Mini-Reviews: Muse Squad: The Cassandra Curse + Witchmark

I have been a terrible blogger as of late and I apologize. I am planning on taking a formal break, but that won’t be until early next month. Today I am happy to share a couple of mini reviews for some recent reads. I am actually really behind on posting reviews and have quite a few in my drafts waiting to be edited. I wanted to make sure I posted this one first though as I will be reviewing the sequel to Muse Squad in a couple of weeks.

Title: Muse Squad: The Cassandra Curse Author: Chantel Acevedo Series: Muse Squad, #1 Pages: 368 Publisher: Balzer + Bray Release Date: July 7th 2020

TW: death of a family member, fatphobia

"The first in a middle grade fantasy duology about a Cuban American girl who discovers that she’s one of the nine Muses of Greek mythology.. Callie Martinez-Silva didn’t mean to turn her best friend into a pop star. But when a simple pep talk leads to miraculous results, Callie learns she’s the newest muse of epic poetry, one of the nine Muses of Greek mythology tasked with protecting humanity’s fate in secret. Whisked away to Muse Headquarters, she joins three recruits her age, who call themselves the Muse Squad. Together, the junior muses are tasked with using their magic to inspire and empower—not an easy feat when you’re eleven and still figuring out the goddess within. When their first assignment turns out to be Callie’s exceptionally nerdy classmate, Maya Rivero, the squad comes to Miami to stay with Callie and her Cuban family. There, they discover that Maya doesn’t just need inspiration, she needs saving from vicious Sirens out to unleash a curse that will corrupt her destiny. As chaos erupts, will the Muse Squad be able to master their newfound powers in time to thwart the Cassandra Curse . . . or will it undo them all?

Chantel Acevedo’s Muse Squad: The Cassandra Curse centers love and friendship in the first novel in her middle grade fantasy duology. Callie Martinez-Silva is like any other eleven year old, just trying to survive 6th grade and deal with her ever changing family dynamics. When her best friend Raquel suffers another bout of stage-fright, Callie takes it upon herself to cheer her on. But then something strange happens, Raquel undergoes a sudden metamorphoses. She doesn’t just dazzle her peers, soon her performance goes viral. Callie can’t shake the feeling that something she did might have something to do with her best friend’s sudden fame and her suspicions are confirmed when she discovers she is one of the nine Muses, tasked with inspiring and protecting humankind. It’s a lot of responsibility, especially when she learns one of her classmates, whose future might reshape the world, is in danger and she, along with a group of young Muses must protect her. One of my favorite things about this middle grade book is how much emphasis there is on friendship. Callie’s relationship with her best friend Raquel goes through some ups and downs. It’s hard on both when it feels like they are growing apart and the jealousy they can’t quite admit makes it hard to reconcile. At the same time, Callie is making new friends like those in the Muse Squad, a group of new muses her own age, who are also learning about their new-found abilities. Their friendship doesn’t quite fill the hole left by Raquel, but it makes learning how to be a Muse a lot easier. I really enjoyed Callie’s relationship with Maya Rivero, whom she is tasked to protect. Maya is smart, but awkward and doesn’t have very many people in her corner. Through this friendship and throughout her journey, Callie becomes more conscientious as a person. She learns that it’s far too easy to be dismissive of other people and she has to work on learning how to relate to others. Muse Squad: The Cassandra Curse is perfect for those who love fun middle grade novels with a mythological spin.

★ ★ ★ ★
(4/5)


Title: Witchmark Author: C.L. Polk Series: The Kingston Cycle, #1 Pages: 318 Publisher: Tor.com Release Date: June 19th 2019

TW: PTSD, homophobia, suicide, domestic homicide

"C. L. Polk arrives on the scene with Witchmark, a stunning, addictive fantasy that combines intrigue, magic, betrayal, and romance.... In an original world reminiscent of Edwardian England in the shadow of a World War, cabals of noble families use their unique magical gifts to control the fates of nations, while one young man seeks only to live a life of his own. Magic marked Miles Singer for suffering the day he was born, doomed either to be enslaved to his family's interest or to be committed to a witches' asylum. He went to war to escape his destiny and came home a different man, but he couldn’t leave his past behind. The war between Aeland and Laneer leaves men changed, strangers to their friends and family, but even after faking his own death and reinventing himself as a doctor at a cash-strapped veterans' hospital, Miles can’t hide what he truly is. When a fatally poisoned patient exposes Miles’ healing gift and his witchmark, he must put his anonymity and freedom at risk to investigate his patient’s murder. To find the truth he’ll need to rely on the family he despises, and on the kindness of the most gorgeous man he’s ever seen.

