A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow | HOV Book Tour // Review in 5 GIFs & FAN ART!

Greetings readers!

Welcome all to my stop on the A CUBAN GIRL’S GUIDE TO TEA AND TOMORROW Book Tour!

I am so excited to be bring you this post today! I had so much fun reading this book and creating some fan art for this wonderful book! Many heartfelt thanks Hear Our Voices Book Tours for welcoming me to the tour!

~ THE BOOK~

A CUBAN GIRL’S GUIDE TO TEA AND TOMORROW
by Laura Taylor Namey

Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Release Date: Nov. 10, 2020
Genre: YA Fiction

For Lila Reyes, a summer in England was never part of the plan. The plan was 1) take over her abuela’s role as head baker at their panadería, 2) move in with her best friend after graduation, and 3) live happily ever after with her boyfriend. But then the Trifecta happened, and everything—including Lila herself—fell apart.

Worried about Lila’s mental health, her parents make a new plan for her: Spend three months with family friends in Winchester, England, to relax and reset. But with the lack of sun, a grumpy inn cook, and a small town lacking Miami flavor (both in food and otherwise), what would be a dream trip for some feels more like a nightmare to Lila…until she meets Orion Maxwell.

A teashop clerk with troubles of his own, Orion is determined to help Lila out of her funk, and appoints himself as her personal tour guide. From Winchester’s drama-filled music scene to the sweeping English countryside, it isn’t long before Lila is not only charmed by Orion, but England itself. Soon a new future is beginning to form in Lila’s mind—one that would mean leaving everything she ever planned behind.

Goodreads| Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Bookshop.org

~ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ~

Laura Taylor Namey is a Cuban-American Californian who can be found haunting her favorite coffee shops, drooling over leather jackets, and wishing she was in London or Paris. She lives in San Diego with her husband and two superstar children.

This former teacher writes young adult novels about quirky teens learning to navigate life and love. Her debut, The Library of Lost Things, published 10/08/19 from Inkyard Press/HarperCollins. Her #ownvoices sophomore project, A CUBAN GIRL’S GUIDE TO TEA AND TOMORROW is coming November 10, 2020 from Atheneum Simon and Schuster, with a third title to follow fall 2021.

Twitter | Instagram | Website | Goodreads

~ REVIEW ~

Pack your bags, friends. We are headed across the pond! Forced out of her Miami home, we travel with Lila all the way to a grey and chilly summer in England. This proud Cuban-American girl experiences a bit of a culture shock in the midst of all these Brits, but I loved the adventure that we embarked on! (Also, this book was a practice in my British accent!! XD)

Hunger. You will feel it constantly while reading this very food-orientated book. Lila is an excellent baker and chef who knows how to make a kitchen her palace! I loved that Lila learned to remix her favourite dishes and combine British goodies with Cuban flavours. The different foods and sweets that she baked all sounded delicious and made me very very very hungry. I’m not exaggerating when I say my stomach grumbled every single time I opened this book.

Lila is such a great character! She’s a runner and more often than not the reader chases after her! Complex and savvy are two words that really capture her! She knows she’s the best, and I kind of love that she embraces it. However, she is not perfect and reading about her perseverance is very emotional! She has to take some “hard to swallow” pills which is not easy for anyone, but for Lila it is a huge moment of growth!

Slow burn romance! Like tea that you steep, you have to wait for it to get just the right flavour before you consume it! I loved the relationship between Orion and Lila. I loved that it bloomed from a hesitant friendship into something closer! I loved that they were realistic about their goals and aspirations before they decided on what their future as a couple would look like. Not to mention their relationship buds from tea tasting…I may not love the drink, but if a cute British boy was flirting with me via tea-tasting…I would swoon.

It was a love story and a story of loss! A story about embarking on new adventures and letting go. It’s always hard to let go of the things you love most, especially when they leave you so unexpectedly, but it is necessary for growth and change. Namey did an incredible job of showing this bittersweet aspect of life and how it is never easy, but sometimes essential to move on.

Rating: 4 / 5 Stars

Recommend?: Yes! This is a delightful and delicious read!

~ FAN ART ~

I present to you “Hunting for castles” a piece inspired by the book! I really enjoyed creating this! The image popped up right into my head when I read a certain scene. If you’ve read or when you read the book you will definitely get why I named it that! XD

~ FOLLOW THE TOUR ~

Click below to find other amazing posts celebrating this book!


Let me know what you think! What are your favourite foodie books? Are you looking forward to picking this one up? Are you more of a tea-drinker or coffee-drinker?

*Please Share and/or Donate = Link to a master list of how you can help/educate yourself on Black Lives Matter and other humanitarian movements across the globe*

Happy reading!

~ Rendz

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A Touch of Death | Review // A Post-Apocalyptic Quest

Greetings readers!

It only took me forever to finally put this review together! I would like to send my thank yous to the author for proving me a review copy in exchange for an honest review!

If you guys are looking for a dark read at the end of this spooky month, I definitely recommend checking this out!

A Touch of Death by Rebecca Crunden

A Touch of Death (The Outlands Pentalogy #1)

Pub Date: Feb 23rd, 2017
Goodreads

A thousand years in the future, the last of humanity live inside the walls of the totalitarian Kingdom of Cutta. The rich live in Anais, the capital city of Cutta, sheltered from the famine and disease which ravage the rest of the Kingdom. Yet riches and power only go so far, and even Anaitians can be executed. It is only by the will of the King that Nate Anteros, son of the King’s favourite, is spared from the gallows after openly dissenting. But when he’s released from prison, Nate disappears.

A stark contrast, Catherine Taenia has spent her entire life comfortable and content. The daughter of the King’s Hangman and in love with Thom, Nate’s younger brother, her life has always been easy, ordered and comfortable. That is, where it doesn’t concern Nate. His actions sullied not only his future, but theirs. And unlike Thom, Catherine has never forgiven him.

Two years pass without a word, and then one night Nate returns. But things with Nate are never simple, and when one wrong move turns their lives upside down, the only thing left to do is run where the King’s guards cannot find them – the Outlands. Those wild, untamed lands which stretch around the great walls of the Kingdom, filled with mutants and rabids.


Review

Catherine is someone who thinks she comes off as the quiet docile type, but is actually quite ferocious and I like it. She has bite and opinions and you will hear them! She comes from a very privileged background and reading her fall from grace and seeing her realization of the corruption of the society she was so closely tied to was really interesting!

Nate was interesting if still a little enigmatic throughout the book! A disgraced son and criminal who is wanted by the law and seen the horrors of prison.  He is the tragic rebel who wants to destroy the system that has killed so many! Honestly though I feel like we didn’t get much about him. The author wrote a lot about Catherine’s inner thoughts, but we lacked that depth with Nate.

This post-apocalyptic world was a doozy to wrap my head around at first, but thankfully as the story went on I was able to understand it a lot better! The kingdom we are thrown into is cutthroat and strict from the get-go. Any dissenters are punished and what little freedoms the citizens do have are actually manipulated by the regime in control. I thought it was really well-crafted in the end! And while the details around the Mutants and Outlands were still a little fuzzy, I have a feeling more exploration of those come in the sequels!

