Review: Olga Dies Dreaming by Xóchitl Gonzalez

Title: Olga Dies Dreaming

Author: Xóchitl Gonzalez

Pub. Date: January 4th 2022

Genre: Contemporary Fiction/LGBTQIA+

Format: Audiobook – Libro.FM & Book Of The Month

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Pages: 384 pages/11 hrs 22 min

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Characters: 10/10   Atmosphere: 10/10  Writing Style: 10/10  Plot: 6/10  Intrigue: 0/10  Logic/Relationships: 8/10  Enjoyment: 8/10

Rating: 52/7.4 =  ☆☆ Stars☆☆╮

Rating system created by The Book Roast 

☆☆ “𝐋𝐢𝐤𝐞 𝐬𝐡𝐞’𝐝 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐞𝐧𝐝 𝐨𝐟 𝐚 𝐒𝐜𝐨𝐨𝐛𝐲-𝐃𝐨𝐨 𝐞𝐩𝐢𝐬𝐨𝐝𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐩𝐮𝐥𝐥𝐞𝐝 𝐨𝐟𝐟 𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐨𝐰𝐧 𝐦𝐚𝐬𝐤, 𝐫𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐚𝐥𝐥 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐭𝐢𝐦𝐞 𝐬𝐡𝐞’𝐝 𝐛𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐩𝐥𝐚𝐲𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐩𝐚𝐫𝐭 𝐨𝐟 𝐇𝐚𝐩𝐩𝐲-𝐆𝐨-𝐋𝐮𝐜𝐤𝐲 𝐏𝐚𝐫𝐭𝐲 𝐏𝐥𝐚𝐧𝐧𝐞𝐫 𝐰𝐡𝐞𝐧 𝐢𝐧 𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐲 𝐬𝐡𝐞 𝐰𝐚𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐫𝐢𝐟𝐲𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐄𝐝𝐮𝐜𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐖𝐨𝐦𝐚𝐧 𝐨𝐟 𝐂𝐨𝐥𝐨𝐫” ☆☆╮

Olga Dies Dreaming is a dual point of view story that toggles between present day and timelines that date back to the early 2000’s. We follow Olga and Pedro aka “Prieto” Acevedo as they navigate their lives and careers while also dealing with an absent mother who makes her presence known through letters and visits from fellow associates. Blanca abandoned her children when they were very young to fight for a liberated Puerto-Rico, never making her whereabouts known since she’s the leader of a small group of liberation radicals known as the “Pañuelos Negros” who are akin to the Black Panthers. Olga has made a career out of wedding planning for the elite in NYC Manhattan while also keeping love and romance at arms length. She’s out to break stereo-types as a Latinx business owner and has turned her back on ALL things related to her mom & issues plaguing Puerto-Rico. Olga’s brother Prieto is a popular Congressman in a rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood who is torn between being present as a good father for his daughter vs. wanting to protect Puerto-Rico from exploitation. Prieto is flawed there’s no denying that, his intentions started off good as he struggled with finding his role and how to do his part in helping the island. Ultimately I found his actions in politics to be very spineless and damaging to the island.

Whenever I pick up a book by a debut author, I’m looking to see if they’re characters are compelling enough for me to get invested in their back stories. Gonzalez delivered top tier character development and gave each one a distinctive voice, down to the absentee mother whose presence was felt through a series of evocative letters.  Both siblings have serious abandonment issues that are in need of healing as it continues to play a role in the decisions they make with their loved ones and in their respective careers. They both seek validation from a mother who abandoned her role in their lives and lives/breathes her cause, something they still can’t accept.