C.L. Polk’s Witchmark is an expertly-paced fantasy, enrapturing readers with its magical system and swoon-worthy romance. Miles Singer is a seemingly ordinary doctor tending to veterans returning from the Aeland war against Laneer. As a veteran himself, Miles knows the true horrors of war. There isn’t just a physical cost, but a mental cost as well. But when a stranger arrives with a dying man in his arms who claims to know Miles’s true name, his carefully crafted life is turned upside down. Witchmark‘ has one of the most interesting magical systems whose layers make for complicated dynamics between characters. Most notably is Mile’s relationship with his sister Grace. As a Secondary, Miles’s was destined to be bound to a Storm-Singer, to exist to strengthen his sister’s magic rather than be free to find his own place in the world. But Miles has always wanted more and has been the only person in his own corner for so long. The freedom he has attained isn’t something he is ready to let go of, not even for his sister and her own ambitions. Miles’s relationship with the enigmatic Tristan is deliciously slow-burn, full of tension and just the right amount of longing. If there is one thing I wish the book had spent more time on its more of a look into Tristan’s world. I don’t want to give anything away, but the small glimpses we get has me really curious about his people’s history in this world. Witchmark mixes magic and politics effortlessly with a likable protagonist and swoony romance that is sure to keep readers glued to its pages.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
(5/5)

Can’t-Wait Wednesday: Gearbreakers by Zoe Hana Mikuta

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Tressa @ Wishful Endings where bloggers share which upcoming releases they’re most looking forward to. Join us every Wednesday and watch your TBR list multiply.

At the top of my list of 2021 debuts that have really caught my attention is Zoe Hana Mikuta’s Gearbreakers. Using Pacific Rim as a comp was the first thing about this that won me over, but then I learned it’s enemies-to-lovers, found family, and sapphic! So many amazing things rolled into one and I cannot wait to get my hands on it. Cover is linked to Goodreads.

Title: Gearbrakers
Author: Zoe Hana Mikuta
Series: N/A
Pages: 416
Publisher: Feiwel Friends
Publication Date: June 29, 2021

      “Two girls on opposite sides of a war discover they’re fighting for a common purpose–and falling for each other–in Zoe Hana Mikuta’s high-octane debut Gearbreakers, perfect for fans of Pacific Rim, Pierce Brown’s Red Rising Saga, and Marie Lu’s Legend series.
      We went past praying to deities and started to build them instead…
      The shadow of Godolia’s tyrannical rule is spreading, aided by their giant mechanized weapons known as Windups. War and oppression are everyday constants for the people of the Badlands, who live under the thumb of their cruel Godolia overlords.
      Eris Shindanai is a Gearbreaker, a brash young rebel who specializes in taking down Windups from the inside. When one of her missions goes awry and she finds herself in a Godolia prison, Eris meets Sona Steelcrest, a cybernetically enhanced Windup pilot. At first Eris sees Sona as her mortal enemy, but Sona has a secret: She has intentionally infiltrated the Windup program to destroy Godolia from within.
      As the clock ticks down to their deadliest mission yet, a direct attack to end Godolia’s reign once and for all, Eris and Sona grow closer–as comrades, friends, and perhaps something more…”

Are you participating in Can’t-Wait Wednesday or Waiting on Wednesday? Is this book on your TBR? Be sure to leave a link to your post in the comments and I’ll visit!

Snapshot (ARC) Review: Fire with Fire by Destiny Soria

Title: Fire with Fire
Author: Destiny Soria
Series: N/A
Pages: 432
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Release Date: June 8th 2021

TW: panic attacks and ableism

**Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher which does not influence my review**

      “Dani and Eden Rivera were both born to kill dragons, but the sisters couldn’t be more different. For Dani, dragon slaying takes a back seat to normal high school life, while Eden prioritizes training above everything else. Yet they both agree on one thing: it’s kill or be killed where dragons are concerned.
      Until Dani comes face-to-face with one and forges a rare and magical bond with him. As she gets to know Nox, she realizes that everything she thought she knew about dragons is wrong. With Dani lost to the dragons, Eden turns to the mysterious and alluring sorcerers to help save her sister. Now on opposite sides of the conflict, the sisters will do whatever it takes to save the other. But the two are playing with magic that is more dangerous than they know, and there is another, more powerful enemy waiting for them both in the shadows.”