The plot itself is quite gritty and evenly paced. As our two main characters are on the run from authority, we are constantly moving and discovering new places and people! I also liked the timer that was put on their lives with the disease that is coursing through their bodies and killing Nate!  I will say though that the beginning sequence is just a whirlwind and I was a confused. It took me a while to understand why they were on the run and what the danger was.  And yet their resolution to their problems is not the greatest or well thought out. *spoiler* calling Nate’s mom is their best bet? Seriously? Not really a great idea *End of Spoiler*

The romance…It took me a while to get comfortable with it, but honestly I think it is well written. It’s complicated and I cannot really say I ship the characters together yet, although I am leaning towards a yes!

The whole ending sequence was WOW! I seriously went through a roller coaster of emotions! It was intense and all that build up finally paid off! Even though the reason they got into the situation was meh, I’ll forgive it for the drama that the last 20% gave me! It was tragic and full of fury! My heart hurt by the end! But I was also full of so much respect for Catherine and the things she went through!

The final-final scene might have not been the most cliff-hangery but the despair and hope that it leaves behind was quite an experience!!


Overall, this book is an experience, but an interesting one! It has grit and it’s dark! Running from a cruel and corrupt regime always makes for a gruelling and entertaining adventure! Mix in some romantic drama and suspense, and you get this great story!

Rating: 3.5 / 5 Stars

Recommend: Yes! There is definitely room for some post-apocalyptic fun on your shelves!

Let me know what you think! What post-apocalyptic books do you love? Have you read this story? What do you envision the future to look like?

*Please Share and/or Donate = Link to a master list of how you can help/educate yourself on Black Lives Matter and other humanitarian movements across the globe*

Happy reading!

~ Rendz

Furia | Review // How to articulate my love for this book?

I want to say in advance that this is one of those times where I feel like my words cannot accurately express my feelings for a book. There is just so much I want to say and I feel like the words I have don’t quite convey that love taking up my thoughts!

So please bear with my scrambled words and just know that I love this books with every fiber of my being!

Many thanks to Thomas Allen & Son for sending me an ARC!

Furia by Yamile Saied Méndez

Furia
via Goodreads

Pub Date: Sept 15th, 2020
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Goodreads

An #ownvoices contemporary YA set in Argentina, about a rising soccer star who must put everything on the line—even her blooming love story—to follow her dreams.

In Rosario, Argentina, Camila Hassan lives a double life.

At home, she is a careful daughter, living within her mother’s narrow expectations, in her rising-soccer-star brother’s shadow, and under the abusive rule of her short-tempered father.

On the field, she is La Furia, a powerhouse of skill and talent. When her team qualifies for the South American tournament, Camila gets the chance to see just how far those talents can take her. In her wildest dreams, she’d get an athletic scholarship to a North American university.

But the path ahead isn’t easy. Her parents don’t know about her passion. They wouldn’t allow a girl to play fútbol—and she needs their permission to go any farther. And the boy she once loved is back in town. Since he left, Diego has become an international star, playing in Italy for the renowned team Juventus. Camila doesn’t have time to be distracted by her feelings for him. Things aren’t the same as when he left: she has her own passions and ambitions now, and La Furia cannot be denied. As her life becomes more complicated, Camila is forced to face her secrets and make her way in a world with no place for the dreams and ambition of a girl like her.


I loved everything!

How do I even begin to express my love for this book? I knew going in I was going to get the fútbol, Argentina, and girl power greatness. What I didn’t know was that I would be absolutely gobsmacked by my emotions.

This book has a lot, but it starts and ends with the amazing Camila Hassan. She was incredible. Wow. From her passion for soccer to her complicated love for her family to her dreams of success, Camila was a force in this story. She’s burdened with the weight of so many secrets and expectations that life gets way complicated for her. She falls hard for her childhood best friend but she doesn’t dare risk her dreams for it AND THAT’S WHAT I LOVED ABOUT HER. Yes, she’s makes mistakes along and she doubts herself at times, but it just made her story all the more compelling!

The family life is complicated on so many levels in this book. We have Pablo, the superstar brother who is not superstar enough, Camila’s hardworking mother who feels like she in general is never enough and her father who…who is stuck thinking about what could have been and that he can never have enough. It’s a family of very complex and toxic relationships on so many ends, with so many secrets and they make this story a wild and emotional journey. Then Diego walks on to the page trying to be all perfect and he is something alright. No spoilers here. But wow. OKAY THEN. I can’t say too much about him because I will spoil things! XD

This book is a lot more than just Camila playing soccer, it’s about her journey to proving that her dreams and aspirations are just as valid and achievable as her brothers, boyfriend’s or any other male athlete. And let me tell you this book is AN EMOTIONAL ROLLERCOASTER! It had me feeling soft one moment and absolutely raging the next moment! The amount of opposition and disapproval that Camila faces from those closest to her is hard to read about, but also made me root for her even more.

This book takes machismo and wrings it by its neck. YSM doesn’t shy away from exposing the violence against women and toxic masculinity that have plagued this society. No, these problems aren’t solved in this book, but they are key reasons that lead Camila to fight back. This book screams girl power, that is not always easy to wield when faced with so much opposition, but something that is liberating and empowering all the same. Yes, this book is feminist af and brings to light the Ni Una Menos movement that is roaming its way through Argentina and the rest of Latin America, fighting for to end femicide and establish rights for women.

It’s a book about a teen being a teen in a little barrio called Rosario in Argentina. We get music references to Maluma and J Balvin, like YES AMAZING. Homework and menstrual cycles are part of this girl’s life, as they should be! Friendship and first love and all the complexities that come with navigating life at an age where huge decisions about the future make this book remarkable and intriguing at every turn of the page. Not to mention the Argentinian daily life and food and culture woven into every action characters make! (Every time alfajores were mentioned my mouth started salivating! *sobs*)

And the beautiful game. I haven’t played soccer in oh god YEARS, but this book brought me back to the pitch. It made my lungs burn, it made my heart race, my hamstrings tighten. It brought up the feelings of team-love, team-pressure and the thrill of competition! It brought joy and sadness! Just that feeling of being in a field chasing the ball and cheering and yelling for a pass! I—omg why am I getting emotional writing this?—Yes, soccer is an central aspect of this story, but more than anything the pitch is where we see Furia come alive and become the dreamer that she is.

So yes. I did tear up at the end. It was a culmination of so many big changes that happened in Camila’s life that brought both joy and sadness. It was a beautiful ending, one that gives mighty hope and vision for girls chasing their dreams against all odds.

And there was a Narnia reference. 🙂 Books always win when they have a reference to Narnia. 🙂


Overall, this book completely swept me off my feet! I can with absolute surety say that this book will be on my top 10 list at the end of the year! This book is a fierce tale of a girl pushing back against every barrier to achieve her dream. It’s a story about first love and the complexities of family. Your emotions will be kicked around from player to player until finally with the last turn of the page you can’t help but scream GOLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!