This book won’t be for every reader especially since woven in the text is a lot of history centered around the Puerto-Rican diaspora. There is a heavy emphasis on politics both in gentrifying NYC neighborhoods as well as the relationship between the mainland United States and Puerto-Rico. I can appreciate this since so much went down when Hurricane Maria made landfall in 2017 leaving the island in the dark and many of us outsiders with family on the island, feeling helpless and frantic. PREPA and the shady political behaviors by the Governor which we watched in real life get exposed, are mentioned in this book which may shed some light to those who didn’t know much about it. The conclusion wrapped up a bit too quick for my liking for a book that mostly was medium paced with many complex layers to unravel. I listened to the audiobook and gave the performance 5 stars, the narrator knocked it out the park. I felt the audiobook specifically, really brought Blanca’s letters to life and made her passionate pleas to rally up more powerful. There were scenes I found hard and heavy to get through, especially when Prieto visits the towns in Puerto-Rico and speaks to citizens who are exhausted and feeling forgotten without water or light. Overall, it was an impactful memorable read that has placed Xóchitl on my radar for any future releases.

CW: Death of a parent, rape, suicide, cheating, divorce, cancer, serophobia, gentrification, abandonment, drug addiction, homophobic slurs, racism


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Spoilery GUSH Review: Jade City by Fonda Lee

Title: Jade City

Author: Fonda Lee

Pub. Date: June 26th 2018

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Format: Hardcover

Publisher: Orbit

Pages: 560 pages

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Characters: 10/10   Atmosphere: 10/10  Writing Style: 10/10  Plot: 10/10  Intrigue: 10/10  Logic/Relationships: 10/10  Enjoyment: 10/10

Rating: 70/10 =  ☆☆ 5 Stars☆☆╮

Rating system created by The Book Roast 

☆☆ “𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐜𝐥𝐚𝐧 𝐢𝐬 𝐦𝐲 𝐛𝐥𝐨𝐨𝐝, 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐏𝐢𝐥𝐥𝐚𝐫 𝐢𝐬 𝐢𝐭𝐬 𝐦𝐚𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐫. 𝐎𝐧 𝐦𝐲 𝐡𝐨𝐧𝐨𝐫, 𝐦𝐲 𝐥𝐢𝐟𝐞, 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐦𝐲 𝐣𝐚𝐝𝐞.” ☆☆╮
Jade City was one of my last reads in 2021 and thank the Universe for that! It was everything I was told it would be and more, simply intoxicating being in this world. If you’re a fan of Godfather type stories or just gravitate towards age old feuds paired with cut throat politics doused with some magic, the Green Bone Saga is a MUST read! The island of Kekon is ruled by two crime syndicates, the Kaul family run the No Peak Clan who are considered royalty; and its rival the Mountain Clan. These clans at one point in time operated as one in the best interest of Kekon however, after a fall out between the original leaders they separated and each claimed businesses and districts to protect. The island is rapidly changing and attracting attention from foreigners due to being the only site of Jade production. Jade, the green magical gems that grant superhuman abilities to those with the right training and heritage is HIGHLY coveted and fiercely protected. The Kaul family is of the mind that Jade needs to stay within Kekon since it’s not only dangerous in the wrong untrained hands but also the core of their culture. Kungfu is taught in the academy that churns out street soldiers with each of the clans has their own school with competitive training. To be trained in Kung Fu and placed as first a “Finger” who can rank up to a “Fist” working for the “The Horn” is an honor and aspiration for many young men. Jade distribution is carefully monitored with knowledge that there is a black market set on making it accessible to the outside world. The Mountain and its “Pillar” who is their leader, is of the mind that Jade is already being illegally sold so why not make it so they sell and control its distribution for the good of Kekon. We have two Pillars from opposing clans with differing views on the future of their island. A peace treaty of sorts is in place at the start of this story however greed and a lust for power soon ends that treaty and fills the streets with blood.

