Mini-Reviews [ARC Edition]: Wayward Witch + Never Look Back

August really snuck up on me and didn’t realize just how many ARCs I needed to get to. So now my month is devoted to tackling all these books. As a result, I am doing a couple of mini-review ARC editions. It lifts a little bit of the pressure off of me as I try to get all these read and reviewed before their release dates.

Title: Wayward Witch
Author: Zoraida Córdova
Series: Brooklyn Brujas, #3
Pages: 384
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: September 1st 2020

**I received an ARC of this book from the author, which does not influence my review**

      “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.”

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Wayward Witch, the conclusion to Zoraida Córdova’s Brooklyn Brujas series, transports readers to a world that is equal parts beautiful and deadly as the youngest of the Mortiz sisters, Rose, must find a way to master her newly discovered power or find herself lost to her family forever. Rose’s Deathday party should be one of celebration, but she can’t shake the feeling that something isn’t quite right. Her family has done its best to move on from their experiences with Los Lagos and the casimuertos, but Rose can’t let go of all the unanswered questions she has about her father and his missing years and her own new power. When Rose and her father are kidnapped and brought to the Kingdom of Adas, a fairy-land full of creatures both enchanting and cunning, she is ordered to help stop the Rot which has been spreading over its realm. On her journey, Rose grapples with her newly discovered power and the darkness within herself that’s getting harder and harder to deny. Rose’s love for her family and particularly her sisters, Alex and Lula, is apparent, but there is always that voice in the back of her head that says she isn’t as strong or resilient as they are. I loved that Córdova’s fairyland isn’t just a mythical place, but one that has ties to Rose’s realm as it was once an island in the Caribbean. I really enjoyed Rose’s relationship with Iris, the princess of Adas. She is everything Rose doesn’t believe she can ever be. There is a respect that builds between the two that is important to each of their arcs. The author also introduces a non-binary character who calls themselves a brujex and I would love to get another book with Lin at the helm. Wayward Witch is an imaginative and dynamic novel that gives fans of the series a satisfying ending but also a thirst for more books in this world.

★ ★ ★ ★
(4/5)


Title: Never Look Back
Author: Lilliam Rivera
Series: N/A
Pages: 320
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
Release Date: September 1st 2020

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

TW: mentions of PTSD, suicide, sexual assault

      “Featuring contemporary Afro-Latinx characters, acclaimed author Lilliam Rivera blends a touch of magical realism into a timely story about cultural identity, overcoming trauma, and the power of first love.
    Eury comes to the Bronx as a girl haunted. Haunted by losing everything in Hurricane Maria–and by an evil spirit, Ato. She fully expects the tragedy that befell her and her family in Puerto Rico to catch up with her in New York. Yet, for a time, she can almost set this fear aside, because there’s this boy . . .
      Pheus is a golden-voiced, bachata-singing charmer, ready to spend the summer on the beach with his friends, serenading his on-again, off-again flame. That changes when he meets Eury. All he wants is to put a smile on her face and fight off her demons. But some dangers are too powerful for even the strongest love, and as the world threatens to tear them apart, Eury and Pheus must fight for each other and their lives.”

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Lilliam Rivera gives the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice an updated and fresh look with her newest novel, Never Look Back. Pheus, an Afro-Dominican teen from Manhattan, is never without his guitar and this summer while visiting his father in the Bronx is no different. There is nothing like the feeling of casting a spell over his audience, leaving them mesmerized and asking for more. Eury is visiting her cousin for the summer in the Bronx as well. Eury’s mother is hoping a change of scenery for the summer will help her daughter outrun her demons, not realizing that Eury is in fact running from a demon. Since she was a little girl, Eury has been haunted by a spirit determined to take her to El Inframundo, the Underworld. At first Ato was a companion, someone who helped her with her father’s abandonment, but as the years passed, he became possessive, his jealousy manifesting as violence against others. Eury is also dealing with PTSD. Never Look Back takes place in the Bronx, but its heart is Eury’s connection to her home. Puerto Rico is an island that has been ravaged both by natural and man-made disasters. Eury’s past traumas inform who she is but she is also more than her history. This is an important distinction Rivera makes. Puerto Ricans, though they have been subjected to tragedies, they are not defined by their suffering. They deserve to flourish in spite of these tragedies. Religion plays a vital role in Never Look Back, as both Eury looks for a way to protect herself and Pheus is faced with realizing that there is more to this world than what is on the surface. Rivera also pays homage to Latin music, recognizes the importance of knowing the history of the places you walk, and infuses Taíno mythology in this empowering new YA fantasy novel.