Rating: 5 / 5 Stars

Recommend: YES! PLEASE! EVERYONE! READ! THIS!

Let me know what you think! Have you read this? Are you looking forward to reading it? Did you ever or do you still play a spot?

*Please Share and/or Donate = Link to a master list of how you can help/educate yourself on Black Lives Matter and other humanitarian movements across the globe*

Happy reading!

~ Rendz

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Blazewrath Games | Blog Tour Review // Latinx Fantasy out to steal our hearts!!!

Greetings readers!

Welcome everyone to my stop the BLAZEWRATH GAMES Blog Tour! I am so excited to be sharing this post with you all today! I had so much fun reading this book, writing this review aaaand creating art for my tour stop so I hope you all enjoy my chaos today!

I would like to thank Caffeine Book Tours for hosting this tour, choosing me to take part and supporting this amazing new Latinx Fantasy novel that is sure to take the world by storm!

~ THE BOOK ~

Title: Blazewrath Games
Author: Amparo Ortiz
Publisher: Page Street Publishing
Publication date: 06 October 2020
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy

BUY THE BOOK!

Amazon
B&N
Book Depository
Indiebound
Goodreads

Synopsis:

Experience the World Cup with dragons in this debut fantasy, set in an alternate contemporary world, in which riders and their steeds compete in an international sports tournament.

Lana Torres has always preferred dragons to people. In a few weeks, sixteen countries will compete in the Blazewrath World Cup, a tournament where dragons and their riders fight for glory in a dangerous relay. Lana longs to represent her native Puerto Rico in their first ever World Cup appearance, and when Puerto Rico’s Runner—the only player without a dragon steed—is kicked off the team, she’s given the chance.

But when she discovers that a former Blazewrath superstar has teamed up with the Sire—a legendary dragon who’s cursed into human form—the safety of the Cup is jeopardized. The pair are burning down dragon sanctuaries around the world and refuse to stop unless the Cup gets cancelled. All Lana wanted was to represent her country. Now, to do that, she’ll have to navigate an international conspiracy that’s deadlier than her beloved sport.


~ MY REVIEW ~

It’s simple. This book was amazing!

I have to start with how much I enjoyed the World Cup vibes we got from it. If Blazewrath were real, I would 10/10 be watching it every two years. I got that same giddiness and high energy that comes with getting to cheer for your team on a world stage! Reading about Lana’s excitement about watching and then getting her dream to compete only intensifies this feeling of pride and delight! (Who hasn’t dreamed of competing in a cup to represent their people!??) Best of all this book brought in and embraced the international love!! I mean a book where a major world event actually features an entire cast of international characters outside of the USA??? YUP. It is absolutely wonderful!!!!

It might take place in an alternate universe of our world, but it felt like a whole new place! I loved that this book explores world building not only in text, but in excerpts of journals and interviews! I loved how these snippets set up the chapter and gave us insight into the history of Blazewrath and dragon origins! It honestly explains so much and deliciously teases readers about what is going to happen next!

I loved Lana! She was fierce, ambitious and did everything with heart. She was kind of just thrown into this chaos and gladly allows it because this has been her dream. She was also the ultimate fangirl! Like who wouldn’t totally squeal when they meet their heroes?? That’s not to say her dream works out perfectly! As she struggles to find her spot on this team, understand her relationship to Puerto Rico, deal with some family drama and figure out the shady things going on behind the scenes, Lana Torres is character that will wiggle her way into your heart and make it home as you embark on this dragon filled journey together!

This book has an incredible and diverse supporting cast! Team Puerto Rico was a boatload of fun! As per my usual style, my heart softened for the comedic relief, Luis. He knew how to crack a joke and lighten the mood and I adored him. You know who my heart did not soften for? Victoria. I’m sorry…it just…it took a while for me to even tolerate her. And ahh there were so many others who shone in the spot light that brought so much richness and fun to this novel! Others could have choked…but I guess those characters are necessary to stir rage too. And rage can be fun XD

I loved that this book focused on building friendships and how difficult it is to be the newbie or late comer! Lana really felt like she had to prove herself to her teammates and that’s not easy! I liked that we got to see her transition from seeing them as her idols and then her equals! There is no romance, but it honestly isn’t necessary! The growing bonds between these teammates and Lana sort of feels like a found-family trope and pulls on the heartstrings enough.

We were promised magic and dragons and we got ’em! Ortiz really wove these mythical creatures into the fabric of the world by giving them national origins which I found so unique! I also like that the dragons themselves had personality too, so those How To Train Your Dragon vibes were strong! And if dragons aren’t enough for you, witches also exist in this world! Lana’s bff Samira is a witch with enough sass and finesse to charm anyone! We get to go wand shopping and transporting and get so many more glimpses into the witch life! The book really takes on the complex politics between humans and witches and dragons. Things can get complicated with so many different views, but it honestly adds to the drama and twistiness of the novel.

This book pulls on the heartstrings! I wasn’t expecting to be hurt and lo and behold I got hurt! So while I felt those happy and giddy feelings of being in the atmosphere of this world event, it also had it’s really sad and hard moments. One in particular that I don’t think I am quite over yet!

Overall, this was a fun and exciting new fantasy adventure! It’s evenly-paced, has some amazing plot-twists and features an incredible cast of characters! Lana is sure to capture the hearts of many readers as the ultimate fan girl finally living her dream and then fighting for a better world! The energy and scandal of Blazewrath is a force that will surely pull readers in and have them cheering on for their favourite characters! With wonderful world-building and magic woven into each turn of the page, this book is sure to knock the socks off of many readers!

Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars

Recommend?: Yes! Read all the Latinx fantasy!!!


~ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ~

Amparo Ortiz was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and currently lives on the island’s northeastern coast. Her short story comic, “What Remains in The Dark,” appears in the Eisner Award-winning anthology Puerto Rico Strong (Lion Forge, 2018), and SAVING CHUPIE, her middle grade graphic novel, comes out with HarperCollins in Winter 2022. She holds an M.A. in English and a B.A. in Psychology from the UPR’s Río Piedras campus. When she’s not teaching ESL to her college students, she’s teaching herself Korean, devouring as much young adult fiction as she can, and writing about Latinx characters in worlds both contemporary and fantastical.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads


~ MY ART ~

To pay homage to Lana’s role as the Puerto Rican flag bearer, I decided to paint her holding the flag as if she were posing for one of her promotional portraits!! I had a lot of fun designing and creating this so enjoy!


~ FOLLOW THE TOUR ~

Check out the Tour Schedule to read other wonderful reviews and creative posts!


Let me know what you think! Are you looking forward to reading this book? What are your favourite dragon books? Given the options between being a witch or dragon rider, what would you choose?

*Please Share and/or Donate = Link to a master list of how you can help/educate yourself on Black Lives Matter and other humanitarian movements across the globe*

Happy reading!

~ Rendz

The Faithless Hawk | Review // A Series I Will Never Forget

Greetings readers!

Never have I had a book series so intimately connected to my life. And I’m not even talking emotionally. I’m talking about major life connections.

