Mexican Gothic Book Review

Disclaimer: Some of the links in my review for Mexican Gothic are affiliate links. If you click them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. The decision of whether or not to buy something is completely up to you.

Hard cover copy of Silvia Moreno-Garcia's Mexican Gothic in front of a glass vase filled with fake marigolds and ferns. Surrounded by small, multicolor pumpkins
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

I picked this one up sooner than expected thanks to Overdue covering it in their podcast. If you haven’t listened to Andrew and Craig talk books, I highly recommend you begin. Their coverage of Mexican Gothic is fantastic!


Noemí Taboada is a flirtacious socialite in Mexico City who only wants to continue her education and study anthropology. But her father wants her to settle down with an appropriate young man. When they receive an unsettling letter from her cousin Catalina, whom they hadn’t heard from since her marriage, her father strikes a deal with her. If Noemí investigates her cousin’s situation and brings her where she needs to be, he will let her continue her studies. She accepts the challenge, but the situation turns out much more sinister than she imagined.

The Plot of Mexican Gothic

Noemí arrives at High Place, the creepy mansion where her ailing cousin Catalina resides with her family by marriage. The Doyles are a haunting bunch, like living ghosts gliding through the old house. Catalina’s husband, Virgil, insists his wife is suffering from tuberculosis and doesn’t need a psychiatrist. But Noemí is stubborn and won’t leave until she finds out the truth.

However, the darkness she experiences while staying at High Place turns out to have deeper roots than she thought. Catalina’s rantings in her letter were not the ravings of a woman gone mad, but rather a woman held prisoner by a family’s secret.

Throughout the story, Moreno-Garcia builds the fictional horror in such a subtle way you don’t realize it’s happening until it’s too late. But the Doyle patriarch’s obsessive exoticizing of Noemí puts the real horror upfront and center: white supremacy. Moreno-Garcia flips the script so that the Lovecraftian horror takes root the way racism and colonialism do in real life – quietly and behind the scenes.


Noemí works great as a protagonist. Glimpsing into her thought processes throughout the book, you come to find a smart and resourceful heroine. Interestingly enough, this intellect also leaves her vulnerable in the face of the impossible. While she often handles the real evil of the Doyles deftly, the supernatural evil of the house is harder to fight, especially for someone who starts out as a skeptic.

She finds an ally in Francis, the only one of the Doyles who shows a shred of decency. And the first man that has managed to garner Noemí’s genuine affection. His family often derides him, shunning him for his softness. But as sweet and kind as Francis is, he’s also been poisoned by the paranormal evil of the house. It’s a fascinating development that shows how those growing up in a toxic environment will always be a product of it, no matter how compassionate they may be. It takes courage and work to break free from that poison.

Mexican Gothic Rating

5 out of 5 stars hands down. Moreno-Garcia created an unsettling atmosphere by intertwining real-life horrors with the supernatural kind. Every moment reading this novel, I found myself crawling in my skin.

You can find a copy of the book here.


2020 Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books You May Have Missed

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this list of 2020 sci-fi and fantasy books are affiliate links. If you click them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. The decision of whether or not to buy something is completely up to you.

2020 sci-fi and fantasy books, Wizard 3D Art Scifi Magic Fantasy Power Cube
Image by Sachu Sanjayan from Pixabay

When the pandemic hit, some 2020 sci-fi and fantasy books may have fallen through the cracks. And if you’re anything like me, you’re probably 84 years behind on your TBR. But it’s okay, because as 2021 comes to an end, now is the perfect time to discover the books you missed when the pandemic started.

Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore

McLemore creates a haunting and beautiful fairytale retelling with their story about Rosella Oliva and Emil. A pair of red shoes attach themselves to Rosella’s feet, making her dance uncontrollably. Emil reveals the history of the village’s ancestors who once danced themselves to death in those same shoes, and how his family was blamed for it five centuries before.

Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi

Onyebuchi combines the magic of fantasy with the science fiction of dystopian novels. Brother and sister Ella and Kev have supernatural powers that help them navigate a world built on brutality and racism. When Kev is imprisoned simply for being a black man in America, Ella tries to lead her brother to a revolution that can undo the world as they know it.

