ARC Review: Once Upon a Quinceañera by Monica Gomez-Hira

Hello friends,

Yes, it’s me, I’m finally back. Hopefully. Cross your fingers. I’m feeling excited to talk about books again, I have so many ideas and I’m done with my school semester. Now that I have time to sit down to blog, I have a lot of catch-ups to do. Please forgive me if you see me posting a February wrap-up and replying to months-old comments. Seriously, pretend you don’t see me.

The first order of business was to post my review of this book that I have had in drafts since March. God, I truly detested this story, spoiler of the review, I guess. It sent me on a very dark and sad path of terrible reads after. At least, I had fun buddy reading it with Lili and Vic.

Title: Once Upon a Quinceañera
Author: Monica Gomez-Hira
Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ARC was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Carmen Aguilar just wants to make her happily ever after come true. Except apparently “happily ever after” for Carmen involves being stuck in an unpaid summer internship! All she has to do is perform! In a ball gown! During the summer. In Miami.

Fine. Except that Carmen’s company is hired for her spoiled cousin Ariana’s over the top quinceañera.

And of course, her new dance partner at work is none other than Mauro Reyes, Carmen’s most deeply regrettable ex.

If Carmen is going to move into the future she wants, she needs to leave the past behind. And if she can manage dancing in the blistering heat, fending off Mauro’s texts, and stopping Ariana from ruining her own quinceañera Carmen might just get that happily ever after after all.

What this book promised me: a fun YA rom-com with second chance romance and a lot of Latinx drama. I mean, this book is compared to Jane the Virgin and All the Boys that I’ve Loved Before, so I was expecting major over-the-top drama with some serious (and heartwarming) family dynamics, sprinkled with some cute romance. I truly believe the concept of Once Upon a Quinceañera was good; it had the potential to be a funny and nuanced story centering on the famous quinces. But Monica decided to give us this mess, instead. 

When we say we want messy characters, we don’t mean someone like Carmen. Like the secondary characters and even the love interest, she’s very underdeveloped. She refuses to take responsibility and is extremely judgmental. Yes, one could argue that is the point of a messy character and I agree, but the thing is, Carmen never really grows. The book is so long and her refusal to listen got exhausting very quickly. There is no character growth whatsoever in the dreadful four hundred pages. Correction, when Carmen changes her motivations, it feels insincere and out of nowhere. Suddenly, we have new desires and dreams that were never mentioned during the story. It felt like a rough and very first draft, the stakes were not high and the main problem was quickly forgotten.

Because that’s also one of the major problems with Once Upon a Quinceañera, it has no plot. I mean, it has conflict, a lot of it, but it’s a very linear novel that goes on for so long. Main conflict: Carmen’s relationship with her family, her cousin, and aunt. But we also have her graduation and summer project, the love triangle (square?) she is in. And let’s not forget the coming of age moment from the last one hundred pages. Sounds messy? It is. The story was too long, but it still managed to leave every single conflict in a terrible anti-climatic resolution. 

I love complicated family dynamics, I love the idea of reconnecting and growing together with your cousin. But god, Carmen was so insufferable about the whole thing, for so long, that was impossible to enjoy anything about this. I understand Carmen’s frustration with her aunt and feeling betrayed by her cousin, but she refuses to see the full context of the story. As I said, there is no growth from her, and we have to listen to her go on and on about how she has been wronged. No sympathy from me, Carmen. All I wanted was a story about two cousins learning to be better, challenging the internalized misogyny they have, and mending their relationship. But this is not really Carmen and Ariana’s story, and their whole conflict takes a back seat to the romance. 

The romance was one of the worst ones I have read. Both love interests are quite frankly, the worst. I read once that YA romance does this thing where it tells you the characters are in love, but it never tells you why. And that’s exactly what this book does. I understand that this may be me projecting my adult romance feelings, but I need more development of the love story to even care and root for them. The relationship was so underwhelming and there was nothing sweet, adorable, or funny about their interactions. Mauro is the worst. He acts like an asshole for so long and for what? Like Carmen, he’s so underdeveloped, like a caricature. I don’t even know why Alex existed. Monica never showed me why I should care about this relationship. I had no sympathy for Carmen, but still, she deserved so much better.

See, I get this is the appeal of the telenovela style; over the top drama, complicated family dynamics, explosive romance, coming of age, and a lot of external conflicts. It may work in visual form, but it did not work here at all. Everything felt forced, the character’s voice tried to be funny so hard and it failed miserably. The story tried tackling many things and accomplished nothing in the end, there was no nuance in the conversations about family, Latinx identity, forgiveness, class privilege, and double standards. The happy ending didn’t feel earned or satisfying. Instead, I was left feeling uncomfortable by the internalized misogyny that was never addressed. 

Carmen doesn’t get along with any other girls in the book, except her best friend. She’s judgmental and jealous, she thinks the worst of every other girl or woman she comes across with. And here is where I see Monica Gomez-Hira’s failure; while Carmen struggles throughout the novel with prejudice and the double standards placed on her, she commits the same mistake. And sure, it could potentially be addressed as character growth, but like mentioned above, there is nothing of that in here. Carmen’s internalized misogyny goes unchecked for the entire book, she never stops to think about how she judges and looks down on her own mother, for example. Funny how she makes some big statements about feminism but never turns around to address herself. And to makes things worst, the story never addresses that Carmen was harassed by her former boss, either. Instead, every character assumes she screwed up the thing as she always does, and they all agree to move on from that plot point altogether. In 2021, I expect more. 

ARC Review: Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas

Title: Lost in the Never Woods
Author: Aiden Thomas
Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ARC was provided from publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas is a dark Peter Pan retelling. Five years ago, Wendy and her brother disappeared in the woods and only Wendy came back. She has no recollection of what happened to her or her brothers, but she keeps dreaming about a strange boy. When kids start to go missing in her town, Wendy must found out what happened five years ago.

This is going to be a rant review. I had hopes, not exactly highs, because YA mysteries and I don’t get along, but I hoped still to enjoy. If you would prefer to read the book, instead of my rant… Well, go ahead. I would not exactly stop you, but I can’t in good conscience tell you that I recommend this book. Anyway, let’s get to my problems with Aiden Thomas’s actual debut.

Aiden has talked before about how this was the first book they wrote and sold, and it shows. The writing was not great. And this is coming from someone who often enough speeds through books, not caring about repetition or clunky dialogue. But it was so noticeable in here that it kept pulling me out of the story. It felt very unpolished, it didn’t flow nicely and there were so many info dumps and inconsistencies in the plot.

One thing I adored from Cemetery Boys is how well Aiden managed to make their characters sound. They were sarcastic and funny, their voices felt honest and fully-dimensional. I’m sad to say that didn’t happen with Wendy and Peter. Maybe because I didn’t like the writing, but I found the dialogue incredibly stagnant and flat. Or maybe it wasn’t good dialogue, I don’t know.

The characters are so underdeveloped. It was incredibly frustrating when so much of the book is based on Wendy’s relationship with Peter, her friend, her parents and her brothers. We really don’t get to know anyone, spending more time with Peter because of love interest, but nothing gave me the impression these characters have depth. It was very underwhelming and deeply disappointing after how much we all enjoyed Yadriel and Julian’s love story. Peter and Wendy have nothing going on. 

Who’s Wendy as a character? I would have a hard time describing her to you, to be honest, she was easily forgettable. Cemetery Boys had so much heart to the story and it was impossible for me not to feel sympathy for Yadriel. But in Lost in the Never Woods, I felt at distance from Wendy and her history, I never reached that gap that made me cared for her. I was frustrated by her choices and frustrated by the circumstances of the story. Her relationships are so weak and her growth is not really there. I don’t understand why would Aiden placed so much value in Wendy’s connection with the other characters when we didn’t really see that in the story. Her parents are absent figures that suddenly Wendy wants to reconnect with. Her friendship with Jordan is not as strong as it seems, but it’s also never addressed fully. I love complicated friendships that get to grow stronger, but Wendy barely talks with Jordan about anything else except boys. Her character was a reminder that Wendy was into boys and nursing.

The romance was… the romance was not great. Peter was very underdeveloped and he also has zero character growth. Aiden has said this is a second chance romance but it just didn’t work. We never quite see them falling for each other, or even, getting to know each other after five years. Everything happened quite fast but not in a sweet or charming way like in Cemetery Boys. Or maybe because I didn’t like Peter, I couldn’t care less about this romance. I was also frustrated by how they never addressed the problems in their relationship (like the lying) and then move on quite quickly. It felt so stagnant, the stakes so low and with zero chemistry.

I kept questioning myself what was the point of this book? To be a character-driven story, it lacked character and to be a plot-driven story, well, it lacked plot.

Wendy is trying to figure out what happened to her in the woods and find her brothers while dealing with absent parents and some very annoying cops. Kids are disappearing in the town and then a weird boy, a boy that looks eerily similar to Wendy’s dreams, shows up.

The plot was predictable, nothing that challenged me, or took my breath away. I’m not saying this because Peter Pan retelling and we sort of can guess what’s going on, but because I didn’t find Aiden’s take of the classic as innovative or charming as I was hoping. Interesting? Yes, it had so much potential, and then, it kind of went nowhere. As I said, YA mysteries and I don’t usually get along very well. I find them pretty predictable, boring and frustrating. And yes, that was the case here, too. I knew what happened early on and I was right. That’s fine, that’s an aspect that didn’t work for me, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. I do think after all that built up about what happened in the woods, it wasn’t worth it and it didn’t pay off at all. Everything came down in a very expectable and disappointing ending that kind of left a bad taste in my mouth. It felt so anti-climactic? It was wrapped in such a nice and perfectly compactable way that felt wrong.

I understand how Aiden’s trying to deal with grief, mental health and trauma in this story but I don’t think they were quite successful. Maybe it was how underwhelming the characters’ relationships felt for me, or my problems with the plot, but I don’t think these themes were discussed in a thoughtful or smart way at all. Very hand-wavy world-building led to barely any direct mention of Wendy’s mental health. And even at the end, after the anti-climatic revelations, the book never truly mentions things by name. But to be quite honest, I can’t say Aiden said anything insightful about mental health. The ending was so intense and abrupt that it almost felt like cheating. I don’t know, maybe this is on me and my expectations, waiting for a clean-cut resolution that was never going to happen because I just don’t understand the point of this story.