When I read The Merciful Crow, I was healing from having my wisdom teeth removed only to crack open a book where magic is found in pulled teeth!!! People!! Are you listening to me!

Then this year, I picked up The Faithless Crow only to immerse myself in a world where there is a plague and people need to practice proper hygiene and quarantine themselves. PEOPLE, ARE YOU SEEING WHAT I AM SAYING.

I will never forget these books! XD

Lucky for me, I enjoyed them very much! And this sequel was quite epic!

*Many thank to Raincoast Books for the ARC*

The Faithless Crow by Margaret Owen

The Faithless Hawk (The Merciful Crow, #2)

Pub Date: Aug 18th, 2020
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co
Goodreads

Kings become outcasts and lovers become foes in the thrilling sequel to Margaret Owen’s The Merciful Crow.

As the new chieftain of the Crows, Fie knows better than to expect a royal to keep his word. Still she’s hopeful that Prince Jasimir will fulfill his oath to protect her fellow Crows. But then black smoke fills the sky, signaling the death of King Surimir and the beginning of Queen Rhusana’s merciless bid for the throne.

With the witch queen using the deadly plague to unite the nation of Sabor against Crows—and add numbers to her monstrous army—Fie and her band are forced to go into hiding, leaving the country to be ravaged by the plague. However, they’re all running out of time before the Crows starve in exile and Sabor is lost forever.

A desperate Fie calls on old allies to help take Rhusana down from within her own walls. But inside the royal palace, the only difference between a conqueror and a thief is an army. To survive, Fie must unravel not only Rhusana’s plot, but ancient secrets of the Crows—secrets that could save her people, or set the world ablaze.


The Likes

Fie is still the raddest of all characters! She is a ferocious girl with a soft side and we love to see it. Her loyalty to her band and the people she loves most in the world is incredible! She doesn’t always think every plan through and sometimes her bite gets the better of her, but I really enjoyed her character. She is someone I would definitely want to be friends with!

Jas…you know for disliking him so much in the first book, I loved him during every second of this book. You can see how much he has developed since the first chapter in book one! If you ever feel like you can’t unlearn the hatred/biases you’ve been taught, his character is proof that it is possible. It’s not easy to do, but it is doable and necessary!

Tav…OMG. I shouldn’t say much because of spoilers, but you know what we go through a boat load of emotions. I mean it’s not really a spoiler, but the book is called what it is called for a reason! I really can’t talk about him, any words I can think of typing come out spoilery. He’s just someone to look out for.

Other characters…we have your iconic evil queen, Rhusana, who is *roars* just awful. Then there is Khoda who is a new and pleasantly wonderful character. He is a bit uptight, but him hanging around with these chaotic kids made things all the more fun.

The world is still quite fascinating. The caste system and the societal divide and classification was so interesting and scary to read about. But I loved that we dove deeper into what the Covenant was, how these different castes were connected, learning about their vulnerabilities and dependencies. The rich history that Owen endows us with may seem confusing at first but boy oh boy do we get some answers!

The Magic! It is still in the teeth! This is still one of the most unique sources of power that I have read in a book! I want to explore this system even more! I loved that everyone had a sense of magic and I also liked that we got to explore the repercussions of power imbalances.

The plot was very a deep dive into the questions from book one. This time we dive deeper into the persecution of the Crow Caste. We dive deeper into the magical history that governs the relationships between castes. Unlike book one where we had a lot of reflection through walking, in this book we are dumped right into the belly of the beast as Fie and her new crew pull off a heist of sorts within the palace walls. There were disguises, scheming and revelations galore!

The romance was *incoherent screeching noises* I really cannot talk about this without getting spoilery. BUT I must say that relationships play a huge part of Fie’s journey. The question of how far you’re willing to go for love and how far is too far are huge hurdles for many characters!

This is a slow-burn again and you really have to be patient and immerse yourself into the lives of these characters, but it is so worth it. The twists just keep coming and when things go wrong they go wrong and then finally things get WILD in the end. I really really really liked those final few chapters. They were INTENSE and all that build up throughout the beginning of the book really came crashing down.


Overall, I really enjoyed this conclusion. I feel like this was a perfect ending, although I wouldn’t mind having one more book just to get some more tooth magic! This is a great slow-burn that leads to an explosive ending. The characters that endeared themselves to me in book one got even better in this book! If you are looking for an intriguing and new magic system and mythology, a cast of colourful characters, cats and great twists, I highly highly recommend this series!

Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars

Recommend: Yes! Duology lovers will definitely want to check this out!

Let me know what you think! Have you read this series? Which character is your favourite? What is your favourite kind of magic system?

*Please Share and/or Donate = Link to a master list of how you can help/educate yourself on Black Lives Matter and other humanitarian movements across the globe*

Happy reading!
~ Rendz

The Barren Grounds | Review // Living my best life reading portal fantasy!

Greetings readers!

I don’t ask for much in life, but I do ask for all the portal fantasies to make their way to me. It’s a love that stems from my younger days watching and reading about Narnia and wanting so desperately just to go somewhere else. I think that desire is what really got me into reading and engaging in that whole escapism complex.

But enough about me, I’m here today to scream about this incredible book. It promised me delight and gave me much delight! So Happy Book Birthday to The Barren Grounds by David A. Robertson!

*Many thanks to PRHC for the review copy!*

The Barren Grounds by David A. Robertson

The Barren Grounds
via Goodreads

Pub Date: Sept 8th, 2020
Publisher: Puffin Canada
Goodreads

Narnia meets traditional Indigenous stories of the sky and constellations in an epic middle grade fantasy series from award-winning author David Robertson.

Morgan and Eli, two Indigenous children forced away from their families and communities, are brought together in a foster home in Winnipeg, Manitoba. They each feel disconnected, from their culture and each other, and struggle to fit in at school and at their new home — until they find a secret place, walled off in an unfinished attic bedroom. A portal opens to another reality, Askí, bringing them onto frozen, barren grounds, where they meet Ochek (Fisher). The only hunter supporting his starving community, Misewa, Ochek welcomes the human children, teaching them traditional ways to survive. But as the need for food becomes desperate, they embark on a dangerous mission. Accompanied by Arik, a sassy Squirrel they catch stealing from the trapline, they try to save Misewa before the icy grip of winter freezes everything — including them.


The Likes

This book has a fantastic cast of characters that never allows for a dull moment.

Morgan was such a delight. She was fierce and soft. She was sassy and sweet. She loved reading fantasy novels and imagining up wild scenarios! I could tell she engaged very well in the arts of sarcasm and she knew how to crack a joke which I appreciated very much. She also had quite a temper. She struggled with handling her anger that often made her “unlikable”. (I like how Robertson used the imagery of fire to illustrate the pain and fury coursing through her.) Nevertheless, Morgan’s journey to self-discovery and identity was an emotional one that takes her across lands to find answers. She was an incredible character who saw much growth!

Eli was the purest child! So soft! I loved how he complemented Morgan’s spikier personality. He was a more quiet kid to begin with, but I loved watching his journey in grow more brave and heroic. His talent for drawing and his pull of adventure into lands unknown makes him the perfect partner for Morgan. His levels of compassion were *clutches heart* so pure and I loved how he always fought for what was right!