The Kaul family legit came across as all too real, they were fleshed out to the point it felt as if you were at their dinner table about to throw down! There’s a lot to take in with regards to family history and old alliances. The Kaul’s Pillar is the Grandfather who is now experiencing the start of Dementia and is transitioned out of his role. His grandchildren Lan (next Pillar), Hilo (The Horn), and Shae (sister who left Kekon in search of her purpose outside of the family) are the next generation of leaders who are learning the ropes and trying their best to fill some very big shoes. This of course means that they’re bound to disagree and bump heads and I absolutely LOVE books featuring sibling dynamics! Shae & Hilo who are already multi-faceted characters deliver when it comes to showing the good, bad, and ugly of sibling relationships. This is the type of Urban Fantasy I eat up, where the author does such a stellar job at vividly painting you a picture of what it feels like to walk down the street in their city that all the work is done for your imagination. There are some scenes that just stick out in my mind and one of them is definitely Shae’s return cause it was so bad a** and feminist AF! she is the wild card in the deck and I couldn’t get enough. Only one word comes to mind when I hear Hilo’s name and that is LOYALTY! now I don’t know if that changes later on but at the moment he is one of my favorite characters. Also, it takes a real brave one to kill off your favorites and Fonda Lee has now joined the ranks of such authors. I am proceeding with caution as I ready up to start Jade War *wish me luck*


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Spoiler Free Review: Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Roa

Title: Girls Burn Brighter

Author: Shobha Roa

Pub. Date: March 6th 2018

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Format: Audiobook

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Pages: 309 pages/11 hours & 38 minutes

 

 

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Girls Burn Brighter is a story about friendship and the resilience many girls/women have to find within when faced with trauma and tragedy. We follow two girls Poornima and Savitha who are living in India, they start off walking very different paths but soon end up down the same road. After the loss of Poornima’s mother, her father hires Savitha to work in his Sari looms. They instantly strike up a friendship with Savitha bringing much joy to Poornima who is dreading the day her marriage is arranged. Savita is a positive soul who always sees the brighter side of every situation, her smile alone is contagious and often is exactly what Poornima needs. One night, tragedy comes for Savitha and it robs her of the light she carries within. Traumatized by what has happened to her, she flees their village in the middle of the night. Poornima is devastated by the disappearance of her friend and knows something terrible had to have happened. Poornima decides she’s going to go after her friend and the story switches to multi-pov as we follow each of the girls journey in America. This story tackles human trafficking and violence many young girls and women face, it is not an easy read. It is raw and violent, all the while communicating to the reader the sense of hope and fight these girls have to find their way back to one another again. 

CW: Human trafficking, domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, violence, mutilation, disfigurement, abuse

I was not prepared for this story and yet I could not stop listening and hoping that it would all end on a good note for Savitha and Poornima. The truth however is more painful and tragic, not many escape human trafficking and if they do there are scars to carry. The violence they experience in India and then later in America all the while pushing on was heartbreaking. Watching the girls tuck away their traumas in order to find answers from the men who held them captive was sobering. They couldn’t stop and process the constant violations against their bodies because that meant never getting out. They used every tool at their disposal to outsmart and maneuver their way forward in hopes of seeing each-other again. This isn’t the type of story that can ever truly have a happy ending and does feel very heavy while reading, the author handled these tough themes in a thought provoking way. A lot of the scenes depicted are violent and sobering because it’s the stark reality many face in our real world. The character development is strong with each of their voices and personalities coming through in a very distinct way. My eyes are peeled for anything Shobha Roa writes next. 


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Spoiler Free Review: Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao

Title: Iron Widow

Author: Xiran Jay Zhao

Pub. Date: September 21st 2021

Genre: YA Sci-Fi

Format: eARC

Publisher: Penguin Teen

Pages: 400 pages

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*•.¸♡ ᴍᴀʏʙᴇ, ɪғ ᴛʜɪɴɢs ᴡᴇʀᴇ ᴅɪғғᴇʀᴇɴᴛ, ɪ ᴄᴏᴜʟᴅ ɢᴇᴛ ᴜsᴇᴅ ᴛᴏ ᴛʜɪs. ʙᴇɪɴɢ ᴄʀᴀᴅʟᴇᴅ ɪɴ ʜɪs ᴡᴀʀᴍᴛʜ ᴀɴᴅ ʟɪɢʜᴛ. ʙᴇɪɴɢ ᴄʜᴇʀɪsʜᴇᴅ. ʙᴇɪɴɢ ʟᴏᴠᴇᴅ. ʙᴜᴛ ɪ ʜᴀᴠᴇ ɴᴏ ғᴀɪᴛʜ ɪɴ ʟᴏᴠᴇ. ʟᴏᴠᴇ ᴄᴀɴɴᴏᴛ sᴀᴠᴇ ᴍᴇ. ɪ ᴄʜᴏᴏsᴇ ᴠᴇɴɢᴇᴀɴᴄᴇ. ♡¸.•*