★ ★ ★ ★
(4/5)

Talk Chisme to Me: Spotlighting Upcoming March 2020 Releases

As everyone knows, there have been several book events that have recently been canceled and as a result there are authors out there who are worried about word of their books getting out. So I will be spotlighting some upcoming releases by Latinx authors every month for the next few months just to give them a little extra attention. If you haven’t added these to your TBR, I encourage you to do so and if you are able, please consider preordering some of these. Graphics are linked to Goodreads.

1. Goldie Vance: The Hotel Whodunit by Lilliam Rivera

Why am I excited? I am not familiar with the comic Goldie Vance, but I always love when YA authors explore Middle Grade and I’ve always been a fan of young female sleuths.

Move over, Nancy Drew–there’s a new sleuth in town! Inspired by the beloved comic series, Goldie Vance is ready to sleuth her way through never-before-seen mysteries in this original middle-grade series by Lilliam Rivera!

Marigold “Goldie” Vance lives and works at the Crossed Palms Resort Hotel in Florida with a whole slew of characters: her dad, Art, the manager of the joint; Cheryl Lebeaux, the concierge and Goldie’s best friend; and Walter Tooey, the hired hotel detective. Her mom, Sylvia, works nearby at the Mermaid Club.

While life at the Crossed Palms is always busy, the resort is currently overrun with Hollywood-types filming the hottest new creature feature, and tensions are at an all-time high. Even Goldie’s mom is in on the movie act, doing what she does best: playing a mermaid. Just when Goldie thinks the movie biz couldn’t get any more exciting, a diamond-encrusted swimming cap goes missing, and all fingers point to Goldie’s mom as the culprit. Can Goldie uncover the true thief before it’s too late?

Hope Larson and Brittney William’s critically acclaimed Goldie Vance comic series explores never-before-seen mysteries in this thrilling, original middle-grade debut by Lilliam Rivera. Features a full-color comic chapter that’s essential to unraveling the mystery.”

2. The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio

Why am I excited? We need to prioritizes voices like Karla Cornejo Villavicencio when we talk about immigration stories and rely less on people trying to be voices for undocumented immigrants.

One of the first undocumented immigrants to graduate from Harvard reveals the hidden lives of her fellow undocumented Americans in this deeply personal and groundbreaking portrait of a nation.

Writer Karla Cornejo Villavicencio was on DACA when she decided to write about being undocumented for the first time using her own name. It was right after the election of 2016, the day she realized the story she’d tried to steer clear of was the only one she wanted to tell. So she wrote her immigration lawyer’s phone number on her hand in Sharpie and embarked on a trip across the country to tell the stories of her fellow undocumented immigrants–and to find the hidden key to her own.

Looking beyond the flashpoints of the border or the activism of the DREAMers, Cornejo Villavicencio explores the lives of the undocumented–and the mysteries of her own life. She finds the nation of singular, effervescent characters often reduced in the media to political pawns or nameless laborers. The stories she tells are not deferential or naively inspirational but show the love, magic, heartbreak, insanity, and vulgarity that infuse the day-to-day lives of her subjects.

In New York, we meet the undocumented workers who were recruited into the federally funded Ground Zero cleanup after 9/11. In Miami, we enter the ubiquitous botanicas, which offer medicinal herbs and potions to those whose status blocks them from any other healthcare options. In Flint, Michigan, we learn of demands for state ID in order to receive life-saving clean water. In Connecticut, Cornejo Villavicencio, childless by choice, finds family in two teenage girls whose father is in sanctuary. And through it all we see the author grappling with the biggest questions of love, duty, family, and survival.