Other characters…Ochek and Arik were the best companions to have on this adventure! From Ochek’s serious, noble and humble heart to Arik’s snarky and sneaky charm, these two were absolutely delightful. They were also just as dynamic as our MCs. I enjoyed that they grappled with their own flaws in their efforts to save themselves and the land they cherish.

The writing was wonderfully whimsical in a not too flowery way. As Morgan mentions in this book there is such a thing as “fantasy talk” in which the characters use grand words that bring out an other-worldliness of a fantasy land. Well this book does a great job of balancing the contemporary talk and the fantasy talk. From the humour and snark to the whimsy and enchantment, this book used that traditional grandeur of fantasy talk but made it way more accessible to readers so we don’t spend half a page trying to figure out one metaphor. It was easy to follow and yet it wrapped you up in its magic too!

This story takes us to lots of places, from the halls of a Winnipeg school to an in-construction attic to a snowy plain. However, the journey across landscapes of Aski is the most exciting part. I absolutely loved how Robertson made us travel so far without needing to do so much. (Vague much, Rendz?) I don’t want to spoil, but I loved the portal in this book. It was simple and yet essential to the plot. It reminded me of my own childhood tactics to finding other magical lands!

The Misewa community was beautifully crafted! The Cree language and traditions were very important aspects to this world and I loved that Morgan (and the reader) learned new words and phrases and stories along with her. I loved that we delved into the history of Misewa and the two-legged animals that walked and talked. It is a community that has been doomed by humans, but who will need two human children to help find the key to their salvation.

The story had a strong message about importance of the relationship between people, animals and the land. It emphasized the need for balance and warned of the dangers that come from taking too much and being greedy. The antagonist is one we often find throughout history and even today. (I actually gave a snort-laugh when I read it) Themes of environmentalism and the dangers of consumerism were beautifully woven into this tale of wonder that has two kids, a fisher and a squirrel journeying across dangerous terrains to save Misewa.

This book also puts forwards the truths of the foster care system in Canada that has an over-representation of Indigenous children. It shows the deep emotional effects it has on children who are removed from their people at such young ages and put into situations that leave them questioning and wondering about who they are. Especially for kids like Morgan, who has been fostered since she was a toddler, with little memory of her family from before. No matter the intentions of the foster family, this book puts into light the experiences of the child and the feelings of constant displacement. I love that in Misewa they find another place of care, one in which Eli and Morgan find themselves feeling more at home than ever before.

Maybe I cried a little bit? There is just a very emotional scene in this book. You might think middle grade is all fun and smiles and adventure, but there is some bittersweetness too. It’s not tragic, it just pulls very hard on the heart-strings. And I would just like to say that book design is there for a reason and wow I was delighted and hurt at the same time!

And finally, I caught 2 Narnia references. TWO! I was living!


Overall, I really enjoyed this book! It is a story about family and finding home in people who may not be blood, but with whom you share ties with. It’s a story about adventure and valuing yourself. It’s about sticking up for yourself and knowing how to practice compassion. It warmed my heart even though it brought the chilly vibes! I think it is a perfect fall or winter read if you really want to be immersed in the atmosphere and feel that bite of the wind!

Rating: 5 / 5 Stars

Recommend?: Absolutely! For all the portal fantasy lovers!

Let me know what you think! Are you a fan of portal fantasy? Are you going to pick up this book? What world would you wish to travel to?

*Please Share and/or Donate = Link to a master list of how you can help/educate yourself on Black Lives Matter and other humanitarian movements across the globe*

Happy reading!

~ Rendz

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Where Dreams Descend | Review // Only sparks when I wanted to be burned!

Greetings readers!

Here I go again being unfamiliar with popular culture things and still reading books based on them anyways! That’s right, I’m doing it again. To be fair though, I know the absolute bare minimum details of the two comp titles used to promote this book, so I didn’t feel as lost as other times.

And yet even if I hadn’t been exposed to The Phantom of the Opera and Moulin Rouge before reading this I would 10/10 want to know all about them afterwards!

Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles

Where Dreams Descend (Kingdom of Cards, #1)
via Goodreads

Pub Date: August 25th, 2020
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Goodreads

In a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.

As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.

The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost

The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told

The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide

Where Dreams Descend is the startling and romantic first book in Janella Angeles’ debut Kingdom of Cards fantasy duology where magic is both celebrated and feared, and no heart is left unscathed.

The Likes:

Kallia is *chef’s kiss* phenomenal! A powerhouse is the best description for her. She was fierce and unapologetic all the time. She had dreams and a goal and boy did she risk it all for to get what she wanted! She has been living in the cage all her life and I love that she takes her chance at freedom despite the fact that she might be headed into more danger. She got bite and she not afraid to use it!

Demarco was your broodster and I liked him well enough. He was more reserved for *reasons* He was not running from his past, but more trying to do penance for tragedy that stopped him from performing. I liked how much he overthought things. Quite opposite from our dear Kallia who went in head first and damned the consequences.

Jack is most mysterious of all the characters and I liked that we got to circle back to him every once in a while. I liked the intrigue and danger that surrounded him and his club that was in the middle of the woods. He’s not a villain per see, but I can definitely tell he is not everything that he seems!

Aaros is my favourite character. Gosh I loved him. He was charming and silly and complemented Kallia perfectly as her assistant (no toxic masculinity here), I don’t know why I always fall for the side characters, but I did and I love him! His platonic relationship with Kallia was so great! We love to see it!

The world building…oh I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but this world is quite intriguing! I raged at the patriarchal society that tries to squash Kallia, but I gotta say I loved to see her break every barrier and overcome their fragile gender ideals! That being said there is some mystery deeply engraved in this world. The dynamics between the magicians and non-magicians were interesting because the people with power were both revered and feared! Then we throw in a circus and things just get way more fabulous! I loved the Conqueror ladies and I would 10/10 read a book solely based on them! And finally put in a deceptive and dangerous forest that isolates this city and you are fully immersed in this world of wonder and magic!

Spectaculore was exciting! I’m always a sucker for competitions in books! As I said before, Kallia had to break through several hurdles set in her path because she was a female magician performing on stage as herself and not an assistant or showgirl. This competition had high stakes and always held a surprise. Personally, I loved reading about Kallia excel in this craft! I loved reading about the shows she put on and the magic she made happened.

The romance was triangular and yet…was not. I can definitely see The Phantom of the Opera influences when it comes to the romance. I liked the hate-to-love thing going on between Kallia and Demarco! It kept things interesting. I liked Jack’s secret visitations to Kallia, even though they bordered stalker creepiness! It just kept things interesting. And I hesitate to call this a true triangle because I’m not sure if Kallia can truly be interested in Jack after having kept her trapped for so long.

The ending was quite quite QUITE fascinating and cliff-hangery. I’m into it.

The Questionable

Alongside the competition plot is also this mystery that well stays a mystery XD It digs into every corner of the story and it brought some thrill which I liked, but in the end it’s just a series of bad things that happen. It hooked me in the moment, but then we quickly forgot about it so I didn’t find it all that compelling in the end. 

