+40 2023 Latine Releases to Add to Your TBR

Hello friends,

Today I’m bringing you a list of more than 40 books by Latine authors coming out in 2023 to be on your radar. This is not a complete list by any means, I decided to include only books that have titles announced, for example. Do let me know if there is a book I am missing!

Lists is divided by eight categories; Magic in the air (fantasy/speculative), Unforgettable romance (romance), Hiding in the dark (horror), Soul-crushing and heartwarming (YA contemporary/romance), Historical, Mischief and big hearts (Middle grade contemporary), Graphic novels and Poetry. To best of my knowledge, these are the release dates of the books but they may change. All titles are linked to Goodreads page. All pre-order links are my affiliate Bookshop code, for not extra charge to you, I get a small commission.

2023 Latine books is going to be spectacular, be sure to keep your eyes on these authors!


MAGIC IN THE AIR

Breakup from Hell by Ann Davila Cardinal. Described as “horror rom-com”. Pub Date: January, 3rd. Pre-order.

Unseelie by Ivelisse Housman. “Twin sisters, both on the run, but different as day and night. One, a professional rogue, searches for a fabled treasure; the other, a changeling, searches for the truth behind her origins, trying to find a place to fit in with the realm of fae who made her and the humans who shun her.” Pub date: January, 3rd. Pre-order.

The Enchanted Life of Valentina Mejia by Alexandra Alessandri. “Encanto meets The Chronicles of Narnia by way of Colombian folklore in this middle grade fantasy adventure.” Pub date: February, 21st. Pre-order.

The Wicked Bargain by Gabe Cole Novoa. “El Diablo is in the details in this Latinx pirate fantasy starring a transmasculine nonbinary teen with a mission of revenge, redemption, and revolution.” Pub date: February, 28th. Pre-order.

Pilar Ramirez and the Curse of San Zenon by Julian Randall. Sequel to Pilar Ramirez and the Escape from Zafa.“The Land of Stories meets Dominican culture and mythology” Pub date: February, 28th. Pre-order.

Lucha of the Night Forest by Tehlor Kay Mejia. “An edge-of-your-seat fantasy about a girl who will do anything to protect her sister–even if it means striking a dangerous bargain. Dark forces, forgotten magic, and a heart-stopping queer romance make this young adult novel a must-read.” Pub date: March, 21st. Pre-order.

The Witch and the Vampire by Francesca Flores. “a queer Rapunzel retelling where a witch and a vampire who trust no one but themselves must journey together through a cursed forest with danger at every turn.” Pub date: March, 21st. Pre-order.

Last Sunrise in Eterna by Amparo Ortiz. “A goth girl, an elf prince, a missing mother, and a magical island where elves lend their magic to humans for seven days.” Recipe for a perfect disaster. Pub date: March, 28th.

Venom & Low by Anna-Marie McLemore and Elliott McLemore.A lush and powerful YA novel about owning your power and becoming who you really are – no matter the cost.” Pub date: May, 16th. Pre-order.

The Golden Frog Games by Claribel A. Ortega. Sequel to Witchlings, a competition, a mystery and more adventurous. Pub date: May, 2nd. Pre-order.

The Sun and the Void by Gabriela Romero Lacruz. “Set in a lush world inspired by the history and folklore of South America, discover this sweeping epic fantasy of colonialism and country, ancient magic, and a young woman’s quest for belonging.” Pub date: July, 25th.

The Greatest Living Warrior in Nefaria by Adi Alsaid. Debut middle grade fantasy. “The novel follows possibly invisible, decidedly friendless Bobert, whose bid to impress his classmates by using a cursed gumball machine leads him into the center of a highly incompetent (but very ambitious!) evil wizard’s wicked scheme to take control of the kingdom.”

A Warning About Swans by R.M. Romero. “A YA fairy tale in verse, set at the court of King Ludwig II, in which swan maiden Hilde, feeling imprisoned by the responsibility her father Odin created her for, gives up her magical wings to forge her own fate in the human world.”

Sinner’s Isle by Angela Montoya. “A dual POV Latinx fantasy romance, pitched as Pirates of the Caribbean meets Serpent & Dove.

Lucero by Maya Motayne. Book 3 of A Forgery of Magic series.

Sun of Blood and Ruin by Mariely Lares. “A Zorro reimagining weaving Mexican history and Mesoamerican mythology into a thrilling historical fantasy with magic, intrigue, treachery, romance, and adventure.”

Rostam and the Red Dwarf by Olivia Abtahi. “MG sci-fi/fantasy based on The Persian Book of Kings

Thief Liar Lady by D.L. Soria. “A Cinderella reimagining in which she and her “evil” stepfamily are grifters conning their way into high society, and must now navigate a high-pressure world of political intrigue, dysfunctional family dynamics, and unexpected romance.”