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

This was one of my favorite among the 2020 sci-fi and fantasy books published. Thomas takes their place among the queer young adult book canon. In this YA fantasy, Yadriel, a Latinx brujo wants to prove his place to his family that can’t accept his gender. But when he summons the ghost of Julian Diaz, the school’s bad boy, he can’t get rid of him. After spending time with him though, he’s not sure he wants to. You can see my full review here.

Docile by K.M. Szpara

In Szpara’s dystopian sci-fi novel, Dociles are the new slaves. These unfortunate individuals find themselves in dire straits and need to find a way to survive and provide for their children’s future. But the true horror of this science fiction novel is its all too real resonance with today’s life. It’s a promising read to add to the queer sci-fi canon.

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Roanhorse has earned her place among indigenous authors of renown. With this fantasy novel inspired by Ancestral Puebloan culture, she sets off the Between Earth and Sky trilogy. Featuring a matriarchy, rebel uprising, dark magic and political intrigue, this fantasy series is sure to satiate fans of the genre.

A Beginning at the End by Mike Chen

For sci-fi lovers with a taste for the post-apocalyptic, Chen’s novel fits the wheelhouse. After an epidemic wipes out a large chunk of Earth’s population, the rest are left to rebuild. This splits the world into factions of self-governed cities, gangs in the wastelands and communes for the free-loving. It’s a free-for-all that sci-fi readers will love.

Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey

Featuring queer librarians who act as spies in the American Southwest working for a rebellion against fascists and bandits, Gailey’s LGBTQ+ fantasy is sure to hit all the right notes this coming year. Esther fell in love with her best friend before they killed her for possessing propaganda from the resistance. When her father betrothed her to the man once engaged to her best friend, she stowed away in a librarian’s wagon.

You can find all the books mentioned here on my Bookshop page.


Wanderlust: Chicago 2017

It’s been a while since I wrote about my travels, so I thought I’d dive back in with my visit to Chicago in December 2017. After the last couple of years with limited traveling due to the pandemic, I think I’m long overdue to share my old adventures.

As I made my way between the buildings, I saw ropes stretched along walkways. I wondered what they were for until the moment a strong gust blew and I had to grab the nearby ropes to keep from blowing over. Ah, that’s why they call it The Windy City.

I flew out to Chicago to visit my friend Angela, but on my first day, I trekked solo while she worked. Filled with skyscrapers, banks, libraries and stores like any other city, at first glance it seems ordinary. But take a closer look at the details and you see a story within the cracks and crevices. Something about the city’s architecture captivated me and made me feel like I’d stepped into a different place. And I had. I wasn’t in Florida anymore, so the buildings held a different history.

the Chicago Theater
The Chicago Theater

Since I went in December, holiday lights and events abounded. I found myself at the Navy Pier and popped inside to escape the cold and rain. I walked into a delightful Christmas festival made more for kids, but still beautiful and enjoyable. Outside, even in the gray light, the waterfront promenade enthralled me. Passing by the Shakespeare Theater and the Ferris wheel in the distance, the Navy Pier holds a whimsical allure.

When visiting Chicago, make sure to get views of the city from up high. A ride on the Ferris wheel at the Navy Pier takes you on a wonderful ride above the skyline, seeing all the way out to the horizon. If you’re not afraid of heights, the Sears Tower also gives an incredible view of the city. It’s a tourist attraction, but stepping into the Skydeck over the city is a thrilling experience.

Chicago Skydeck
Sitting in the Chicago Skydeck

On the days Angela and I did hang out, we went to see the Habichuela as I called it. I hadn’t realized until that day that they actually call it the Bean. Cindy’s Rooftop Bar nearby gives an excellent view of the shining structure from above. But be prepared for a bit of a wait, as even before the pandemic it was a wait to enter.

View of the Bean from Cindy's Rooftop Bar
View of the Bean from Cindy’s Rooftop Bar

Have you visited Chicago? What was your impression of the city? Let me know in the comments.

Update 10/20/2021: Time is such a construct that I forgot my first trip to Chicago was in 2017, not 2018.