This story is a slow burn, it was a lot of build-up as these characters danced around revealing their secrets to each other and to the readers! I like the slow burn, but this one led to some not really jaw-dropping reveals. Like I wasn’t shocked when the revelation happens. It was a little underwhelming really. I had hoped for something more. Something big and explosive, but I felt only a little glimmer of “Oh!” I was just not that surprised or shocked by the secrets that get revealed.

The magic is just magic. I didn’t really identify any origins other than some are born magical and some acquire it. I was left with several questions of what exactly this magic is to a person, born or acquired. Like what do they feel? Is it a force they pull from within? How does magic vary from person to person? What makes one stronger than the other? It was a book full of magic, and yet I felt like it was the least explained part of the novel.

I wanted to see more of Jack and Kallia and Hellfire House’s past to feel that emotional intensity. I get that Kallia was supposed to be really attached to Jack and the house, but I just didn’t feel it. I think more time should have been spent in Hellfire House before we left for Glorian. The former had thrill and was such a big part of Kallia’s life, but we spend so little time there. Like we are told that her connections to this house are big, but we hardly spend enough time there to feel that same pull ourselves. It’s simply a place I would have liked to spend more time in, even though I understand the bigger part of the story happens in Glorian.


Overall, this book was a magical experience that sparked but didn’t catch fire. It is long and you have to be patient with the slow burn, but I think that it was pretty entertaining overall. I’m sure big fans of The Phantom of the Opera and Moulin Rouge will find little Easter eggs and nuggets to enjoy. I, myself, found this book enjoyable but not astounding. It has magic, but the mystery of the unexplained bad thing kept me from truly being swept off my feet. I think even a tiny more information about it could have helped. I think the characters and the circling perspectives were the greatest assets of the story. This book might have not met the shock I had hoped for, but I would be willing to read book two!

Rating: 3.5 / 5 Stars

Recommend: I’d say yes for the slow-burn lovers!

Let me know what you think! Have you read this? Are you looking forward to reading this? Are you fans of the musicals?

*Please Share and/or Donate = Link to a master list of how you can help/educate yourself on Black Lives Matter and other humanitarian movements across the globe*

Happy reading!

~ Rendz

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Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From | Review // Happy Book Birthday to this amazing book ft. a half-Salvi MC — I’M LIVING.

Greetings readers!

I am so pleased to be bringing you a review for a book that releases today!

When I first heard about this book, I was intrigued because hello I’m in for any and all Latinx books. And then I heard whispers that the MC was actually half-Salvadorian and I couldn’t press request faster when the publisher sent out the request list!

Do you guys know how hard it to find Salvadorian characters in YA books? It’s hard! But I’ve been given a gift with this book, and I’m so glad to say that it was quite a success for me! I hope that my review makes even just a smidgen of sense as I tell you how much I enjoyed it!

*Many thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada for providing me with an ARC*

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

Don't Ask Me Where I'm From
via Goodreads

Pub Date: August 18th, 2020
Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Goodreads

First-generation American LatinX Liliana Cruz does what it takes to fit in at her new nearly all-white school. But when family secrets spill out and racism at school ramps up, she must decide what she believes in and take a stand.

Fifteen-year-old Liliana is fine, thank you very much. It’s fine that her best friend, Jade, is all caught up in her new boyfriend lately. It’s fine that her inner-city high school is disorganized and underfunded. It’s fine that her father took off again—okay, maybe that isn’t fine, but what is Liliana supposed to do? She’s fifteen! Being left with her increasingly crazy mom? Fine. Her heathen little brothers? Fine, fine, fine. But it turns out Dad did leave one thing behind besides her crazy family. Before he left, he signed Liliana up for a school desegregation program called METCO. And she’s been accepted.

Being accepted into METCO, however, isn’t the same as being accepted at her new school. In her old school, Liliana—half-Guatemalan and half-Salvadorian—was part of the majority where almost everyone was a person of color. But now at Westburg, where almost everyone is white, the struggles of being a minority are unavoidable. It becomes clear that the only way to survive is to lighten up—whiten up. And if Dad signed her up for this program, he wouldn’t have just wanted Liliana to survive, he would have wanted her to thrive. So what if Liliana is now going by Lili? So what if she’s acting like she thinks she’s better than her old friends? It’s not a big deal. It’s fine.

But then she discovers the gutting truth about her father: He’s not on one of his side trips. And it isn’t that he doesn’t want to come home…he can’t. He’s undocumented and he’s been deported back to Guatemala. Soon, nothing is fine, and Lili has to make a choice: She’s done trying to make her white classmates and teachers feel more comfortable. Done changing who she is, denying her culture and where she came from. They want to know where she’s from, what she’s about? Liliana is ready to tell them.


The Likes:

At the centre and forefront of this novel is the incredible and very authentic voice. I can already see the complaints of people calling the writing juvenile and hard to understand because of the slang and can I just tell these people to shove off already? This story is being told by a 15 year old-girl, do you think that she always thinks in full sentences and with the vocabulary of a university professor!? No. I personally loved the writing style and voice! It really gave off the vibes of being in this teenager’s mind. The reader is put into her head so wonderfully, an effect that I think is best achieved when the vernacular of the text caters to the voice of the character. I mean did I understand every term used? No, but that’s what Urban Dictionary is for.

Liliana was a phenomenal character and I resonated a lot with her. She starts off this story your average teen living the high school life in Boston. She’s kind of moody, having to deal with her little brothers and her dad’s sudden disappearance, it doesn’t help that her mom isn’t letting up any details. Then things change, big time. She is accepted into the METCO program at a predominately white school in wealthy neighbourhood. She’s apprehensive about the move, but does it to make her parents happy. Then things get more intense as she discovers her father has actually been deported and that her mother is also an undocumented immigrant. These are not the most welcome experiences for her and she reacts in a very understandable way. She was angry and scared and most of all confused. Is she flawed? Oh yeah. And yet I loved her desire to learn more. To find the answers for her questions and find the voice to fight for herself. 

As she learns to navigate the halls of her new school she finds herself changing and is unsure how to feel about it. She begins to feel like she is losing herself as she is confronted with two very different worlds, neither of which seem to claim her entirely.  The trials of friendship both of maintaining connections you already have and creating new ones is a bug hurdle for her. There were so many different factors she had to balance at once. I was only ever the new-kid once, but this book does a great job of showing how difficult it is to navigate new waters especially in a school where there is so much division!

Reading about Liliana’s eventual awakening to the reality of her family’s story was so relatable for me. In my Latinx experience, it is very common that family stories and family secrets stay sealed among the adults. It’s when you reach a certain age, like Liliana’s 15 years, when you finally start to be trusted with the secrets. And sometimes these revelations weigh you down. I can only imagine the kind of hurt and confusion that Liliana felt about her parents and the idea that her dad might never come back to their family. Reading about how she dealt with this weight was poignant and really eye-opening.

