It has been a while, I’m finally done with my school semester but for some reason, I haven’t been able to blog like I was hoping. I do know why, I’ve been pretty burned out. Maybe from last year, maybe the pandemic, maybe it was school, I have had a hard time with keeping up with reviews for a while. And coming up with new blog posts? My brain has been drained. It makes me so sad, but I refused to give up in Cande Reads. So I may be taking things slowly, but I promise I’m here!
Every pride month I get very uncomfortable by how quickly the community gets to support white queer authors writing love interests of color, but doesn’t offer the same support to the queer authors of color writing their stories. Considering so many LIs in white books are Mexican-American (I don’t really want to get into that, but definitely something to discuss), I think it’s fitting we actively read, recommend and love Mexican-American authors. Little caveat, some of these books feature queer rep and some of these books are by queer authors. I think it’s important to support all type of stories by Latinx authors.
So today I bring you +10 books that should be on your TBR, some new releases, some books on my TBR and some of my favorite reads. From magical realism to Persephone x Hades retelling, these creators are here delivering some wonderful stories. And I’m so here to hype them up.
I could not start this recommendation list without one of my favorite authors. If you have followed me for a while, you know I stand by anything AMM has written/is planning to write. Their books are magical, lyrical and so full of hope. Be their debut Romeo & Juliet retelling or their Red Shoes reimagining, Anna-Marie will give you messy characters, beautiful writing, the most romantic dialogue and the perfect ending. Wild Beauty is my personal favorite, a story about bisexual cousins and a wonderful garden hiding a terrible past. When the Moon Was Ours features a Mexican girl who grows roses from her wrist and a trans Pakistani boy who paints moons for her. The Weight of Feathers is their Romeo & Juliet retelling, a quite heartbreaking and romantic tale of two mortal enemies falling for each other. In Blanca & Roja we follow two different sisters trying to break a curse and confronting their community colorism. AMM stories are sprinkle with a little bit of magic and a lot of queerness, their characters may go through a lot of hardships, but they are never alone. This is why I keep coming back to these books; all these stories are about companionship, loyalty and love. Be romantic, platonic or familial, I can always count on Anna-Marie to make me feel uplifted, seen, validated and loved by an entire community of fictional characters.
On my TBR I have their newest releases; The Mirror Season about healing and trauma, Dark and Deepest Red about prejudice, and Miss Meteor, co-written with Tehlor Kay Mejia. Their upcoming book, Lakelore, a trans Great Gatsby retelling, sounds absolutely fantastic.
I have never been able to quite articulate how much their stories mean to me, especially after how much they helped me to come out as non-binary. Maybe one day.
When two teens discover that they were both sexually assaulted at the same party, they develop a cautious friendship through her family’s possibly magical pastelería, his secret forest of otherworldly trees, and the swallows returning to their hometown, in Anna-Marie McLemore’s The Mirror Season…
Graciela Cristales’s whole world changes after she and a boy she barely knows are assaulted at the same party. She loses her gift for making enchanted pan dulce. Neighborhood trees vanish overnight, while mirrored glass appears, bringing reckless magic with it. And Ciela is haunted by what happened to her, and what happened to the boy whose name she never learned.
But when the boy, Lock, shows up at Ciela’s school, he has no memory of that night, and no clue that a single piece of mirrored glass is taking his life apart. Ciela decides to help him, which means hiding the truth about that night. Because Ciela knows who assaulted her, and him. And she knows that her survival, and his, depend on no one finding out what really happened.
Tehlor Kay Mejia
I’m sure you saw this one coming because I love We Set the Dark On Fire so freaking much. A story about revolution and power, about two Latinx girls falling for each other and fighting for their love and community’s justice. My heart! Tehlor’s middle grade debut was fantastic, too. Paola Santiago and the River of Tears is part of Rick Riordan Presents and follows Paola and Dante trying to save their best friend from La Llorona. This story was chilling and heartbreaking, with an incredibly charismatic main character and some wonderful side-characters. Tehlor knows how to deliver angry girls with complicated emotions that only want to protect their little found family, be Paola or Dani in We Set the Dark On Fire. These stories are filled with rage but also hope and love. In Paola Santiago, the story offered so much compassion to La Llorona and it was quite refreshing. In WSTDOF, Tehlor makes us reimagine our ideas about rebellion. These are such an important stories and I can’t recommend Tehlor Kay Mejia’s work enough. And I can’t wait to see what’s next from her!
At the Medio School for Girls, distinguished young women are trained for one of two roles in their polarized society. Depending on her specialization, a graduate will one day run a husband’s household or raise his children, but both are promised a life of comfort and luxury, far from the frequent political uprisings of the lower class. Daniela Vargas is the school’s top student, but her bright future depends upon no one discovering her darkest secret—that her pedigree is a lie. Her parents sacrificed everything to obtain forged identification papers so Dani could rise above her station. Now that her marriage to an important politico’s son is fast approaching, she must keep the truth hidden or be sent back to the fringes of society, where famine and poverty rule supreme.