I know, I’m sad to say that Lost in the Never Woods failed for me in every single aspect. Was it unfair of me to compare it to Cemetery Boys? Maybe, it also doesn’t stand on its own.

Plan with Me: Magical + Cozy Academia

Hello friends,

I’ve been so excited to bring you a plan with me and it’s kind of cool that’s March because I freaking love this month’s theme SO much. Sharing my spreads on Twitter and Instagram is as much as I would go, but that may not be as helpful if you want to have a closer look at my spreads. So my plan with me blog series. Hopefully it will work, I know journaling is a very visual medium, thank you so much for reading this post, it’s very much appreciated. I have tried to show pictures but also explained my thought process, supplies and technique. Let me know if you think it’s working slash what I should improve for next time!

Magical + cozy academia

Funny enough, my original plan was to do a dark academia theme. But then I realized that I don’t even know what consists as dark academia and it’s not my vibe at all. So that’s how I came up with the idea of keeping the idea of books and magic and adding cozy vibes. I love magical schools so much and I refuse letting that white TERF keeping the aesthetic. That series has a huge following in the journaling community and that’s probably why I have never done magical bookish theme before. I know we all know that magical academia (is that what is called?) is a fantasy trope, but I still didn’t feel comfortable enough to do it until now. Mostly because the future of magical schools belong to BIPOC authors, baby!!

ANYWAY, magical and cozy theme. I tried for the first time a see-through/pop-up type of thing that I have seen before but found very intimating. It was a lot of work but not as hard as I was expecting. One thing I’m pushing myself with journaling this year is trying new styles, aesthetics and supplies. I want to grow, and that means making mistakes sometimes, as you will see.

I do also want to mention that I have been doing themes for the last couple of months and I very much enjoy having a cohesive look in my journal. But it’s not in any way something you have to do, too. When I started journaling, I wasn’t into themes. I would sit down once in a while, work on a spread and then move on. I didn’t feel like I need to keep my spreads organize all by the same aesthetic because what I wanted was to write down what I was feeling and thinking at that moment. Now that journaling has become part of my everyday life, I like the idea of cohesive look month to month. But once again, you should feel free to do what works best for YOU. That’s the magic of journals, you can adapt things to fit your vibe.



Notebook therapy Tsuki ‘Failing Star’

PensMarkers and Midliners:

Crayola Supertips
Tombow Dual Brush Pens: N55, 620, 912, 942, 977
Tombow Fudenosuke brush pen, soft tip

Washi Tape:

Grid washi tape set from The Washi Tape Shop


Brown paper recycled from paper bags. Listen, journaling is about being resourceful for me.
Ripped paper. Did it come from a book? Yes it did. Do I go around ripping books? Sometimes yes, zero embarrassment about it. Old and used books that are impossible to read because of water damage are the best for craft projects and I’m not buying paper that looks like books. Resourceful and cheap, baby.

About my reading journal

I started journaling back in 2019, mostly to keep track of my reading. Since the beginning, there are some spreads that I just do every single time. I’ve been trying different layouts and techniques but I always come back to having a title page, a spread for my TBR, books read section (because I never read my TBR), wrap up and goals spread, best of the month, content tracker, movies and TV shows watched, and reading log.

One of my 2021 goals is to make a spread for every single five stars read of the year and I’m already behind of that. You can see the ones I made for Kyoshi and GOJAS here. That’s something I do at the end of the month when I have figured out what were my favorite books. This time I had a very fun and risky idea about the spread, but because it’s empty at the moment, it wasn’t worth showing you right now.

I’m moving my wrap up section to a monthly recap spread, I have started doing this in January where I write down about my feelings and thoughts about the month overall. Like a journal entry, I guess. Again, do that at the end of the month, so I won’t set it up at this moment and it’s also pretty personal, I don’t think you will see that.

But if you’re interested in more journaling content from me, let me know. If you want to catch up how my best of the month spread looks, follow me on twitter and instagram, for sure I will posting there.

Cover Page

March was the month of experiments, I really went for the whole try new things. I did watercolors for both January and February so it was time to go back to my scrapbook look slash collage that I love. But plot twist, I wanted to have a bookshelf for the cover page with a staircase and then light bulb moment, I made the staircase see-through. We should probably not look to closely at the staircase because the structure is not right (I know!), but it definitely gives the vibes of magic and wonder that I was going for.

To make the spread, I sketched the staircase, colored it, covered the page behind it in ripped paper and then I went with a craft knife (is that what those small knifes are called? to cut the page. It’s not as tidy as I would like, but being like the second time I did it, pretty great. Behind, like I said, I made the bookshelf filled with books and wrote March. I don’t feel as comfortable experimenting with lettering, so you will see I keep my headers very simple. I added washi tape and pieces of brown and ripped paper.

On the left, I made a quote page with more of the same washi tape and paper. The image of the top is a picture of the Ateneo bookstore in Buenos Aires, Argentina that’s just breathtaking. The building used to be a theater, now converted to bookstore, floor to ceiling full of books. Definitely the definition of magical place. The quote is from Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore because AMM is also the definition of magical books. Quote reads; “Sorrow was a family heirloom, written in their blood like ink on a will.”

TBR + Books Read

Straight forward spreads: TBR and books read. Used the same gray color from cover page to write TBR with some little sparkles and a simple opened book doodle. Because the spread was so empty I added washi tape and paper. In the next page, we have to cover a mistake, that’s why I have the title with brown paper. Sometimes you have to get creative in journaling about fixing mistakes! I really adore the look of scrapbook this page has with the ripped paper and brown paper on top. To tie everything together I use the same red and lilac color to make little details in both pages.

Content Tracker, Media Watched + Quote Page

I like keeping track of my three platforms (bookstagram, bujogram and blog), the days I post and the followers I had at the beginning and at the end of the month. Does it help me in any way? No really, it kind of looks pretty so I have kept tracking it, even when I don’t use this information like before. Brown and ripped paper for title and mini-calendars. At the bottom, a space for movies and TV shows I watched in the month. Used same picture from the bookstore, this time in black and white.

Next page was too empty for my liking so I went for a quote page. It’s not even a creative quote or anything, but it turned out better than I was hoping for. A photo of my bookshelf that I printed out on top of ripped and brown paper, washi tape and that crystal ball once again. Quotes just reads: Books are some kind of magic. I tried playing with the lettering and colors because that’s definitely what gives life to quote pages.

Reading Log

This has become one of my favorite spreads lately. Like the title says, I just keep a reading log of the books I’m reading and what I’m thinking about them. Yes, it helps to write reviews later but it’s also so fun to see my reactions during the reading. I added a border and some paper to tied to the whole theme, but I usually try to keep this space empty. I will definitely be using the next page, too, and I will probably add a border with washi tape there as well.

Happy reading,


+40 2021 Middle-Grade Releases On My Radar

Hello friends,

Coming late to the party as always, I finally bring you my most anticipated 2021 middle-grade releases. We’re getting so many wonderful books from hard hitting contemporaries about grief to magical adventures. Last year I realized how much I truly enjoy middle-grade and it’s my new passion to put some of these titles on your radar. You’re welcome.

There’s something about this age group, the way it can make you cry in one page and laugh aloud in the next, that just fills me with absolute joy. These books explore difficult topics with hope and honesty, while still allowing kids to be messy with their feelings and save the world. The duality of middle-grade will never stop astonishing me and I’m so impressed with these authors and their wonderful words.

Anyway, here are 40 books I CAN’T WAIT TO READ. Divided in contemporary books about middle-school, fantasy, magical realism, mischievous adventures, hard-hitting contemporaries and science-fiction. Let me know what are some of yours!

Friendship, crushes and middle-school

Meow or Never: A Wish Novel by Jazz Taylor. 01/05/2021. Pets and secret crushes? AND a saphhic main character? Yes, yes, yes! When Avery’s crush convinces her to sign up for the school musical, Avery finds herself in the middle of some adventures. She loves singing but not in front of people. Luckily, her secret cat, Phantom, helps her when she’s stress. Friendship, romance and a lot of mischief.

Amina’s Song by Hena Khan. 03/09/2021. I read Amina’s Voice and More to the Story last year and I enjoyed very much. I was in tears, for sure, but I also laughed so much. All to say, I’m excited to meet Amina once more in what promises to be equally delightful and heartfelt.

Samira Surfs by Rukhsanna Guidroz, illustrated by Fahmida Azim. 03/16/2021. This is a novel in verse about Samira finding friendship and strength in a surf club when her family flees Myanmar for Bangladesh. This promises to be hard hitting book while still being about Samira’s new adventures. Exactly the type of books I love.

The Many Mysteries of the Finkel Family by Sarah Kapit. 03/23/2021. I have heard so many good things about Sarah’s debut, Get a grip, Vivy Cohen! and this looks it will be equally fantastic. Two autistic sisters, one mystery agency and a lot of adventures. Although I’m not a mystery fan, in middle-grade I absolutely love it. Probably reminds me to Harriet the Spy and my long childhood dream of being a spy… ANYWAY, super excited about Sara and Caroline’s cases!

More titles:

The Comeback: A Figure Skating Novel by E.L. Shen. 01/19/2021 Competition, rivalry and learning about love and support
Squad Goals by Erika J. Kendrick. 04/06/2021 Cheerleading + coming of age
The Chance to Fly by Ali Stroker and Stacy Davidowitz. 04/13/2021 (birthday release!!) Love letter to theater featuring a disabled MC.
That Thing About Bollywood by Supriya Kelkar. 05/18/2021 Sonali must figure out what’s happening when her friends and family start unexpectedly breaking out into Bollywood songs.
Generation Misfits by Akemi Dawn Bowman. 6/29/2021. Band + school’s talent show

Magic and Adventures

Root Magic by Eden Royce. 01/05/2021. This sounds perfect for me; ghosts, magic and a story about friendship. Set in 1963, Jez and her twin brother, Jay, start learning about root magic and their family legacy.

Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls by Kaela Rivera. 04/13/2021. This debut novel promises to be tender and delightful story about family and coming to your power. Following Cece Rios, as she embarks in a dangerous adventure to save her older sister. In a world of magical wonders and terrible creatures, Cece must become what everyone despises: a bruja.

Curse of the Forgotten City by Alex Aster. 06/08/2021. Book 1, Curse of the Night Witch, was such a pleasant surprise from last year. This series is doesn’t shy away from darkness, while still being a middle-grade book about friendship, magic and coming of age. Alex really brought Latin American stories to life and I just can’t wait to see what will happen in this next installment.