This turned out to be the Feminist AF Sci-Fi story I needed to reignite my craving for SFF as a whole! It also made one thing very clear and that’s that I enjoy a good revenge plot especially when it’s executed by a female MC who feels she has nothing to lose. Zetian has been groomed from birth to accept her role in society as the weaker gender, her sole purpose if enlisted to fight in the war against the Hunduns (evil robots) is to serve as sort of an amplifier/conductor of Qi (spirit pressure) for the males. Accurately pitched as Red Rising meets Pacific Rim, in this world we have our main characters fighting in giant Chrysalis robots against the Hunduns over the wall. A Chrysalis is controlled by a male pilot and his female “Concubine.” While in battle, their bodies remain dormant in the husks of the Chrysalis while they battle using spirit pressure. Many times, the males thoughts & feelings will overwhelm his concubine and kill her. This is understood and accepted by all, until Zetian comes along with a mission to avenge her sisters death. What begins as a plot for revenge against one pilot turns into a much greater mission to strike against the patriarchy and question a system designed to keep women subservient and/or dead.

CW: Death of a loved one, domestic violence, murder, attempted rape, alcohol abuse, suicidal thoughts, misogyny, war themes, descriptions of forced foot binding, and organ removal

This book was hella quotable with social commentary delivering truths on the patriarchy and I absolutely loved it! My rating is a 4.5 only because the finale didn’t match up with the level of climax built up, it felt just a smidge rushed towards the very end.  This still wasn’t enough to take away from the story, I found myself fully invested in the characters and overall world building. I’m not yet sure if I’d consider Zetian an unlikeable character, she harbors a ton of anger which I found justified given the crummy deck of cards girls are dealt from birth. We see her experience emotional and verbal abuse from her father as well as the physical pains of having her feet bound at the age of five. Zetian is always in a state of pain and in many ways she uses that as fuel to power through her quest for revenge. From the start when we meet her she makes it clear that she will not consider anyones life (including/especially family) who at some point treated her own life as dispensable. Zetian’s hate/love relationship with Li Shimin was well developed, I honestly felt at some points that they’d never get on the same page. I enjoyed seeing Zetian come to certain realizations with regards to the world they live in and the whole Pilot/Concubine set-up. There were some awesome discoveries at the end that really set-up for the next book in this series. This is a fast action packed Sci-Fi with bits of romance sprinkled throughout haha! it’s def more plot heavy. Our main characters are all queer, the Polyamorous relationship that developed was *Chefs Kiss*! it legit was the perfect balance of sweet and rough around the edges. I have some theories as to where the story will go next and hope to the Book Gods that at the very least we get a cover for the follow-up early in 2022 *fingers crossed*


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Spoiler Free Review: Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson

Title: Vespertine

Author: Margaret Rogerson

Pub. Date: October 5th 2021

Genre: YA Fantasy

Format: eARC

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Pages: 400pages

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🖤ARC provided by Publisher in exchange for an honest review🖤

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We follow Artemesia, a gray sister at a convent who prepares the bodies of the dead to enter the spirit world. She prefers to fly under the radar and have minimal contact with others since doing so often leads to anxiety. Artmesia is walking the path to one day becoming a nun when her convent comes under attack by possessed soldiers forever changing her life course. Within the convent there are Nuns who can wield relics which harness spirits, all know of one powerful Relic that is kept under guard. During the invasion, Artemesia discovers the spirit that is attached to this relic better known as a Revenant. The Revenant is a very powerful being who threatens to possess Artemesia the minute she awakens it. From the minute the Revenant makes it appearance we get the sense it truly hates all Nuns and then the sarcasm begins and it’s made abundantly clear. The dialogue alone provided some of the best on page entertainment I’ve come across. The author best describes this book as a Medieval Venom starring a Nun and a ghost and I think that’s on point for accuracy👌🏽 being in Artemesia’s head & hearing the exchanges with the Revenant had me in fits laughing out loud. The Revenant doesn’t let up on the fact that it LOATHES Nuns and makes sure Artemesia knows this while also threatening to take over (possess) if it pleases. Our main character is someone who struggles with mental health tied to a tragic event in her childhood. She doesn’t do well around people in general but gets used to interacting with the Revenant and knows she needs its help to get answers.