The Summer I Ate the Rich by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite. YA fantasy inspired b Haitian zombie lore.

UNFORGETTABLE ROMANCE

Take the Lead: A Dance Off Novel by Alexis Daria. Reprint. “A fun, sexy romance set against a reality dance show.” Pub date: February, 14th. Pre-order.

Ana Maria and the Fox by Liana De la Rosa. “A marriage of convenience between a Mexican heiress and a shrewd London politician makes for a scandalous Victorian bargain.” Pub date: April, 4th. Pre-order.

The Fall of Rebel Angels by Zoraida Cordova. “Love story between a woman suspected of murdering her former lover and a fallen angel who is cursed to search for his wings on Earth every one hundred years.”

HIDING IN THE DARK

The Haunting of Alejandra by V. Castro. “A woman is haunted by the Mexican folk demon La Llorona as she unravels the dark secrets of her family history in this ravishing and provocative horror novel.” Pub date: April, 18th. Pre-order.

Saint Juniper’s Folly by Alex Crespo. “A queer YA gothic mystery, pitched as Cemetery Boys meets The Devouring Gray, in which a straight-laced golden boy and a novice witch team up to rescue Jaime, a Mexican-American teen with a cryptic past, who’s become trapped inside a haunted mansion in Vermont.”

SOUL-CRUSHING AND HEARTWARMING

Saints of the Household by Ari Tison. “A haunting contemporary YA about an act of violence in a small-town–beautifully told by a debut Indigenous Costa Rican-American writer–that will take your breath away.” Pub date: January, 17th. Pre-order.

Brighter Than the Sun by Daniel Aleman. “An affecting, timely, and thought-provoking story about going after your dreams, making tough choices, and learning that change gives as much as it takes.” Pub date: March, 21st.

Into the Light by Mark Oshiro. “a new contemporary coming-of-age novel laced with a twisty, dark mystery you’ll have to read to believe.” Pub date: March, 28th.

An Appetite for Miracles by Laekan Zea Kemp. A story about love, healing and family. Pub date: April, 4th. Pre-order.

Ander & Santi Were Here by Jonny Garza Villa. “Aristotle and Dante meets The Hate U Give meets The Sun Is Also A Star: A stunning YA contemporary love story about a Mexican-American teen who falls in love with an undocumented Mexican boy.” Pub date: April, 4th. Pre-order.

Wings in the Wild by Margarita Engle. “This gorgeously romantic contemporary novel-in-verse from award-winning author Margarita Engle tells the inspiring love story of two teens fighting for climate action and human rights.” Pub date: April, 18th. Pre-order.

You Don’t Have A Shot by Racquel Marie. “A queer “Bend It Like Beckham”, set at a soccer camp where two arch rivals must come together to redeem their reputations and lead their team to victory.” Pub date: May, 9th. Pre-order.

Caught in a Bad Fauxmance by Elle Gonzalez Rose. Queer, Latinx YA rom-com. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before meets Schitt’s Creek.

I Like Me Better by Leah Benavides Rodriguez. “Pitched as a YA Latinx Roman Holiday, the book tells the story of Camila Torres, a Mexican-American teen movie star, who takes time off in Puerto Rico after a devastating and very public breakup, and falls for a charming local who works at an old-school cinema.”

The Making of Yolanda La Bruja by Lorraine Avila. Coming-of-age YA novel about a girl initiated into her family’s religion and having a vision about a school shooting at her school.

HISTORICAL

The Cuban Heiress by Chanel Cleeton. New historical novel by the author of Next Year in Havana. Pub date: May, 23rd. Pre-order.

Where There Was Fire by John Manuel Arias. “In John Manuel Arias’s lush and lyrical debut, the Cepeda-Mora women wrestle with the aftermath of colonialism, a deadly secret, and an all-consuming fire.” Pub date: September, 19th. Pre-order.

MISCHIEF AND BIG HEARTS

Sincerely Sicily by Tamika Burgess. “comes the captivating and empowering story of Sicily Jordan—a Black Panamanian fashionista who rocks her braids with pride—who learns to use her voice and take pride in who she is while confronting prejudice in the most unexpected of places.” Pub date: January, 3rd. Pre-order.

Barely Floating by Lilliam Rivera. “A dazzling story full of heart about how one twelve-year-old channels her rage into synchronized swimming dreams” Pub date: May, 9th. Pre-order.