Paola Santiago and the Forest of Nightmares by Tehlor Kay Mejia. 08/03/2021. Another sequel that I can’t wait for. And also spooky Latinx. Really, we’re getting so many wonderful books this year. Part of the Rick Riordan Presents series, Paola Santiago follows Paola and her terrifying meeting with La Llorona. After everything that happened in book 1, I’m so excited (and scared) to see what awaits Paola and her friends. Hopefully a nice happy ending? Right, Tehlor? No more tears, please?

More titles:

Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston. 01/19/2021. Middle grade urban fantasy HELLO?!
The Last Fallen Star by Grace Kim. 05/04/2021. Korean mythology, story about family, magic and belonging.
The Last Shadow Warrior by Sam Subity. 05/04/2021 Perfect for Percy Jackson fans is all I need to know.
The Healer of the Water Monster by Brian Young. 05/11/2021. Navajo mythology + family
Rea and the Blood of the Nectar by Payal Doshi. 06/01/2021. Perfect for fans of Aru Shah and Chronicles of Narnia, uh, yes?
Josephine Against the Sea by Shakirah Bourne. 07/06/2021. A mischievous girl with a big heart and world inspired by Caribbean mythology!!
The Devouring Wolf by Natalie C. Parker. Werewolves, queer rep and a dark secret that could change everything.
The Magic Paintbrush by Kat Zhang. Intergenerational fantasy adventure, doesn’t it sound wonderful?
Speculation by Nisi Shawl. Ghosts, family curse and historical fantasy.

Magical Realism

Loteria by Karla Arenas Valenti. 09/07/2021. This book sounds absolutely fantastic and maybe you should add it just because that cover illustrated by Dana Sanmar is breathtaking. A story about fate, legends and life-and-death.

The Insiders by Mark Oshiro. 09/21/2021. Mark’s middle-grade debut about friendship and identity. This sounds like a hard-hitting book, like you know, only Mark can give us. But also an incredible novel about queerness, found family and love.

Mischievous Kids With Big Hearts

Shaking Up the House by Yamile Saied Mendez. 01/05/2021. I’ve loved everything that I have read by Yamile so far and I’m so excited for her newest middle-grade release. This promises to be mischievous, fun and sweet and that’s all I want.

Goldie Vance: Hocus Pocus Hoax by Lilliam Rivera. 01/05/2021. Detective adventures, sapphic dates, and a little bit of magic. Already read this one and it was a delighted. Check out my January wrap up for more thoughts.

Merci Suarez Can’t Dance by Meg Medina. 04/06/2021. I still can’t quite believe we’re getting a sequel to one of my all time favorite books. Merci Suarez is such a powerful, honest and bittersweet story about family, friendship and growing up. Merci gets a lot of trouble usually, with her mischievous nature and big heart, and I’m sure this one will bring a lot of laugher and tears. I AM READY FOR THE PAIN.

Sugar and Spite by Gail D. Villanueva. 04/20/2021. I have heard the greatest things about Gail’s books and this one sounds so good, I can’t even. Fighting bullies with magic potions may sound like a good idea at first, but it quickly turns a lot more complicated for Jolina.

Much Ado About Baseball by Rajani LaRocca. 06/01/2021. I adored Midsummer’s Mayheam last year, which it’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream retelling. I don’t really know much about Shakespeare but if it’s a Rajani’s retelling I must read. Much Ado About Baseball is about rivals to friends (best trope in the planet!), magic , food and baseball. Can’t get any better, honestly.

Hard Hitting Contemporaries

The Sea in Winter by Christine Day. 01/05/2021. A story about mental health, community and family. I have heard so many good things about the author’s debut, I Can Make This Promise, I’m sure this one will be equally good.

Finding Junie Kim by Ellen Oh. 05/04/2021. I love reading stories about family, grandparents and family’s history. Reading the synopsis I was already in tears, to be honest. Ellen Oh promises a story about hope, survival and finding your voice. And I just can’t wait for it.

The Shape of Thunder by Jasmine Warga. 05/11/2021. Friendship, time-travel, grief and trauma, this book is the definition of hard-hitting contemporary. I don’t usually cry while reading synopsis, but this is the second book in this list that made me openly sob. So, now I need this in my life. I have not read Jasmine Warga’s books, so while I wait, I’ll finally get to Other Words For Home.

Hazel Bly and the Deep Blue Sea by Ashley Herring Blake. 05/25/2021. Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World was a book I loved with all my heart, talked about it in my last post. So I knew after reading that one that I must get every single middle-grade book by Ashley Herring Blake. And Hazel Bly? Sounds just perfect for me; a story about grief, friendship, family and mermaids.

More titles:

Clues to the Universe by Christina Li. 01/12/2021. A story about loss, grief and unlikely friendships.
The Year I Flew Away by Marie Arnold. 02/02/2021. Magical realism, immigration and belonging.
Unsettled by Reem Faruqi. 05/11/2021. Immigration, belonging, written in verse. Front Desk meets Other Words for Home.

Science Fiction hijinks

Thirty Talks Weird Love by Alessandra Narváez Varela. 01/01/2021. Contemporary meets science-fiction. Anamaria is a 13 years old girl living in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico in the 90s, one day finding this weird lady that tells her she’s Anamaria from the future, here to help her out. Written in verse, the novel tackles depression and mental health. I’ve been loving these novels that mash different genres coming together in a new and thought-provoking way so this sounds like a new favorite.

The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera. 09/07/2021. Listen to this book, I beg you; relocating to a new planet, all the adults mysteriously disappear, making Petra the new cuentista of the forbidden stories. Mexican folklore, space hijinks, a mystery to solve and a celebration for storytelling. I talked about Donna’s debut, Lupe Wong Won’t Dance in my last post, so of course I cannot wait for my new favorite middle-grade author.

Last Gamer Standing by Katie Zhao. 09/21/2021. Katie’s The Dragon Warrior was incredibly fun, I adored the two books already out in the series (will we ever get a third one? hopefully). I’m so excited to meet this sports anime meets gaming culture, as described by Katie. Seriously? It can’t get better than a Chinese-American girl fighting racism and sexism on a VR battle.

2020 Highlights: Books I Adored

Hello friends,

Today I’m talking about books that I adored in 2020. I read so much (304, remember?) that it was very hard for me to make a list of my favorites. Especially when I had an overwhelming number of high ratings. I’m not complaining, of course! I’m so happy that I had such a phenomenal reading year and that’s why I want to highlight more of the books that I enjoyed in the year.

So here you go, 10 highly recommended books from YA romance to spooky middle-grade plus some extras because I CAN’T HELP MYSELF. I’m not sorry!

And check out my favorite reads of 2020 for more books. And this thread with my bujo spreads with more recommendations. I swear after this post, I’m letting 2020 go (just kidding).

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson. This was one of my most anticipated releases and the love I have for it? Truly unparalleled. I listened to it in one sitting, which I hadn’t done in so long but I need to know what would happen next and I was sobbing in my car and I had so many feelings and AAAAH. It’s such an emotional but also deeply romantic read. There were tears, smiles and some screams, to be honest. A story about Liz running for prom queen to win money for college and kind of falling in love with the competition along the way. Yes, so much about the book is the sapphic romance (that I love so so much), but also Liz’s relationship with her chronic ill brother. If there’s one thing that I love more than sapphics is wholesome sibling content in my books. It was exactly what I needed to read at the moment, the right amount of heartbreak, hopefulness and sweetness. I’m ready to read anything by Leah Johnson.

Love from A to Z by S.K. Ali. Intense scream forever about this book. Talking about wholesome, romantic and the right amount of heartbreak, Love from A to Z gave me so much comfort in the year of hell. Another audiobook that I devoured, finding more reasons to keep listening chapter after chapter. It follows Adam and Zayneb, two Muslim teens meeting in Dohar, Qatar and their growing feelings. Both have such distinct voices and so powerful. Adam is dealing with grief after losing his mom and his recent diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. Zayneb is on vacation after getting in trouble at school for confronting her Islamophobic teacher. I adore Zayneb, so much of her storyline is about her anger and the ways she’s not allowed to express it or feel it. I felt that deeply. I also really appreciate the way this book talked about grief and disability/chronic illness. Don’t get me wrong, this book has some very hard hitting moments but it just gave me all the happy feelings with how amazing the characters, their romance and families are.

I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn. This book was so adorable and heartfelt. Following Kimi, visiting her grandparents in Japan for the first time, while trying to figure out what she wants to study in college. And maybe falling in love with this cute boy that she keeps bumping into. This is a story heavily focused on Kimi’s relationships, be with her mom, her grandparents or Akira. I adore stories about grandparents and in here all the scenes were so wholesome. She doesn’t really know them so they are all slowly learning about each other and it is so beautiful!! Kimi’s mom has so many ideas about her daughter’s future and through the book, they have to learn to see each other for who they are. And Akira! This was clearly written by a romance author. It was such a wholesome romance, slow and swoony and with the perfect bits, ending in such a hopeful note. Thinking about this book makes me smile, it felt like a warm hug. And how I needed a warm hug in 2020.

Deal with the Devil by Kit Rocha. This was so fun, I really enjoyed the writing and the characters. Post-apocalyptic world, three librarians team up with a mercenary team on the run for a dangerous job. Tension, action and great romance, the emotional bits were so well-done. The characters are fully developed and they’re messy and complicated, they all have dark pasts and a lot of growing to do. I appreciate the conversations about community, hope and trauma. And the story managed to be pretty wholesome between killings. It has a wonderful found family aspect and the perfect cliffhanger ending for the sequel. Deal with the Devil was exactly what I was hoping for.

The AI Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole. Funny enough, all the books of this list are kind of out of my comfort zone. This one especially, as I barely read SF and nothing with robots (sorry, AIs). Trinity lives a quiet live in her apartment complex recuperating after an accident. Sure, some things seem a little bit off but nothing is alarming until she meets her mysterious neighbor’s nephew. When she realizes he’s actually an AI and not human, Trinity decides to help him out. Things get complicated as their feelings grow and they uncover a sinister plot. This was SO good, I can’t quite wrap my mind around it. It’s a novella, so the world-building is pretty concise, but still managed to feel lived in. Tension, a little bit of a creepy vibe, and some incredible character development. The romance was chef’s kiss and the audiobook was truly amazing. Apparently we’re getting another novella set in this world and I can’t wait to meet my favorite AIs again.