Best Books for Fall Lovers

Disclosure: Some of the links in this list of best books for fall are affiliate links. If you click them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. The decision of whether or not to buy something is completely up to you.

best books for fall
Image by hudsoncrafted from Pixabay

With the leaves changing colors and cooler weather comes the perfect opportunity to get cozy in your reading nook. Whether it’s a sweet romance or chilling mystery, there’s something for all Fall lovers. Grab a cup of tea and fall into these six books perfect for Autumn.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

A mystery thriller set in New England makes for one of the best books for fall. A group of smart and strange students become entranced with a new way of thinking about the world, influenced by their charismatic professor. But things go too far, and soon they delve into a world of corruption, betrayal and evil.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

You can always count on Gaiman to deliver creepy fall books perfect for the Halloween season. Part horror and part young adult paranormal fantasy, this story follows Nobody Owens, a boy who escaped the grisly murder that befell his family. He wanders into a graveyard after the incident, where the land’s deceased residents agree to raise him as one of their own.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Among the best cozy autumn books is Setterfield’s novel about a recluse author named Vida Winter who penned 12 delightful tales. But the 13th has been missing, until the time just before her death. With the help of biographer Margaret Lea, Winter finally tells the tale she’s kept hidden her whole life.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

If you’re searching for books that feel like autumn, then look no further than the first of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series. In 1945 Barcelona, a boy named Daniel awakes one day to find he can no longer remember his mother’s face. His father attempts to console him by initiating him into the secret library tended by rare-book dealers.

Transcription by Kate Atkinson

One of the best books set in Autumn takes place in London post-World War II. During the war, Juliet Armstrong worked as a transcriber, cracking codes between an MI5 agent and a suspected German sympathizer. Years after the war, she’s dragged back into the world of spy work she wanted to leave behind.

The Autumn Bride by Anne Gracie

A list of fall books is not complete without a historical romance. Abigail Chantry, a governess, finds the Lady Beatrice Davenham’s estate in shambles. To keep her sisters and friends who work for the estate from falling into poverty, she takes over it herself. But when the Lady’s nephew Max returns and doesn’t find his aunt running the place, misunderstandings ensue and lead to the best kind of romance.

Find most of the books on this list here!


The Crimson Crown by Cinda Williams Chima Book Review

Disclosure: Some of the links in this book review for The Crimson Crown are affiliate links. If you click them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. The decision of whether or not to buy something is completely up to you.

It’s taken several years, but I finally finished the Seven Realms Series. Perhaps I’m well past the age of the appropriate audience, but this ending felt lackluster after such a strong series. It was still a fair book, but not great in comparison to the first three.

The Crimson Crown by Cinda Williams Chima paperback
The Crimson Crown by Cinda Williams Chima


In the final novel of Chima’s high fantasy young adult series, the war that’s been broiling in the realms comes to a head. Raisa, now the queen of the Fells, must contend with all her enemies and bring together people who have been split for centuries. Han Alister, her wizard counselor, and her love interest helps Raisa bring the kingdom together, ensuring everyone has an equal voice. But they can only succeed if they’re honest with each other and bring the truth to light.

Characters of The Crimson Crown

In the past, Han and Raisa’s constant push and pull compelled me. But by the fourth book, it wears out. The will they/won’t they seesaw grew tired and left me unsatisfied in the end. All the relationships felt that way, really. Every dynamic, whether it was Raisa and Amon or the wizards versus clan stretched out too long. It was a relief when it finally came to an end. The prolonged tensions affected the characters’ growth. It felt like three books’ worth of development stagnated and fell short.


While the characters fell short, the story kept moving along at a pace that worked. However, it did feel a bit uneven as well. The political intrigue dragged a bit on both Raisa’s and Han’s sides. The end approached quickly and culminated in a neat little bow.

Cultural Influences

Throughout the series, I couldn’t help but compare the story to Tamora Pierce’s Trickster duology. Raisa represents the bridge between two peoples who cannot coexist: the colonizers and the colonized. She is the daughter of the queen of the conquering people and the chief of the clan people. It’s hard not to make the connection to the sisters in the Trickster duology.

