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

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

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Release Date: July 8, 2020

Pages: 336

Available Through The Book Depository: Girl Serpent Thorn

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

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

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

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

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

The Little Queen by Meia Geddes

The Little Queen by Meia Geddes

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

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

The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

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

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

Crier's War by Nina Varela

Crier’s War by Nina Varela

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

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

Shatter The Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells

Shatter The Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells

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

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

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

The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart

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

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

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

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

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

Each Of Us A Desert by Mark Oshiro

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

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

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

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

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

These Feathered Flames by Alexandra Overy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 4 by Kamome Shirahama {Manga Review}

Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 4 by Kamome ShirahamaWitch Hat Atelier Vol. 4 by Kamome Shirahama (Witch Hat Atelier #4)

Publisher: Kodansha Comics

Release Date: November 12, 2019

Pages: 192

Available Through The Book Depository: Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 4

Summary: The ruin of an ancient nation’s pride is stage for three apprentices to prove how deftly their concealment abides, for stealth and honor both a witch behoove. But Richeh bridles  at the test’s constraint, preferring magic of her own design, and Euini finds expectations faint, a student by his master oft maligned. In prying from despair a shadowed grace, now Euini has seized a slender hope, but triumph with creeping dread replaced as from the dark a fearsome evil gropes. Forbidden magic’s nightmares come afresh in shadow-shrouded horror freed from flesh.

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Witch Hat Atelier Volume 4 delves a little more into the world of the series! Agott, Richeh, and newcomer Euini attempt to complete their next trial, while Qifrey delves into a history lesson for Coco and Tetia. However, a mysterious force may be lingering to cause chaos on Cape Romonon! This fourth volume delves more into the mysterious Brimmed Caps, while also exploring prominent themes and messages!

Before getting into my review, I’d been thinking not too long ago how it’d been a while since I’d read this series and how much I’ve really missed it. No matter what I can always count on Shirahama’s whimsical, magical series to immerse me in a fun, witchy adventure that’s also filled with hope & wonder! Its comforting and feels like home! If you’ve read any of the other Witch Hat manga, has it felt that way for you? Definitely let me know in the comments! I think its just how the author is so brilliant at storytelling that even if it takes a darker turn, I’m always excited to be back with Coco, Qifrey, the other witches, and their latest adventure! ♥♥

As soon as this volume opened up with Agott talking about the Scalewolves (in a rather figurative way), I knew Vol. 4 would be one of the more symbolic and metaphorical books of the series!

As Agott examines one of the wolves scales, she says: “If they didn’t feel the need to form pairs, they could keep their armor on all the time.” That quote told me exactly what I needed to know about Agott. Though its pretty obvious each of the girls longs for deeper connections with their fellow atelier witches, this volume took the chance to delve more into the psyche of 2 witches in particular! Not only Agott, who comes from a prominent house but also Richeh, who has secrets of her own that we learn a bit more about in this volume!

As shown with the previous books, each one takes time to delve into a specific character’s journey and this time its Richeh. She’s a serious girl who can conjure crystal ribbons and longs to show she doesn’t need to copy/paste spells to prove her worth. She wants something she can call her own.

However, in order to show her the skills she’s potentially missing out on, Qifrey signs her up alongside Agott in the “Sincerity of the Shield” test, which takes place on the ocean side valleys of Cape Romonon, more specifically in the Serpentback Cave.

Led by senior witch and friend of Qifrey’s Alaria, she proctors Agott, Richeh and Euini’s test to safely lead myrphons through the serpent-shaped road towards the cliffs on the opposite side of the cape. However, the catch is they have to use special cloaks to disguise themselves as a myrphon to lead them to breeding grounds.

The world-building as with all previous volumes has been fantastic! With this one though, its definitely more specified to the location of the story which made it feel much more contained, but I enjoyed that! We learn about the history tied to the Serpentback cave, Myrphons which are penguin-like birds, and early in the volume I loved learning about the Scalewolves too!

Its very much a test of knowledge, skill and applying all of those things well under pressure.

That theme is very much explored through Euini! I’ll be honest, based on his design I thought he was going to be a more serious, no-nonsense kind of kid, I’m glad my theory was wrong! In reality he suffers from anxiety and struggles to find the confidence within himself, thus leading him to over plan and later collapse under pressure (this plot thread broke my heart, there were moments I related to his inner thoughts and felt for him).

His master, Kukrow, is very much an absentee type of mentor and never really supports Euini in the way that he should, even as he’s prepping to take his test for the third time. Their dynamic was surprising, but definitely added a different layer as it contrasted the more comforting witch & apprentice dynamic with Qifrey and the girls!

Back with Qifrey, he delves into the history of the Cavern Nation Of Romonon which soon fell under the weight of its ignorance. But the only thing that remained, was the serpent road. This was one of my favorite sections because although they mostly stay in 1 location for most of the volume, there’s so much detail and importance to the setting. You can sense the wind blowing through the cliffs, the expansiveness of the cave, and the emptiness of what’s been left behind.

With this volume in particular, I also loved how it highlighted the difference between Coco’s enthusiasm vs. Richeh, even Agott and their struggles to hold onto that child-like wonder again, its a nice juxtaposition that was more obvious in this book, but it was a nice plot thread!

Also, let me just say that you can really see their friendship starting to grow with Coco, especially Agott, she was phenomenal in this volume! When confronted with the Brimmed Cap, she doesn’t waste a second to defend Coco and back outside, Qifrey tells Coco that Agott’s held onto her spelled shoes that she made during one the earlier volumes! ❤

There were also such prominent themes to this volume such as learning from the past, but more especially from failure, even the struggles that come with doing that! That’s a message that I feel isn’t often explored much in fiction, but  Euini’s arc explored it in such an inspiring way!

Euini was so wonderful and I just want him to be a happy, anxiety-free apprentice after what he went through in this volume!

Shirahama explores anxiety and confidence subtly through this journey in the cave with the girls and I loved how Euini really grew throughout the exam (learning there’s more than 1 way to do things, never giving up, finding the confidence within yourself and avoiding that negative voice in your head). Also, his friendship/foil to Richeh was so wonderful and I can’t wait to see where its headed in future volumes!

The writing in volume 4 was easily one of the more symbolic and allegorical of the series so far, in my opinion! From Euini’s fate at the end, the history of the cave, even delving into Richeh & Agott’s inner thoughts. There were so many inspiring quotes I wrote down while reading this volume, it kind of brought me back to how I did the same thing during Volume 1. I also felt storytelling wise, it came full circle from beginning to end, making this a really self-contained volume like Vol. 3 and it was beautifully done!

The Brimmed Cap makes more of an appearance and there’s definitely more secrecy around who they actually are, but their desire to unleash more forbidden magic is getting very interesting! I need to know more!

Witch Hat Atelier has some phenomenal artwork and the paneling is presented in an even more dynamic way with this volume that showcases Shirahama’s brilliance with storytelling (especially through action scenes), there’s more horizontal panels that really show the scope and depth of the cave/cliff setting. There’s one particular full-page spread of the serpent cave (56-57) which really immerses you into the location. There’s detailed lines during the action scenes, so they really bring to life and capture the moments within the actions themselves. Also, its tough to explain but the way the paneling was presented in this volume really did the story justice–not one panel felt underused or out of place, Shirahama is brilliant when it comes to artwork.

Though I’ve rated all the past volumes 5 stars, I think Volume 4 for me personally felt a little slower than previous ones! However, I will say that this is such a plot/character-driven volume that never has a single dull moment! I think it just boils down to how I felt the story progressed for me personally…but I still loved it!

Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 4 is just as captivating as previous volumes and the ending will leave you wondering what’s next for our group of apprentices and Qifrey! Filled with action, beautiful character arcs, and important underlying themes, this volume does take on a slower pace, but its worth it as the phenomenal story continues to develop! Shirahama once again, will leave readers needing the next volume right away!

Warrior Of The Wild by Tricia Levenseller Review

Warrior Of The Wild by Tricia LevensellerWarrior Of The Wild by Tricia Levenseller

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Release Date: February 26, 2019

Pages: 329

Available Through The Book Depository: Warrior Of The Wild 

Cover Design: Nekro & Liz Dresner (Jacket Design)

Summary: How do you kill a god?

As her father’s chosen heir, eighteen-year-old Rasmira has trained her whole life to become a warrior and lead her village. But when her coming-of-age trial is sabotaged and she fails the test, her father banishes her to the monster-filled wilderness with an impossible quest: To win back her honor, she must kill the oppressive god who claims tribute from the villages each year—or die trying.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Warrior And The Wild is viking-inspired YA Fantasy filled with adventure, fun and witty banter, romance, and delivers a fast-paced story perfect if your looking for a standalone tale! Rasmira is sent to the Wild where she encounters monsters, meets new friends, and can only be redeemed by killing a god that causes mayhem across the villages!

Ever since I read Tricia’s debut Daughter of The Pirate King, she became a new favorite author! Her books are always such fun, unique, and immersive fantasy tales. They’re also so readable that you can get through them in just a couple sittings (like I did). I loved that because its been a while since I read a book within the span of a couple days and this is exactly the kind of read I needed!