Hidden Legacy by Ilona Andrews. This series quickly became a new favorite for me last year. I was excited to dive into something a little bit different by Ilona Andrews and to be quite honest, Hidden Legacy worked better for me than Kate Daniels series. Action packed, dynamic world-building, family, slow burn romance, sarcastic main character, political intrigue and crime investigation. I truly adore the Baylor family, adore how fierce and supporting they all are, I adore how much about this series is about love, both romantic and familial. We have seen Nevada and Catalina grow so much in the past five books and I’m not sure I’m ready to see this series go. My favorite so far have been the novella Diamond Fire and Wildfire, most satisfying ending so far.

More romance books that I adored: Undone by the Ex-Con by Talia Hibbert and A Prince On Paper by Alyssa Cole.

Blazewrath Games by Amparo Ortiz. This book was mind-blowing, so exciting, fun and wonderful. Contemporary fantasy with sports, a story about identity, found family and magic. Lana’s biggest dream has always been playing in the Blazewrath World Cup with Team Puerto Rico. When she gets a spot as the team’s Runner, she couldn’t be more excited to represent her country. But as Sire, a mysterious dragon cursed to human form, makes an appearance, Lana finds herself in a big conspiracy that could jeopardize the cup, and her team’s lives. One of my most anticipated releases of 2020 and I was not disappointed. Blazewrath Games have so many elements I enjoy; dragons, friendship, and celebration of identity. With a fascinating world-building and great cast of characters, this book won me over in the first chapter. Lana’s mother is white and her father Puerto Rican and throughout the book, Amparo explores her complicated feelings about identity, as she doesn’t feel Puerto Rican enough. And what does it mean? and why it’s so wrong to think about identity in terms of performing or accomplishing something? This book was so smart, fun and such a delighted. The friendship and found family aspect was one my favorite things, my favorite being the dragons, of course. Lana makes such deep connections with her team and my heart feels so happy for her. Plus rivals to friends? Best trope in the planet. Amparo doesn’t shy away from throwing some punches, tho, and that ending me cried a little. Why am I lying? I cried okay! I can’t wait to come back to this wonderful world and for more Amparo’s stories.

More YA fantasies that I adored: We Unleash the Merciless Storm by Tehlor Kay Mejia and Beneath the Citadel by Destiny Soria.

Love Sugar Magic by Anna Meriano. 2020 saw this wonderful middle-grade series to an end. Following Leo, a mischievous and lovely Mexican-American bruja. The youngest of five sisters, Leo always feels left out and invisible. When she finds out her family’s secrets she can’t wait to get her hands into magic and baking. This trilogy is such a delighted, dealing with grief, jealousy, family, and friendship. I have laughed, cried and smiled with the Logroño’s family and I’m sad to see them go. I reread the first two and then read the last one in 2020 for the serotonin and it was a good choice. When people ask for cozy stories that feel like a warm hug, these are the books I think about. Great characterization, wonderful relationships and the perfect ending. We got to see an expansion of the world-building that was fascinating. I really appreciate how this book lets its characters to have conflicted emotions, make bad choices but always with the biggest of the hearts. Seeing Leo coming to her powers, growing confident in the love her family and friends have for her, and feeling so proud of her heritage was amazing.

Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake. Read this book in a sitting because I couldn’t put it down. A hard-hitting contemporary that also deals with feeling invisible in your family, identity and trauma. This was such an emotional and also delightful read. I love how Ivy explores her growing feelings about her new friend, so important for middle-grade stories. But this is not exactly a coming out story, which I also appreciate because Ivy is allowed to explore what feels right for her at her own pace. And although she feels unwanted in her family, she is loved and appreciated and seen. Writing this is making me cry all over again. Ashley portrayed family and friendship with a lot of complexity and it was so well done. There were discussions about being honest and brave, but also listening and your relationships changing and adjusting, learning to be confident in yourself and love. SO MANY FEELINGS, that’s what I mean. This book was a gut-punched after gut-punched but also so delightful and sweet and I love Ivy with all my heart.

The Girl and the Ghost by Hanna Alkaf. This book was incredible. An exploration of grief, family and friendship with a dark spin. One day a pelesit, a ghost, shows up in Suraya’s house claiming her witch grandmother has died and now it belongs to her. Suraya names the pelesit, Pink, and they become friends. But Pink starts to get jealous when Suraya makes a new friend at school and they have to set in an adventure to find out about Pink’s past. This book was dark, sad and very bittersweet. It has messy characters and a lot of emotion. I appreciate the conversations about grief, loneliness and toxic relationships. It also has a complicated mother-daughter relationship that was explored with nuance. They are not black or white situations in this book, which perfectly shows how well middle-grade can deal with difficult topics. A chilling and bittersweet story that stole my heart away.

Lupe Wong Won’t Dance by Donna Barba Higuera. If by now you don’t know how much I adore my messy middle-grade protagonists, I have been doing this blogging thing all wrong. Lupe dreams with meeting her baseball icon and for that she needs straight As at school, all good until she has to square dance. You see, Lupe can do anything, except dancing. The story deals with racism, identity, grief, and friendship. Lupe is Chinese-Mexican American and sometimes she doesn’t feel enough. Her family loves her fiercely and she loves as equally as fierce. She can be a little bit mischievous and makes some mistakes along the way, but she truly has a big heart. Lupe is an incredible character with so much passion for justice and a very strong sense of right and wrong. The book also explores how friendships change with time and the history of square dancing (racist, as many things in America). This novel has so much heart and it’s a celebration of family, friendship and identity in all the best ways. Truly fantastic.

More middle grade novels that I adored: Curse of the Night Witch by Alex Aster, Ghost Squad by Claribel Ortega, Mañanaland by Pam Muñoz Ryan.

Wrap Up: January 2021

Hello friends,

January was a Month, I guess. Rebranding the blog and coming back here was a very good idea, I missed blogging and I’m still so excited to share all my new ideas. Sadly, my new semester started and going to full-time student has been a lot. I’m master procrastinator and I was not prepared by how demanding this will be. Trying to figure it out has taken so much of my time and energy and that’s why you haven’t seen me here in a while. But promise, the next weeks I may be scarce but I’m not giving up on Cande Reads.

I also wanted to talk before the books about some things I have been thinking about in the last weeks.

At the beginning of January, I posted about Isabel Ibañez on my bookstagram because there was not awareness about the books’ representation. I was angry and frustrated and people listened. I received so many DMs, my post kept getting likes, and my blog traffic was better than never. It was also very overwhelming and exhausting. I reached my goal of 1000 followers but I couldn’t celebrate them. I had to keep reminding folks my boundaries again and again. Am I glad that my post sparked conversation? Yes, but it also took a huge toll on me, in a way I wasn’t expecting.

I’m grateful for the support I received, I am. But I was also very tired of the free labor that was expected from me constantly. So many people reached out with kindness, and some people had so many questions; could I explain more in depth? was it okay if they read the series? could I share some Bolivian authors? Good intentions or not, I was very frustrated by the whole thing. And there’s also this part of me that it’s annoyed by how my platform grew because of the labor I provided to the community. I worked so hard (so hard) for over a year to reach my 1K follower goal and I was stuck, both in growth and ideas. I can’t stop thinking about what I said in my first post of the year, how people have expectations about my content when I’m labeled Latinx reader. I wish I’d be appreciated as a content creator not just because I called out a problematic book, and that I will keep been supported even when I’m not educating the community. Sadly, I already see that is not going to happen and I’m not sure how to grapple with that, it’s very disheartening.

Adding to my stress and exhaustion, January was a weird reading month, too. I read 16 books and I’m happy with that, I am, but it was an overwhelming okay reading. My only five stars came from the four books I reread, so I have no new favorites. There were highlights, for sure, but I also gave my first one star. I read a lot at the beginning of the month before school started and then I kind of struggle with reading. I had big plans and started so many books, but for some reason, I found it very difficult to concentrate. So yes, I’m still currently reading two books started in January; A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine and A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat.

Also, I have always struggled with the format of my wrap ups. I had tried so many different ones but I’m never satisfied. In part because I used to read 20+ a month, so the formatting would be a Pain no matter what, but still, I haven’t found a style that is engaging, fun and suits me. So if you see me changing the format every single month… no, you didn’t.

I read 16 books and 3,906 pages, an average of 214 pages per book. My average star rating was 3.71, with 4 five-stars and 1 star. But all the five stars were rereads, which it’s great, but I’m little sad that all the new authors I read this month I didn’t enjoy as much as I would have liked.

In terms of genre, I read 4 science-fiction and 5 fantasy books. In there there’s a mix of historical fantasy, steampunk and dystopian. I read zero romance books and I hate that for more, I need my monthly dose of romance. Hopefully I will be fixing that in February.

I also thought I would give you my moods. This is something the storygraph keeps track for you and it’s so fun to see. So, my most read moods in January were adventurous, lighthearted, emotional and reflective.

DNF: I wish I hadn’t tried

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth. Described as a Gothic novel, with feminist themes and sapphics, this was not what I was expecting at all. Instead I got… this. I mean, I didn’t finish it but what I read was a suffering. It’s so long and slow, I didn’t care for the characters and the story is boring. Yes, boring because there is so much description about the characters jobs and I do not care. Like at all. I really don’t care about Hollywood, writer’s block or actors’ drama. It wasn’t upsetting, it wasn’t scary and it wasn’t engaging in any way. I didn’t like the characters, they were just plain bad (i’m so funny). Does it get better? I don’t really care to know. Will I ever try again? If I’m feeling like torturing myself, sure.

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini. This was another long LONG book that bored me to tears. Although I enjoyed Paolini’s Eragon series back in the day, I still think they were ridiculously long and slow. So I would say that hasn’t changed in his writing style. I was curious about his newest book because nostalgia, the plot didn’t appeal to me and the concept is just fine, I guess. There were so many pointless discussions and descriptions, another book that relied a lot in what their characters were doing. The world-building felt flat and mediocre. This is something that happens with me and science-fiction in general where I feel like the creation of new cultures and worlds are very western. This needs more of an explanation that I can give right now, but what I mean is, authors (white authors) don’t understand the way culture shapes every single aspect of society and they don’t engage with their world-building in any interesting way, defaulting to an American setting.