This may come across as an unpopular opinion but having read Sorcery of Thorns (my review) and now Vespertine, I’m of the mind that this book is the stronger of the two with regards to character development. That being said, the plot towards the end of this book threw me off a bit and that’s why I docked it. Not sure if it was a me thing but I felt I lost sight of it and had to backtrack.
Otherwise, it was so damn good! Funny, witty, epic battle scenes and tragic at times. The world building was also very intriguing with Rogerson breaking down how certain spirits are manifested. Whether it was a violent death on a battlefield or the death of a child, the way a person loses their life determines the spirit left behind. There are religious themes explored along with possession that may or may not be to your liking. Personally, I don’t gravitate towards books with religious themes however the dialogue and witty banter between Artemisia and the Revenant all throughout had me giggling more times than I could count. I’m looking forward to the next book in this world seeing as the author introduces others spirits that are on the same level of power as the Revenant and would spell trouble if they were to gain their freedom. I’m curious to know whether the audiobook narrator nailed the performance of the Revenant and will most likely re-read in this format before the next book is released. 


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Spoiler Free Review: A Lot Like Adios by Alexis Daria

Title: A Lot Like Adios

Author: Alexis Daria

Pub. Date: September 14th 2021

Genre: Contemporary Romance/Queer/Latinx

Format: Paperback

Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks

Pages: 381 pages

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Gabriel Aguilar aka Gabe left his childhood home in the Bronx when he wast 18 years old to make a life for himself on the west coast. A major part of that decision was to put space between him and his family, specifically his father who wanted him to focus his efforts into taking over the family business. Gabe recognized he was stuck in a cycle of seeking validation and allowing others to steam roll him into making decisions that weren’t aligned with his true purpose. For Gabe, his dreams were with physical fitness and going to school to one day open his own gym/rehabilitation for athletes. He’s got a business partner he can count on and call family with which he’s successfully opened and managed one of LA’s hottest celebrity gyms. When his partner Fabian who finds himself overwhelmed with the expansion of his own family asks Gabe to spearhead the expansion of their Gym in New York City, Gabe is SUPER hesitant. When Fabian tells him he’s already reached out to a up & coming marketing solo agent to help with their rebranding, Gabe isn’t expecting it to be Michelle Amato AKA Mich…

Michelle Amato has just quit her job and is trying to venture off independently as a freelance graphic designer. She doesn’t have it all figured out just yet but is eager to find her true purpose in life without the stress of her Puerto-Rican/Italian family who are truly trying to see if she’s dating and on the way to someday starting a family. When she gets an email from Fabian hiring her to help with the gym and sees Gabe’s name attached to the email as co-owner, she feels a mixture of emotions all at once. Gabe, her best friend from childhood who walked out of her life 13 years ago without a word. Gabe who she one day thought would end up with and instead left her with a ton of unresolved feelings. She takes it as an opportunity to finally get answers from him whether he likes it or not. Mich will take on the campaign as long as Gabe is willing to agree to some terms. Some of these do require them spending time alone as they work on this campaign. This is a friends-to-lovers romance that will have you rooting for the couple till the very end! 

