointment in her parents eyes.

I loved the relationship between Remy & Jack. They meet when Elise “abandons” her at a party and they develop this beautiful relationship that allows them to learn more about love and growth! I adored their scenes together so much because you know how much they love and care for each other!! (Also the text scene between Remy & Jack about his dog Lola was the cutest (´▽`ʃƪ) 💞 Jack’s backstory was heartbreaking, reading about his parents abandonment only to lose his grandpa (who practically raised him) a few years later. + Jack’s confession that he started swimming again because of her was so beautiful!!

Expanding on the pranks, I found they were also a brilliant metaphor for many different aspects of the story! They represent Elise’s fire, determination, and complex emotions she keeps bottled inside due to her neglect (with each prank getting more intense than the last). Similar to the Pink Caddy & Mansion, the pranks also represent this cement in their friendship, which keep them coming back to each other.

What also made this book so emotionally gripping was that you root for Elise and Remy because you see how they become this anchor in each others lives. But, knowing how the story ends–you still don’t expect it until you see the threads of their friendship slowly unraveling through their actions–your still heartbroken anyways.

I don’t want to spoil exactly what happens near the end, but when truths are revealed, I sobbed so much! Understanding the truth of their friendship and where it was headed hurt most of all.

Remy learns a lot over the course of this story about trauma and not only how it impacts someone’s life, but also what it can represent. Again I don’t want to give exact spoilers but throughout The Best Lies, Elise teaches Remy about trauma can make you stronger and if she’s survived thus far, she can make it through anything! Those were incredibly inspiring messages, but Remy (with Jack’s help) also learns that often time that pain is something to just something to accept, learn from, and move on! Both messages weave themselves perfectly into the story and develop at such pivotal points in the plot!

Lyu also includes an incredibly open authors note within the ARC which delves more into the themes explored throughout The Best Lies. I can’t put into words how admired I am of Lyu to include this message and how the themes hit close to home for her. The themes explored throughout this book feel just so real and you sense that through the complex main heroines of Remy and Elise!

Overall this debut just resonated with me in so many ways, I could sympathize so much with main characters, understand their hardships and connect with the story on such an introspective level. Although I’ve never personally experienced topics like these explored throughout the book, the deep exploration of friendship, its incredibly complex layers, and how people’s past (or trauma) just impacts them in many intricate ways is something that Lyu develops so so incredibly well!

The Best Lies is an utterly brilliant mystery thriller novel with a deeply layered, complex view on friendship, trauma, and so much more! Lyu’s debut explores so many themes, provides an introspective look at its main cast, and brilliantly unfolds the tale of an intricate friendship that turns to obsession! 

The Best Lies by Sarah Lyu comes out in July and its a fantastic debut, so definitely pick this book up!

The Universal Laws Of Marco by Carmen Rodrigues ARC Review

The Universal Laws Of Marco by Carmen RodriguesThe Universal Laws Of Marco by Carmen Rodrigues

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release Date: March 19, 2019

Pages: 432

Available Through The Book Depository: The Universal Laws Of Marco

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.
Reason 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.

*Requested ARC through the publisher*

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: The Universal Laws Of Marco is a YA Contemporary that follows Marco Suarez in his senior year of high school, who has everything planned out! But, he wasn’t expecting his best friend Sally to return so suddenly, after disappearing before freshman year! With this complicating the plan he’s set for himself, we also delve into the past to unravel what happened between Sally & Marco! Carmen Rodrigues crafts a character-driven and thought-provoking story you don’t want to miss!

Carmen Rodrigues’s The Universal Laws Of Marco is probably one of the most underhyped YA Contemporary books I’ve seen & read so far this year! If your looking for a contemporary story that’s real, moving, impactful, while also having a focus on friendship, love, & family, then this is the book to pick up! It’s really good!

Marco Suarez has everything planned his senior year, his scholarship is set for Wayne University in the fall, he’s working a job at a local supermarket with his best friend Diego & has a girlfriend, Erika!

But his life gets a bit more complicated when his first love & genius track star, Sally Blake returns suddenly, after leaving right before the start of 9th grade and never keeping in-touch.

So with Sally’s return, Marco still can’t ignore that first spark! Sally and Marco have been best friends since they were little and nothing kept them apart. Things change during summer before 8th Grade when Sally & Marco kiss. But throughout that last year of middle school, there are moments that cause Sally and Marco to drift apart, up until Sally leaves.