Timekeeper by Tara Sim. I’m sad to say the writing here was not working for me at all. After DNFing the other two, I was not in the mood for another book that frustrated me and I put this one down. For what I read in reviews, I wouldn’t have like this one very much. The characters were underdeveloped and I didn’t care for the romance at all. That also happened quite fast. This is not a hard DNF, I don’t think this is a bad book or even a book that I would have rated one star. But no for me and moving on.

Sapphics and disappointments

The Ruthless Lady’s Guide to Wizardry by C.M. Waggoner. This was a lot, a lot of underwhelming. Didn’t care about the characters, the plot was very predictable and the romance was underdeveloped. I was promised sapphic bodyguard romance instead I got? I’m not sure, the love story was not as center as I would have liked. The whole mystery aspect was resolved in the first half of the book and the stakes weren’t as high as the story wanted them to keep me entertained in the later half. The resolution was anti-climatic, this book truly gave nothing except anger. Read a little bit more about my thoughts on my Goodreads review.

Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey. This one wasn’t as bad as the other one but I didn’t love it as I was expecting. In part is on me, I didn’t know much about the adult SFF novella except western, librarians and queerness. If I had known this book has feminism 101, I wouldn’t had picked it. Definitely think these stories about challenging patriarchal and homophobic societies are important, but they are not for me. I understand their importance and I’m here for them, but I don’t like reading about garbage societies in fantasy settings that are equally garbage as ours. Upright Women Wanted is about found family, challenging homophobia and resistance, but I felt nothing. The world-building felt flat for me and I wasn’t very invested in the story. This book was just fine, completely forgettable.

Science Fiction experiment

One of my most read genres in January was Science-Fiction. It didn’t start on purpose, actually, halfway through the month I realized I’ve been reading a lot (for me) of sci-fi and I wanted to challenge myself to find the tropes that I like and dislike in the genre.

Exit Strategy and Network Effect by Martha Wells. I finally caught up with The Murderbot Diaries series that I started last year. I had so much fun with these books, the voice is sarcastic and full of commentary about humans interactions by the most relatable robot (murderbot). Last year I realized how much I enjoy nonhuman character learning to be around humans and this is exactly what this series is about. At this point the five books blend together and I can’t tell you what happens in every book, but it’s part of what appeals to me about the series; so easy to read and finishing with excitement for me.

A Dead Djinn in Cairo by P. Djèlí Clark. This was so good! Last year I read The Black God’s Drums and Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark and they were phenomenal reads. I realized that I really enjoyed SFF novellas, it’s something special how authors can create a dynamic world-building with great characters and engaging plots in less than 200 pages. A Dead Djinn in Cairo has some many great elements; steampunk slash historical fantasy/urban fantasy world, a sarcastic and fierce main character and a mystery to solve. The book is quite fast-paced and incredibly compelling, I couldn’t put it down. I really like Fatma el-Sha’arawi (possible sapphic relationship in the future?) and I was so intrigued by this world where magic and technology coexist together. Great start to the series and I can’t wait to keep reading.

Rereads I Love

The Rise of Kyoshi by F.C. Yee. Will I ever stop rambling about this book? Probably never because Kyoshi is the bisexual icon. This book, in case you don’t know about it, follows the beginnings of Avatar Kyoshi; her journey to become the Avatar, first love, revenge, hijinks and found family. Complex characters, nuance conversations and a wonderful sapphic relationship. I really appreciate how this book expands the world-building. It’s so good to see how the Avatars are so different from each other and the ways in which they share and differ in values. Watching Kyoshi coming to her power was so fucking good and Rangi and Kyoshi’s romance? Pure perfection. I loved this book even more after reread. Hopefully I will be reading book two, The Shadow of Kyoshi, in February with my friend.

On A Sunbeam + Are You Listening? by Tillie Walden. I don’t think I have the words to quite describe the beauty of these two graphic novels. On A Sunbeam is set in space with dual time lines; in one, two girls become friends and exploring their feelings at schools, in the other one, a girl starts a new and fascinating job in reconstruction. The story is about found family, love and forgiveness and it’s slow-paced and visually breathtaking. I really liked the characters and world-building. Are You Listening? is also about friendship, grief and trauma. Tillie Walden truly knows how to write (and illustrate, I guess) nuanced characters, that are quite messy and conflicted, but also very sympathetic. For this one, big trigger warning for sexual assault. But it’s very hopeful and bittersweet, and visually stunning, too.

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. I keep mentioning this book on my bookstagram again and again and I just have so much love for Silvia and Casiopea. Favorite tropes, great character development and wonderful writing. Rereading made me realize this is my favorite SMG book and I’ll be coming back again and again. Read my review here.

Picture books

I don’t usually have in depth thoughts about picture books but I wanted to share with you the ones I read. Ten Beautiful Things by Molly Beth Griffin, illustrated by Maribel Lechuga, is about grief, change and a grandma and her grandkid’s relationship. Sloth Wasn’t Sleepy by Kate Messner, illustrated by Valentina Toro, was an adorable story that left me very impressed about how it discussed anxiety for kids. Illustrator is Colombian. Camila the Video Star by Alicia Salazar, illustrated by Thais Damiaao, was super wholesome and fun. Illustrator is Brazilian.

Graphic novels and cozy mysteries

The Daughters of Ys by M.T. Anderson and Jo Rioux (illustrator). I didn’t have a category for this one so I’ll just dump it here. It was fine, liked the art well enough but pacing was messy. The beginning is so slow and then it quickly ends. It’s based on Breton folktale and pretty dark.

Goldie Vance: Hocus Pocus Hoax by Lilliam Rivera. Last year I read book one and I was a little bit disappointed by it. I still find the writing forceful time to time, but I did enjoy Hocus Pocus Hoax a lot more. Probably because I went with different expectations and enjoy it as a quick cozy mystery. Also this time we actually get to see Diane and Goldie going on a date and I adore my two sapphics.


Broken (in the Best Possible Way) by Jenny Lawson. This was one of’s ALC for January. Back in the day I really enjoyed Jenny’s Furiously Happy, where she talks about mental health while keeping a very hopeful and honest tone. I did appreciate the message there and I appreciate it here too. There’s not doubt that Jenny Lawson is someone who writes with honesty and rawness about her own life and experiences. Still, she keeps a light tone that uplifts. Do I think she’s funny in every page? No at all, sometimes I find her jokes very obnoxious.

Long Time Coming: Reckoning with Race in America by Michael Eric Dyson. Another of’s ALC pick. Told in letters to Black people killed by the police or violence, narrates history of white supremacy and police brutality in United States. I have some mix feelings about this book, however. Dyson believes cancel culture is a real thing, use to get revenge. It was a very weird chapter with weird and false claims about how cancel culture has infected society. He does agrees is used to confront racist and misogynistic people but then argues that it’s morally wrong, because we get committed for a crime in court not by social media. As I said, very weird thoughts there and it made me rethink the entire book, to be quite honest, if that’s what the author thinks.

Revamp + We’re Back at Blogging


Review: Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything by  Raquel Vasquez Gilliland

Wrapping up the year:

Worst Books I Read in 2020

Best Books I Read in 2020

2020 Wrap Up and 2021 Resolutions


How I Use My Bullet Journal To Keep Track Of My Reading

That’s a wrap: 2020 stats & 2021 resolutions

Hello friends,

I know, I know, I promise I’m getting closer to shut up about 2020. But I’m super excited about today’s post because 2020 stats! Keeping track of my spreadsheet during the year brings immense joy (what a nerd, I know) and I couldn’t wait to share all the graphics and numbers with you. I’ll be also talking about my 2020 resolutions and how I did there, favorite blog posts and some of my 2021 resolutions.

For reference, 2019 wrap up and 2020 resolutions.

2020 Resolutions

Read 200 books. This was my minimum goal, as I wasn’t sure what the year would bring and I didn’t know what expectations I should have. I ended up moving the goal up to 300 books and then COVID happened, laughing at my face. I was so nervous and scared at the end of 2019, many of the things I was worried (personal stuff blah blah) turned out better than I was expecting. Which it was a relief but then the pandemic, losing friends, cancelling vacations, losing my job… I’m not complaining by any means, I know I was very lucky in many ways. But still, what a rough year it was, even if I accomplished so much reading wise.

Read more romance. As you will see with my stats, I read less romance than 2019. What a joke! I mean, I did read but maybe it was the year, I found myself super picky and putting a lot of stuff down. I was not in the mood for alpha heroes, or angsty stories. I guess it makes sense *gestures at the world* but still sad that so many 2020 romance releases were left unread.

Tackle unread tbr. More about this in my stats, but hands down my biggest accomplishment here. After reading 304 books, I guess.

Read more non-fiction. Read 25 books when my goal was 12, so yay me. Some of the best nonfiction books I read were Stamped from the Beginning: the Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space, and All Boys Aren’t Blue.

Finish series. This I accomplished for the first time since ever, I’m very bad at finishing series. Did I finish all the ones I want to? No, of course not because I am me. BUT I managed to finally read some romance series like Forbidden Hearts by Alisha Rai, The Loyal League and Reluctant Royals by Alyssa Cole, London Celebrities by Lucy Parker. Read my two favorite middle-grade series, too: Sal and Gabi by Carlos Hernandez and Love Sugar Magic by Anna Meriano.

2020 releases. I’m usually very good at reading backlists, but I never keep up with my most anticipated releases. I did pretty well with this time, reading 129 new releases (42.9% of my reading) and 58 of my 144 anticipated releases (that’s 40%). So yeah, very good!

I had other resolutions like reading SFF (yes), listening to audiobooks (omg, yes), reading Latinx authors (stopped counting after LHM for a lot of reasons, but I guess yes), read sapphic books (didn’t really keep count so yes question mark), and read graphic novels and comics (yes).

2020 Stats

I read 304 books (ten less than 2019) and 79483 pages. I lost count of how many books I DNF, or paused indefinitely, back in October. At that point I had 66, but it’s not very accurate. The more I grow in my reading, the more I realize that I have not time, energy or space for the things I don’t enjoy, so I DNF often and sometimes quite early. Also pretty understandable because 2020 was so ugly.

My shortest book was Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi and Ashley Lukashevsky with 24 pages and my longest book was Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela with 656 pages. This was also one of the unread books that I’ve had the longest on my shelves, a gift from my dad from 2015. So feeling very good that I got to cross it from my list.

I found myself rereading quite a lot, looking for that comfort that past favorites brought me like Wild Beauty, Don’t Date Rosa Santos, Merci Suarez Changes Gears (reread this one twice in 2020 because I love pain), and Pie in the Sky.