In her incandescent, relentlessly probing voice, Cornejo Villavicencio combines sensitive reporting and powerful personal narratives to bring to light remarkable stories of resilience, madness, and death. Through these stories we come to understand what it truly means to be a stray. An expendable. A hero. An American.”

3. Efrén Divided by Ernesto Cisneros

Why I am excited? This is one of the first Middle Grade novels that I can recall that deals with immigration (there are more coming out this year like Aida Salazar’s upcoming novel The Land of Cranes) and I know there are definitely young readers out there who are looking for books like this.

“Efrén Divided is a not-to-be-missed debut middle grade novel for readers who love Front Desk or Merci Suérez Changes Gears–or for anyone working toward a more loving world–about family, friendship, and tearing down the walls being built between us.

Efrén Nava’s Amá is his Superwoman–or Soperwoman, named after the delicious Mexican sopes his mother often prepares. Both Amá and Apá work hard all day to provide for the family, making sure Efrén and his younger siblings Max and Mía feel safe and loved.

But Efrén worries about his parents; although he’s American-born, his parents are undocumented. His worst nightmare comes true one day when Amá doesn’t return from work and is deported across the border to Tijuana, México.

Now more than ever, Efrén must channel his inner Soperboy to help take care of and try to reunite his family.”

4. Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor

Why am I excited? Witches!!! I just came across this one and already can tell that this is going to be dark and atmospheric which speaks to my soul.

“The Witch is dead. And the discovery of her corpse—by a group of children playing near the irrigation canals—propels the whole village into an investigation of how and why this murder occurred. Rumors and suspicions spread. As the novel unfolds in a dazzling linguistic torrent, with each unreliable narrator lingering on new details, new acts of depravity or brutality, Melchor extracts some tiny shred of humanity from these characters that most would write off as utterly irredeemable, forming a lasting portrait of a damned Mexican village.

Like Roberto Bolano’s 2666 or Faulkner’s greatest novels, Hurricane Season takes place in a world filled with mythology and violence—real violence, the kind that seeps into the soil, poisoning everything around: it’s a world that becomes more terrifying and more terrifyingly real the deeper you explore it.”

Are you also looking forward to any of these? Which March release by a Latinx author are you most looking forward to?

Latinx Book Club: May’s Book Club Pick

The Latinx Book Club is an online Twitter-based book club, dedicated to reading and boosting Latinx voices. Each month, with the help of readers, we choose a book by a Latinx author to read together. If you haven’t followed us on Twitter yet, you can do so here: @Latinxbookclub. The Latinx Book Club team members are:

Cande @ Latinx Magic

Carolina @ Santana Reads

Dani @ Metamorphoreader

Jocelyn @ Yogi with a Book

Sofia @ Bookish Wanderess

And me!

We’ve had such a fun time reading The Storm Runner by J.C. Cervantes. There is still time to join if you haven’t done so! All info related to this month’s book club pick and discussions can be found on our Twitter, but if you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask. Today we are please to announce May’s book club pick…

Dealing in Dreams by Lilliam Rivera! I had the pleasure of reading this one earlier this year, but it’s one of those novels that I wish I had someone to talk about with. There is so much I need to discuss! Book info is listed below. We will be starting our readalong May 1st, but feel free to read at your own pace. We will be using the hashtag #Latinxbookclub all month long and encourage you to do so as well. We hope you can join us for our May book club pick. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me here or on our Twitter account. Cover is linked to Goodreads.

Title: Dealing in Dreams
Author: Lilliam Rivera
Series: N/A
Pages: 336
Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date: March 5th 2019

      “At night, Las Mal Criadas own these streets.
    Nalah leads the fiercest all-girl crew in Mega City. That roles brings with it violent throw downs and access to the hottest boydega clubs, but the sixteen-year-old grows weary of the life. Her dream is to get off the streets and make a home in the exclusive Mega Towers, in which only a chosen few get to live. To make it to the Mega towers, Nalah must prove her loyalty to the city’s benevolent founder and cross the border in a search for a mysterious gang the Ashé Ryders. Led by a reluctant guide, Nalah battles other crews and her own doubts, but the closer she gets to her goal, the more she loses sight of everything—and everyone— she cares about.
      Nalah must do the unspeakable to get what she wants—a place to call home. But is a home just where you live? Or who you choose to protect?”