I’m also looking forward to reading the recently released YA The Shadows Between Us because not only is it a Tricia Levenseller book, but there’s a mysterious Shadow King, royalty, and the main character Alessandra wants to take the kingdom for herself?! How epic does that sound?

So back to Warrior, you see a complete transformation from Rasmira as she goes on her  quest where it becomes a tale of survival, trust, friendship, and discovery in this viking-inspired world!

Rasmira Bendrauggo is next in line as leader of her village, Seravin! With her father being the master of the village, she’s trained most of her life to be one of the toughest axe-wielding warriors (being the youngest of 5 older sisters) and although the other guys in her training group are always quick to tease her, she’s grateful to have her friend Torrin.

However, when she’s set up and banished to the Wild during her ceremony, her only way to get back into her village and father’s good graces is to complete an impossible quest (Mattugr) by killing a god. More specifically, Peruxolo, a god filled with magic that demands goods/payment from villages each year.

She feels alone during her banishment, but is mostly filled with anger at being betrayed by those she thought cared about her (Torrin & her mother). She soon meets other banished warriors, Sorren & Iric, and the closer they become she realizes the only way for them all to get back home, is to work together. Though she’s eager to work things out herself, she learns how important it is to stick together through the dangerous Wild.

Sorren is honor-bound to stay with Iric which is why he’s put a hold on completing his own quest. Both boys have a deeper sense of loyalty and kindness that Rasmira isn’t used to, but she soon realizes that she can depend on them.

While Raz’s emotional/character arc is something we have seen before, its in the surrounding mysteries and unique world of the Wild that keeps things interesting!

As the story progresses, there’s lots of questioning as to what Mattugrs really do, whether they really can change a fallen warrior. Yet, the guys realize that along their own journeys they don’t feel all too different. So Raz takes that realization to heart and on her quest to return promises to change her village’s rules, even with the hopes of inspiring others to do the same. That left a lot of wondering as to where the villages are headed once the reader finally reaches the end!

The themes present in this book also wove in inspiring messages that added even more depth to Rasmira’s character, which were fun to explore! Her conflict of being both a good warrior and not disappointing her father, while also learning to respect her feminine side was a great message that was present throughout the entirety of the book (especially showcased through the romance and friendships she creates). She learns its okay to be emotional and although she was never given the chance to show it, she learns a newfound respect for it. Trust is also a big theme explored throughout Warrior as she learns to overcome her past hurt with Torrin as she becomes even closer with Soren!

Friendship was an even bigger theme present and in true Levenseller style, its filled with a lot of banter and humor (I know this book is meant to be serious at times, but I couldn’t help but read this book as a comedy because even Raz has a snarky internal voice you can’t ignore). The same goes for the romance! Tricia always builds a lot of layers and development to the romantic relationships and this one was so well done! I never felt that any of the relationships were rushed.

Learning more about Sorren and Iric’s pasts, how loyal and honor-bound they are to each other and it was a nice alternative to Raz’s hometown where she really didn’t have any friends to rely on anymore. Getting a glimpse into their village of Restin added more history/depth to the world too!

Iric is a skilled smith, while we also learn Sorren had changed for the better, when being banished to the Wild too. From goddesses, to all the different monsters like Ziken, hyggja, and other interesting details, it made the setting really come to life.

The world itself feels confined but it really allows for the unique atmosphere and tension to build. According to an interview from Curiositales Magazine April 2019 issue, here’s what Levenseller said about how she crafted the “hardened world” of the Wild and its surrounding villages:

“… the “animals they hunt […] have tough exoskeletons; even their fruit has these tough husks. The monsters that hunt them can only be killed with the heavy swing of an axe…”

The descriptions of the world delivery a dense forest setting, alongside the culture (from what I’m guessing) is inspired by Norse myth and language!

Its through the 1st person POV that allows for not only the atmosphere to shine through, but also the various emotional layers to the story as well! Rasmira tries to recover what she’s lost, but also learns there is so much more to be gained! It was a small detail, but I loved how Tricia added that because Raz begins questioning her world more and the rules its established. I admired her resiliency, even if she faced quite a bit of hurt. She not only learns what it takes to be a leader, but also the importance of friendship and trust.

Through her perspective you also feel a connection to the characters and that’s because of how emotionally-driven her character is! You really get to know her healer sister Irrenia, the main guys, even more about Peruxolo.

There’s lots of mystery that keeps you guessing, from coming up with plans to complete the quests, to learning more about Peruxolo and how he can be defeated! One of the most interesting mysteries was Peruxolo’s past, I had many theories and there was a lot of unique little pieces thrown at the reader as to how he got his powers to keep you guessing! I also liked how like elements of minerals and bit of geology was used in very interesting ways!

It feels like your just thrown into this world without much background, but the more you delve into Warrior, it develops as it goes along. The only issues that dropped my rating stem from the world building and how the plot/writing develop at points.

In the beginning, I was struggling to really grasp this world, but that’s also because viking-inspired stories aren’t really my thing. I felt we knew only the basics of the villages the more the story progressed, but the development of the Wild was really well done. There were moments in Rasmira’s POV (mainly in the beginning) that I felt could have been more descriptive and less direct to make certain layers of her journey detailed and immersive (maybe less obvious too b/c it was easy for me to pick up on certain story beats), but again the further I read it was just lot of fun. As for certain characters, I just wanted a bit more depth to them, like Raz’s other sisters. Her mother’s journey was an interesting one too, but again there were just characters introduced who I felt we only got to know through the surface level.

As for diversity, Iric is gay and its mentioned there was a m/m relationship between Iric and his boyfriend Aros from back home. Its reflected on and develops throughout the book.

Overall if your looking to enjoy a quickly-paced, fantasy story with a unique setting, engaging plot and witty banter to keep things interesting, I recommend this standalone!

Warrior Of The Wild is viking-inspired quest fantasy that follows warrior Rasmira and the journey she undergoes in becoming a more skilled leader for her people when she’s banished to the Wild! Filled with banter, unique viking-inspired setting, mystery, romance + banter, and a fast-paced story, Levenseller’s YA Fantasy wraps up very nicely!

Its been a while since I’ve done this, so for today’s post I’m also shouting out a fellow book blogger review 😍📚✨:

Review: Warrior And The Wild from Ellie at PrincessOfInk

We had a lot of similar thoughts on this book and you can sense her enthusiasm all throughout her 5-star review! I also love the nice list she added at the end to sum up what you can expect from Tricia’s book!

The Mystwick School Of Musicraft by Jessica Khoury ARC Review

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

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Release Date: January 21, 2020

Pages: 368

Available Through The Book Depository: The Mystwick School Of Musicraft

Cover Design: Federica Frenna

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

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

My Rating: ★★★★☆ 

*Received an unsolicited ARC from the publisher* 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shatter The Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells Review

Shatter The Sky by Rebecca Kim WellsShatter The Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells (Shatter The Sky #1)

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers

Release Date: July 30, 2019

Pages: 304

Available Through The Book Depository: Shatter The Sky

Cover Design/Illustration: Olivier Ponsonnet

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

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

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

My Rating:★★★★☆ 

My Thoughts: Shatter The Sky is a quiet, character-driven YA Fantasy! When Maren’s girlfriend is taken by prophets of the emperor, she goes on a quest to rescue her! Wells’ delivers a tale with intrigue, politics, dragon lore, adventure, and much more!

Shatter The Sky is one of those books I’d had on my TBR and knew it would be a perfect fantasy adventure, but I just wasn’t able to get to reading it in 2019. Luckily my #Quietreadthon inspired me to look at more backlist titles and I’m glad I was able to finally pick this up!

This book was a wild ride and it surprised me in a lot of ways, which for me is always a plus. All I knew going into it was that it featured a F/F relationship., Bi rep., dragons & a rescue! But that definitely worked in my favor, because I was left pretty much unsure as to all the rest of the details of the plot, which went in very unique directions (from my perspective). This is a YA Fantasy book that feels like it went under many people’s radars and needs a lot more love!

First in a duology, Shatter The Sky follows Maren and her girlfriend Kaia who live in the mountain nation of Ilvera which, along with many other small nations, is part of an ever-growing, corrupt Zefedi empire. This empire has taken control of the dragons to use for its own benefit, many of which used to live among the people of Ilvera many years ago!

Very early on, I felt I could really relate to Maren! She finds comfort in her quiet town and unlike Kaia, doesn’t feel too eager to explore what else lies beyond. Its that comfort and uncertainty that makes her a “Reluctant Hero” as Wells mentions in this Q&A from We Need Diverse Books:

“The reluctant hero is one of my favorite tropes…Something I really like about Maren is that even though she’s a homebody (a trait I borrowed from myself) and very hesitant to do anything to mess with the equilibrium of her life, she is determined to do what she feels is right…”

What made Maren such a fun protagonist to follow was not only that the book was told from her perspective, but through her eyes you sense a deep connection to the world she’s familiar with. This makes her discoveries about the world, unlocking a more confident side to herself, even development to the layers/different sides to the setting itself, feel lived in and expansive!