Identity and knowing who you are is probably the biggest theme in this book. As someone who is both half-Salvadorian and half-Guatemalan, Liliana finds herself knowing very little about the countries from whence her parents hail. (And again so relatable) I loved that she took it upon herself to google, read books and ask questions to know more! Questions she asks her older family members that aren’t always answered in a direct manner (like is this my life?? I’ve done these very same things SO many times). She embarks on her own research about Guatemala and the hardships of immigration which was really admirable!

I don’t know much about the American school system, but reading this book was again very insightful. The complexities of the METCO program and navigating a school where you are constantly othered is scary. The amount of microaggressions and blatant racism that Liliana and the other POC characters face in the book is not shocking but pretty despicable. This book made a powerful statement on what it means to be open to diversity, navigating white fragility and the dangers of relying on BIPOC to “teach” people how to not be racist. It made me honestly reflect about my own experience in school. To be fair, my high school was not predominately white, but I still faced some of these very things from my own classmates. Some of these microaggressions I’ve done myself. I used to say–and sometimes still say–that I am “Spanish” when I am most certainly not. I was just so wowed by the truth after truth that this book spit out.

At heart this is a story about family. It was gut-wrenching at times because there is just so much heartbreak. This is not really a story about migration, although the dangers of crossing the US-Mexican border is a prominent worry for Liliana and her family. (Not mention the president that wants to build a wall.) And I really liked how the author approached it.  I feel like this book is for first-generation kids. The children of immigrants that are both of the nation they were born in be it American or Canadian (in my case) and that nations from which their parents come from. It’s about embracing that your identity is not limited to one single place, one single way of seeing the world. I might have cried just a little bit because this story resonated so much with me. In no ways is my life identical to Liliana’s, but just some of the things she thinks about and questions she asks reflect my experience too.

Nonetheless, this book leaves us all on a note of hope. It calls for holding yourself and your friends accountable.  It calls for us to never judge on first appearance and be open to everyone’s intersectionality. It calls for asking questions and being open to learning about the struggles everyone faces. It’s about facing that fear even in the face of rejection and embracing that each and every one of us is a complex human being worthy of going for gold to reach our dreams.


Overall, this book was a really amazing read. It grabbed me every time I opened the page and let me tell you that second half had me clutched by the collar, I couldn’t put it down! Centered around themes of identity, social justice and family, this book is sure to draw you in with its unique character voice and drama. It’s a compelling read and very relevant!

Rating: 5 / 5 Stars

Recommend: Oh yes!

Let me know what you think! Have you ever read a book with a character that shares your culture? Are you looking forward to reading this? What books about family and/or social justice do you love?

*Lebanon Needs You – Please Share and/or Donate + Link to a master list of how you can help/educate yourself on Black Lives Matter and other humanitarian movements across the globe*

Happy reading!

~ Rendz

 

The Gilded Wolves | Review // This Street Team Member is FINALLY in on the epicness!

Greetings readers!

Have you ever uhhh been a part of a street team to promote a book and never actually read the book??? Yeah. I know. It’s a bad look.

But hey I don’t have that problem anymore because I HAVE FINALLY READ THE BOOK I’VE BEEN MEANING TO READ!

Round of applause for me for having done the absolute bare minimum! *claps for self*

In all seriousness though, I am very excited to be presenting this review for you today! I have been anticipating this book for a while and I am glad I have finally had the chance to read it!

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

The Gilded Wolves (The Gilded Wolves, #1)

Pub Date: Jan 15th, 2019
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Goodreads

No one believes in them. But soon no one will forget them.

It’s 1889. The city is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. Here, no one keeps tabs on dark truths better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. When the elite, ever-powerful Order of Babel coerces him to help them on a mission, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.

To hunt down the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin calls upon a band of unlikely experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian banished from his home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in arms if not blood.

Together, they will join Séverin as he explores the dark, glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the course of history–but only if they can stay alive.


The Likes

These Snarky Bantery Characters are to die for! We love a found family trope!

I love Laila. We can only stan a mom friend who is also sassy and loves some scandal. I adored her. Her compassion and loving kindness was unconditional. We love to see it.

I love Séverin. Mysterious and suave. He is all angst. He loves his brother and his friend-family! He tries so hard not to thirst, but my man is thirsty for ^ for 90% of this novel. XD And honestly we love to see it.

I love Enrique. A historian with wit sharp like a knife. He was unapologetically himself all the time even though he also struggled with his identity and figuring out his place in the world. He was charming and witty and we love to see it.

I love Zofia. Her chapters brought me back to my calculus days and while it was a little triggering, her chapters were always wildly interesting! I wish I could be half as intelligent and caring as she is! I loved that knew her boundaries and drew her lines, but was still brave enough to step out her comfort zone every now and then. We love to see it.

I love Tristan. So soft. So sweet. He was 16 but I felt like he read a little younger (then again it only added to his softness so I’m not really complaining) He was not as present in the book for reasons, but whenever he did show up on the page he was cheeky and sweet and yes, we love to see it!

And Hypnos. You know I suspected him for a bit, but I did ended up loving him. If you think Enrique was a charmer, Hypnos was The Charmer. Always had something suave to say and flirting is his first language. He added the fun and quips and we love to see it!

This world building was amazing! Set in 1889 Paris, on the eve of the opening of the Exposition Universelle, this book is chock full of history. You can tell Chokshi did her research and dug deep into what this world would be like. This was the age of invention and discovery for some, while it was also full of destruction. I loved that this book put the disastrous effects of colonialism front and centre. That it paints an authentic picture of what Paris would have been like for these characters of colour and other marginalized backgrounds.

What’s more is that this world is magic, for history is boring if you don’t twist and add some kick to it. The story of the Tower of Babel plays kind of a big part in the book, but it is explained so no need for any biblical knowledge really. I love how Chokshi created different houses that people belonged to (House Kore member here 😉 ). The seven deadly sins also play a really big part of this and I liked how she incorporated them. The Magical Society was super intriguing. It’s courts and politics messy. And yet it was glamorous. This was a world of opulence and finding rare and precious objects. AND YET it is also tied to colonialism and the theft of sacred cultural objects and people!

In terms of overall plot, I love me some heist stories. It packs in both the suspense and the mystery. It had action and analytics. You can definitely see the inspiration Chokshi took from National Treasure, as the characters search for artifacts and try to piece together a puzzle of riddles. The chase never lets up and just when you think the calm has settled, the storm comes crashing down once again!

The romance. This was a book of yearning. Lots of romantic and sexual tension. Some characters were more thirsty than others is all I have to say! There may even be a triangle of sorts going on…I’m not really sure how this will end up playing out, but I’m actually into this.

The Ending. I’m sitting there all happy and then BAM. Tragedy strikes and my heart literally breaks. The last 40 pages of this novel just brings down the hatchet on everyone’s neck! Seriously, Rosh wasn’t playing around!

The Questionable

I think I was just overwhelmed sometimes with information. I usually like when we get snippets of “direct sources” but for some reason the snippets we got in this book just confused me. I think they might have been a little too abstract for me and trying to find the connections to the actual story occupied my mind to much.