GRAPHIC NOVELS

Saving Chupie by Amparo Ortiz and illustrated by Ronnie Garcia. “A middle grade graphic novel about Violeta Rubio and her friends’ mission to protect their local Chupacabra, set in a recovering town in Puerto Rico.

Morivivi by Vanessa Flores. Follows a 12-year old as he navigates the aftermath of a hurricane.

POETRY

Promises of Gold by Jose Olivarez. “A groundbreaking collection of poems addressing how every kind of love—self, brotherly, romantic, familial, cultural—is birthed, shaped, and complicated by the invisible forces of gender, capitalism, religion, and so on. But even though the path to love is not easy, it is a path worth treading.” Pub date: February, 7th. Pre-order.

Latinx Book Bingo 2022 Announcement

Hello friends,

I have a very exciting announcement today, Latinx Book Bingo is back! There will be a bingo board, reading sprints, a liveshow, and Instagram challenges. This Latinx Heritage Month is going to be epic.

I have posted about Latinx Book Bingo a couple of times, you know I love the readathon. So it was a dream come true when Paola and Sofia invited me to co-host it this year. We all met at the very first bingo back in 2018, so it holds a special place in my heart ❤

Bingo

The goal of Latinx Book Bingo is to read Latinx books from September 15 to October 15. This is the 5th round, co-hosted by Sofia, Paola, and me! Any format counts, we want to highlight Latinx authors across genres and identities. This is not a rule but I encourage you to read different voices and stories.

We have a super fun bingo board, but you can use these prompts only as a guide if you wish to. Complete a row or line, complete all prompts, or read outside the board, fantastic!

Our group book is Burn Down, Rise Up by Vicent Tirado. This is a YA sapphic horror described as “Stranger Things meets Get Out“. Perfect for the spooky season! We will have a liveshow on October 16th at 8pm ET for the book. We will also have reading sprints every Tuesday, starting September 20th, at 8pm ET on Paola’s channel (click here to follow Paola yay)

Be sure to follow LatinxBookBingo on Twitter and LatinxBookBingo on Instagram. Use the #LatinxBookBingo hashtag for all your tweets and posts, we will love to see what you’re reading!

I will be posting a TBR and recommendation lists on IG in the following days, so be sure to follow me there (@iamrainbou).

Below you can find the bingo board:

First row: Set in Latam, Translated, Co-Authored, Romance

Second row: Poetry or novel in verse, Foodie, Indie, Non-fiction

Third row: Afro-Latinx author, Group book, Horror, Banned

Fourth row: Middle grade, Joyful, Part of a series, Disabled MC

Review: Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan

Title: Daughter of the Moon Goddess
Author: Sue Lynn Tan
Series: The Celestial Kingdom Duology #1
Genre:  Fantasy, Fantasy Romance
Add to Goodreads || Get your own copy *

*this is an affiliate link, I get a small commission for no extra charge to you

Note: I won a review copy from a Goodreads Giveaway.

Synopsis

A captivating debut fantasy inspired by the legend of Chang’e, the Chinese moon goddess, in which a young woman’s quest to free her mother pits her against the most powerful immortal in the realm.

Growing up on the moon, Xingyin is accustomed to solitude, unaware that she is being hidden from the feared Celestial Emperor who exiled her mother for stealing his elixir of immortality. But when Xingyin’s magic flares and her existence is discovered, she is forced to flee her home, leaving her mother behind.

Alone, powerless, and afraid, she makes her way to the Celestial Kingdom, a land of wonder and secrets. Disguising her identity, she seizes an opportunity to learn alongside the emperor’s son, mastering archery and magic, even as passion flames between her and the prince.

To save her mother, Xingyin embarks on a perilous quest, confronting legendary creatures and vicious enemies across the earth and skies. But when treachery looms and forbidden magic threatens the kingdom, she must challenge the ruthless Celestial Emperor for her dream—striking a dangerous bargain in which she is torn between losing all she loves or plunging the realm into chaos.

Daughter of the Moon Goddess begins an enchanting, romantic duology which weaves ancient Chinese mythology into a sweeping adventure of immortals and magic—where love vies with honor, dreams are fraught with betrayal, and hope emerges triumphant


Review

How do I say this kindly? I hated this book with a passion. To be fair to the book, it wasn’t anything like I was expecting and that made the disappointment even more bitter. It started well enough, the first chapters were strong. I got a sense of the main character, Xingyin: she’s the daughter of the Moon Goddess and she has lived her entire life trapped on the moon with her mother, hidden. As she is forced to run away to the Celestial Kingdom, separated from her beloved mother, she promises to do anything to save her from imprisonment. My heart ached for her. How could I not? The beginning is heartbreaking; Xingyin is forced to be separated from the people she loves, she must hide her identity and learn to live with the Celestials. I thought this was going to be a sorrowful and slow read, Xingyin facing obstacles after obstacles on her quest. But it is not that. Or at least, it attempts to be but fails miserably.

