Thank you to Paola @ Love, Paola for organizing this tour for Chantel Acevedo’s Muse Squad: The Mystery of the Tenth. Check out the tour schedule for more Muse Squad content from fellow readers here. You can also check out my review of the first book in this duology, Muse Squad: The Cassandra Curse, here.
Title: Muse Squad: The Mystery of the Tenth Author: Chantel Acevedo Series: Muse Squad, #2 Pages: 352 Publisher: Balzer + Bray Release Date: July 6th 2021
**Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for the purpose of this tour which does not influence my review**
“The finale of an action-packed middle grade fantasy duology about a young Cuban American girl who discovers that she’s one of the nine muses of Greek mythology. Perfect for fans of The Serpent’s Secret, the Aru Shah series, and the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. Callie Martinez-Silva is finally getting the hang of this whole goddess within thing. Six months after learning she was one of the nine muses of ancient myth, she and the other junior muses are ready for new adventures. Except first Callie has to go to New York City for the summer to visit her dad, stepmom, and new baby brother. Then the muses get startling news: an unprecedented tenth muse has been awakened somewhere in Queens, putting Callie in the perfect position to help find her. And she’ll have help—thanks to a runaway mold problem in London, Muse Headquarters is moving to the New York Hall of Science. But balancing missions and family-mandated arts camp proves difficult for Callie, especially once mysterious messages from spiders (yikes!) begin to weave a tale of ancient injustice involving Callie’s campmate Ari. Now Callie and her friends have to make a choice: follow orders and find the tenth muse or trust that sometimes fate has other plans.”
Chantel Acevedo delivers a heartfelt sequel with Muse Squad: The Mystery of the Tenth, the final book in her middle grade duology inspired by Greek mythology. Callie Martinez-Silva’s life changed when she discovered she is one of the nine muses, tasked with inspiring humankind. While visiting her father over the summer in NYC, Callie finds herself caught between her responsibilities as a muse and helping a new friend. Like its characters, this sequel feels a little more grown up. Callie struggles with being a good leader and whether it’s ethical to use her gift on people without their consent. Callie and her friends face even more difficult challenges in this sequel as their journey pits them against dangerous mythical creatures and cunning gods. If that wasn’t enough, Callie must adjust to being a big sister for the first time and finding where she belongs in her father’s new family. Being a muse has never been more complicated, especially when it starts affecting her relationships. Callie has to figure out how to balance and navigate two very different parts of her life. Callie also finds herself clashing with her dad more and more. Growing up to her means being given more freedom, but to her father it also means being true to your word and understanding how your actions impact those around you, lessons Callie still needs to learn. Muse Squad: The Mystery of the Tenth captures the perils of growing up, including making difficult decisions, but also the undeniable joys of finding friends who truly understand you and discovering who you want to be.
★ ★ ★ ★ (4/5)
Muse Squad: The Mystery of the Tenth is available for purchase now:
About the Author: Called “a master storyteller” by Kirkus Reviews, Chantel Acevedo is the author of the novels Love and Ghost Letters, A Falling Star, The Distant Marvels, which was a finalist for the 2016 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, and The Living Infinite hailed by Booklist as a “vivid and enthralling tale of love and redemption.” Muse Squad: The Cassandra Curse, Acevedo’s new middle grade duology (called “Riveting and suspenseful” by School Library Journal) was published by Balzer + Bray in 2020. The sequel, MUSE SQUAD: THE MYSTERY OF THE TENTH, will be published in July of 2021. She is Professor of English at the University of Miami, where she directs the MFA program.
Title: Oculta Author: Maya Motayne Series: A Forgery of Magic, #2 Pages: 544 Publisher: Blazer + Bray Release Date: April 6th 2021
TW: abuse, racism, suicide
“After joining forces to save Castallan from an ancient magical evil, Alfie and Finn haven’t seen each other in months. Alfie is finally stepping up to his role as heir and preparing for an International Peace Summit, while Finn is traveling and reveling in her newfound freedom from Ignacio. That is, until she’s unexpectedly installed as the new leader of one of Castallan’s powerful crime syndicates. Just when Finn finds herself back in San Cristobal, Alfie’s plans are also derailed. The mysterious organization responsible for his brother’s murder has resurfaced—and their newest target is the summit. And when these events converge, Finn and Alfie are once again forced to work together to follow the assassins’ trail and preserve Castallan’s hopes for peace with Englass. But will they be able to stop these sinister foes before a new war threatens their kingdom?”