 

There really is so much to love about A Lot Like Adios and I’ll go as far as saying, it’s tons better than You Had me at Hola! Both of our main characters are Bi-sexual, Mich specifically is working through her sexuality and admits to not having it all figured out quite yet. I loved seeing the honesty and vulnerability when she talks about her dating life. Mich also struggles with anxiety for which she does take medication. She’s someone who is self-aware and knows that in order to make progress emotionally, she’s going to have to address the open wounds between her and Gabe. Gabe is equally self aware but has the opposite approach in order to protect his peace and make his own decisions, he’s chosen to run away from it all. It’s an interesting push and pull dynamic between the two as they seek to mend their relationship as well as work on the external factors that played a part in the distance. As always, Alexis Daria knows how to deliver on what being a part of a Latinx family feels and looks like. I loved the importance given to self-care and mental health and the different ways of coping. Also, being first generation myself and understanding that my immigrant parents had a very different more traditional approach to careers made seeing Gabe & Mich’s story that much more relatable. For those who enjoy mixed media, Gabe & Mich had a fan-fiction web comic when they were teens and we get to see their chat messages when they were piecing together that story. The romance/steamy scenes were satisfying and passionate, Gabe really enjoys proving to Mich that he knows his way to woman’s orgasm. He is a very generous lover as well as super confident which honestly is part of his sex appeal. It was a good time all around! I’m looking forward to more stories within the Primas of Power universe *fingers crossed*


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Spoiler Free Review: The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina by Zoraida Cordova

Title: The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina

Author: Zoraida Cordova

Pub. Date: September 7th 2021

Genre: YA Fantasy/Magical Realism

Format: Hardcover BOTM

Publisher: Atria Books

Pages: 336 pages

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The Montoya family is used to the oddities that come with having Orquidea Divina for a Matriarch. They’ve stopped asking if the fantastical stories she told them were true…how she managed to make a barren land fruitful? or how the pantry never seems to run low? One by one her grown adult children and grandchildren get summoned to their childhood home in Four Rivers for what appears to be her funeral. Orquidea wishes to dine with them and give them their inheritance however when they arrive, they find she has already begun her transformation. She is literally transforming into a large tree with roots when her family arrives with a lot of questions and frustrations. They want answers but Orquidea has never been a woman of many words and will make them all work for the answers they seek. She gives Marimar, Rey and Tatinelly’s small child Rhiannon special gifts that they don’t quite understand. In order to get answers they need to dig deep into Orquideas past which means they must travel to Ecuador. It’s through this journey that they get to know Orquidea, a woman that didn’t speak much and came across as cold but was filled with magic and mystery.

╰☆☆ “тнє ѕριяιтѕ αтє αи∂ αтє. тнє ℓινιиg нυяяιє∂ тσ тєℓℓ тнєιя ѕтσяιєѕ, тнєιя α¢¢σмρℓιѕнмєитѕ, тнєιя ωιиѕ, тнєιя ρяσgєиу. мαятιи ναиιѕнє∂ fσя α мσмєит, тнєи яєтυяиє∂ αи∂ тнє ѕσυи∂ѕ σf σяqυί∂єαѕ fανσяιтє ѕσиgѕ fιℓℓє∂ тнє нσυѕє, ωнι¢н нα∂ вєєи ємρту αи∂ ѕιℓєит fσя тσσ ℓσиg” ☆☆╮

This story was EVERYTHING and so much more than what I thought we were going to get! I’ve always loved Magical Realism (I’m lookin’ at you Anna Marie-McLemore) and know that some readers have a hard time suspending their disbelief with this style of writing, however here is a story that makes it easy for you. Each of her descendants ALSO have a hard time digesting what they’re seeing but they kinda have to because they’re being hunted and killed off one by one. Cordova takes you by the hand as you travel to Ecuador with this tale of roots, the ties that bind us, and finding where you belong. I wanted to know so badly what transpired in Orquedias past to make her flee the country she was born in. Other than The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, I’m not really a fan of circus themed settings so I was a bit hesitant to learn from early readers that we’d be visiting one in this story. Atmospheric and tantalizing, my eyes couldn’t absorb it all in fast enough and those last 100 pages flew right by! This was beautifully written and heartfelt, really no surprise to me when the tears started flowing and the page tabs were growing. This is hands down a 6 star read and going on my favorites list for 2021! ❤ 