Will you be joining the Latinx Book Club in May? Have you read this book yet? Let’s talk in the comments!

ARC Review: Dealing in Dreams by Lilliam Rivera

Title: Dealing in Dreams
Author: Lilliam Rivera
Series: N/A
Pages: 336
Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date: March 5th 2019
**I received a copy of this book through NetGalley which does not influence my review**

      “At night, Las Mal Criadas own these streets.
      Nalah leads the fiercest all-girl crew in Mega City. That roles brings with it violent throw downs and access to the hottest boydega clubs, but the sixteen-year-old grows weary of the life. Her dream is to get off the streets and make a home in the exclusive Mega Towers, in which only a chosen few get to live. To make it to the Mega towers, Nalah must prove her loyalty to the city’s benevolent founder and cross the border in a search for a mysterious gang the Ashé Ryders. Led by a reluctant guide, Nalah battles other crews and her own doubts, but the closer she gets to her goal, the more she loses sight of everything—and everyone— she cares about.
      Nalah must do the unspeakable to get what she wants—a place to call home. But is a home just where you live? Or who you choose to protect?”

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Lilliam Rivera’s Dealing in Dreams exhibits impressive world-building, but left me wanting more in terms of characters. In Mega City, violence rules the streets. Nalah, known as Chief Rocka, and her crew, Las Mal Criadas, patrol the streets, keeping the people in check and enjoy the occasional spoils at the local clubs known as boydegas. For Nalah, the ultimate goal is to find a place next to Mega City’s leader Déesse, to live in the Mega Towers, where the privileged live in luxury. When an outsider threatens everything Mega City stands for, Las Mal Criadas venture to Cemi Territory, to infiltrate a crew that supposedly disbanded years ago. But on the outside, Chief Rocka faces unexpected challenges and discovers her beloved city may not be the perfect utopia she’s been led to believe.

Lilliam Rivera’s world held a surprise at every turn. The ruler of Mega City, Déesse, is from a line of women who helped rebuild the city after a devastating earthquake. But it wasn’t only buildings that were reconstructed, society itself was reimagined. Mega City became a matriarchy; women rule over men and men are expected to defer to women. This was such an interesting concept to explore. Men’s bodies were exploited in a way that we see women’s and women no longer had to worry about their bodies seen as sexual objects. Young girls are recruited and taught how to fight. If they survive training, they have a chance to join a five-member gang and prove their worth to Déesse. Toilers are the lowest class, producing goods, but never able to climb the social ladder. Money no longer has value, instead people trade for goods and sueño tabs, a drug meant to help ease people into sleep every night, but one that is incredibly addictive. This is the one part of the world-building that I wanted to see more of. Nalah has a rule where none of her girls are allowed to take sueño tabs, so we rarely get a peek at what this pills truly does.

I love how dedicated Nalah is to her crew. She’s a natural leader, not because she is the toughest or the smartest, but because she knows her team. She understands who each member is, what their limits are, and how to deal with each of them. I wish we had gotten to know every member of Las Mal Criadas more. Nalah’s right-hand woman, Truck, is the most clearly conceived. She’s a hothead, who will always pull back her fist first when trying to take care of a problem. The young Nena, who is still learning the ropes, falters more than she succeeds. The other girls haven’t quite accepted her as a member as they are still processing the loss of their former crew member who died at the hands of another crew. Shi and Smiley, the other two members of the gang, did not have much page-time and aside from Nalah’s narration describing who they are, we really don’t get to know either.

Dealing in Dreams has one of the most unique dystopian worlds I’ve read and even though I wanted more character exploration, the inverse world is one I wouldn’t mind spending more time in.

★★★
(3/5)