On her graduation night, Dani seems to be in the clear, despite the surprises that unfold. But nothing prepares her for all the difficult choices she must make, especially when she is asked to spy for a resistance group desperately fighting to bring equality to Medio. Will Dani cling to the privilege her parents fought to win for her, or to give up everything she’s strived for in pursuit of a free Medio—and a chance at a forbidden love?
Anna Meriano is another author I never shut up about. Her Love Sugar Magic series is one of my favorites. An absolutely delightful story about friendship, magic and family’s legacies. Leo is quite mischievous but she has her heart in the right place. Through out the trilogy we explore a wonderful world where magic exists alongside the real world and you just need a family recipe book to access it. The series explores identity, family dynamics, grief, and responsibility. It has its bittersweet parts but it’s overall a delightful series that I wholeheartedly recommend. Anna’s YA debut, This Is How We Fly, is a loose Cinderella retelling, with a gender questioning MC that sounds fantastic and I can’t wait to finally read later this month.
17-year-old vegan feminist Ellen Lopez-Rourke has one muggy Houston summer left before college. She plans to spend every last moment with her two best friends before they go off to the opposite ends of Texas for school. But when Ellen is grounded for the entire summer by her (sometimes) evil stepmother, all her plans are thrown out the window.
Determined to do something with her time, Ellen (with the help of BFF Melissa) convinces her parents to let her join the local muggle Quidditch team. An all-gender, full-contact game, Quidditch isn’t quite what Ellen expects. There’s no flying, no magic, just a bunch of scrappy players holding PVC pipe between their legs and throwing dodgeballs. Suddenly Ellen is thrown into the very different world of sports: her life is all practices, training, and running with a group of Harry Potter fans.
Even as Melissa pulls away to pursue new relationships and their other BFF Xiumiao seems more interested in moving on from high school (and from Ellen), Ellen is steadily finding a place among her teammates. Maybe Quidditch is where she belongs.
But with her home life and friend troubles quickly spinning out of control–Ellen must fight for the future that she wants, now she’s playing for keeps.
Loriel Ryon & Aida Salazar
I also want to mention two more Mexican-American middle grade authors that I absolutely adored. Their books feature queer representation but from side-characters. Into the Tall, Tall Grass by Loriel Ryon is a story about grief, identity, sisters, first love and forgiveness. This is was a gut-punched of a story that I devoured in a couple of hours, breaking my heart with every chapter. Yolanda’s twin sister, Sonja, has a sapphic relationship with her best friend. I found their love story quite beautiful and hopeful; it’s their first love and things are quite messy and awkward at first, but that’s such an important thing to portray in queer middle-grade stories. The Moon Within by Aida Salazar is a fantastic novel in verse about menstruation and friendship. Celi’s best friend is genderqueer and the story does a great of job in decentering ciswomen experiences from menstruation. It also has a very supporting and loving community and I just found the book incredibly heartwarming and charming.
On My TBR
covers link Goodreads page
Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun by Jonny Garza Villa
I feel like I have been waiting for Jonny’s debut my entire life. I can’t believe it’s finally out in all of its queer glory. This a YA m/m romance that promises me tears, laughs and a lot of heart-eye emojis. It sounds delightfully heartfelt and powerful, dealing with the machismo and homophobia of Latinx community. Truly fantastic!
The Little Death by Michael Nava
The Henry Rios Mysteries series is a noir mystery series following a Latino gay MC. It was originally published in 1983 and it has seven books. To be honest, I’m cautiously curious. But still! What a pioneer of a series! I can’t wait to dive into this author, I’ve been meaning to try more adult mysteries this year.
Drag Me Up by R.M. Virtues
This is a Hades x Persephone retelling with two Black leads and a trans MC. My friends have said this is a very steamy read and I can’t wait! I’m big Greek retelling fan, so I’m intrigued by the world-building (I have heard it’s quite good!). But still, I don’t think I have read an actual Hades and Persephone retelling, so even more excited this one will be my first.
Hola Papi: How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons by John Paul Brammer
This a non-fiction book, a memoir by (about?) John Paul Brammer. I quite enjoy memoirs written in essay formats and I have enjoyed John’s columns in the past. He has such a charming writing style, so much humor while unpacking trauma. I’m just excited to get to this one as soon as my library copy arrives.
We Are Owed by Ariana Brown
Ariana is a Queer Black Mexican American poet and this is her debut poetry collection. I always struggle when talking about poetry, but this collection explores Mexican identity and anti-Blackness in the community. It doesn’t have a cover yet but I had to shout it out. You can preorder and read more about it here. It comes out July, 29th.