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Spoiler Free Review: Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno Garcia

Title: Certain Dark Things

Author: Silvia Moreno Garcia

Pub. Date: September 7th 2021

Genre: Paranormal/Horror Noir

Format: eGalley

Publisher: Tor

Pages: 272 pages

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Originally published in 2016, Certain Dark Things was given a new cover and re-released last month. There’s been a recent resurgence of Vampires across all media and I for one was excited to see a story set in a Dystopian Mexico City. We meet Atl who is a descendant of Aztec blood drinkers as she’s on the run from rival vampires. She meets Domingo, a young garbage collector who has been living in the city streets for years. He is instantly mesmerized by her beauty and willing to let her feed off him to survive. Atl never hides her true nature and makes sure Domingo knows what he’s getting himself into. What she doesn’t count on is actually getting attached to Domingo and developing feelings for him. This world is gritty and violent, the vampires all self preserve by any means necessary while living alongside mortals. This is a short quick read that is very atmospheric and will please readers who enjoy neo-noir. Our main character is on the run all throughout this story with other vampires, criminals and cops on her trail. The body count is high with very little focus on the romance and an emphasis on the chase itself. If you happen to be a fan of animal companions, Atl has a genetically modified dog who is super overprotective of Atl and is described as being large in size with tattoos on the side of its face. All in all giving Atl a bad a** look and swag!

I’ve honestly enjoyed seeing the growth in writing while reading Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s books, each story speaks to the talent and unwillingness by this author to be boxed into any one specific genre. This story was a 3.5 star read for me which is still a solid rating, it’s just not my favorite of what I’ve read so far. I’ve heard it said that noir fic is known to focus more on the setting and that’s definitely the case here. The plot is very straight forward (more telling/less showing) which I didn’t mind but personally would’ve loved to see a little more world building to compensate. I would’ve gladly read a 400 page book set in this world which already had me invested in its characters. I’ve been making way through all of SMG’s book, Certain Dark Things (being one of her earlier works) has left me in awe of how much growth we get to see in each of the books that follow. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a highly underrated author who will continue to break genre barriers! the one thing I can always count on is that I never know what to expect from this author but it’s guaranteed to be a solid read. 


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Spoiler Free Review: The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

Title: The Love Hypothesis

Author:Ali Hazelwood

Pub. Date: September 14th 2021

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Format: Physical Book

Publisher: Berkley Books

Pages: 384 pages

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Olive is a third year PHD candidate focused on science and not quite sure if she’s interested in love. In fact she’s questioning everything about how she views attraction, sex, and romance. Olive’s best friend Anh on the other hand is a romantic at heart and it just so happens that she has amazing chemistry with Jeremy who is Olives ex. She feels terrible for having these feelings and decides to keep them hidden but everyone in their friend circle can see they’re perfect for one another. Olive truly didn’t have any deep emotions for Jeremy but convincing Anh that she’s more than OK with them dating is proving to be challenging. The only way would be if she can show Anh that she’s since moved on into a new relationship. The idea of fake dating someone doesn’t have much time to brew in her mind before she finds herself ambush kissing Professor Adam Carlsen. The professor known to break the hearts of budding scientists leaving them in tears and rethinking their entire career paths. What’s even more surprising is that the forever grumpy Adam surprises her by agreeing to an arrangement that would help them both.
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*•.¸♡ ωнαт ι ℓσνє∂ ♡¸.•*
🧪Women in STEM
🔬Queer and diverse characters
🧪Positive healthy female friendships
🔬Academic settings
🧪Forced proximity situations that’ll have you blushing alongside our MC
🔬Flirting & banter *Chefs Kiss*

I don’t think I ever really considered the Fake Dating Trope to be one that I’d be totally into but it absolutely is now! I lost count of the times I found myself blushing and smiling from second hand embarrassment. We also get the Grumpy/Sunshine Trope which I’ve personally always enjoyed. Does it help that as soon as I heard this story is Kyloren Fanfic inspired, that I immediately envisioned Adam Driver as the lead male interest? ABSOLUTELY! he perfectly fits the description and mannerisms. I’ll admit I wasn’t too keen on the premise of a best friend falling for the other friends ex however, I felt Olive’s feelings on the whole thing were very well explored. She has a moment of introspection that even though it wasn’t spelled out on the page, I understood it to be that Olive may be Asexual. I appreciated reading a character’s POV who experiences love and sexual attraction differently than what we’re used to seeing in books.