It also bears acknowledging that both series are written by white women. While mixed characters are certainly worth exploring, a more deft hand is required. Both series create an interesting premise that reflects real-life issues. But they don’t go far enough to understand the nuance of such existence.

Rating Crimson Crown

3 out of 5 stars. I loved the rest of the series enough to finish it. But the book doesn’t stand too well on its own.

Find this book on my Bookshop.org list and other books I’ve reviewed.


Back in the Blogosphere

Hello friends!

Source: Source: Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

I needed a break from blogging. I’ve been doing it because I enjoy it, but I’m feeling burned out with everything I have going on. But I think I’m ready to come back. Only now I’ll have a once a month schedule. My aim is to post the first Saturday each month. So I don’t burn myself out and have time and energy for other projects on the horizon…

I’m excited to be back!

Warmest Regards,

Meagan Kimberly


5 Books Better on Audio to Add to Your TBR

Disclosure: Some of the links in this list for books better on audio are affiliate links. If you click them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. The decision of whether or not to buy something is completely up to you.

5 books better on audio
5 Books Better on Audio

As much as bookworms love to take in words with their eyes, sometimes listening to the story is better. It brings back the nostalgia of being read to as a child and keeps up the oral tradition of storytelling. Here are five books better on audio with great narrators.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Hawkins’s best-selling mystery thriller is narrated by Clare Corbett, Louise Brealey and India Fisher. Mysteries make the best audiobooks. They’re written with a creepy atmosphere that evokes images of sitting around a campfire telling tales. Corbett’s, Brealey’s and Fisher’s voice acting give each of the main characters a distinct voice. The listener always knows who is talking.

World War Z by Max Brooks

This creative exploration of the zombie apocalypse is told through a series of interviews with survivors. It features a full cast in audio form, including Simon Pegg and Mark Hamill. Its style makes it among the books better on audio because its format takes on a documentary quality. It’s made for voice actors.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee

Christian Coulson’s narration brings the main character’s voice – Henry “Monty” Montague – to life in the most delightful way. He brings Monty’s sarcasm and wit to the forefront in a way that reading the words on the page does not suffice. Readers will get caught up in the queer romance as well with Coulson’s dulcet tones.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Another star-studded voice cast, Saunders’s moving tale includes the likes of Lena Dunham, Nick Offerman, David Sedaris and Julian Moore, among others. The full-cast narration brings to life historical figures and fictional characters alike to create a rich story made for listening.

Dreams of My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama

Memoirs make for books better on audio, especially when narrated by the authors themselves. Regardless of politics, many have agreed that former President Obama’s voice commands an audience. Those who heard him speak couldn’t help but listen. The same holds true for his memoir as he reads from his writings on race and family.

If you don’t quite like audiobooks, that’s ok! You can still pick up a copy of these great books here.


Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet Book Review

Disclosure: Some of the links in this book review for Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet are affiliate links. If you click them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. The decision of whether or not to buy something is completely up to you.

Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet by Laekan Zea Kemp Hear Our Voices book tour banner
Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet, Hear Our Voices Book Tour

Thanks to NetGalley and Hear Our Voices Book Tours for an ARC of this wonderful novel. What an absolute delight reading it, including all the overwhelming emotions. It’s an aptly named book, as the story does fall somewhere in between the two.

I would like to disclose at this time this is not exactly an Own Voices book review. Because it said Latinx representation, I assumed that meant an amalgamation of different cultures would appear in the book aside from Mexican-American. However, the story solidly depicts the Mexican-American/Chicanx community. While I did find many similarities between my experiences and the character’s, we do not hail from the same community.

Summary of Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet

Pen Prado loves working at Nacho’s Tacos, her father’s restaurant, alongside her family. She dreams of opening her own pastelería next to his restaurant some day. Those dreams come crashing down when she reveals the truth to her family: she hasn’t been going to school like she said she was. Her father fires her from the restaurant and she chooses to move out rather than stay at home and go to school. Pen discovers who she truly is and her place in the world.