In terms of books finished by month, my average was 25 books per month. I read the less in January (13) and the most in March (38). I spent two weeks of January travelling, so I wasn’t very into reading that month. March, well, we all know what happened in March and I found a lot of comfort in books. I was also reading a lot of middle-grade and I tend to read those faster. July was a month I was very burned out and exhausted, from reading and creating content. Still read, but I had some low ratings there, I wasn’t enjoying the books and I felt a reading slump coming… It was also when I started thinking about going on hiatus/closing the blog. Whole reason this time I’m trying to take things at my own pace and not pressure myself to reading and create content all these platforms at the same time, because not healthy and really overwhelming.

I find my star ratings so interesting. I had 56 five stars and 105 four stars (combined 4 and 4 and half), which makes very happy. That’s 52.96% of my reading! I mean, half of the books I read I very much enjoyed. But as you can see, my highest rating was 3 stars (80 books). I don’t think three stars are bad books, more like there were things missing in here for me. Sometimes that’s the kind of reading that puts me in a reading slump. And those books are also very forgettable, to be honest. I didn’t remember how many 3 stars I had…

I always get asked how I read so much and friends, it’s because I can’t do chucky books. I mean, I guess I can because I managed to 4 books with 500+ pages. But omg, why am I like this? For some reason my brain decides big tomes are a big nope and I never read them. It was one of my resolutions for the year and ended up reading one less than 2019. Embarrassing. Interesting enough, I lower the amount of novellas compared to 2019, reading 100 books between 301-400. So maybe I wasn’t that bad.

This is one of my favorite stats! I love how pretty balance it looks, 141 (one hundred and forty one!!!) audiobooks, 142 digital (both ebooks and earcs) and 109 physical books. If you’re like, Cande, that’s not how math works, they don’t add up? It’s because I usually switch between listening to the audio and reading digital/physical copy and I counted both instances. Anyway, this right there is big achievement of 2020, listening to 141 audiobooks, baby!!

This is so interesting because I was convinced that I haven’t read that much YA, apparently I was very wrong because that’s 97 books. We also have 119 adult and 83 middle-grade or children’s books. Compared to 2019, the percents are pretty close, kind of disappointing when I wanted to read more middle-grade and reduce my YA number. Not surprised by how high adult titles get as I read a lot of romance.

Once again, my most read genre was SFF (science-fiction, fantasy and speculative fiction) with 123 books. Follow by 65 romances (20 less than 2019), 57 contemporaries, 25 nonfiction, 11 mysteries slash thrillers, 8 historicals, 6 horrors and 8 other because I was too lazy to fix my spreadsheet. Overall… I don’t know to be honest, I very much enjoy SFF above anything else, I wished I had read more romance and I’m very proud that I achieved my nonfiction goal.

Another of my biggest achievements was finally tackling my own TBR. I read 70 books that I already owned (be ebooks or physical) and 51 books purchased in 2020, that’s a lot better than I did any other year. In part thanks to the pandemic (what am I even saying right now, omg), my library was closed so I started reading my own books. Also thanks to CW’s Start On Your Shelfathon challenge (did you see my update shelf? that’s one of my biggest flex). I also read 67 review copies, 9 gifts and 8 borrows.

Favorite Blog Posts


Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

On These Magic Shores by Yamile Saied Mendez

Lobizona by Romina Garber

We Set the Dark On Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia

Court of Lions by Somaiya Daud

The Fallen Hero by Katie Zhao

2021 Resolutions

2020 allowed me a lot of time to think about reading, goals and books. I’ve realized how much I enjoy middle-grade, the ways these stories fill me with joy. And how much I enjoy adult SFF. I’m slowly making my way out of YA, I’ve been getting super picky about YA contemporary in the past years. Although YA surprised me in wonderful ways, I’m glad that I’m letting it go. Not because I don’t think it’s good quality, or good enough for me, not at all! But my reading taste has changed with time and I want to keep exploring and branching out.

I also did a lot of changes to my spreadsheets, like not keeping track of my dnfs anymore and stop counting the number of ownvoices books I’m reading. It wasn’t working for me, calling it ownvoices didn’t tell me what marginalization the author shares with the character, which it was just pointless to keep track of. I know I could have fixed it, but by then it was a label that I had some complicated feelings about. There’s such a huge misinformation and misuse. I feel like many people think ownvoices means not criticism allow. Maybe all started after my review of Woven in Moonlight, how it has been praised as ownvoices Bolivian inspired fantasy and it’s not. The author may be Bolivian-American, but she’s not Indigenous. There were also so many conversations about the label in the year that it just showed me that many reviewers don’t get it. Since then I have been cautiously using it.

Fadwa wrote this amazing blog post and she articulated so well my thoughts, so you should definitely read it. And since then I had stopped tracking the label on my reading. Of course, these are all personal feelings and thoughts and I’m not trying to start a whole discourse about it. Personally, I don’t want to have the label on my spreadsheet, doesn’t mean I won’t use it ever again. Anyway, MOVING ON NOW.

Eventually, I also dropped my stats for AOC and queer authors as I felt like I was keeping authors’ marginalization like a number to check and it made me very uncomfortable. When I started reading diverse, I had to be conscious of the books I was reading. I had to check myself constantly in the stories I was supporting, but I don’t have to do that anymore. I know that I’m reading authors of colors, QBIPOC, disabled and Latinx authors. So that’s why I don’t have any of these graphics.

So what are some of my 2021 resolutions?

I take my reading as constant work that can be improved. I like challenging myself to try new things, like diving more into adult SFF. I want to keep reading middle-grade novels and romance books. Maybe finish six more series? Too ambitious? I beg future me to stop giving the white gays more chances when they disappointed me again and again in 2020.

I’m hopeful this will be a better year for all of us. Yes, there’s still work to be done to fight white supremacy, to hold our governments accountable, to support and boost our global south friends. But we can do it.

Happy reading,


Best Books I Read in 2020

Hello friends,

2020 is over but apparently I’m not done with it yet because I still have so many posts about the year to post. I’m a little sorry. I have been so excited about blogging since I came back and there’s so many things to catch you up about. And I’m trying my best here, but I’m the slowest blogger in the planet.

Today we’re doing my best books of 2020! You can read my top ten worst and most disappointing books here. I’m cheater so I don’t exactly have a top ten, but a top fifteen. Listen, this was hard enough to narrow down and I did have an amazing reading year. I read 304 books and rated 56 books five stars, that’s 18.4% of my reading and quite a big number, I know! This was also a year where I reread a lot and many of these rereads were five stars, because well *gestures to the world* I was trying to find some comfort in worlds that I already knew and love. I didn’t count any of my rereads in this list because these are all books that I consider all time favorites. Maybe I’ll write a whole different post about that…

From the 15 titles, I have 2 YA contemporaries, 1 thriller, 3 middle grades, 2 romances, and 6 SFF. It’s so nice to see the genres and age groups that I love (romance, SFF, middle grade) so well represented in the list. For example, my most read genre of the year was SFF and I read more middle-grades in 2020 than in 2019. I’m little bit surprised by the cotemporaries because I don’t usually gravitates towards them. Although I read much less than past years, the ones I read I enjoyed very much. And yes, one thriller from my whole trying thrillers goal. I don’t think you will be surprised to see why.

Let’s talk about my favorite reads!

Book covers link to Goodreads page

15. Running by Natalia Sylvester

What a read! We had so many great YA contemporaries in 2020 and this one captured me from the first chapter. I read it one sitting and the way my heart ache. I adore Mari’s voice, the discussions about politics and standing up against your family. While also understanding how much teens can do, never minimalizing the change and respecting the boundaries they can’t cross. Running is a thought-provoking novel that closely examines racism, xenophobia, sexism and hemophobia in the Latinx community, while still keeping a hopeful tone that leaves you feeling unstoppable and powerful.

“My anger is too powerful to waste on hurting him. My anger is powerful enough for change.”

Running by Natalia Sylvester
14. When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole

This read blew my mind away a little bit. I tried really hard (not really, but leave me alone) to read outside my genres and explore thrillers. I didn’t have much luck until I read this one. I mean, I knew I would probably enjoy because I love Alyssa Cole but this book just SCREAM FOREVER. The tension, the characters, the mood, the way it explores racism, abuse and gentrification while having a little bit of romance and being about community. I couldn’t put it down, I was so scared and I enjoyed every single page.

“The dozens and dozens of plant clippings I’ve been ignoring out here have mostly managed to survive, at least. Some things do that without always needing help.”

When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole
13.Headliners by Lucy Parker

Oh, this book! I read quite number of romance in 2020 and even though I read this one back in March (oof, March), I’m still think about it all the time. I have been enjoying Lucy Parker’s London Celebrities series a lot, the books are funny and charming and I just love Lucy’s writing. But this one is my favorite, from the rivals to working together to friends to lovers to the whole snarky comments with flirt. The couple dynamic worked so well for me, I adored both of them and their romance so much. Read my goodreads review.

“He also felt every bloody cell in his body become alert when she came into a room, as if something inside him woke up and went into a state of intense high frequency. It was that sharp pull and equally hard push.”

Headliners by Lucy Parker
12. On these magic shores by Yamile Saied Mendez

I read this book at the beginning of 2020 and it’s still a story that I’m thinking about. Peter Pan retelling that explores growing up, sibling relationships and being the oldest in a family of immigrants. It’s such an honest story, with messy characters and so much love. It was also quite special reading this as I was travelling to Argentina for the first time in five years (and probably, the last trip ever thanks to COVID). I was sitting in the plane, reading about Minerva’s Argentine identity while I was landing at home. So many emotions! I have reviewed and done a character interview for this one, if you want to check out more about my feelings.

“The tooth wasn’t there. I searched frantically but instead of a tooth, I found a golden coin that sparkled, gleaming with magic and impossibility. Or was it possibility?”

On These Magic Shores by Yamile Saied Mendez
11. Sal and Gabi fix the universe by Carlos Hernandez

Another phenomenal middle-grade, I was really blessed by them. Sal and Gabi needed to be in this list, I knew from rereading book 1 that I would love the finale and I was not wrong. But still, I was surprised by how these books choose kindness and forgiveness every single time, the ways they discuss love and found family, about owning to your mistakes and learning to do better. The story is so funny and heartwarming, the characters well-developed and rounded, so charming and the story was absolutely fantastic. As a sequel, incredible. As a finale to the duology, a masterpiece. Questions were answered, plots resolved, discussions were had and everything came to the most hopeful (and cliffhanger!!!) ending ever. Eternally grateful for this series diabetic rep that feels so honest and messy as I felt when I was a tween. Sal tries his best to manage his health, sometimes he forgets, sometimes he doesn’t want to remember. This book had me a ridiculous amount of times in tears, it was emotional in the best way possible. It’s a series that has so much heart and I love it, love it so much.