When prophetic seers of the emperor known as the Aurati visit Ilvera to offer prophetic advice and take another girl with them to be among their ranks, Maren is surprised and heartbroken to learn that Kaia’s been chosen. However, she wastes no time setting out on a journey to find her!

With her parents support, Maren sets out on her adventure which leads to a position at an Empire fortress, where they have dragons! Her plan is to essentially find a suitable dragon and use it to break into the Aurati’s fortress to get Kaia back.

But during her time there, she realizes she needs to fit in. A cousin of her father luckily has a job for her, food taster! This gets her noticed by Neve, who’s the lead Aromatory. From there, she learns more about what it takes to train a dragon through the use of oils and how they impact dragons in different ways.

Maren and her nation of Verran’s have a history that has rooted them dragons. So, throughout her journey she tries to better understand her Dragon Dreams that show her Kaia and the Aurati’s that have her. The dragon lore, much like the world-building in this novel as a whole, is presented in different ways that provide layers and new perspectives to the world as a whole through Maren as she continues on her journey.

Verran’s cultural ties to dragons, ways of the aromatory, dragons roles and positions under the Zefedi empire, the dragon guard known as Talons, even what it takes to care for a dragon are all explored throughout different moments of the story! It’s in Maren’s  personal narrative that she learns more about dragons as a whole and discovers a newfound appreciation for more beyond her personal quest!

As Maren works in the fortress she meets guards (Lilin & Sev) that help her better learn about the Zefedi empire and open her eyes to different parts of her world she never really understood, all while she’s trying to keep her plan under wraps! While I really loved this section of the book looking back (because I’m fascinated by politics in fantasy), it really did take up a big chunk of the story. It felt like the urgency of the conflict slowed down. But I will say there’s so much she learns during her time there that REALLY becomes important later on in the story.

Following Maren Vilna’s perspective allowed me to feel such a deeper connection to the world and the people she’s close to― I never felt distant to the world, Maren’s discoveries just made me feel even more connected to it because different sides are explored throughout the story! She never thought she’d have to know about her Empire in such a way (with talks of a rebellion & lost prince), but the journey she embarks on really changes her perspective. Another important piece to her as a character is her personal growth! She learns to value more than just her personal mission and realize her own potential as well!

Neve, Maren’s Aromatory mentor was my favorite character! Maybe it’s because I’m no longer a teen and just felt even more of a connection to her? I’m not sure, but you can tell there’s so much she knows not just about dragons and her role and what it means for the empire (which is permanent), but just life beyond the fortress and there’s a snark/jaded air to her that made her fun to learn about (I hope she makes a return in Storm The Earth).

There’s also Sev and Lilin who become Maren’s friends, much to her surprise! I loved their dynamic and also how Sev gets a bigger role in the story as it progresses! Sev is the one who opens Maren’s eyes to the treatment of dragons and how Maren can do more to change her perspective. He’s interested in Maren and can tell she’s hiding something, but either way their dynamic is great and I also loved his dynamic with Lilin!

Lilin is pretty much the opposite of Sev, where she doesn’t give much thought or question to her role as a Zefedi guard. I never realized that until I finished reading, but I loved how she reflected Sev and showed two different sides to those who work for the empire!

The cast was great! I felt they all really stood out no matter how little page time and I genuinely loved learning about each of them! Sev and Neve were 2 of my favorite characters!

Politics, intrigue and the development of the world (both setting & dragon lore) play a big part in the “Fortress” section of the book and really allowed me to get more immersed in the world little by little.

Next I wanted to discuss the representation throughout Shatter The Sky! Through the different cultures presented, you can really get an understanding as to how big and diverse this empire is! I’ve read and loved a lot of YA Fantasy, but I applaud this book for weaving in such a prominent inclusive representation in different ways: Within the Zefedi Empire we learn about its 5 nations, Ilvera (mountain nation), Oskiath (where Maren’s father was from before Ilvera), Seda Serat, & I think the other nation was Deletev (don’t quote me on that 😂).

Characters are described as having light & dark brown skin, women are in positions of power and there’s normalized Queer relationships & a character that uses “they/them” pronouns. This is a beautiful fantasy world that normalizes Queer rep. and showcases women across different roles in the empire, it was great to see those elements presented throughout the story!

Themes of family, loyalty, love, and strength of self are developed through Maren and her journey, which really come together as the story progresses (especially in regards to loyalty & self).

Next I wanted to discuss why I personally rated it 4 stars, but will I read the sequel? ABSOLUTELY! This world really grows on you and I felt such a connection to it and the main cast that I felt sad when I reached those last few pages! The ending leaves you feeling hopeful, but also scared for a particular character…won’t say who!

Though I absolutely love 1st person POVs, I felt that because we were in Maren’s head it did make the pacing feel slow (particularly in the Fortress sections) where there’s an urgency to her mission it really slows down. While I also got a great sense of the world by the end, I felt description wise there was a lot about the settings/different nations as a whole that could have been developed a bit more to differentiate them more in my mind.

Because this is an introduction to the world I felt there’s still more detail that could have been presented on through Maren’s perspective that tied in with the underlying politics, culture, and so on since she does quite a bit of traveling/journeying!

This is a quiet, slow, and unique fantasy that I recommend you try out! Trust me that the further you read and root yourself into the world, you’ll see how the plot threads get more interesting with each chapter!

The ending, especially with its characters, left me wanting more and I can’t wait to read Storm The Earth!

Shatter The Sky is character-driven, expansive YA Fantasy steeped in dragon lore, politics, diverse cultures, and a cast of fantastic characters! Rebecca Kim Wells’ debut is an underrated fantasy well worth your time!

Latinx YA Books Releasing In 2020!

Its a new year, which means new books! For one of my first 2020 bookish lists on the blog, I’ll be recommending Young Adult books releasing this year from Latinx authors 📚📚🎊

As always, the releases will be separated by category to make it easier to navigate! And if there’s any books I miss, I’ll leave additional links below!

There’s so many wonderful, incredible Latinx YA novels to look forward to this year and I hope this list will inspire you to check them out and add them to your TBRs! ✨📚

Contemporary

This Train Is Being Held by Ismée Williams1. This Train Is Being Held by Ismée Williams

Publisher: Amulet Books
Release Date: February 11, 2020

Summary: When private school student Isabelle Warren first meets Dominican-American Alex Rosario on the downtown 1 train, she remembers his green eyes and his gentlemanly behavior. He remembers her untroubled happiness, something he feels all rich kids must possess. That, and her long dancer legs.

Over the course of multiple subway encounters spanning the next three years, Isabelle learns of Alex’s struggle with his father, who is hell-bent on Alex being a contender for the major leagues, despite Alex’s desire to go to college and become a poet. Alex learns about Isabelle’s unstable mother, a woman with a prejudice against Latino men. But fate—and the 1 train—throw them together when Isabelle needs Alex most.

Salty Bitter Sweet by Mayra Cuevas2. Salty, Bitter, Sweet by Mayra Cuevas

Publisher: Blink YA Books
Release Date: March 3, 2020

Summary: Seventeen-year-old aspiring chef Isabella Fields’ family life has fallen apart after the death of her Cuban abuela and the divorce of her parents. She moves in with her dad and his new wife in France, where Isabella feels like an outsider in her father’s new life, studiously avoiding the awkward, “Why did you cheat on Mom?” conversation.

The upside of Isabella’s world being turned upside down? Her father’s house is located only 30 minutes away from the restaurant of world-famous Chef Pascal Grattard, who runs a prestigious and competitive international kitchen apprenticeship. The prize job at Chef Grattard’s renowned restaurant also represents a transformative opportunity for Isabella, who is desperate to get her life back in order.

But how can Isabella expect to hold it together when she’s at the bottom of her class at the apprenticeship, her new stepmom is pregnant, she misses her abuela dearly, and a mysterious new guy and his albino dog fall into her life?

A Breath Too Late by Rocky Callen3. A Breath Too Late by Rocky Callen

Publisher: Henry Holt & Co. BYR (Fierce Reads)
Release Date: April 28, 2020

Summary: Seventeen-year-old Ellie had no hope left. Yet the day after she dies by suicide, she finds herself in the midst of an out-of-body experience. She is a spectator, swaying between past and present, retracing the events that unfolded prior to her death.

But there are gaps in her memory, fractured pieces Ellie is desperate to re-assemble. There’s her mother, a songbird who wanted to break free from her oppressive cage. The boy made of brushstrokes and goofy smiles who brought color into a gray world. Her brooding father, with his sad puppy eyes and clenched fists. Told in epistolary-like style, this deeply moving novel sensitively examines the beautiful and terrible moments that make up a life and the possibilities that live in even the darkest of places.

Running by Natalia Sylvester4. Running by Natalia Sylvester

Publisher: Clarion Books (HMH Teen)
Release Date: May 5, 2020

Summary: When fifteen-year-old Cuban American Mariana Ruiz’s father runs for president, Mari starts to see him with new eyes. A novel about waking up and standing up, and what happens when you stop seeing your dad as your hero—while the whole country is watching.