Everything comes back to the character development in this book. From the underwhelming romance to the low stakes, it’s its characters and their lack of dimension that drag the story. Also, this book is painfully slow for no good reason.

Xingyin, the protagonist, is one of the most frustrating characters that I have had the displeasure of meeting. There was so much potential with her; she could have been this tragic heroine seeking to save her mother, bounded by the love of her family, unraveled by the love of her enemy. The angst! It could have been spectacular. But she’s too damn perfect, that’s the problem.

She has lived a shattered life, but she has no problem navigating the unknown, no ability is too difficult for her to master, and no task is too dangerous for her to conquer. When I realized she would not be defeated, the stakes of the book lowered considerably. She’s never in real danger. All men love her, all women hate her, and she gains enemies from powerful Celestials like it’s nothing. She drags the story with her pinning and frustrating logic. The lack of nuance in Xingyin weakens the story. Protagonists that have nothing to learn, nothing to confront, are incredibly dull. What is there for Xingyin to do in her own story? To go on and on for her love with the prince? To claim she wants to save her mother even though she keeps forgetting about her? Sure, she goes from this naïve girl to a powerful warrior, I guess. But that’s not really growth, she is a natural archer! She never has to put in any amount of work. It’s not just boring, it’s frustrating. Nothing feels earned with her, that’s the problem.

It’s not just her that suffers this problem, it happens the same thing with her relationship with the other characters. This is not a spoiler, it’s right there in the synopsis; one of her love interests is the emperor’s son. You know, the emperor that cursed her mother. So she can’t trust him, she must hide her identity. But also, he’s the prince of the Celestial Kingdom and she is no one, they can’t be together. Their relationship starts as friendship, he admires how she doesn’t care he’s a prince and will always be sincere about his shortcomings. Blah blah blah, they train together, they fall in love, but they can’t! It was painful to read about, their romance is the one rushed thing in the entire book. Their “passion” comes so fast, that they have no chemistry. The book tells me time has passed, it has been years. months? but I didn’t see the progression of their relationship, so why should I root for them? It doesn’t help that I didn’t like the prince at all. He is nothing but the caring and loving prince, caught between his loyalty for his kingdom and the love for this random girl. His father is cruel, and his mother hates Xingyin, who cares? Another flimsy character with no substance.

The other love interest? He’s a captain, a warrior, someone who sees Xingyin as his equal in battle. If you’re sensing that I liked him more, I guess. I did enjoy their interactions better, they have good banter. But although I understand his feelings for her (every man loves her, whatever at this point), her feelings for him come out of nowhere. Bestie, since when do you like him? Their relationship feels even more rushed.

Xingyin goes on and on about her quest, but the story quickly becomes more romance-heavy. It wouldn’t be bad if I had liked the romance. As it was, I lost interest in the book. For sure, there were some exciting moments and the world-building, based on Chinese mythology, was interesting enough, but dear god, the book was so dull.

Even considering that this is more of a fantasy romance than anything else, the politics of this book were weird and the whole plot of the Demon Kingdom was kind of eye-rolling. It comes out of nowhere, but I will admit it was an interesting plot. I guess if Sue Lynn Tan had tightened up the first two parts of the book, the last 100 pages would have been excellent. As it was, it felt like a new plot that had no development or substance to the story, rushed and forced into the book for no reason. Yeah, there was a reason and a big revelation, but again, where did it come from? Maybe if the book hadn’t spent so much time wasting on silly subplots. I would have preferred the book to end at a cliffhanger, just after the plot twist, and the sequel started strong.

I never understood Xingyin’s fierce loyalty to the Celestial Kingdom, to be quite honest. After everything your family has gone through? Just because one of your love interests is the prince? The reasons why she would never EVER betray the kingdom were weak at best. It made no sense in the context of the story! We barely see her learning to love the Celestial Kingdom, or growing a relationship with her fellow soldiers. And this is another reason why I disliked the romance, the prince barely questions his beliefs, only when it’s convenient for the plot so Xingyin can be saved. No character development, just some forced changes in his personality for convenience.

Honestly, the thing that makes the book so frustrating is that there are no real consequences for Xingyin, never. She is always too clever, too loyal, and too strong to be defeated. She will always find a way, but not in a way that shines her resilience and hope, more like she can never be harmed because she is the beloved of the story. That makes for poor storytelling and that’s why my adventures with Xingyin end here.