I also LOVED how well balanced this read was with regards to the science in an academic setting and the actual romance. There was an emphasis on highlighting the many hurdles women in STEM go up against in a field where their counterparts are predominantly Caucasian males. Olive’s BFF Anh is a Vietnamese PHD Candidate who is very driven to creating more resources for BIPOC women in STEM. These themes were woven in organically which I feel is probably because the author themselves is a Neuroscientist with plenty of time in an academic setting. There’s honestly so much to love here! last but not least…The STEAM factor was so satisfying! It is well deserving of my 6 star rating simply because I am STILL thinking of these characters and the *Chefs Kiss* flirting that took place. 


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Spoiler Free Review: Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Title: Velvet Was the Night

Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Pub. Date: August 17th 2021

Genre: Thriller Mystery/Historical Fiction

Format: eGalley

Publisher: Del Rey

Pages: 289 pages

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1970’s Mexico City is where we meet our MC Maite, a Secretary with a passion for romance comics and a love for music records crooning lyrics she can get lost in. She doesn’t see much excitement in her life and can’t imagine that changing anytime soon, so she escapes into her comics where she envisions herself as the woman being swept off her feet by a handsome and daring man. This all changes when her neighbor hires her to cat sit and then mysteriously disappears, Maite sees herself thrown into the hunt for Leonora during a very dangerous time in Mexico. Elvis is a criminal who loathes violence and loves Rock ’N’ Roll (Presley is his idol), he was picked up off the streets and trained as part of a Paramilitary group called “The Hawks” in squashing student protests by brute force. He comes across Maite when his latest job has him looking for Leonora aka the missing woman. He’s ordered to watch her and begins to fall for the many things they share in common despite her not being his usual type.
🔥👄🚬🎶🔥
As a backdrop in the city, Sylvia Moreno Garcia writes of the very real life Corpus Christi Massacre that took place in 1971. When 10,000 student demonstrators set to the streets to peacefully protest oppression and demand Democracy. This was during the time Mexico was governed by only one party known as the PRI aka the Institutional Revolutionary Party which was viewed as a dictatorship. The “Halcones” or Falcones were a real pay-for-hire group trained by the CIA.
🔥👄🚬🎶🔥

As I make my way through Silvia Moreno Garcia’s backlist, I will start ranking them in hopes of a dedication post for my favorite author. 𝑴𝒆𝒙𝒊𝒄𝒂𝒏 𝑮𝒐𝒕𝒉𝒊𝒄 still reigns in my heart as my favorite SMG, however I really enjoyed this book. Maite will NOT be everyone’s cup of tea but I personally enjoy unlikeable characters. This book is heavy on the events that took place in Mexico during the 60’s surrounding students & government. If you enjoy having a bit of Historical Fiction weaved throughout or in this case where it’s the back drop, then you’ll probably really enjoy this one. I felt the author nailed it when she described it as having a very Pulp Noir feel, I definitely got those vibes. We have a mystery at the core, political unrest in the background, two MC’s with a deep appreciation of older Rock N’ Roll and career criminals in the mix. Silvia Moreno-Garcia is known for her signature mark of blending multiple genres, Velvet was the Night is a mash up of Mystery Thriller and Historical Fiction. I have come to expect to be pleasantly surprised every time I pick up a SMG book because I know that it won’t have the same feel as any of her other books. It’s become a little thrilling in a sense to see what she has in store within the pages of the next book. If you enjoy music while you read, check out SMG’s Velvet Was the Night Playlist on Spotify!


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