In this thoughtful, authentic, humorous, and gorgeously written novel about privacy, waking up, and speaking up, Senator Anthony Ruiz is running for president. Throughout his successful political career he has always had his daughter’s vote, but a presidential campaign brings a whole new level of scrutiny to sheltered fifteen-year-old Mariana and the rest of her Cuban American family, from a 60 Minutes–style tour of their house to tabloids doctoring photos and inventing scandals. As tensions rise within the Ruiz family, Mari begins to learn about the details of her father’s political positions, and she realizes that her father is not the man she thought he was.

But how do you find your voice when everyone’s watching? When it means disagreeing with your father—publicly? What do you do when your dad stops being your hero? Will Mari get a chance to confront her father? If she does, will she have the courage to seize it?

Don't Ask Me Where I'm From by Jennifer De Leon5. Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From by Jennifer De Leon

Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books (Simon Teen/Riveted Lit)
Release Date: May 5, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

We Are Not From Here Jenny Torres Sanchez6. We Are Not From Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez

Publisher: Philomel Books (Penguin Teen)
Release Date: May 19, 2020

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

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

Home, Home by Lisa Allen-Agostini7. Home, Home by Lisa Allen-Agostini

Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: May 26, 2020

Summary: Moving from Trinidad to Canada wasn’t her idea. But after being hospitalized for depression, her mother sees it as the only option. Now, living with an estranged aunt she barely remembers and dealing with her “troubles” in a foreign country, she feels more lost than ever.

Everything in Canada is cold and confusing. No one says hello, no one walks anywhere, and bus trips are never-ending and loud. She just wants to be home home, in Trinidad, where her only friend is going to school and Sunday church service like she used to do.

But this new home also brings unexpected surprises: the chance at a family that loves unconditionally, the possibility of new friends, and the promise of a hopeful future. Though she doesn’t see it yet, Canada is a place where she can feel at home–if she can only find the courage to be honest with herself.

Dystopian & Sci-Fi

We Unleash The Merciless Storm by Tehlor Kay Mejia1.We Unleash The Merciless Storm by Tehlor Kay Mejia (We Set The Dark On Fire #2)

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (Epic Reads)
Release Date: February 25, 2020

Summary: Being a part of the resistance group La Voz is an act of devotion and desperation. On the other side of Medio’s border wall, the oppressed class fights for freedom and liberty, sacrificing what little they have to become defenders of the cause.

Carmen Santos is one of La Voz’s best soldiers, taken in when she was an orphaned child and trained to be a cunning spy. She spent years undercover at the Medio School for Girls, but now, with her identity exposed and the island on the brink of civil war, Carmen returns to the only real home she’s ever known: La Voz’s headquarters.

There she must reckon with her beloved leader, who is under the influence of an aggressive new recruit, and with the devastating news that her true love might be the target of an assassination plot. Will Carmen break with her community and save the girl who stole her heart—or fully embrace the ruthless rebel she was always meant to be?

The First 7 by Laura Pohl2. The First 7 by Laura Pohl (The Last 8 #2)

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: March 3, 2020

Summary: Clover Martinez and the Last Teenagers on Earth are busy exploring the galaxy after leaving earth behind…even if they are homesick. So when their ship receives a distress signal from their former home, they hope against hope that it means that there are other survivors. But as soon as they arrive, they realize something’s deeply wrong: strange crystal formations are taking over Earth’s soil and threatening to destroy the planet.

Seeking the origin of the formations, the group discovers a colony of survivors hidden in the mountains. Relief gives way to panic as the teenagers realize these survivors aren’t who they seem…and Clover and her friends might not be able to escape.

All These Monsters by Amy Tintera3. All These Monsters by Amy Tintera (Monsters #1)

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (HMH Teen)
Release Date: July 7, 2020

Summary: Seventeen-year-old Clara is ready to fight back. Fight back against her abusive father, fight back against the only life she’s ever known, and most of all, fight back against scrabs, the earth-dwelling monsters that are currently ravaging the world. So when an opportunity arises for Clara to join an international monster-fighting squad, she jumps at the chance.

When Clara starts training with her teammates, however, she realizes what fighting monsters really means: sore muscles, exhaustion, and worst of all, death. Scrabs are unpredictable, violent, and terrifying. But as Clara gains confidence in her battle skills, she starts to realize scrabs might not be the biggest evil. The true monsters are the ones you least expect.

Sia Martinez And The Moonlit Beginning Of Everything by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland4. Sia Martinez And The Moonlit Beginning Of Everything by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland

Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: August 4, 2020

Summary: It’s been three years since ICE raids and phone calls from Mexico and an ill-fated walk across the Sonoran. Three years since Sia Martinez’s mom disappeared. Sia wants to move on, but it’s hard in her tiny Arizona town where people refer to her mom’s deportation as “an unfortunate incident.”

Sia knows that her mom must be dead, but every new moon Sia drives into the desert and lights San Anthony and la Guadalupe candles to guide her mom home.

Then one night, under a million stars, Sia’s life and the world as we know it cracks wide open. Because a blue-lit spacecraft crashes in front of Sia’s car…and it’s carrying her mom, who’s very much alive.

As Sia races to save her mom from armed-quite-possibly-alien soldiers, she uncovers secrets as profound as they are dangerous in this stunning and inventive exploration of first love, family, immigration, and our vast, limitless universe.

Fantasy

Woven In Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez1. Woven In Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez

Publisher: Page Street Kids
Release Date: January 7, 2020

Summary: A lush tapestry of magic, romance, and revolución, drawing inspiration from Bolivian politics and history.

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

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

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

Infinity Son by Adam Silvera2. Infinity Son by Adam Silvera (Infinity Cycle #1)

Publisher: Harper Teen (Epic Reads)
Release Date: January 14, 2020

Summary: Growing up in New York, brothers Emil and Brighton always idolized the Spell Walkers—a vigilante group sworn to rid the world of specters. While the Spell Walkers and other celestials are born with powers, specters take them, violently stealing the essence of endangered magical creatures.

Brighton wishes he had a power so he could join the fray. Emil just wants the fighting to stop. The cycle of violence has taken a toll, making it harder for anyone with a power to live peacefully and openly. In this climate of fear, a gang of specters has been growing bolder by the day.

Then, in a brawl after a protest, Emil manifests a power of his own—one that puts him right at the heart of the conflict and sets him up to be the heroic Spell Walker Brighton always wanted to be.

Brotherhood, love, and loyalty will be put to the test, and no one will escape the fight unscathed. 

Diamond City by Francesca Flores

3. Diamond City by Francesca Flores (Diamond City #1)

Publisher: Wednesday Books
Release Date: January 28, 2020

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

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

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

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

Incendiary by Zoraida Córdova4. Incendiary by Zoraida Córdova (Hollow Crown #1)

Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Release Date: April 28, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

Lobizona by Romina Garber5. Lobizona by Romina Garber (Wolves Of No World #1)

Publisher: Wednesday Books
Release Date: May 5, 2020

Summary: Some people ARE illegal.

Lobizonas do NOT exist.

Both of these statements are false.

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

Until Manu’s protective bubble is shattered.

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

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

Bright Raven Skies by Kristina Perez6. Bright Raven Skies by Kristina Perez (Sweet Black Waves #3)

Publisher: Imprint (Fierce Reads)
Release Date: August 25, 2020

Summary: To save the kingdom, Branwen embraced the darkest aspects of her magic. But she may have lost herself––and the two people she loves most.

Tristan and Eseult are missing. As Branwen searches for them, she must hide the truth surrounding their disappearance from both the king and her lover. Above all, she must find the Queen and her Champion first.

New and old enemies circle Branwen, clamoring for power and revenge, and threatening to destroy the fragile peace that she has sacrificed everything to secure.

Magical Realism

Dark And Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore1. Dark And Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore 

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release Date: January 14, 2020

Summary: Summer, 1518. A strange sickness sweeps through Strasbourg: women dance in the streets, some until they fall down dead. As rumors of witchcraft spread, suspicion turns toward Lavinia and her family, and Lavinia may have to do the unimaginable to save herself and everyone she loves.

Five centuries later, a pair of red shoes seal to Rosella Oliva’s feet, making her dance uncontrollably. They draw her toward a boy who knows the dancing fever’s history better than anyone: Emil, whose family was blamed for the fever five hundred years ago. But there’s more to what happened in 1518 than even Emil knows, and discovering the truth may decide whether Rosella survives the red shoes.

Tigers, Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry2. Tigers, Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Release Date: March 24, 2020

Summary: The Torres sisters dream of escape. Escape from their needy and despotic widowed father, and from their San Antonio neighborhood, full of old San Antonio families and all the traditions and expectations that go along with them. In the summer after her senior year of high school, Ana, the oldest sister, falls to her death from her bedroom window.

A year later, her three younger sisters, Jessica, Iridian, and Rosa, are still consumed by grief and haunted by their sister’s memory. Their dream of leaving Southtown now seems out of reach. But then strange things start happening around the house: mysterious laughter, mysterious shadows, mysterious writing on the walls. The sisters begin to wonder if Ana really is haunting them, trying to send them a message—and what exactly she’s trying to say.

Mystery/Thriller

Category Five by Ann Dávila Cardinal1. Category Five by Ann Dávila Cardinal

Publisher: Tor Teen
Release Date: June 2, 2020

Summary: Category Five is a new supernatural thriller from Ann Dávila Cardinal, set against the backdrop of a post-hurricane Puerto Rico.