“I reached my hand out to FixGabi. When she took it, I could feel the whole universe relax around us and become an easier place to live in.”

Sal and Gabi Fix the Universe by Carlos Hernandez
10. Clap when you land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Of course that Elizabeth Acevedo would make it to my list because Clap When You Land landed (i’m so funny) in every way. The book was tender, hopeful and gut-punching in all the perfect ways. I truly love Elizabeth’s voice, both her verses and her narration, and I was once again blown away by the power of this book. I love stories about grief and sisterhood and Camino and Yahaira are characters I’m still thinking about. The sapphic relationship was gorgeous and this messy sibling relationship was done so well. I loved everything about it and the way I teared up at the end, truly stunning novel.

“This must be a plane of Dominicans returning home; when you touch down on this soil, you must clap when you land. Para dar gracias a Dios. Regrezamos.”

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
9. Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

This was such a phenomenal start to a series. Inspired by Pre-Columbian civilizations, the book follows a ship captain, a priestess and a mysterious man destined for great things. Their stories are interconnected and slowly the plot unrevealed. But I never felt like this was slow-paced, the audiobook was so good that I would keep listening nonstop. From the characterization to the explanations of the world, everything was well-balanced. By that I mean, this didn’t feel like a lot of description or a lot of action, the stakes were high and the pacing was perfect. The narration is deeply captivating, the voices of the three characters so distinct. There was tension, a little bit of romance, so much intrigued and a lot of tears (from my part). Incredible, thoughtful world-building, messy and charming characters, and one hell of an ending. Super excited to keep reading this trilogy.

“The sea herself,” she said. “I am her daughter, and when I’m with my mother”–she exhaled gustily–“nobody fucks with her children.”

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
8. Nocturna by Maya Motayne

You may know I have been bullied (friendly bully, please) a lot by my friends about taking ONE YEAR to read it. In my defense, this is an incredible book that made my heart hurt and I don’t like pain. Follows a prince and a thief reluctantly teaming up to fight an evil force before it destroys the kingdom. Nocturna has all my favorite tropes in fantasy; reluctant allies turned friends, snarky character with a heart of gold, and culture being part of the magic of the world. Inspired by Dominican culture, the book explores colonization in such thoughtful and smart ways. Even when the story is about power, trauma and grief, colonization is constantly presented. From the way it has shaped the characters, the plot and even the world-building. Besides the fast paced and captivating plot, the characters were wonderful. Alfie and Finn were so funny, messy and sympathetic. I adore their relationship, the dialogue was one of my favorite things of the book. I love how the book allowed Finn to be soft and vulnerable and also fierce, snarky and ruthless at the same time. She’s allowed a complexity and nuance that we don’t usually get to see about Afro-Latinx girls. Everyone was right and this was book exactly what I needed and we have to wait for the sequel and cry forever. But chef’s kiss, my friends!

“She’d spent so much time drowning in her past that she hadn’t been able to swim to the surface and see a future for herself that wasn’t stained with blood and fear”

Nocturna by Maya Motayne
7. Land of the cranes by Aida Salazar

The way middle-grade made me cry this year! Beautiful, tender story about family separation and immigration with a powerful voice and stunning illustrations. I felt this story deep to my soul and it just broke me so much, the way it doesn’t shy about the horrors of detention centers while still being the voice of a child. In spite of the difficult themes it deals with, the book manages to highlight community, love, poetry and hope. Seriously, the best middle-grade novel that I read in 2020.

“Soon, we will bring in our wings and touch the earth of another home.”

Land of the Cranes by Aida Salazar
6. Never Look Back by Lilliam Rivera

This was one my most recent favorites so I haven’t talked much about it, which it’s a shame because it deserves a lot more love. It’s an incredible smart and thoughtful retelling of Orpheus and Eurydice that deals with Hurricane Maria. A story about young love, trauma, mental health and abusive relationships. The narration was almost lyrical, so emotional and heartfelt. This is both about Eury and Pheus’s love and their own personal journeys. I adore how romantic the novel was, hopeful in the middle of so much pain. To be honest, I don’t think I’m ready to review this book just yet. But listen, this is a love letter to Puerto Rican and Dominican kids with an amazing Greek retelling spin. And why is not in everyone’s TBR?

“What I’m trying to say is parts of Puerto Rico may have been destroyed, but beauty always finds a way of making a comeback.”

Never Look Back by Lilliam Rivera
5. Court of Lions by Somaiya Daud

One of the best things I did in 2020 was listened to Fadwa (Word Wonders) and read Mirage. I was blown away! Lush writing, complex characters, so well-lived world-building, and a story about colonization, identity and resistance. It was so good but the sequel? Court of Lions was even better. Maybe because we get to see more of the sisters relationship, maybe because the characters are so nuance and well-developed, maybe because there’s one of my favorite sapphic relationships here, I absolutely loved Court of Lions. It was my favorite sequel that I read, hands down. Read my full review here.

“Maram couldn’t fix that—she couldn’t fix the world. But she could do this, she could instill a little space and beauty in these twenty square miles.”

Court of Lions by Somaiya Daud
4, Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Have I mentioned what a blessing adult fantasy was for me in 2020? GOJAS was incredible, from the characters to the writing. Silvia has a way with words and making messy characters still charming and lovely. I adore this trope of nonhuman creature learning to be human and the reluctant allies to friends. Casiopea Tun is still a character I’m thinking about. What a book! It also made me realize what exactly I love from SMG work, you can read more about it here.

“Some people are born under a lucky star while others have their misfortunes telegraphed by the position of the planets.” 

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
3. Lobizona by Romina Garber

Do I need to add anything? I think I was pretty loud about my love for Manu, Lobizona and Romina Garber in 2020. But in case you miss my posts, this YA urban fantasy was daring, smart and thoughtful. It used fantasy tropes to talk about immigration and identity with nuance, respect and emotion. I was in love with the Argentine folklore, every small aspect of the world-building screamed Argentina from the food to the love for futbol. It’s also a story that deeply examines Argentina’s homophobia and misogyny, and gender roles. Manu’s voice was so strong and honest, I love her and I will protect her forever. Adorable romance, amazing friendship and THAT ENDING. It had been a while since a book surprised so much like this. It was powerful, it was hopeful and it’s exactly what I want to see from YA fantasy. Read my review here for more intense screaming.

“Sometimes reality strays so far from what’s rational that we can only explain it through fantasy.”

Lobizona by Romina Garber
2. The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin

I read many SFF books in 2020 but nothing like this masterpiece. I knew I would probably enjoy the newest N.K. Jemisin’s book, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it blew my mind away. From the writing, the characters, the fast-paced and multilayered plot to the world-building, every single detail has been thought-out and everything comes together at end in such exquisite way. The concept of cities having avatars, fighting this powerful evil and using art in all these different ways (music, painting, even math) to defend their boroughs is incredible. City quirks, like traffic jams that appear out of nowhere, have an explanation in this expansive world. You can breath the city, the energy and the vibe. Every character represents a different part of NYC, their voices so distinct and strong. I haven’t been there, but I have lived in one of the biggest cities of Argentina and so much about Jemisin’s depiction of city life feels like home. And with this book I realized how much I need adult fantasy in my life, because the way these books just left me breathless… Can’t wait for the sequel!

“This is the lesson: Great cities are like any other living things, being born and maturing and wearying and dying in their turn.”

The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
1. Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert

We made it, friends. My favorite book. I’m feeling a little bit emotional because Take A Hint, Dani Brown is without a doubt my all time favorite romance. I love Talia Hibbert, I have gushed about her books countess of times in here. But Dani Brown took it another level. Both Dani and Zaf are incredible characters, their relationship was amazing to watch. Best friends plus fake dating with a slow burn that was so painful but the right amount of angsty. The story manages to both be vulnerable, emotional and funny. It deals with mental health and grief in a thoughtful way. This romance was so domestic and wholesome and it gave me all the happy feelings. We all know that Talia Hibbert is my favorite romance author, right? I see myself rereading this book again and again for that shot of serotine.

“The evidence was warm against his chest right now: she believed in this gem stuff, and she’d given him one, like sharing a slice of faith. That mattered. It mattered so much his bones ached.”

Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert

And that concludes this ridiculous long list.

What were your best books of 2020?

Review: Sia Martinez and the Power of Genre-Bending Stories

Title: Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything
Author: Raquel Vasquez Gilliland
Pub Date: August 11th, 2020

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Trigger WarningS

Sexual assault, PTSD, physical abuse, parental death, racist violence, xenophobic and racist slurs, grief, discussions of deportation and crossing the border.


Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe meets Roswell by way of Laurie Halse Anderson in this astonishing, genre-bending novel about a Mexican American teen who discovers profound connections between immigration, folklore, and alien life.

It’s been three years since ICE raids and phone calls from Mexico and an ill-fated walk across the Sonoran. Three years since Sia Martinez’s mom disappeared. Sia wants to move on, but it’s hard in her tiny Arizona town where people refer to her mom’s deportation as “an unfortunate incident.”

Sia knows that her mom must be dead, but every new moon Sia drives into the desert and lights San Anthony and la Guadalupe candles to guide her mom home.

Then one night, under a million stars, Sia’s life and the world as we know it cracks wide open. Because a blue-lit spacecraft crashes in front of Sia’s car…and it’s carrying her mom, who’s very much alive.

As Sia races to save her mom from armed-quite-possibly-alien soldiers, she uncovers secrets as profound as they are dangerous in this stunning and inventive exploration of first love, family, immigration, and our vast, limitless universe. 


Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything was one of my most anticipated 2020 releases and still it took me by surprised. The story follows Sia, Mexican-American teen, grieving her mother after she was deported and tried to cross back, dying in the desert. The first half of the book explores Sia’s anger, sadness and pain, and also love when she starts falling for the new boy in town. The later half offers a genre-bended, when Sia stumbles onto a spaceship in the middle of the desert, forcing her in a race against time to save her loved ones.