Xander comes to Nacho’s Tacos seeking a job and refuge. He lives undocumented with his grandfather, having been left by his father and mother as a child. He’s looking for a sense of family, including his estranged father, but it might come at a cost. Worse, the neighborhood crook who preys on desperate small businesses and families, J.P., has him in his sights. Together with Pen, he must find out how to save the place he thinks of as home.


Pen and Xander are electric, both on their own and together. Readers will easily fall in love with these kids as they navigate growing pains and fight for their community. It’s hard to talk about the characters individually, as they are so interconnected with one another and their families. This makes Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet realistic and relatable. Every character is their own person but inextricably tangled with their culture and community.

The relationships feel organic and real. Pen’s role as the little sister to Angel, her more reckless big brother, rings true. Likewise, her bond with Chloe, her best friend, shows the strength and love between two women who become sisters. The whole cast of characters at the restaurant felt like a genuine family. They bickered and played pranks on one another. They also came together and had one another’s backs when it came down to fighting J.P.’s scare tactics.

Depictions of Mental Health Issues

Kemp does a phenomenal job of showcasing Pen’s struggles with depression. When she tries to hold it all in, the atmosphere suffocates you alongside her. As she finds the strength to pull through her depressive episodes, you feel the world opening up right beside her. Throughout every moment Pen deals with her mental illness, the reader feels it with her. Kemp’s writing does an amazing job of creating that mood without being didactic.


Kemp’s writing creates a lush and vibrant setting throughout. Her writing takes full advantage of all the senses, bringing to life every scent, sound, taste, feeling, and sight. It perfectly reflects the food and what it means to the characters. Fair warning, you will get hungry while reading, so I suggest keeping a snack in hand.

She also perfectly weaves the themes of the story throughout the plot and through character development. She does not shy away from the uglier parts of healing from trauma. But she always shines a light of hope through the characters and their language. The end of the novel doesn’t wrap up neatly, but it leaves a sense of promise for the future.

Rating of Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet

Hands down, this book deserves 5 out of 5 stars. From the story to the characters to the writing, the whole thing is perfect.

Get a copy here!


Essay Collections to Make You a Smarter Person

Disclosure: Some of the links in this booklist of essay collections are affiliate links. If you click them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. The decision of whether or not to buy something is completely up to you.

6 essay collections to make you smarter
Essay collections to make you smarter

Essay collections combine creativity and academic language to make smart, fun-to-read pieces. They help readers step into another’s shoes and experience the world as they do. Furthermore, like short story collections, they’re easy to read in chunks.

The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison

Jamison discusses and analyzes empathy from several angles, such as womanhood and as an observer of those suffering from improbable maladies. These essays challenge readers to understand the line between empathy and tragedy voyeurism.

Thick: And Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom

This collection follows the likes of Roxane Gay and bell hooks. McMillan Cottom discusses subjects such as race, money, beauty, and more. The author puts at the forefront what it means to be thick – physically, mentally, and emotionally.

The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang

Wang gives an intimate look into living with mental and chronic illness. The candid discussion of living with schizophrenia helps create a better understanding of an often misrepresented condition.

What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker by Damon Young

Young’s memoir as a book of essays explores what it means to be a black man in white America. Though it delves into heavy themes of race, Young does so with a humorous touch. Even when it seems the stories become harder and harder to carry.

Shapes of Native Nonfiction ed. by Elissa Washuta and Theresa Warburton

Editors Washuta and Warburton gathered works from 27 Native writers. It contains pieces by writers across the tribes of Turtle Island. Furthermore, this diverse collection of perspectives holds as one of the best nonfiction essay collections.

Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

From award-winning poet, Claudia Rankine, comes a collection filled with lyrical precision. Published in the era of the Bush administration, Rankine explores themes of race, terrorism, politics, and more.

Find the books on this list here.


Short Story Collections to Get You Through Your Reading Slump

Disclosure: Some of the links in this book list of short story collections are affiliate links. If you click them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. The decision of whether or not to buy something is completely up to you.

7 short story collections

Collections of short stories often fulfill that reading itch without the long commitment of a novel. You can pick up a story, read it to completion, and then put the book down without losing the thread. Check out these collections of short stories to cushion your reading.