After the hurricane, some see destruction and some smell blood.

The tiny island of Vieques, located just off the northeastern coast of the main island of Puerto Rico, is trying to recover after hurricane Maria, but the already battered island is now half empty. To make matter worse, as on the main island, developers have come in to buy up the land at a fraction of its worth, taking advantage of the island when it is down.

Lupe, Javier, and Marisol are back to investigate a series of murders that follow in the wake of a hurricane and in the shadow of a new supernatural threat. 

Paranormal Fantasy

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas1. Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

Publisher: Swoon Reads
Release Date: June 9, 2020

Summary: A trans boy determined to prove his gender to his conservative Latinx family summons a ghost who refuses to leave in Aiden Thomas’s paranormal YA debut.

Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.

When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his true gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.

However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie off some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.

Poetry

With a Star in My Hand Ruben Dario, Poetry Hero by Margarita Engle1. With a Star in My Hand: Rubén Darío, Poetry Hero by Margarita Engle

Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Simon Teen)
Release Date: February 18, 2020

Summary: From acclaimed author Margarita Engle comes a gorgeous new novel in verse about Rubén Darío, the Nicaraguan poet and folk hero who initiated the literary movement of Modernismo.

As a little boy, Rubén Darío loved to listen to his great uncle, a man who told tall tales in a booming, larger-than-life voice. Rubén quickly learned the magic of storytelling, and discovered the rapture and beauty of verse.

A restless and romantic soul, Rubén traveled across Central and South America seeking adventure and connection. As he discovered new places and new loves, he wrote poems to express his wild storm of feelings. But the traditional forms felt too restrictive. He began to improvise his own poetic forms so he could capture the entire world in his words. At the age of twenty-one, he published his first book Azul, which heralded a vibrant new literary movement called Modernismo that blended poetry and prose into something magical.

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo2. Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Publisher: May 5, 2020
Release Date: Harper Teen (Epic Reads)

Summary: Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…

In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.

Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered.

And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.

Urban Fantasy

Shadowshaper Legacy by Daniel José Older1. Shadowshaper Legacy by Daniel José Older (Shadowshaper #3)

Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: January 7, 2020

Summary: A house divided

Sierra and the shadowshapers have been split apart. Juan, Anthony, and Izzy are in jail, anxiously waiting to find out what will become of them. Back in Brooklyn, the other shadowshapers have been getting threatening messages from whisper wraiths, catching strangely shaped figures stalking them, and fending off random spirits. A war is brewing among the houses, and the very magic of the shadowshapers is at stake.

The fate of the worlds

Sierra is determined to protect her own in the coming conflict, even if that means keeping secrets from them. But a deal with Death by one of Sierra’s ancestors has far-reaching consequences in the battles of the present, and as old fates tangle with new powers, Sierra will have to harness the Deck of Worlds and confront her family’s past if she has any hope of saving the future and everyone she loves. Only doing so will mean following the magic to places the shadowshapers have never gone before . . . and may never return from.

Seven Deadly Shadows by Courtney Alameda and Valynne E. Maetani2. Seven Deadly Shadows by Courtney Alameda & Valynne E. Maetani

Publisher: Harper Teen (EpicReads)
Release Date:
January 28, 2020

Summary: Seventeen-year-old Kira Fujikawa has never had it easy. She’s bullied by the popular girls in school. Her family ignores her. And she’s also plagued with a secret: She can see yokai, the ghosts and demons that haunt the streets of Japan. But things accelerate from bad to worse when she learns that Shuten-doji, the demon king, will rise at the next blood moon to hunt down an ancient relic and bring the world to a catastrophic end.

Not exactly skilled at fighting anything, much less the dead, Kira enlists the aid of seven powerful death gods to help her slay Shuten-doji. They include Shiro, a kitsune with boy-band looks who is more flirtatious than helpful, and O-bei, a regal demon courtesan with covert reasons of her own for getting involved.

As the confrontation with Shuten-doji draws nearer by the day, the fate of Japan hangs in the balance. Can Kira save humankind? Or will the demon king succeed in bringing eternal darkness upon the world.

Wayward Witch by Zoraida Córdova3. Wayward Witch by Zoraida Córdova (Brooklyn Brujas #3)

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: August 1, 2020

Summary: Rose Mortiz has always been a fixer, but lately she’s been feeling lost. She has brand-new powers she doesn’t understand, and her family is still trying to figure out how to function in the wake of her amnesiac father’s return home. Then, on the night of her Deathday party, Rose discovers her father’s memory loss has been a lie.

As she rushes to his side, the two are ambushed and pulled through a portal to the land of Adas, a fairy realm hidden in the Caribbean Sea. There, Rose is forced to work with a group of others to save Adas. Soon, she begins to discover the scope of her powers, the troubling truth about her father’s past, and the sacrifices he made to save her sisters.

But if Rose wants to return home so she can repair her broken family, she must figure out how to heal Adas first.

Here’s additional links if your looking for more Latinx Books to add to your To-Read List:

Latinxs In Kid Lit: 2020 Titles By/For/About Latinx!!

Las Musas: Young Adult 2020

I also recommend checking out the wonderful Adriana from @BoricuaReads!!

Which Latinx YA books are you looking forward to?📚🎉✨

2019 Book Blog Wrap-Up

Hey, 24hr.YABookBlog here (~˘▾˘)~ 💞✨📚 It feels like 2019 just started and now can you believe we’re going into 2020?

In today’s blog post I’m wrapping up 2019, which includes sharing my favorite blog posts, highlighting specific accomplishments, and reflecting on my 2019 book blogging year as a whole! I’m also currently drafting my list of top reads of the year, so keep an eye out for that in 2020!

I just want to start by saying that in 2020, it’ll mark my 5 YEARS as a book blogger! I’m incredibly grateful to the wonderful bookish friends I’ve made both on/offline and just–thank you so much to each and every one of you for checking out 24hr.YABookBlog, it really means a lot to me! 💖💖

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani ChokshiFirstly, in 2019 one of my first 5-star reads was The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi! From the phenomenal world-building, intricate plot/backstories, dazzling writing to following the AMAZING crew of Séverin, Hypnos, Enrique, Zofia, Laila & Tristan (I literally adopted all of them from pg. 1 & want to protect this crew no matter what)– My expectations were extremely high for Chokshi’s newest series and I’m happy to say that at every turn this book continued to go above and beyond!

This was one of my favorite books of the year and I’m SO excited to see what happens in The Silvered Serpents (though I’m heartbroken that the wait for this sequel is well into September 2020 😭).

As I was reading TGW, I really enjoyed annotating my favorite quotes/moments that I felt inspired to create my first Reading Diary. This post was a lot of fun because it was nice to look back and see my initial thoughts as I read. It also felt very personal and I liked the fact that I had a place to record all my thoughts/emotions while reading and be able to share it with all of you!

2019 was a year of new features on my blog and I loved creating every single one of them: 

↠  Bookish Theories: Us avid readers always have new books to look forward to & I felt inspired to create this post because I always have theories or ideas of the direction my most anticipated books will take before their released! I had a lot of fun theorizing King Of Scars and I’m planning on finally reading it in 2020!

Book Blogger RecommendationsI’ve made a lot of wonderful blogger friends and in 2019 I wanted to highlight books they were looking forward to and inspire other bloggers to check out their content! With this feature, it was a lot of fun to see why they were excited about these upcoming releases!

Bookish Buzz: Life can get busy and its difficult to always talk about the newest releases I’m looking forward to with reviews, other posts, etc.! I’ve had SO much fun with this feature because I get to share a list of tons of upcoming books and get them on people’s radars!

Fictional Faves: As an aspiring YA writer, one of my favorite parts of the creation process has always revolved around my characters! So, I was inspired to create this fun post where I share what fictional characters would love/enjoy from our world! I DEFINITELY want to continue this feature in 2020!

In 2020, definitely expect more of these features on the blog! I’ve had so much fun creating each of these and I hope you’ll check them out in the new year! 🎉📚

joyce-mccown-791673-unsplash booksI also became a Book Of The Month YA Affiliate! This was such a complete surprise to me and I’ve had a lot of fun promoting the box! There’s also a fun giveaway planned for Holly Black’s The Queen Of Nothing (my December 2019 pick!).

I was also part of a couple of fun blog tours!

2019 was also the year I posted less wrap-ups! It was something I’d actually been considering for a while and now I’ll be sticking to seasonal wrap-ups when I have time. They honestly just took up a lot of time for me this past year and I feel its taken away more stress than I initially thought! 💖

In 2019 I also created a Library Pre-Order Campaigns page and a blog post to go along with it! I’m planning to keep this updated in 2020 too! 📚📚✨

There were also tons of fantastic debuts in 2019 and I’m so happy for the amazing opportunities I had to interview some wonderful authors:

🐅⚔ Swati Teerdhala for The Tiger At Midnight

💡🎙Lauren Shippen for The Infinite Noise (based on her sci-fi audio drama podcast, The Bright Sessions)

🌙✨ Isabel Ibañez for Woven In Moonlight (coming in Jan. 2020) ↠ I’m currently reading this and if your looking for a character-driven, political YA Fantasy pick up Isabel’s book! Its also an #OwnVoices Latinx (Bolivian) YA!