Raquel wrote such a beautiful and honest story, quite daring and with some of the best characters that I have read. I finished this book and I had to sit down to grief and hope for a whole minute.

There is a tenderness and rawness in the discussions about grief, xenophobia, friendship and love. With the short chapters and the lyrical voice of Sia, this book feels like a conversation with a friend. There’s messiness and heartbreak, but also so much vulnerability that hits so hard and straight to my heart. I adore Sia and her voice, she’s fierce and honest, and she cares about her family with passion.

Without a doubt, this book has incredible characters. There are all in their way messy and complicated, they’re all trying their best and trying again. It doesn’t mean they don’t hurt each other and so much about Sia Martinez is about her relationship with other characters, be her dad, her love interest, her mom or her best friend. The relationships are strong because every characters feels real and I was so invested in them.

I adore the discussions about relationship, consent and love. I adore Sia and her best friend slowly drifting apart and the physical pain that brings to Sia. Her dad is hilarious and the funny and fierce love he has for his daughter, the way he trust her and listens always, it kind of brought tears to my ideas. SO much of YA books, especially contemporaries, is about parents that don’t respect their children and yes, I just love supportive parents.

But the best thing is, all these relationships are allowed to grow as the characters change. Nothing is stagnant in this book. And the plot, that starts with soft and slow-paced, suddenly picks up with the addiction of an science-fiction element.

2020 was the year I got more into Science-fiction and the year that Latinx authors showed me a daring reinvention of genre to discuss immigration. I talked about it a little bit on my review of Lobizona, how Romina Garber used the trope of coming of age and secret identity to talk about undocumented Argentine immigrants. In Sia Martinez, Raquel Vasquez Gilliland brings aliens, spaceships and secret government officials. When I heard about this book, I was so impressed by the subversion of the word alien. When immigrants are called aliens is with the purpose of alienating, of labeling something almost out of this world, unknown and dangerous, unwanted. It feels, at least to me as an immigrant, like a slap in the face. And then Sia finds real aliens in the desert that took her mother, aliens that have been hunted down and hurt and for a moment, I couldn’t quite breath.

The author explored with such a nuance immigration but also xenophobic governments, talking about the imaginable horrors that immigrants experience crossing the border and the ones created by systems that need us but treat us as a commodity. The almost fascination to immigrant culture because it feels so foreign, so out of this word. So much of our love for aliens and UFO is about that fascination for something that doesn’t belong here and the secrets to a new culture that we don’t understand. Even our media can’t phantom the idea of giving us aliens that are not labeled dangerous, that need to be investigated and battled against. And how many people can sympathize with fictional creatures, but won’t offer the same for undocumented immigrants.

And all of this, it’s violence, from the physical one retaining aliens against their will to learn about them to the empty promises given to immigrants that take advantage of how little society cares. The book looks straight to the eye to governments that perpetuated this violence, to the systems that benefit of it. So much of this violence is to make immigrants (and aliens) powerless, invisible, to make us feel like the world won’t care and there’s nowhere to turn. Because the world doesn’t care and we may not be dealing with spaceships in real life, but we’re dealing with immigrants incarcerated, separated from their families and abused in the hands of the government.

Sia Martinez is a layered and masterfully done storytelling that took me quite by surprised, as I said. Because this is also a story about hope, the borders that breaks up apart and the miracles that brings us together. I’m always seeking stories about grief because it’s very personal but also universal and my heart aches for that recognition of sorrow. Sia misses her mom but she’s also angry, angry at the system, angry at the xenophobic and racist people of town, angry at her mom for taking the decision of crossing the border. That intersection of anger and sadness because you have lost someone so essential in your life and now everything has shifted and you’re not quite sure where you stand was done so well. All these complicated and ugly feelings that Sia has are a full spectrum and she’s allowed to hold them close, to let them out and to heal at her own pace and her own way. The care and tenderness that there’s for Sia’s trauma, be her mom’s deportation and death or her sexual assault, brought tears to my eyes. There’s so much respect for her mental health and that’s so powerful to see.

I can say without a doubt this is one of the most thoughtful and gut-punching books that I have read, a story to keep close and to share with friends, deeply emotional but always so hopeful. Highly recommended, my friends.

Worst Books I Read in 2020

Hello friends,

This is actually my first time writing this kind of post. I have always struggled with these kind of best and worst lists. I read so much in the year that it’s very hard for me to keep track of all the things I liked or hated. The only reason I’m here today is because of my reading journal. On December 28th, I did an IG journal with me live for my end of the year spread. It was so fun and a little bit scary, I have never done something like that. If you want to watch it, here is the link to my post. But it did push me to look back at my spreadsheets (thank god for spreadsheets) and to try to narrow down my thoughts.

I read 304 books and rated fifteen books 1 star and twenty nine books 2 stars, that’s 14.7% of my reading. There were some containers for this list, but overall, 2020 was an incredible successful reading year for me. I had lows, sure, and two books that I absolutely despised, but so many incredible reads too! I tried to venture into more genres this year, like thrillers and historical fiction, with various degrees of success. But the biggest disappointment was without a doubt white gays. I guess I have come to a point where I need more than queer characters to care about the story, especially when the queerness is quite white and doesn’t engage with QPOC experience at all. A lot of wasteful world-building and mediocre characters development in my fantasy reads. And some romance novels that just frustrated me to not end. I think you won’t be surprised about my worst reads of the year, however.

So let’s get into it!

Book covers link to Googreads page

10. Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power

This was just so underwhelming, mediocre and bland. I was trying to give YA horror a fair chance but it just keeps letting me down. For its most part this story is all about mothers and daughters’ relationship and emotional abuse and I’m into that but the ending was so anti-climatic and rushed. And sure, upsetting, but I didn’t care for the characters one bit so there was not tension for me here. Anyway, I just don’t think Rory Power’s writing works for me at all. I did review this one, if you want to see more about my thoughts about it. Here.

11. We Used to Be Friends by Amy Spalding

Now we’re moving from annoyance and disappointment to the really irritated me territory because this book, friends, THIS BOOK. As a concept, I love the idea of a story that explores friendship breakups but it didn’t work at all. Really disliked the characters, the writing was a mess and there was literally not plot here??? Because the story is told in dual point of view of both girls and jumping between past and present, there was a lot of repetition and I don’t get it. There was not character development and why keep reviving the same fucking moment twice? Truly hate it here.

8. The Circus Rose by Betsy Cornwell

Now, for this one I had high hopes so to dislike it like this just makes it even worst. It’s set in the world from the Mechanica series, which I really enjoyed, but here it made not sense at all. Suddenly the society is super homophobic because it was convenient to the plot, the villain was just laughable and the writing. Oh, the writing friends. Also told in dual POV with one of the sisters (this is about sisters, by the way) being told in verse but it added absolutely nothing to the plot in general and it was so bad, like SO bad. There was nothing here that I enjoyed, everything felt disconnected and I just why? what’s the point of this book? Read my review here, in case you want more ranting.

7. Tigers, Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry

This was another great concept that quickly lost me. I love stories about grief and sisterhood with an element of the supernatural, but the characters were so underdeveloped. Also, the author has a past of writing garbage Latinx rep and here there was not substance to the characters Latinidad. They have a Spanish last name but there is not connection to culture in any way, so it just feels like the publisher trying to sell this as Latinx voice and that pisses me off a lot. I talked more about it on my Goodreads review if you want to check it out.

6. Reverie by Ryan La Sala

I know this is a very well loved in the community and I get that, but I didn’t like the story, writing or characters. This is truly one of the worst characters I read about this year, hands down. I understand Kane is dealing with trauma but he’s so insufferable with everyone, he hurts his sister and friends and doesn’t give a shit, never apologizes and barely gets called out. Also, he keeps talking about how hard being gay in this town is but we never see that? Like we never see the homophobia he keeps hinting at, instead we see how supportive his parents, sister and friends are but oh no, forget about that so he can be the Worst. AND it doesn’t sit well with me that the love interest is coded as a Latino gay boy but his identity is unknown and his experience as a gay brown teen are completely ignored. For me, the discussions about identity felt very white and quite simplistic.

5. Collision Point by Lora Leigh

I just want to rant about this one because it’s one of the worst romance that I have read (plus the next two in the list, oops). I had super low expectations but I was curious because romantic suspense and second chance romance. In reality, the mystery/suspense element was super bland, the characters so annoying and the romance terrible. Hero is an asshole for the majority of the novel and the heroine keeps throwing temper tantrums ??? There was not reason to root for me, I never saw why they fell in love in the first place or why they would do it again. Just pointless. Not even entertaining because the mystery thing was so boring.

4. Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall

Omg, this is was a personal attack, to be honest. Another well-loved book and I just want to say this is a very personal criticism. I just didn’t find it funny, like at all. It’s a rom-com but the jokes just felt very flat to me, I didn’t really care about the characters and there were some weird comments that left me uneasy. But mostly, the romance was just not there for me. Miscommunications, break-ups and then the most anticlimactic resolution because apparently a lot of things can be solved in two pages? Personally, I didn’t find it funny and that would have been okay if the ending hadn’t frustrated me so much. Please enjoy the book, friends. Just not for me at all.

3. Spellbound by Allie Therin

Oh boy, buckle up my friends, because this was the Worst romance novel I read in 2020. Pointless, boring, made zero sense and the whole relationship made me SO uncomfortable. Besides that, completely laughable how the author tried to push so hard about Italian-Americans discrimination in the 1920s ????? It could have been handled better for sure, starting by acknowledging the racism and anti-Blackness in New York. But no!!! The struggle and pains of being a seasonal white!!! The world-building was a wasted and overall, I just didn’t vibe with the story at all. Read my full rant review over here.

2. Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibanez

I mean, we all knew this was coming. And I have nothing left to say. Review.

1. Written in Starlight by Isabel Ibanez

Again, nothing really new to add. If Woven in Moonlight was terrible, Written in Starlight was even worst. It really showed me what Isabel thinks of Indigenous people, Bolivia and South American history. Her series is just a glorification of colonizers to fit an anti-Indigenous agenda. And I’ll leave it at that, I’m moving on from this mess now. Review.

I’ll be back with my Best reads of 2020 soon. And with many more lists, to be honest. I’m a cheater and I couldn’t narrow down my favorite reads without doing ten more special mentions. So I’m making a different post about some amazing SFF, romance and middle grade I read.

What were your worst books of 2020?

Let me know in the comments,