Reading Science-Fiction: An Experiment and Reading Project (Part 1)

Reading sci-fi: an experiment and reading project

Hello friends,

This post has been two years in the making, maybe more. Back in 2020, I found myself reading science fiction. Not only that, I was liking it. For the longest time, I consider myself a fantasy reader, I couldn’t care less about sci-fi. After saying for so long that I would not, under any circumstances, be reading science fiction, here I was, reading and enjoying space books. Maybe I was finding some comfort in sci-fi, but it was temporary. After all, it was 2020, it was a weird year, of course, my reading was weird as well. Well, I decided to find out; did I really hate with a passion the entire genre of science fiction?

I wanted to look at a couple of stuff for this project; What were the elements or tropes that make me dislike the genre? What sci-fi books have I read? What have I enjoyed from them? What’s the pattern that I can see? What haven’t I been enjoying? What am I looking for in the genre? I’ll be exploring 5 sci-fi elements and multiple books that have confirmed my beliefs or proved them completely wrong. This is part 1, which focuses on books about/set in space and a little bit of backstory about my journey in science-fiction.

To be honest, I’m not sure that there is a reader for this post besides myself. It’s a very indulging post, I want to ramble about books yes, but also about my personal reading taste. I went back and forth for a long time if this was something I should do. But in the end, this is Cande Reads so I get to write the posts that I’m passionate about.

Ready? Let’s take a look at my experiment.


My Sci-Fi History, Tropes and Misconceptions

For the longest time, I consider sci-fi one of the most frustrating genres to ever exist. Yeah, that huge statement, I know. Sure, maybe I had read sci-fi books that weren’t great. But the core of the genre was so unappalling and rage-inducing to me; stories heavily romanticized colonization and imperialism focused on American greatness, were heavy on war and conflict, too descriptive, and kind of boring. Robots, aliens, time travel? Boring. I cringed typing that, after all, these ideas were part of what I perceived as the core of science-fiction, as an outsider of the genre. I learned a lot these past years making my way through sci-fi subgenres. I clearly had a lot of misconceptions…

One thing that I can say for certain is that reading sci-fi was a journey. I found out that I quite like the genre, I found tropes that delighted me, new authors to adore, and favorite sub-genres. I still think about how many stories uphold colonization and imperialism, but that can be said about any genre in the book world. If there’s one thing that I regret is how my own ideas about the genre kept me away from great stories and authors that were doing the thoughtful and clever work that I desperately crave.

My first experience with sci-fi was YA dystopia back in the 2010s. I was a The Hunger Games, Maze Runner, and Divergent fan. It’s true, I can’t hide it. It was super popular back then, but I was also so obsessed with the idea of a world that looked perfect from the outside but you could quickly see the cracks. The books were so full of hope; the world was dark but the protagonist truly believe they could make a better world. As an angsty teen, I held on tight to that hopefulness. As I grew older, maybe as the market grew more saturated as well, I drifted apart from dystopia.

As I made my way back to the genre, I wasn’t sure that it worked for me anymore. I may have not been reading sci-fi, but I was actively consuming movies and I was not impressed. So many stories followed eager scientists, soldiers, and space explorers battling aliens and new worlds to submission. This is it? I kept thinking, stories that glorify imperialism and colonization. I was not impressed by how American the worlds were, not only the protagonist and hero of the story but the aliens they were fighting against; obsessed with war and greedy as fuck, so deeply xenophobic, too. Not pacificist aliens, or family-oriented or community-oriented. Yeah, that wasn’t something that I want to be reading about.

I had given up with sci-fi: it wasn’t for me, I was done. But as I was wrapping up my 2020 reading, I realized that I had read quite a lot of science fiction and these books were high on my list. That’s what got me thinking about this reading project/experiment. Clearly, some things were working for me, even when I felt like the majority of these books weren’t working.

By 2021 I had come up with a list of things that I had disliked in the sci-fi that I had consumed, be books or TV shows/movies;

  • Weird romanticization of American greatness
  • Pro imperialist and military
  • Colonization and American propaganda
  • Stories about aliens are very human focus
  • No exploration of culture in space
  • Robots are boring
  • A lot of wars and conflicts
  • Time loop stories get repetitive too quickly
  • Time travel bores me

With my list done, I was ready to start reading the books on my TBR, the recommendation of friends, and some beloved sci-fi series. It was time to get to reading. In the following blog posts, I will be exploring books set in space, aliens, robots/AI, time travel stories, and stories about the future (dystopian/post-apocalyptic). Part one is all about space.


