Monthly Wrap-Up: May ’20

March crawled, April sprinted, and May was just kind of there. Early in the month it was my birthday which you might have guessed was a quiet affair. I wanted to read more as I limited myself to what I consumed in other forms of entertainment, but my focus wasn’t always there. I read Summer is just around the corner and I have a ton of ARC that I feel really blessed to have but am also feeling a little stressed about getting through them all while also trying to balance picking up books I want to read. My library is still closed which is starting to feel really inconvenient, especially when I want to read so much and I now have gift cards burning in my pocket. I have a couple of book club reads this month that I am very excited for and am hoping to schedule a little hiatus sometime soon. It is way overdue, but it’s hard to justify a break when you have certain posts coming up, so we will see.

Special note: If you are able, please consider donating to bail funds. Here is a link to a Twitter thread listing many around the country that you can contribute to. I want to make it abundantly clear that if you are not supporting the protests happening right now in this country, if you are pearl-clutching over “riots” and aren’t angry over what’s happening in this country to Black Americans, or your support is contingent on only “acceptable” forms of protest, we are not friends. I do not want to be your friend. Do not come to my blog and talk to me like we are friends.

(Book covers below are linked to my reviews, unless otherwise specified.) 

Favorite Book This Month:

I have been reading some incredible, chunky novels lately. Currently kicking myself for putting off Fonda Lee’s Jade City for so long. I am loving all the adult fantasy books I’ve been picking up this year and this one blew me away. I love the sibling dynamics and the fantasy elements. Will definitely be diving into the sequel soon. Review for this one coming soonish. Cover linked to Goodreads.

Least Favorite Book This Month:

No read received less than three stars.

Reviews Posted This Month:

Notable Blog Posts This Month + Looking Ahead:

Talk Chisme to Me: May Releases By Latinx Authors – Check out what books came out this month by Latinx authors!

Can’t-Wait Wednesday: A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown– I am so so so so excited for this release and can’t wait to read it.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Want For My Birthday – We all can dream about getting all the books on our wishlists for our birthdays right?

Top Ten Tuesday: Reasons Why I Love Rereading Books – Yes, I love rereading books. Do you?

Book Club News:

Latinx Book Club’s June Pick – The Latinx Book Club will be reading Gabby Rivera’s Juliet Takes a Breath for Pride Month. We hope you can join us! Find us online: Twitter/Goodreads.

Accidentally In Love Book Club – Paola @ Guerrerawr on Twitter is starting a new book club this summer dedicated to reading romance books by authors of color. June’s pick will be Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai. Be sure to check out the book club’s Twitter account here and Paola’s YouTube channel here where she will be having live show at the end of the month.

What I Watched/Am Watching:

Guardian: The Lonely and Great God (Goblin) – I limited my K-Drama watching to one series in May because I watched way too many in April. I liked this one but had a few hangups like the age gap between the leads. I liked the fantasy elements and really enjoyed the dynamics between the Goblin and Grim Reaper. If this had been a romance between these two, it would have been such a powerful hate to love to enemies to lovers story.

Avatar: The Last Airbender – Can you believe I have never watched this show? I am still on the first season, but am really enjoying this found family adventure.

What We Do in the Shadows: Season 2 – I love this show so much. Every episode has me in stitches. I am a couple of episodes behind season 2 but I am loving Guillermo’s arc. He is my absolute favorite.

June Releases I’m Excited For:


 

What have you been watching lately? Which June release are you most looking forward to? Let me hear from you in the comments and feel free to leave me a link to your own wrap-up post and I’ll be sure to visit!

ARC Review: The Dream Weaver by Reina Luz Alegre

Title: The Dream Weaver
Author: Reina Luz Alegre
Series: N/A
Pages: 272
Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date: June 23rd 2020

**Disclaimer: I received an eARC of this book from the author which does not influence my review**

      “Twelve-year-old Zoey navigates the tricky waters of friendship while looking for a way to save her grandfather’s struggling business in this heartwarming, coming-of-age debut novel perfect for fans of Kristi Wientge, Donna Gephart, and Meg Medina.
    Zoey comes from a family of dreamers. From start-up companies to selling motorcycles, her dad is constantly chasing jobs that never seem to work out. As for Zoey, she’s willing to go along with whatever grand plans her dad dreams up—even if it means never staying in one place long enough to make real friends. Her family being together is all that matters to her.
      So Zoey’s world is turned upside down when Dad announces that he’s heading to a new job in New York City without her. Instead, Zoey and her older brother, José, will stay with their Poppy at the Jersey Shore. At first, Zoey feels as lost and alone as she did after her mami died. But soon she’s distracted by an even bigger problem: the bowling alley that Poppy has owned for decades is in danger of closing!
      After befriending a group of kids practicing for a summer bowling tournament, Zoey hatches a grand plan of her own to save the bowling alley. It seems like she’s found the perfect way to weave everyone’s dreams together…until unexpected events turn Zoey’s plan into one giant nightmare. Now, with her new friends counting on her and her family’s happiness hanging in the balance, Zoey will have to decide what her dream is—and how hard she’s willing to fight for it.”