I’ve also been getting back into comics and if you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably seen occasional tweets about my latest obsession: SERA AND THE ROYAL STARS!! It’s a female-led, epic fantasy adventure comic where a princess goes on a journey to help her country during their civil war! I highly recommend checking out this comic 💫🏹

During Summer 2019 I also launched The Booked Shelf, a YA Book news site! I feel there’s a lot of book news that goes under the radar, so in 2020 I hope to continue keeping this site active!

2019 was also the year for more discussions on my blog and I’ve been incredibly proud of them! In 2020 I really hope to share even more bookish discussions and spark more conversation! To highlight here are some of my favorites:

How The Book Internet Is Influencing Our Reading: In this discussion I share stats on how online bookish communities are influencing the market and explore the idea that the bookish internet determines what we read!

Animation And Its Potential To Break The Mold Of YA Adaptations: Exploring the beauty of animation, I discuss why there’s so much potential for YA Books to be adapted into animated features!

YA Book Comparisons + Discussing #OwnVoices & Diverse BooksIn this discussion I explore something I’ve noticed when it comes to book comparisons between authors of color & white authors (even how it influences peoples ratings). This is only one side of a pretty large discussion, but I had such a fun time delving into this topic and am glad so many agreed!

I don’t always talk about the latest entertainment news outside of books, but I really want to make more of an effort to do so in 2020 (even find ways to incorporate it into the blog)! So during August of 2019, I had a lot of fun sharing a bookish list inspired by the D23 announcement of a new Disney+ show in the works for Ms.Marvel!

Now here’s some 2019 Book Blog/Bookish Stats:

# Of Books Read In 2019: 54

Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 3 by Kamome ShirahamaLast book read (as of Dec. 31): Witch Hat Atelier Volume 3 ↠ This is a beautifully illustrated manga series that follows Coco, a young girl who dreams of becoming a witch! But, it can only be discovered by select few! Soon, she’s given a chance to learn what it takes to be a witch, with her instructor Qifrey! The art evokes the style of old fairy tales, the world-building, storytelling, artwork, and characters are all phenomenal! I highly recommend this manga series, its not only magical, but captivating!

Based on my 2019 Reading Goals + 2018 Wrap-Up & 2019 Book Goals posts, here are some of the goals I accomplished:

  • Goodreads Goal of 20 Books
  • Expand on blog features: I felt inspired this year to create a lot of new ones and I had tons of fun with them
  • 2019 Bullet Journal: Though I didn’t keep up with it throughout 2019, there was definitely a lot of inspiration that’s kept me motivated to complete a good number of pages & even keep up with it in 2020!
  • Read/Review More Manga: I started 4 new series and continued with 4 series! I’ve really been getting back into manga this year and I have a lot of series on my to-read list for 2020!
  • Continue reading diversely: As the years go by, I really want to continue prioritizing reading books by authors of color & #OwnVoices! Out of the 54 books I read in 2019, 41 books were #OwnVoices (so 75%) and 72% of the books I read were by authors of color!

I’m incredibly happy with over 75% of my ‘Read’ books in 2019 having been from #OwnVoices authors, authors of color, or having inclusive representation in some way! 😍💜

I’m proud of what I accomplished in 2019 and in 2020 I want to continue not only reading but actively promoting inclusive books as much as I can! 💞📚

  • Keep up with Bookstagram: I managed to post over 52X’s in 2019 and I’m definitely in a much happier place with Bookstagram! Though I still have some gripes with it, I really want to continue posting more actively in 2020! 
  • Change my book review style: Over the past few years I’d been wanting to bring more depth to my reviews and this is a goal I’m VERY happy to have accomplished this year! My goal is to continue making my reviews more personal and tackle more layers to every book I read! One review that I’m really proud of that explored this was Sorcery Of Thorns!
  • Be more social on Twitter: Twitter is probably one of the 1st places I go to (besides my blog) to have more conversation! I’m pretty shy, but I feel that this year I definitely made more strides to be social on the platform: I made so many new blogger friends and I hope in 2020 to bring more conversation and just promote more books!

Now here are some goals that I didn’t anticipate at the start of 2019, but accomplished them throughout the year:

  • Read Non-Fiction: I read 3 books that could count as nonfiction titles and I’m glad I branched out to this genre!  I don’t reach for or read nonfiction all too often, but I’ve added more to my TBR this year and hope to explore the genre more in 2020!
  • Track my library check-outs: I‘ve utilized my library each and every year, but this year I started a library tracker list in my bullet journal to see how many of my ‘Read’ books in 2019 were titles I’ve borrowed. I also created a separate list to track how much money I saved from checking out at the library! In 2020, its my goal to save even more money as a book blogger and I want to start a list ASAP at the start of the new year!
  • Creating new content: Though I didn’t post as much as previous years, I’ve been very happy with the discussions, blogs, and posts that I’ve created in 2019! There was definitely a creative fulfillment that I felt and that energy is something I want to take in 2020!
  • Starting a Readathon: Earlier this month, I shared the info for my first readathon in 2020! It was something that I never expected to have created, but I hope you’ll be able to join me in the #QuietReadathon! This readathon is to inspire more conversation and prioritizing of the quiet/underrated books on our TBRs!

And those were just some of the highlights of my blog in 2019! Thanks so much to everyone for making 2019 an unforgettable year! 😄📚🎉✨

What were some of your 2019 Bookish or Blog accomplishments? Lets discuss!! 😍💞📚💫

Skip by Molly Mendoza Review {Graphic Novel}

Skip by Molly MendozaSkip by Molly Mendoza

Publisher: Nobrow Ltd.

Release Date: July 23, 2019

Pages: 168

Available Through The Book Depository: SKIP

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. 

My Rating: ★★★★★

My Thoughts: Skip is an absolute gem and a graphic novel that should be on your to-read list! The art is enchanting, a captivating rainbow of color!  Its a deeply moving tale about 2 unlikely friends whose dimensions cross and now they must travel across countless dimensions to find their way home! Skip by Molly Mendoza is an absolute masterpiece!

I’d had this beautiful graphic novel on my TBR for months, ever since I first discovered it through LatinxInPublishing during its release day! I hadn’t yet read a graphic novel by a Latina illustrator/author and I’m absolutely thrilled that SKIP was the first!

In this mysterious, postapocalyptic world the journey starts with Bloom, a young kid who lives with their guardian Bee! The two always head out to lake to go fishing and go about their daily lives peacefully, however Bloom can’t help but be curious about the cities on the other side of the lake.

Through stunning art and beautifully crafted writing, you get instantly transported to a world that is wholly familiar, yet still unrecognizable.

The society (across the lake) seems to be teeming with tech-hounds, there’s even innocent people being chased by these technologically advanced creatures, and all other forms of communication (aside from radio) seems to have vanished.

Bee decides they’ll investigate and leaves Bloom in charge of looking after the lake. However, Bee leaves an important treasure for Bloom: a black stone necklace.

Bloom tends to things as best as possible, but there’s an emptiness where Bee’s presence should be. As Bloom skips some stones across the lake, they uncover a swirl of color that’s actually a portal–taking them to another dimension!

On this other side we meet Gloopy and their world seems to filled with unique creatures inspired by nature. Their the oddball in their world and no matter how they try, their creative spirit just doesn’t gel with other friends and townsfolk. This quickly leads to Gloopy messing some things up for The Great Harvest. As Gloopy tries to make time to reflect, Bloom appears in a field within Gloopy’s world.

The two investigate as to how Bloom got there and find themselves quickly sucked into a vibrant world of color, which leads across hundreds, possibly thousands of dimensions!

Friendship is an important layer to this story not only as Bloom & Gloopy learn more about each other, but also how it tests their connection to one another as they try to find their way back home. Gloopy is the optimistic and curious one of the group and I loved seeing their dynamic with Bloom change and grow throughout the novel! Their friendship is the sweetest ❤❤

There’s such a beauty in the portrayal of emotion from fear to sadness, joy, melancholy and through Mendoza’s surrealist-style art, its given such attention and gravity to the story! Its really brought into focus and as the plot progresses you see that its such an intrinsic part to our characters journey and the world itself.

There’s an important symbol of mirrors and reflection throughout this novel and it beautifully captures that journey through the emotional depth and story of our main characters, including those they meet. 2 sections highlighted that reflection very well, their introductions and later towards the end (If you’ve read it you know what I mean) 😭💖

What comes through in the art from very first page at Bloom & Bee’s lake (& in Gloopy’s nature-filled world) is a distinct sense of place and such a feeling of realness from the gusts of wind to a splash of water in a lake!

The art continues to capture you with each and every panel. It delivers weight, emotion, and perception, which you can see beautifully through the pauses and details, mainly through the hands and eyes.

Another brilliant element to the art that I only noticed upon writing my review, was the variety of colors used when we’re first introduced to our main characters, to later the distinct color palette we’re guided along as Bloom & Gloopy travel throughout the dimensions.