  • Dani – Dani was born into a family of dragon slayers, but dragon slaying is the last thing on her mind. While a natural when it comes to combat, she wants a life outside of the family business. She wants to spend time with her best friend Tomás and work a summer job instead of spending endless hours training with her sister. She’s driven by passion which often makes her impulsive, but it also makes her determined to do what’s right even if it means going against the people she loves.
  • Eden – Eden is determined to be the best dragon slayer she can be. More rigorous in her training, she often grows impatient with her sister’s cavalier attitude. She should be the superior fighter, but no matter how much work she puts into training, Dani always seems to outshine her. Something that doesn’t seem fair when Eden has dedicated so much time and has given up any semblance of a social life in pursuit of the family legacy.
  • Sisters – I love that Fire with Fire‘s main relationship is sisterhood. Dani and Eden are very different from one another. They don’t always see eye to eye and there is a lot of frustration between the two, but they also love one another fiercely and in time discover how much they can learn from the other.
  • Dragons and magical system – I don’t think we can ever get too many dragon books and this is only the second book I’ve read with Latinx protagonists in a dragon fantasy. In this story, dragons are the source of magic, it flows from them, but they are also dangerous creatures prone to violence against humans. Both dragon slayers and sorcerers have made it their mission to rid the world of dragons, but they often clash when it comes to the right methods.
  • Magic and mental health – Appreciated seeing the novel address magic and mental health. One really important storyline is that magic does not fix mental illness because having a mental illness doesn’t mean a person is broken.
  • Romance subplot – There is one romance subplot that plays out really quickly and that I couldn’t buy into. If the character had been introduced earlier, it would have made it more believable.

Destiny Soria once again delivers a unique fantasy with Fire with Fire, filled with heart-stopping action and the resilient love between sisters.

★ ★ ★ ★
(4/5)

Snapshot (ARC) Review: Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun by Jonny Garza Villa

Title: Fifteen Hundred Miles From the Sun
Author: Jonny Garza Villa
Series: N/A
Pages: 341
Publisher: Skyscape
Release Date: June 8th 2021

TW: physical abuse, homophobia including slurs, forced outing, suicidal thoughts

**Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book through NetGalley which does not influence my review**

      “A poignant, funny, openhearted novel about coming out, first love, and being your one and only best and true self.
      Julián Luna has a plan for his life: Graduate. Get into UCLA. And have the chance to move away from Corpus Christi, Texas, and the suffocating expectations of others that have forced Jules into an inauthentic life.
      Then in one reckless moment, with one impulsive tweet, his plans for a low-key nine months are thrown—literally—out the closet. The downside: the whole world knows, and Jules has to prepare for rejection. The upside: Jules now has the opportunity to be his real self.
      Then Mat, a cute, empathetic Twitter crush from Los Angeles, slides into Jules’s DMs. Jules can tell him anything. Mat makes the world seem conquerable. But when Jules’s fears about coming out come true, the person he needs most is fifteen hundred miles away. Jules has to face them alone.
      Jules accidentally propelled himself into the life he’s always dreamed of. And now that he’s in control of it, what he does next is up to him.”

  • Julián – Julián is an easy character to like and root for. He knows he can’t come out because of the hostility his father has always shown about the very idea that he could be gay. The only thing that gets him through is imagining life after high school, of going to college in another state where he’d be free to be himself and finally be happy. When he accidentally comes out on social media, he has to deal with the inevitable falling out, but there is also this new idea that he doesn’t have to wait to be happy, that if he embraces himself and puts himself out there, he has a chance to experience good things in the now.
  • Friend group – I really enjoyed Julián’s friend group. They are all different people, but they balance each other out so well. When they are together, it is chaotic and fun. They are there for Jules in different ways and it was so nice to see this support system. I especially loved Jules’s relationship with Jordan. They are so supportive of one another and effortlessly affectionate. It’s the kind of relationship between two male characters that I would like to see more often.
  • Discussion of homophobia in Latinx communities – There is a clear juxtaposition between Jules’s friends’ reaction versus his father’s. Jules’s has kept a part of himself hidden for fear of how his father would react, especially because he’s been abusive in the past. It isn’t unusual to encounter homophobia in Latinx communities and Jules’s father isn’t the only Latinx character who is homophobic in this book. It’s a stifling environment to grow up in and unfortunately creates a lot of self-hate. And it’s ever more heartbreaking when these derogatory comments come from people you love.
  • Familial relationships – Jules’s older sister, Xo, and his grandfather became the family he deserves. They are the ones who embrace him when his father rejects him and do not expect anything from him other than the opportunity to love him. Friends are one thing, but I think it was really important for Jules to have the support of family as well.
  • MatFifteen Hundred Miles From the Sun doesn’t shy away from addressing heavy issues, but it also provides plenty of smiles. Most notably is Jules’s relationship with Mat, a boy he meets online and one of the first people who supports him after he comes out. Their interactions are flirtatious and butterflies-in-your-stomach inducing. There are so many sweet moments between the two, but the real world is always there to remind them that they live so far away from one another. They have to figure out if what they have is real, if their relationship is plausible, and what happens after they graduate if they don’t end up in the same place.
  • Nothing to note.

Jonny Garza Villa’s Fifteen Hundred Miles From the Sun is an addicting, swoon-worthy read about coming out and finding that happiness can exist at the end of even the darkest tunnel.

★ ★ ★ ★
(4/5)