Hits, Misses and Thinking Thoughts

set in/about space

Sure, I may be studying space (astronomy, actually) but stories about space were so unappalling to me. Maybe because they can rely a lot on descriptions of science and technology that are flimsy at best. But also the things I mentioned above that I have seen in these stories already; brave heroes venturing into space, exploring new worlds with no care for the communities and the fauna and flower already coexisting there. Stories about humans’ ability to survive, using their wit, facing conflict and peril.

And this is something that I can talk about regarding aliens as well, but the lack of thought in culture in space is also very telling, and personally frustrating. It doesn’t matter if the human in question is not from the United States, if they had lived in a space colony for generations, they will still think and act like any American (white) hero. It’s not easy to put the finger on it, but you know the set of beliefs; materialist and individualist, a sense of greatness just because, of disregard for the community, war, and conflict. I think some authors miss the way culture interacts with every aspect of the individual and their community, and then, the story doesn’t engage in any interesting way with its own world-building. I’m not saying that we should never take a look at these themes in space, or only Americans think like this. But it does make you wonder why, even light years away from Earth, humans could not leave behind white supremacy, homophobia, and misogyny. And while the world ends in a default American way.

There were two specific things that I was looking for in stories set or about space; something more than the great American hero and stories that were more than colonizing the entire universe.

There have been multiple books that I have tried to read that fall to this default Americanness. To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini comes to mind because this was the reason I DNFed the book. Humans have lived in space for decades, they may still identify as the descendants of Earth’s countries, but they have lost any sense of culture. Sure, that can be an interesting theme to explore, but there’s no self-awareness in this book. It’s also ridiculously long and slow…

Aetherbound by E.K. Johnston is another interesting book because it tries to look at imperialism but it fails miserably. There is no nuanced in the conversations that it tries to have. And this is another very weak world-building. These humans have existed in space for generations, they may have lost all sense of Earth, but for some reason, their entire societies are copies of the United States. There are many problems with this book (full review), but the lack of thought behind the world was a standout for me. There is no sense of who these people are, and what are their values and beliefs. Also, this is one of those books where the science is flimsy at best.

Polaris Rising by Jessie Mihalik is another example of a default American character. It’s mostly set in space, it has strong characters and great dialogue, but the world-building was extremely poor. The protagonist is, not joking, a space princess but I could not tell anything about her House. It’s quite confusing, the synopsis explains it better than the book itself. But honestly, it doesn’t feel like it is much thought behind it; in the distant future, the universe is ruled by this Royal Consortium, but the Houses are the important parts of the world. For some reason, although they rule the ENTIRE universe practically, they are based on Earth. It’s not a terrible concept, but it defaults to medieval Europe court politics in a way that feels lazy and boring. The world is not fleshed out at all.

Meanwhile, Mirage by Somaiya Daud is a series that takes a look at colonization and imperialism. Inspired by Moroccan culture, the world just feels different. Yeah, different stories and all, but Mirage uses space as its setting, it doesn’t rely on it. And maybe that is what I’m personally looking for in stories set in space. Honestly, I can’t recommend this series enough, I think Somaiya has so many thoughtful things to say about second chances, change, identity, resistance, and sisterhood. Also, fighting evil empires. You see that I have a theme here, hate stories that don’t engage with colonization. Full review of Court of Lions, book 2 of the series.

One of my all-time favorite middle-grade books also uses space as a setting as well, The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera. Space is a setting, an event of these characters, but the story is focused on the characters and on the exploration of grief and the power of stories and community. The Last Cuentista is an interesting book because it subverts what I was complaining about above. It’s a story that asks how we carry forward after immense grief and loss, not only the loss of human life but also the loss of home and history. Earth is destroyed in this book and what survives is the stories we carry. This book argues that hope is never truly lost if we have community, and we can build community again by not forgetting the stories of our people. Directly infusing culture (Mexican-American protagonist) into space!

Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee is another story that infuses space with mythology and magic, this case with Korean mythology. This is another middle-grade book, a story about friendship, family, and power. I love that this book is a blend of fantasy with sci-fi. It may very much be set in space, but it’s a story full of magic and mythology. That’s something that I quickly realized that I adore with all my heart: the blend of the fantastical with sci-fi elements. Clever and fun.

Another story that I absolutely adore set in space is On A Sunbeam by Tillie Walden. Not only is it a stunning graphic novel, but the world-building here is fascinating. There are schools, ships, and a job as a restorer of ancient buildings. Yes, I adore the sapphic romance in this one, the beautiful illustrations, and the dual timeline. But one thing that I adore about this book is how mundane it feels. It doesn’t follow a protagonist with immense power, instead, it’s sort of a quiet story. In the first half of the novel, she goes around doing her work and getting to know the crew. Things do take a turn later on, sure, but it still feels very much like a quiet story about the family we make, friendship, and love. That cozy sci-fi (just going around doing your job but in space) is exactly what I wanted.