One that really stuck out to me was this distinct blue world that had a technological side to it and used a pastel, dark blue & green color palette. This world really focused on Gloopy’s internal reflection and the development was explored beautifully through the colors.

Each world though they may seem disconnected due to the distinct creativity of each, there’s a common thread that links them all. Its the tools they offer to Bloom & Gloopy to continue with the challenges they face ahead. Another important element is how they both manage to shape and inspire those they run into in each dimension.

“I have been so lonely…so afraid. I would have never left the tower if not for you…” (96).

I also wanted to mention the representation within this novel! There’s brown-skinned main characters, 3 characters (our main characters included) use They/Them pronouns: Bloom, Bee & Gloopy! Also, this was just from my personal interpretation, but I personally read the human characters to be Latinx as well!

Skip is not just a story of emotion and reflection, its also exploring what it means to find or reach home!

I could gush about this graphic novel all day! So, if my review hasn’t convinced you yet, then let me just say PLEASE read this gem! Its beautiful, heartwarming, moving and just captivated me in so many ways! If you love emotionally-driven and impactful storytelling, surrealist + vibrant art, and a journey of friendship this should be on your to-read list!

Skip is a captivating graphic novel! Beautiful in every way from its storytelling, art, characters, their journeys, and underlying themes, this is a wonderful tale not to miss! This fantastical story is a journey unlike any other, its emotionally-driven, deeply moving and enchanting! Molly Mendoza’s Skip is not a graphic novel you want to pass by!

Crier’s War by Nina Varela Review

Crier's War by Nina VarelaCrier’s War by Nina Varela (Crier’s War #1)

Publisher: Harper Teen

Release Date: October 1, 2019

Pages: 434

Available Through The Book Depository: Crier’s War

Summary: After the War of Kinds ravaged the kingdom of Rabu, the Automae, designed to be the playthings of royals, usurped their owners’ estates and bent the human race to their will.

Now Ayla, a human servant rising in the ranks at the House of the Sovereign, dreams of avenging her family’s death…by killing the sovereign’s daughter, Lady Crier.

Crier was Made to be beautiful, flawless, and to carry on her father’s legacy. But that was before her betrothal to the enigmatic Scyre Kinok, before she discovered her father isn’t the benevolent king she once admired, and most importantly, before she met Ayla.

Now, with growing human unrest across the land, pressures from a foreign queen, and an evil new leader on the rise, Crier and Ayla find there may be only one path to love: war.

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Crier’s War is a deftly woven political fantasy, featuring stellar world building, romance, poetic writing, and a brilliantly crafted plot that will keep you hooked! 

I just finished this book over the weekend and I’m not sure how my review can do this incredible book justice! Ayla & Crier were AMAZING characters, I loved them both so much and my heart burst with joy and sadness throughout their POVs! This book swept me away from the very first page and I’m incredibly excited to see what adventures lay ahead for our protagonists in the sequel, Iron Heart!

Even well before the start of the novel, from the epigraph: “For the queer readers. You deserve every adventure” you can sense the heart and soul Varela poured into this gem of a story! The compact timeline introduced from the very first page lays the groundwork for an epic adventure, the complex dynamic and history between humans and Automae in the lands of Zulla!

Crafted by a specific Maker, the Automae soon began to rebel against their owners and quickly became in charge, turning the tides of society. Now essentially starting from scratch, the Automae rule over humans (who are now servants) and some of the monarchs even take pride in still finding the fascination in human culture they’ve oppressed.

Crier is the current heir, an Autmoae who is brilliant and politically savvy, eager to prove it to her father, the current king, Hessod. However, she’s also set to be married to Scyre Kinok, the cunning war hero who may also have secrets of his own. Yet, when she learns early on that there’s something within her that makes her Flawed, she realizes she is still not fully free herself.

Ayla has one thing on her mind…revenge! For her family that was killed, for the future that was taken away from her, and for those she’s sworn to defend. As part of a rebellion group, she finds she’s given the opportunity to make strides in their uprising for freedom when she becomes handmaiden to Lady Crier, the current heir to the Kingdom of Rabu!

She isn’t entirely alone however, she sticks by one of her best friends Benjy and Rowan a “bird of prey” who is one of the leaders in a group of human rebels who are gearing to take down the Automae and give themselves a fighting chance at a new life.

The story is tightly-plotted with a lot of intrigue, mystery, and continuously builds on story threads that showcase their importance to the world and narrative!

Both Ayla and Crier are placed in positions where the secrets they carry are vital to their futures, requiring them to keep a close eye on each other and the figures around them as well. It’s in the underlying language that we see: both girls are working to stay one step ahead and know that even the smallest slip, could mean their downfall.

The 3rd-person / dual perspective allows for insight not only into the different sides of Zullan society (both human & Automae alike), but it also connects the plot in such a seamless way where your always left surprised by what will happen next.

The other main characters from Benjy to Kinok, rebels, royalty, etc. you feel their weight and impact to the story, even from secondary characters in such a way where the political unrest brings all these different voices to the forefront in some way.

Crier’s War doesn’t shy away from the impact and ferocity of emotion that courses its way through different layers of the story: from its characters to world, the politics, and the inner journey of our main protagonists!

Ayla, her anger and rage bled through each page and you could feel it through her words, actions, and internal thoughts! All she wants is to avenge those she’s lost (mother, father, & twin brother Storme) and create a better life for people. That can only be achieved by getting rid of the Automae, starting with Crier.

I can’t put into words how much I loved following her & Crier’s journeys! They were layered with depth, growth, hurt, and healing, which became such central and emotional themes of the book!

In the world of Crier’s War, though its setting is entirely new and unique, the way Varela develops the different villages, the intricate political relations, and the layers to society feel incredibly real as if they could very well exist in our own world.

What I also loved delving into, when it comes to Automae was their own history and influence in society, their reach goes to practically every sphere of this world! Another intriguing element to the Automae themselves is how their Designed, Made, and the influence the 4 Pillars has on how it makes them who they are (Reason, Calculation, Organic, & Intellect). Again this also ties in with the world building itself, but I loved all the little details that were described really brought the setting to life!

One of my favorite parts of this world (as with any other sci-fi/fantasy) was the politics! I studied this in college and I find it utterly fascinating and I can’t count how many moments I stopped reading to take notes on it.

From Scyre Kinok’s hidden agenda for acquiring power not only within the kingdom, being a former protector of the Iron Heart, to his part within the elite guard to advance Automae, and vying for power in the Red Council (which he continues to do successfully).

Kinok was easily one of my favorite antagonistic characters in this book because, from the very beginning we know he has worked to acquire power for himself, yet we still don’t know to what extent. He was fascinating to learn about because even as we learn more about him and his mysterious motives, the way he presents himself vs. what he keeps hidden are completely different things! This allows us as readers to constantly feel unsettled by him but also fascinated by his cleverness.

Additionally, its through the heriarchy of the characters themselves and their words, Crier with Kinok, Crier with her father Hessod, Ayla with Crier, and so on!

A favorite scene of mine involved Kinok and Crier dancing and to me, I felt this scene reflected the impact their reputations have on the status which they can successfully attain in the kingdom! It was beautifully written and impacted me in ways that had me enthralled by their dynamic!

Varela’s writing is incredibly thought-provoking and she brilliantly captured the political tone and intrigue that’s teeming on the edge of revolution! Her writing just connected with me on such a deep level, it felt philosophical. As we learn about this entirely new world the words are presented in a beautifully composed and scholarly way (Like I’m not entirely sure this makes sense, but the writing kept me thinking and I felt I was learning so much? About politics, the depth of dominating emotion, etc…)

Her writing above all was beautiful, captivating, and elegant!

When it comes to the romance, its slow-burn and again, elegantly written! As you read Crier & Ayla’s beautiful descriptions of one another, your heart feels the depth of emotion where you can truly understand them on a deep, internal level.

My only minor critique is that because SO many people were emphasizing the f/f romance, I was personally expecting more just a bit more exploration to their dynamic throughout the book! But, I can tell Book 2 will delve more into that. Also, more Kinok! He was such a fantastic antagonist and I just wanted more pages from him, as I mentioned above there’s just so many layers to his agenda and I couldn’t help but be intrigued as to how he would make things more complicated for Ayla and Crier!

Crier’s War is a beautifully crafted debut that explores politics, intrigue, tackles philosophical questions on what it means to be human and what does one fight for? Against an expansive backdrop of a world led by alchemical magick and dangerous AI royalty! This is another stellar debut and its a must read for 2019!!

Realm Of Ash by Tasha Suri Review

Realm Of Ash by Tasha SuriRealm Of Ash by Tasha Suri (The Books Of Ambha #2)

Publisher: Orbit Books

Release Date: November 12, 2019

Pages: 496

Available For Pre-Order Through The Book Depository: Realm Of Ash

Summary: The Ambhan Empire is crumbling. A terrible war of succession hovers on the horizon. The only hope for peace lies in the mysterious realm of ash, where mortals can find what they seek in the echoes of their ancestors’ dreams. But to walk there requires a steep price.