“He could feel goose bumps rising on the wall, pressing against the back of his neck. It was excited to have him so close, eager for another addition to this repulsive room.”
Alfie – One of my favorite things about this series is the lead characters. Alfie remains one of my favorite male characters in a fantasy series. He’s softhearted, idealistic, willing to do anything for his kingdom and the people he loves. Despite the loss of his brother and his struggle to take on the responsibilities of leading a kingdom, Alfie doesn’t lose his desire to do better for his people. He sometimes falters, but he still presses on.
Finn – Finn thought she was free from Ignacio, the man who raised and molder her, but in Oculta she must come to terms with her inner demons that take on a familiar form. Finn is also thrust into an unfamiliar position, becoming a thief lord and in charge of one of the underground gangs. Finn is used to working by herself; her motto has always been to look after herself first. Her relationship with Alfie continues to challenge her preconceived ideas about herself and her tendency to go it alone.
Luka – Every scene with Luka is pure gold. Luka once again adds a bit of humor to the story. He is less diplomatic and more cheeky in how he deals with others compared to his cousin. But I love that Luka got to be more than the comedic relief in this one. He is dealing with survivor’s guilt and his new found abilities. How he deals with this adds tension between Alfie and him and it was really interesting to see their roles kind of reversed in this one.
Colonization – Oculta brings Castallan face-to-face with its former colonizers, the Englassens. A peace summit between the two countries is meant to broker a truce, but instead has caused strife within Castallan. The people have not forgotten how Englass enslaved their ancestors, stole their language, and cut them off from magic. Alfie and his parents have sought out a dialogue in hopes of eradicating Englass’s magical caste system which currently prevents the lower class from practicing magic. Not an easy feat when Englassen royals worldview is so rooted in privileged and power.
Rushed ending – So much happens in the last couple of chapters of the book that at times it felt a little rushed. As a reader, I wanted a little more time to process certain revelations.
More Finn and la Familia – I really enjoyed Finn’s storyline with la Familia, but thought the novel could have delved deeper into this organization. Aside from one person, we don’t get to know la Familia and I think it would have served Finn’s character to see her interact with the children that Kol once employed in particular.
With Oculta, Maya Motyane explores colonization, politics, and civil unrest in a sequel that is sure to make readers scream for more with its unpredictable ending.
I have so many reviews in my drafts and since I am going to go on hiatus very soon, I am going to do my best to get as many as I can out before then. This week I am bringing you reviews of two of the hardest books I’ve ever read. Both deal with heavy subject matter and I literally had to take breaks while reading them. Both were incredible reads, but definitely approach these titles with a bit of caution. Take note of the trigger warnings before diving in and always take care of yourself.
Title: One of the Good Ones
Author: Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Release Date: January 5th 2021
TW: death of a sibling, police brutality, racism, assault, homophobia, lynching
"The Hate U Give meets Get Out in this honest and powerful exploration of prejudice in the stunning novel from sister-writer duo Maika and Maritza Moulite, authors of Dear Haiti, Love Alaine.
ISN'T BEING HUMAN ENOUGH?
When teen social activist and history buff Kezi Smith is killed under mysterious circumstances after attending a social justice rally, her devastated sister Happi and their family are left reeling in the aftermath. As Kezi becomes another immortalized victim in the fight against police brutality, Happi begins to question the idealized way her sister is remembered. Perfect. Angelic.
One of the good ones.
Even as the phrase rings wrong in her mind—why are only certain people deemed worthy to be missed?—Happi and her sister Genny embark on a journey to honor Kezi in their own way, using an heirloom copy of The Negro Motorist Green Book as their guide. But there's a twist to Kezi's story that no one could've ever expected—one that will change everything all over again.
Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite’s sophomore novel, One of the Good Ones, gives an unforgettable look at how victims of police brutality are stripped of their humanity, held up as saints or criminals under media scrutiny and deemed worthy or unworthy of being mourned as a result. Kezi has her whole life ahead of her. Passionate about history and social justice, Kezi has made a name for herself online with her YouTube channel. But her life is cut short after she attends a protest and is taken into police custody. One of the Good Ones for the most part alternates between Kezi’s POV before her arrest and present day from her sister Happi’s perspective. Kezi is dealing with internet fame, falling in love for the first time, and hiding the fact that she is gay from her very religious parents. After her death, her family is thrust into the spotlight and while her parents and older sister have adapted to this, her younger sister Happi struggles to deal with their grief constantly being put on display for public consumption. I loved reading about the different dynamics between the three Smith sisters: Happi, Kezi, and Genny. They are all very different people and don’t always have seamless sisterly interactions. It was both heartbreaking to read about how much Happi regretted not knowing her sister as well as she should have before her passing, but there is also a sense of hope as she begins to learn more about who Kezi was. I won’t spoil the book, but there is a POV in the novel that felt so pertinent as the book explores who and who isn’t publicly mourned when it comes to police brutality. The book also features letters and narrative non-fiction, the latter of which really stood out to me. Like their debut Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite utilize different mediums in One of the Good Ones, crafting a unique and unforgettable story that will undoubtedly stun readers.
★ ★ ★ ★ (4/5)
Title: The Mirror Season
Author: Anna-Marie McLemore
Publisher: Feiwel Friends
Release Date: March 16th 2021
TW: sexual assault (on-page), drugging, PTSD, panphobia, assault
"When two teens discover that they were both sexually assaulted at the same party, they develop a cautious friendship through her family's possibly magical pastelería, his secret forest of otherworldly trees, and the swallows returning to their hometown, in Anna-Marie McLemore's The Mirror Season...
Graciela Cristales's whole world changes after she and a boy she barely knows are assaulted at the same party. She loses her gift for making enchanted pan dulce. Neighborhood trees vanish overnight, while mirrored glass appears, bringing reckless magic with it. And Ciela is haunted by what happened to her, and what happened to the boy whose name she never learned.
But when the boy, Lock, shows up at Ciela's school, he has no memory of that night, and no clue that a single piece of mirrored glass is taking his life apart. Ciela decides to help him, which means hiding the truth about that night. Because Ciela knows who assaulted her, and him. And she knows that her survival, and his, depend on no one finding out what really happened."
Anna-Marie McLemore’s delivers their most emotionally-charged novel with The Mirror Season. Ciela is known as La Reina de las Nievas, gifted with the ability to read customers and know exactly what kind of pan dulce they need at her family’s pastelería. After she is sexually assaulted at a party, Ciela would like nothing more than to forget that night, but when the boy who was assaulted at the same party shows up at her school with only a vague memory of what happened, she is forced to relive events. The Mirror Season can be overwhelming at times as it recounts the aftermath of Ciela’s sexual assault, the continued trauma of seeing her perpetrators at school, and the turmoil of keeping the truth of what happened a secret. Her relationship with Lock becomes a double-edged sword. Their connection allows Ciela to talk about her sexual assault for the first time with someone who understands, but she is unable for Lock’s sake as well as her own to be entirely truthful. Ciela spends a lot of time lying to herself as a coping mechanism, dealing with misplaced guilt, and struggling to reconcile the person she was before the assault with the person she has become. Though her journey is heartbreaking, The Mirror Season is also about Ciela rediscovering the parts of herself she thought were lost for good, reclaiming these parts as her own, and standing up to her assailants. The Mirror Season is a difficult novel to get through, at times it will hurt, shock, infuriate you to read, but like Anna-Marie McLemore’s previous novels, the characters in this story are more than their trauma and their path to empowerment though not smooth still feels hopeful even in the midst of the wounds they endure.
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.
Mat – Fifteen 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.