Vagabonds by Hao Jingfang, translated by Ken Liu, is another good example of a story that feels very mundane in its nature. It’s set in a space colony and it’s mostly a philosophical debate. As some of the characters had the chance of visiting Earth, they come back with some new ideas about freedom and society. So much about this book is spent debating. Did I like this book? I’m not sure, but I do think it’s interesting how it uses space as a setting. It’s quite a slow-paced, let’s have thinking thoughts kind of book.


In conclusion, I love stories that use space as a setting. Mundane and quiet stories, that follow ordinary characters. Stories that are actively exploring humanity in the context of the universe, challenging imperialism and colonization. Stories that blend fantasy with sci-fi, making something a fascinating new world.

What are your favorite tropes of sci-fi? Have you read any books like the ones I talked about? If you have recommendations, please leave them below.

See you in part two, we’re going to talk about the future of the world.

Wrap Up: June 2022

Hello friends,

Wrap-up time! I know it’s kind of late for June, but are we even surprised? I’m always late, but at least I’m here. I read 12 books in June, the least I read this year so far. I read so many wonderful books! I’m so happy about the four (yes, four) new favorites of the year. There were new authors, rereads, sequels, and disappointments.

As I mentioned in my check-in post, June was hard. It was a difficult personal month, so even if I read wonderful books, it’s kind of hard for me to look at the month fondly. Writing this post was a good reminder of the worlds that filled me with joy in June. Hopefully, July will be better.

Let me know what you read in June, what were your favorite reads? what did you dislike? did you watch anything good?


iconic, poetic cinema

The Last Mapmaker by Christina Soontornvat. God, this book was beautiful. Christina has become one of my favorite middle-grade authors, hands down. The Last Mapmaker is a story about sea creatures, voyages, and adventures. But also about family, friendship, imperialism, and colonialism. I’m so impressed by Christina, honestly. How many stories for an older audience (even adults) can never quite grasp the concepts of imperialism and the destruction of native environments in the name of profit and fame. Truly brilliant! Combined with the fantastic cast of characters, and a messy and sympathetic main character that grows so much throughout the story, The Last Mapmaker and I was meant to be. I can’t WAIT to get my hands into a new Christina Soontornvat’s book.

Witchlings by Claribel A. Ortega. Oh god, oh GOD. This book was everything I was hoping for, stronger than Claribel’s debut, with a wonderful cast of characters and a fascinating world of magic. The story follows three witches, unlikely friends, who have to work together to defeat the Nightbeast so they won’t become toads. The book is about friendship and second chances, these three girls come to their power and it was wonderful to see them grow. Claribel also discusses discrimination and child abuse. The book features supportive and loving parents and a world of so magical and enchanting. This world has its dark corners, dangerous beasts, and secrets, but Claribel balances it out so well with funny dialogue and a message of hope like no other. So impressed by Witchlings!

In the Dream House: A Memoir by Carmen Maria Machado.  I decided to reread this memoir in June. I have never reread a non-fiction book, but I keep coming back to Carmen’s excellent writing. This memoir is written in fragments, vignettes titled after tropes or elements, paying homage to the horror genre. I have read nothing quite like this. Carmen talks about abuse, in her life, and in queer spaces. It’s a haunting read, visceral, and terrific. No words left.

The Unbroken by C.L. Clark. EXCUSE ME! I’m still screaming in all my sapphic excitement about this one. God, it was such a spectacular, mind-blowing story. I was at the edge of the seat, holding my breath. I freaking adored Touraine, her resilience, anger, and frustration, but also her loyalty to her family and her hope for something better. All to say, this was a phenomenal read, well-paced, fascinating world-building and characters. If there is one aspect I found weak it was the romance, but maybe because Clark did such a great job with Luca’s characterization that liking her was extremely hard. Still, super excited and scared of the sequel. God, I’m not ready.