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Reina Luz Alegre’s The Dream Weaver is a heartwarming middle grade novel about learning to find a voice for yourself. Zoey is used to being moved around. This summer her father is seeking out yet another one of his pipedreams and leaving her and her older brother with their grandfather in New Jersey. While there Zoey discovers that her Poppy’s bowling alley is in financial trouble. With the help of her new friends, Zoey sets off on a mission to save Gonzo’s Bowling Alley and maybe help heal some of her family’s wounds along the way.

Zoey is one of the sweetest and most earnest characters I’ve come across in a middle grade. I saw so much of my younger self in her. She has the biggest heart and just wants her family to be happy. The tension between her brother and father sometimes feels unbearable and she’s learned to be the peacemaker. Unfortunately, this doesn’t solve issues between the two and Zoey is just beginning to understand that relationship are very complicated. Fixing one thing in a person life doesn’t fix everything, especially when they are reluctant to talk it out with the other person. Zoey has a very strong bond to her older brother José, but can’t help feeling a little resentful that he will be attending college in another state at the beginning of fall. She feels left behind by two of the strongest figures in her life and sometimes struggles to find the words to express her hurt.

It was very bittersweet to see Zoey reconnect to her heritage through her grandfather. On one hand, she is learning more about the Cuban part of herself, the one that ties her to her mother who passes away several years earlier; but on the other, these parts of her culture should never have been lost. Her father found it too painful to keep her mother’s things around, but they would have been invaluable to Zoey and her brother growing up without their mother. Poppy becomes her main link to both her mother and her abuela. Both were caring and a force to be reckoned with. Zoey doesn’t know just how much she is like both of them, but I loved seeing her finding that assertive part of herself; the part that tells her not to give up and the part that tells her she doesn’t just deserve to have dreams, but deserves to see them come true.

Besides family, The Dream Weaver also has an emphasis on friendship. Zoey isn’t always great at making friends because she moves so much, but she very much would like to feel like she belongs. She crosses paths with a middle school bowling team and while she doesn’t hit it off with everyone in the group right away, she does find her place among these peers. Isa is the first person to make her feel welcome and for Zoey, having a female presence in her life is both refreshing and a little intimidating. I loved that Zoey discovers that sometimes the first people to be in your corner are your friends and that they can be your biggest cheerleaders even if you are all very different from one another.

Reina Luz Alegre’s The Dream Weaver is perfect for readers looking for a middle grade that shows the power of determination and that being a sensitive and caring person can be your greatest strength.

★ ★ ★ ★
(4/5)

Top Ten Tuesday: Opening Lines I Love From Books By Latinx Authors

Top Ten Tuesday is an original blog meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. and is currently being hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is “Opening Lines (Best, favorite, funny, unique, shocking, gripping, lines that grabbed you immediately, etc.).” I actually did a Top Ten Tuesday post with my favorite opening lines, which you can read here, not too long ago. So for this week’s post I’m listing favorite opening lines from books by Latinx authors minus the ones I already mentioned in my previous post. I hope these are intriguing enough that they have you reaching for these books if you haven’t already. Covers are linked to Goodreads.

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1. The Moon Within by Aida Salazar

“There is a locket in my heart
that holds all of the questions
that do cartwheels in my mind
and gurgle up to the top of my brain
like root beer fizz.”

2. Bruja Born by Zoraida Córdova

“This is a love story.

At least, it was, before my sister sent me to hell.”

3. The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You by Lily Anderson

“Ben West spent summer vacation growing a handlebar mustache.

Seriously.

Hovering over his upper lip–possibly glued there–was a bushy monstrosity that shouted, ‘Look out, senior class, I’m gonna tie some chicks to the train tracks and then go on safari with my good friend Teddy Roosevelt. Bully!‘”

4. The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante

“We believe in luck. The good kind and the cruel. The kind that graces and the kind that cripples. The kind that doesn’t care what you deserve.”

5. Don’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno

“The Santos women never go to the sea.

Once upon a time a lifetime ago a pregnant woman escaped Cuba with her husband by climbing into a boat he had built in secret with nothing but scrap and desperate hope. They left their entire life in the dead of night. They were still too late. The storm was sudden and violent, and the baby could not wait. As he fought the raging sea, she screamed into the angry winds and pulled her wailing daughter from her body.”

6. Citizen Illegal by José Olivarez

“Mexican woman (illegal) and Mexican man (illegal)
have a Mexican (illegal)-American (citizen).
is the baby in the arms of the mother (illegal).
if the mother holds the baby (citizen)
too long, does the baby become illegal?”

7. Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson

“The problem with your best friend dying is that there’s no one to sit with you at funerals.”

8. Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

“Some people are born under a lucky star, while others have their misfortune telegraphed by the position of the planets. Casiopea Tun, named after a constellation, was born under the most rotten star imaginable in the firmament”

9. Blanca y Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore

“Everyone has their own way of telling our story.

Some say it began generations ago, with a girl lured by the white birds in the woods. The moment she reached out a small hand toward their wind-fluttered feathers, a swan bit her, poisoning her blood.”

10. American Street by Ibi Zoboi

“If only I could break the glass separating me and Manman with my thoughts alone. On one side of the glass doors are the long lines of people with their photos and papers that prove that they belong here in America, that they are allowed to taste a bit of this free air. On the other side is me, pressing my forehead against the thick see-through wall. My shoulder hurts from the weight of the carry-on bag I refuse to put down for fear that they will take it away, too.”

Any of these opening lines you are intrigued by? Let me know in the comments and be sure to leave me a link to your own TTT post, so I can visit.

Snapshot Review: The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang

Title: The Dragon Republic
Author: R.F. Kuang
Series: The Poppy War, #2
Pages: 654
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release Date: August 6th 2019

TW: mentions of self-harm, suicide, drug use, rape, graphic violence

      “In the aftermath of the Third Poppy War, shaman and warrior Rin is on the run: haunted by the atrocity she committed to end the war, addicted to opium, and hiding from the murderous commands of her vengeful god, the fiery Phoenix. Her only reason for living is to get revenge on the traitorous Empress who sold out Nikan to their enemies.
    With no other options, Rin joins forces with the powerful Dragon Warlord, who has a plan to conquer Nikan, unseat the Empress, and create a new Republic. Rin throws herself into his war. After all, making war is all she knows how to do.
      But the Empress is a more powerful foe than she appears, and the Dragon Warlord’s motivations are not as democratic as they seem. The more Rin learns, the more she fears her love for Nikan will drive her away from every ally and lead her to rely more and more on the Phoenix’s deadly power. Because there is nothing she won’t sacrifice for her country and her vengeance.
      The sequel to R.F. Kuang’s acclaimed debut THE POPPY WAR, THE DRAGON REPUBLIC combines the history of 20th-century China with a gripping world of gods and monsters, to devastating effect.”

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      “People will seek to use you or destroy you. If you want to live, you must pick a side So do not shirk from war, child. Do not flinch from suffering. When you hear screaming, run toward it.”

  • Rin – Rin is a character who is hard not to root for even when she makes mistakes. She is a child of war whether she chooses to be or not. As the last living Speerly there is a heavy weight on her shoulders. She is constantly torn between grieving for the people she never knew and fighting for the very people who had a hand in their genocide. She is a character continually othered because of colorism, because of prejudice, and because of her power. In the first novel, Rin was just discovering her ability to harness the power of the gods. In this second novel, Rin’s personal journey is more about her understanding who she is apart from this power and reclaiming herself from those who would turn her into a weapon.
  • Heavy Issues – From war to PTSD to drug addiction, Kuang’s series does not shy away from tough topics. War isn’t just about victory but about the people who end up suffering because of it. Rin’s addiction to opium, once a way to help her connect to the gods, becomes a way for her to escape her grief and her guilt. She isn’t the only character who experiences PTSD, and it is sobering to see characters like Kitay, who had such a light in them lose this.
  • Kitay – If there is a characters who has undergone just as many changes as Rin, it is her once-schoolmate, Kitay. Seeing him deal with the loss of a loved one and how this alters who he is is heartbreaking. He was once the softest character in the series, but is driven by vengeance and pain. Those soft edges have hardened and I’m not sure there is a rewind button for him or anyone in this series.
  • Rin and Nezha – I am going to be honest and say I live for their interactions. I love how far they have come from being school rivals to being friends. Their relationship is constantly evolving and I cannot wait to see what happens next between them.
  • Morally grey characters – Kuang does not paint her characters black and white. Much of the time as a reader you can only guess at the true motives of the characters in power. I love both the uncertainty and the layers to every character because of this.

  • Minor characters – As much as I’ve enjoyed Rin’s journey, I do think a bit more time could be spent on a few key minor characters. After the death of their leader, Rin was put in charge of the Cike. This presents a lot of interesting dynamics; however, I don’t think as readers we spend enough time with any of them to feel a real emotional impact when they are put in danger.


If I could describe R.F. Kuang’s series, The Poppy War, in one word it would be epic. The Dragon Republic is just as gut-wretching as its predecessor and sets up what promises to be an explosive finale.

★ ★ ★ ★
(4/5)