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
Machado bends and breaks genre rules. In doing so, she creates stories that blur the lines between horror, science fiction, and fantasy. Each story also explores the violence often experienced by women and their bodies through various lenses.

The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu
Liu’s collection is lauded as one of the best short fiction books. It also contains a combination of futuristic science fiction with fantastic myths from Japanese culture. Moreover, these stories explore what it means to be human through narratives of AI, robotics, legendary creatures, and more.

A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories by Lucia Berlin
Berlin’s short story collection blends humor, wit, and gut-wrenching emotion. It tells the stories that happen in settings often found behind the scenes in our everyday lives. These are quiet stories of average people leading average lives, but the way they are told is anything but average.

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen
From the award-winning author of The Sympathizer comes a short story collection filled with the trials and struggles of being an immigrant. These stories are rich, complex, and so well written it’s impossible to put down.

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
In Lahiri’s short stories, her characters delve into an exploration of identity. They investigate everything from their ancestors’ Indian heritage to their own American upbringing, for example. It’s a collection of poignant stories that deftly maneuver through the question of cultural identity between generations.

The World Doesn’t Require You: Stories by Rion Amilcar Scott
This collection of short stories strings together tales of various residents of Cross River. The leaders of the only successful slave revolt of the mid-nineteenth century established the town. Moreover, Scott’s debut short story collection is a must-read in today’s world of turmoil.

The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter
Carter tackles familiar fairy tales and legends in one of the best short story collections of the last century. She tells the stories in this collection with dark and sensual twists that will leave readers wanting more.

Pick up a copy of each of these collections here.


Indigenous Authors Books to Read

Disclosure: Some of the links in this book list of indigenous authors are affiliate links. If you click them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. The decision of whether or not to buy something is completely up to you.

indigenous authors book list

This reading list of indigenous authors will give you plenty to refill your shelves. It includes books like stirring contemporary fiction and contemplative memoirs . Additionally, it’s always a good time to diversify your bookshelves and TBR to expand your horizons.

Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese

Wagamese is a native of Canada and offers a novel filled with complicated father-son relationships, as well as man’s struggle to survive nature and the power of healing. This novel is a prime example of indigenous literature. It follows 16-year-old protagonist Franklin Starlight as he answers the call to see his father and make amends.

Two Old Women: An Alaskan Legend of Betrayal, Courage and Survival by Velma Wallis

Wallis makes her mark among indigenous authors. The story takes inspiration from legends passed down for generations among the Gwich’in Athabascan tribe. The book tells the story of two elderly women abandoned by their tribe left to survive the brutal winter on their own or die trying.

There There by Tommy Orange

This contemporary novel by Tommy Orange appears often in many book lists with indigenous characters. Orange, an Arapaho of the Cheyenne tribe, tells a multigenerational story that follows several family members coming together at the Big Oakland Powwow, each for their own reasons.

The Round House by Louise Erdrich

Erdrich, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band Chippewa, is one of the most well-known First Nations’ writers. She explores her mother’s Ojibwe heritage coupled with the story of a young man as he comes of age. All this after a traumatic experience that turns his family upside down.

Why Storms Are Named After People and Bullets Remain Nameless by Tanaya Winder

Winder, a native of the Duckwater Shoshone, delivers a poignant collection of poems that tug at the heart. Moreover, these poems explore the symbiotic nature of pain and joy. She does it all through an analytical lens focused on the parts of a gun and its role in colonization.

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Kimmerer is a botanist trained to look at nature through a scientific lens. She is also a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. As such she understands the healing power of plants through a cultural perspective often overlooked in the sciences. This nonfiction book bridges the gap between modern science and the ancient practices of indigenous people.

Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson

Robinson, a member of the Haisla and Heiltsuk First Nations of British Columbia, combines magical realism with mystery. She creates a mesmerizing coming-of-age tale. Lisamarie investigates the tragic death of her brother while running from her own ghosts and questioning her childhood memories.

Find most of these titles here.