Arwa is determined to make the journey. Widowed by a brutal massacre, she’s pledged service to the royal family and will see that pledge through to the end. She never expected to be joined by Zahir, the disgraced, illegitimate prince who has turned to forbidden magic in a desperate bid to save those he loves.

Together, they’ll walk the bloody path of their shared past. And it will call into question everything they’ve ever believed…including whether the Empire is worth saving at all.

*Received a finished copy from the publisher*

My Rating: ★★★★☆ 

My Thoughts: Realm Of Ash takes readers back to the Ambhan Empire, now following Arwa, Mehr’s younger sister! Filled with politics, intrigue, and rich world-building, Suri’s  novel delivers a tale that explores grief and identity following 2 protagonists who attempt to figure out who they are, as the world around them has established their identities! A journey of grief, self, and hope, Suri’s return to her epic fantasy inspired by Mughal India is not one to miss!

Empire Of Sand was easily one of my favorite SFF/Epic Fantasy debuts of last year! I fell in love with the deeply rooted themes, brilliantly crafted story, alongside her wondrous writing, interwoven with her fantastic world building/characters!

Even though I was SO looking forward to diving back into the world and following Arwa’s journey, I actually put off reading it for about a week because I just couldn’t believe the book was an actual thing I could hold in my hands!!

Once I did pick it up, I quickly immersed myself back in the Ambhan Empire! However, it wasn’t until I made it further through the book that I realized Suri creates such an introspective and quiet journey for her protagonists in a way that always manages to captivate me― even to the point where I could reflect on the important messages she weaves throughout her novel and found them inspiring for my own life (for Realm I’ll get back to that more in a bit).

Set 10 years after Empire Of Sand, we follow Mehr’s younger sister Arwa, who’s now in her 20’s and a widow, establishing her identity as she reconciles with her grief.

Though, its also a journey about Arwa learning to embrace the Amrithi heritage she’s had to keep hidden for most of her life. As we learn in EOS, the Amrithi are oppressed and pushed towards the fringes of society. Due to that, she has been raised to focus more on her Ambhan heritage, casting deep down this other half of her, which could be the key to saving the empire.

The overarching plot thread that develops of the course of Realm Of Ash involves the Empire and how it slowly crumbles after the Maha’s death (who Mehr met in EOS). Though what stood out to me, compared to Mehr’s journey, was how both sisters viewed the empire in slightly different ways as well. All Arwa remembers are moments here & there where her sister would attempt to tell her more about her Amrithi blood, yet wasn’t allowed to become familiar with that part of herself growing up.

Where we see Mehr’s Amrithi roots guide her, we see with Arwa she’s grown up to feel like its a curse for her. Early on it ROA we see these two different paths converge as Arwa learns to embrace the Amrithi side of her as it plays an influential part in saving the empire.

At the start of the novel, Arwa takes time to reflect in the hermitage after the loss of her husband Kamran, who was also a commander at Darez Fort. Slowly the story unravels more about her personal emotional journey, but also that to unlock her Amrithi heritage. Much to her dismay, she befriends one of the widows there who offers her a chance on a new path, in the heart of the royal palace of the empire.

Arwa soon finds herself at the royal palace quickly immersing herself in the court politics and meets Zahir the studious illegitimate prince who’s invisible to the eyes of his other royal siblings (though not Princess Jihan).

Arwa is told to assist Zahir and he teaches her all about the mysterious realm of ash. As the story progresses, the two find ways to root themselves in this place (with the help of Arwa’s Amrithi blood) to find a way to cure the ills of the Empire’s curse, which has brought famine and uncertainty to the people.

The realm of ash is this metaphysical/literal realm where people can walk and dive deep into a world that roots them to their past and history (both familial and cultural). This realm is where Arwa and Zahir attempt to traverse to find the Maha’s ash and use it to bring balance back to their world.

Before going more into my review let me just say when I read about the curse inflicting the Empire I was internally fangirling so much because, it reminded of the conflict in one of my favorite comics Sera And The Royal Stars– it also features a fierce female lead who’s on a journey as her kingdom crumbles around her! (Highly recommend it, its amazing & is getting released as a graphic novel next year)  I really need more people to talk about this comic, but back to the review 😂✨:

What Suri captures beautifully, are the incredibly important themes throughout the novel: Grief and Identity.

Through Arwa’s perspective we are taken on a journey not only of grief, but also healing. Suri brings up many questions in regards to how Arwa processes these complex emotions, rolled up with the fact that her Amrithi heritage is coming to light around her.

The process of grief and mourning, what happens after? What do we owe others in regards to our grief? Including the healing process both for ones self and the world around them…Arwa’s perspective captures all of these layered ideas, emotional responses, and reactions masterfully as we follow Arwa on her journey to set her own path.

One of my favorite scenes was between Arwa and Gulshera, one of the widows, who reminds her of the “noblewoman’s art” and history through archery. However, it’s not just about learning to use a bow and arrow, Suri cleverly uses this scene as a metaphor to showcase how Arwa can use her grief and direct it towards a new path! I kept that scene close to heart throughout the entirety of this book and long after I finished it. It represents a turning point for Arwa as she learns to channel her grief and not let it take control of her! 

Additionally, as Arwa (and us as readers) learn more about soft prince Zahir, we then begin to see this is really his story too. Their journey both as they develop their relationship and head to the realm of ash, allows them to question/better understand who they are in a world that has established their identities.

The further along I got into the story, the more I appreciated how central the theme of identity was! How we define ourselves and how the world around us influences that, these were the thoughts turning in my mind as I read…in one of my university classes we actually delved into this topic of identity and how the world shapes it. Additionally, its something I’ve personally been giving more thought as I continue to learn more in school, etc. and it felt so validating to have that theme explored in many different layers and just–be something that really resonated with me at this moment in my life!

Arwa believes her only role after her husband’s death is to be a mourning widow, Zahir feels he is meant to always remain in shadow.

However, its also about how the 2 of them grapple with the identities they are assigned, but how they also use them to their advantage!

Similar to EoS, the world-building in Realm Of Ash is fantastic! There’s so much traveling in this book, so if you love journey stories, I recommend it!

In addition, I absolutely ADORED the layered politics of this novel. Often times it can seem like they slow the pacing of fantasy world, because they can influence and encompass many different facets of a society. However, Suri masterfully examines court politics, their influence on the world, and the layered castes of society that are each trying to find their footing as the world crumbles around them.

That’s also explored through the layered background as to how the Maha’s death influenced the balance of the world and how it impacts so many groups of people within the world.

Now onto the plot! There are many different layers to the story that are explored and I don’t want to spoil them all, but its a slow/steady progress from the hermitage, palace, realm of ash, and additional threads that force Arwa & Zahir to journey together to hopefully save their empire.

Now onto the cast of characters which were..fantastic!?! I loved the cast so much even the characters you aren’t supposed to love they are written with so much depth, emotion, and impact, you sense their presence long after they’ve left a scene. As Arwa & Zahir continue their journeys it was great to get so much background to a lot of characters throughout the story : Gulshera, princes Akhtar, Nasir, Parviz, princess Jihan, the widows, the commander, & many more!

I felt there was so much background given to Zahir, the royal family, and those connected to it, especially when it comes to how they are influenced by their world. For example, Jihan and Gulshera are determined a certain role in society (Jihan has to rely on her cunning politics to ensure her pick for the throne & Gulshera not only has her role as Arwa’s confidant of sorts, but is also still loyal to Jihan). When it comes to Zahir, he has such an influential place in the palace but is left to be hidden in its depths.

Now I wanted to discuss some minor critiques that lowered my rating (though I absolutely loved this book with all my heart) 😭💖!!  (*honestly, ratings just make things complicated 😂✨)

As Arwa and Zahir work together in the tomb enclosure reading and learning more about the Realm Of Ash, while also attending political meetings, I found that I really wanted more from the royal/court politics. Again, Suri weaves them in such a way where they not only influence that particular scene, but the characters and world and its just masterfully done!

I just really wanted a bit more of it explored because in some fantasy books I’ve read with court politics they often showcase them as incredibly cunning or deceptive…but they don’t always have to be! Suri portrays the politics in a realistic and impactful way when the world itself is crumbling, it still shows all these different facets and layers to it!

Though I absolutely loved the introspective journey of Arwa, I would have loved more plot threads here & there because again, I just love this world and these characters SO much!

Also more Arwa + Zahir moments because I just adore them! I also felt there could have been more expansion and plot threads on the royals  because they were wonderfully introduced and developed that I wanted more page time with them!

I don’t want to spoil, but I will say that there is 1 character though they were a lot of fun to read about, I personally didn’t feel too impacted by them in the story and felt they could have had less page time. Aside from those however:

Once I reached the final page of Realm Of Ash I’m literally in tears right now because Arwa, Zahir, their journeys they will forever remain a part of my heart!
I am definitely looking forward to Suri’s next adventure in the Ambhan Empire! ♥♥*・✧゚*

Realm Of Ash is a deeply character-driven journey that delves even more into the immersive world established in Empire Of Sand! A tale of grief, embracing ones identity, and the journeys one seeks to find the truth to better understand themselves & their world! A phenomenal sequel that unlocks more to the Ambhan Empire than ever before!