Overall, I very much enjoyed this book! I feel much better as a street team member now that I have read it and I don’t have to avoid spoilers like the plague! This book promised high stakes, treasure hunting, romance and suspense and it delivers! I cannot wait to see what happens in book 2 as every character has to face the choices they made in the end of book one!

Rating: 4 / 5 Stars

Recommend?: Yes!

Let me know what you think! Have you read this? Are you looking forward to the sequel? Who is your favourite character?

*Lebanon Needs You – Please Share and/or Donate + Link to a master list of how you can help Black Lives Matter and other humanitarian movements across the globe*

Happy reading!

~ Rendz

Mexican Gothic | Review // The Book of the Summer is for the Trashy yet Classy. And I can confirm that I am trash for this book.

Greetings readers!

How does one eloquently review a book that they have been waiting forever for? Better question: How does one eloquently review a book that they have been waiting forever for and has had their expectations superseded by said book?

You can’t. It’s simply impossible.

Well it’s simply impossible if your name is Rendz and you are me.

But I’m gonna try it anyways.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Mexican Gothic
via Goodreads

Pub Date: June 30th, 2020
Publisher: Del Rey
Goodreads

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • An isolated mansion. A chillingly charismatic aristocrat. And a brave socialite drawn to expose their treacherous secrets. . . .

From the author of Gods of Jade and Shadow comes “a terrifying twist on classic gothic horror” (Kirkus Reviews) set in glamorous 1950s Mexico. “It’s Lovecraft meets the Brontës in Latin America, and after a slow-burn start Mexican Gothic gets seriously weird” (The Guardian).

After receiving a frantic letter from her newlywed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find – her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.


The Likes

This book was brilliant in so many ways. My experience with Gothic literature is minimal, but after reading this book it is definitely a genre that I would be more into. Mexican Gothic brings together both the supernatural and the realistic. It’s cozy and yet most definitely not. It entices you with the promise of danger, and while you relish in the thrill you fall into the dark with Noemí and need to claw your way back out. Classy and creepy all in one. A stylish and sinister read, as said by Gwenda Bond.

Noemí was the epitome of fabulous. I cannot explain to you how much I adored her character. As a young socialite who is working her way through the high life of Mexico City she is driven by her ambition and desire to get what she wants. She may not have a clear plan and changes her mind many times, but when she wants something she goes for it and we love to see it. She is fierce and sassy and flirtatious and stylish. The clothes she wore in this novel are divine. She was such an incredible character. From her strong desire to protect her cousin to her tumultuous rescue mission, she was always entertaining to read about. Does she tumble and fumble along the way? Absolutely.  She likes the danger, she likes the scandal and the thrill. Probably not the best traits to have when interacting with this family. But she is also someone who deep down never lets anything truly stop her.

Catalina, while she was more of a background character, was still really fascinating. We mostly get a sense of Cata’s character from the anecdotes Noemi tells us about her fairy-tale, tragic romance loving cousin. She was a hopeless romantic and she sought the high that comes from having a lover that may be a little on the dark side. However, Cata *changes*. Oh I am treading the spoiler line, but wow I just really enjoyed seeing this transition in character. She is after all sort of the reason Noemi is pulled into this story, and she plays a big part in how it unfolds. We stan her, trust me.

(While we’re on the topic, fairy tales actually play somewhat of a symbolic role in this novel. And I’m not talking about the Disney kind, I’m talking about the old grim stories that are gruesome and horrific tales of gore and grief, but that attract the reader with a ~romance~ woven within its twists. hint hint nudge nudge.)

The Doyles. Oh the Doyles. I shouldn’t say much about them because spoilers, but I will give my two cents on them anyways. They were a creepy bunch from the very beginning to the very end. They were the symbol of white colonialism and the destruction colonists caused the people and the land that they infiltrated. They rub you wrong in every single way. And I can’t lie they are intriguing. I was simultaneously repulsed by them, but also wanted to know what’s up with them. We can only stan one young shy Doyle.

This is a slow burn so be prepared to spend some time soaking in the Gothic goodness and history that SMG provides us with. A good chunk of this book has Noemi getting a feel of what High Place is like. There’s lots of exploring and dreaming and realizing that things are not what they seem at all. And what makes this slow tread so special is that this book is incredibly atmospheric. The sun never shines in this novel. It doesn’t help that High Place has strict rules: no electricity, no hot water, no casual conversations. It thrives in gloom, cold and silence. Creepy right? SMG did a perfect job of transporting the reader into the house and wrapping them in the mist that surrounds the mountain. It furthers that sense of suspense that has us hanging on to every word that is put forth. This book is an experience, it’s the best way I can explain what it is like to read it. You are not merely an observer, but you are in the house with its listening walls and gloomy corridors.

So then we get to the 60% mark and things just start to happen and we tumble down this series of things getting bleaker and bleaker. Boom. Boom. Boom. As I discovered more about the history of the family and the house, things just get twistier and harder to piece out. And let me tell you this family is MESSED UP. There isn’t such a thing as an easy solution, Noemi is literally trapped in this house with these people.

That being said, the creep factor is high. And the dark factor is even higher. There are some things in this book, some images that I cannot get out of my head. Once specific image with mushrooms is just…*shivers* Towards the climax when the once mysterious elements of the story are brought to light, my heart actually started pumping. I haven’t had a heart-pumping read in a while. I was actually getting nervous. I was scared about what would happen next. And this is not like the movies where you can look away or cover your eyes and wait for things to pass. You have to read the things that happen, you have to live through it with Noemi and it is CREEPY.

And the horror isn’t only tied to the freaky supernatural things that go on. But also the repercussions of colonialism that lead to the deaths of so many Mexican minors. Eugenics and its twistedness was a huge factor in this novel. Especially when it comes to keeping bloodlines pure *looks judgmentally at a certain family* But it also explores Mexico in the 1950s where misogyny was rampant and women were trapped in the cages of their husbands rules. All these just add to the danger of what the supernatural elements impose on Noemi and so many others.

A Bonus Thought: After reading the novel, I read the Book Club Kit that goes into details about Real del Monte, the English colony that inspired the setting for this novel, and goes in depth about what the Gothic genre is about. And let me tell you, it just opened my eyes to a lot of things I didn’t know about. It gives lots of insight into how the setting and genre tie into the aims of the novel!


Overall, I think this book is a perfect creepy yet classy read. Noemi was such a fantastic character to follow. High Place and its ruling family kept up the sinister trap from beginning till end. This slow burn Gothic novel kept me hanging on with every turn of the page. It made my heart race and tingled my spine as it wrapped its misty cloak around me. I had wildly high expectations and because Silvia Moreno-Garcia is such an epic writer, she soared high over my hype.

Rating: 5 / 5 Stars

Recommend: Yes. Of course. Give yourself some chills this summer.

If you read that long as review, thank you! You’re a real one. If you just read the bold bits, thank you as well. You’re also a real one!

Let me know what you think! Have you read this? What was your favourite part? What books give you the creeps? Who are favourite sassy and classy characters?

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Happy reading!

~ Rendz

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