I know I mentioned this already, but this is easily one of the most underrated YA Contemporary releases I’ve read so far this year!! Its not just a story about reminiscing on first-love, its about change, growth, family, friendship, choices, life, and the moments in life that shape who we are.

Because I spent weeks reading The Universal Laws Of Marco, I couldn’t help but feel a little sad when I reached the end because I’d become so attached to the characters, connect with themes of the story, & overall just really fell in love with the book as a whole!

Rodrigues delivers such an immersive and especially character-driven story as we jump between Marco’s past/middle school years with Sally, up until her disappearance. Through this POV, we unravel that mystery as to what led Sally to leave not only Marco, but their entire friend group: Sookie, Jade, & Diego!

While in the present, we follow not only Marco’s school life, but also his family: mother, little brothers, and father, who hasn’t been quite himself since an accident that happened during Marco’s last year of middle school (which gets explored throughout the story).

Another mysterious plot point that gets unraveled throughout the story, was the injury that left Marco’s dad not entirely himself for the past few years. It was heart-breaking to read about and how it changed the Suarez family so much (also with Marco having to take up even more responsibility to help the family through financially tough times).

I loved that although the rest of the friend group was unsure whether to let Sally back in, Marco was still trying to reconnect with her even after they drifted apart. Though this novel is really Marco’s story, it’s also Sally’s story too! Because we learn so much about her through Marco’s eyes and how he was such an important part in her life, that when we see that Sally again, we notice that she really is still recovering from those years after she left and above all, just doesn’t want to be alone.

It broke my heart because, although Marco was with Erika, he obviously never forgot Sally, but was just so unsure of how to approach her again. He struggles throughout the story trying to reconnect with her because she too also feels guilty about leaving them behind and returning when so much has changed.

While Marco was with Erika, I felt both sad & happy for him at the same time! After learning Erika’s backstory and how she impacted Sally’s dynamic with Marco in the past, you also don’t feel upset with her either because she was there for Marco during his dad’s recovery. This was during a time when Marco was feeling lost and alone not only about his dad & how it impacted the family, but also with Sally no longer there.

The use of alternate past/present POV was so well done! I never felt lost jumping back between the two timelines and the way Rodrigues plotted them both out was brilliantly explored, because it kept me guessing as to what led Sally to leave, how Marco would try to reconnect with her again, and still remembering how close they used to be!

Although the summary puts a focus on the romance, that’s not really what this story is about! Its about so much more than that, I can’t really put it into words. There’s definitely an uncertainty if Sally and Marco will ever fully reconnect again and Rodrigues did such a phenomenal job at really leaving the reader guessing where their relationship would be headed.

There’s also such a big focus on friendship that you wouldn’t really know just based on the summary! Marco & Diego’s friendship is also one of the highlights of this book! It has its ups/downs, moments of humor, but it also explores trust, communication, and the support of friends that’s incredibly important during complicated moments in life! Its explored mainly through a sub-plot where Marco & Diego are unknowingly after the same job of manager, when Marco decides not to tell Diego out of fear it would ruin their friendship.

The writing itself is fantastic! I never once felt out of the story and was immediately brought back into the plot through Marco’s POV! With Marco’s love of physics, I also loved how terms/concepts really weaved  their way into the story to make it incredibly thought-provoking and realistic!

As for diversity, this novel centers around a Cuban-American family (Marco’s), Diego, Marco’s best friend whose Dominican, & Sookie another one of Marco’s friends, whose Korean, Jewish and adopted.

Overall, everything about this book from the writing, characters, character-development, themes, dynamics, and pacing made this book feel so incredibly real and relatable in ways I can’t really explain.

My only minor issue was that pacing was a bit slow in parts, but aside from that, this was a phenomenal YA Contemporary and I recommend everyone read it if their looking for a real and thought-provoking story!

The Universal Laws Of Marco is a remarkable YA Contemporary with so much depth and one deserves a lot more love! It explores a variety of themes from family to friendship, while also being a relatable contemporary story which stresses the moments in life and people within it, that change our lives! The Universal Laws Of Marco by Carmen Rodrigues is more than just contemporary romance and is a YA novel well worth reading!!