The Girl and the Ghost by Hanna Alkaf. I reread this dark middle-grade book because it’s such a stunning book. An incredible exploration of grief, mother-daughter relationships, loneliness, toxic relationships, and friendship. A chilling and bittersweet story. After rereading it, I can tell you this is a favorite book. Hanna’s messy characters, funny dialogue, and heartfelt storytelling make The Girl and the Ghost a truly wonderful book.

we have no choice but to stan

Wild Rain by Beverly Jenkins. This book was so good, Beverly Jenkins is such a wonderful historical romance author. I couldn’t get enough of the characters. Spring is not looking for a husband, she has learned to trust none and loves her life around horses and her farm. Then she rescues Garrett, a reporter who has come to interview her brother, and she starts to believe she is deserving of love, care and respect, too. This series has an aspect cozy, Garrett and Spring spend these precious moments together doing mundane stuff and it is delightful. The conflict is not internal to the couple, even if they both work on their dreams for the future to get together. There is so much going on around the couple, this is a post-Civil War world, with white supremacists running wild. But Garrett and Spring have such a strong community behind them to hold them up, even in the middle of so much despair and pain, this book (and this series, really) is about the hope of Black love. Truly fantastic work. Can’t wait for the next book.

well, well how the turntables

Murder of Crows by K. Ancrum. I am so surprised about how much I enjoyed this one, as much as you can enjoy a book about murder, of course. I do like Ancrum’s writing and she did not disappoint, but YA mysteries and I are not a thing. This book is based on the podcast Lethal Lit, which I have never heard before. I’m sure if you’re a fan, your reading experience will be even better with this, but I didn’t feel like I was missing anything as a newcomer. Maybe some context in the characters’ relationships, but nothing that ruined my reading. So yeah, a murder mystery must be solved by a group of teenagers. A secret society, a town full of secrets, and a treasure to find. The audiobook was spectacular and highly recommended.

How to Invent Everything: A Survival Guide for the Stranded Time Traveler by Ryan North. This book is so weird but weird in the fun sense. Guide in the best sense of the world, the book breaks down different inventions and discoveries of humanity from animal domestication to basic first aid. It’s not a serious book at all, parting from the idea you’re a time traveler stranded in the past and you have to rebuild society. If there is one weak thing, it’s the length. I think it could have been tighter, some sections became quite repetitive. But it was honestly one of the most fun books that I have read! And if you like knowing little fun facts, this is the perfect book.

i don’t remember anything

Darius the Great Deserves Better by Adib Khorram. It’s not that I don’t remember anything, but I have already moved on. I do think this is a strong sequel to Darius the Great Is Not Okay, it continues to explore Darius’s relationship with his family, his heritage, and himself. Darius is also dealing with love, romantic relationships, friendships, and bullies. More discussions about depression and as well as grief. It’s a thoughtful, emotional, and heartfelt story. There is so much care for him as a character, but it feels like the story doesn’t care that much about its side characters. Fair enough, I guess.

Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger. This book is well-loved in the community and for good reason. It’s a story about ghosts, a murder mystery, and a tight Native family. I’m not sure how to say this, but yeah, I didn’t completely love this one? Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t dislike it, but with so many elements that I adore, I was hoping for an instant favorite. Sadly, I found Ellie’s voice repetitive and the random comments slowed down the pacing. I swear to God if I heard one more time Icarus’ story… It’s a very interesting concept and a fascinating world-building but the plot lost me. It’s a murder mystery where you know the who, uncovering the why and how should be the most thrilling aspect. It wasn’t. Maybe due to how slow the book felt to me, but when I got the climax, it was… just okay. I would never dissuade anyone from reading Elatsoe, but yeah, it was fine for me.

A Caribbean Heiress in Paris by Adriana Herrera. Another well-loved book that I found okay. I swear, I’m not doing this on purpose. This one started strong. I haven’t been reading much historical romance lately, so I was enjoying the whole concept. Dominican heiress travels to Paris to secure her business. By chance, he meets a Scottish duke who requires a wife. She needs a husband to get her inheritance. Marriage of convenience, family disasters, and a trip to the homeland. It sounds fun and it was. Adriana is excellent with that spark that you need with romance novels. But god, the miscommunication in this one is so ridiculously strong. The way heroine keeps assuming and getting frustrated and refusing to clarify anything. Someone give me the patience! It was fine, I guess, the first time and the way they talk it out to resolve the conflict, but it got very tiring very quickly. NO THANK YOU.

i am once again asking you to please fuck off into the sn

Wicked Beauty by Katee Robert. I’m once again complaining about Katee Robert’s book, I’m kind of sorry. I thought Wicked Beauty would be better than Electric Idol, friends that disliked Electric Idol adored this one. And I will admit that it is better; it has a somehow stronger plot and ten times better sex scenes. I admit it! But the characterization and the world-building of this series frustrate me so much. Weak and convoluted and overall complicated and for what? I didn’t particularly care for the characters and why should I? Honestly, why should I care about Olympus and its people? All I have seen is a bunch of entitled assholes that have zero accountability for the disasters they create. Boring, boring, boring. The politics of this world, which should be one of the most fascinating aspects of the story, are so dull to me. I don’t care for any of these characters or their problems. Sorry not sorry, besties, but Katee and I are not meant to me.