Fat Chance Charlie Vega Book Review

Disclosure: Some of the links in this book review for Fat Chance, Charlie Vega are affiliate links. If you click them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. The decision of whether or not to buy something is completely up to you.

Fat Chance Charlie Vega Hear Our Voices Book Tour

I was graced with an ARC of Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado thanks to Hear Our Voices Book Tours. This post is part of the book tour (you can find a link to the rest of the tour posts in the banner above).

Content Warning: Mentions of fatphobia

OwnVoices Reflection of Fat Chance Charlie Vega

When this novel came across my radar, I knew I needed to read it immediately. A fat, Puerto Rican girl with the last name Vega (my mom’s maiden name). How could I not?! And I’m so glad I did. For the HOV tour, I opted to create an OwnVoices reflection.

From the moment I saw the cover, I knew this was a story written for me. A tan girl with round face, dark, wavy hair and glasses, she looks exactly like I did in high school. Albeit, more confident. As I read the novel, I felt Charlie so deep in my bones. Playing tough and confident on the outside, while secretly living in shame and self-doubt. The way she constantly compares herself to her best friend and thinks she comes in second hit so close to home.

I’ve spent a lifetime combatting the fatphobia on all fronts – internally and externally. I just turned 30 and to this day I still waffle back and forth between finding happiness in who I am and misery in wanting to be a better version of myself. So much of it stems from defiance of societal standards but longing for social acceptance.

I may be much older than the target demographic of this book, but Charlie’s story made me feel seen. And I know she’s going to make so many other girls like me and her feel seen, too. I’m so glad fat, Puerto Rican high school girls today will have her, always in their corner.

Summary of Fat Chance Charlie Vega

Charlie just wants to come first to someone. She feels like she’s always coming second, especially to her best friend. As she goes on a journey of self-acceptance and learns to love hersef, she comes to realize she already does come first for so many. Most importantly, she learns she must come first for herself.


Charlie Vega is Puerto Rican. Smart. A talented writer. And fat. As the Goodreads blurb states, “some people have a problem with that last one.” It’s true, Charlie is all these things, but she’s so much more. She’s confident and insecure, tough and vulnerable, a champion for and capable of hurting others. In short, she’s a human being. But she’s constantly working toward self-acceptance and acceptance of others.

Our main character has a strained relationship with her mom, who frankly, is emotionally abusive. It would have been easy to create a parental character the readers could hate. But Maldonado’s writing is deft and makes Charlie’s mom nuanced. In fact, all the characters contain multitudes. Charlie’s best friend Amelia supports and encourages Charlie to believe in herself. But she’s also capable of letting anger and jealousy get the best of her.

Maldonado did an excellent job in creating fully fleshed characters. There are no sinners and saints. These are simply complicated, imperfect people constantly trying to do their best and sometimes falling short. She does a careful balancing act of acknowledging that however unintentional, problematic behavior is not condoned. But she never condemns her characters either, instead allowing them the grace to forgive one another for their transgressions.


The story centers around a main character in love with romance and finding her own happy ending. She’s also passionate about fashion and closely follows the fatshion hashtag on social media. Charlie talks a big game of challenging beauty standards, but she still struggles with accepting it within herself many times. It’s what makes her so compelling.

Through her roller coaster ride, she ends up accepting an invitation from her crush Cal to a big deal dance in their town. Except, it wasn’t really an invitation for her; Cal used her to try to get to Amelia. This narrative point was predictable as the reader could see this coming based on Charlie’s checking out during the conversation. But I did appreciate that when the cringe moment came, it wasn’t as publicly humiliating as these moments are often depicted.

Based on how much time was spent on the Charlie/Cal storyline, it seemed like this would be the main conflict of the book. But when Brian comes into the picture and becomes Charlie’s first boyfriend, it takes the narrative on a whole different path. While I enjoyed the Brian portion of the story much more, it did leave the novel feeling unbalanced. However, the character dynamics and HEA helped offset the pacing issues enough to make it a most enjoyable story.

Get a copy of Fat Chance Charlie Vega here!


The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin Book Review

Disclosure: Some of the links in this book review for The Fifth Season are affiliate links. If you click them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. The decision of whether or not to buy something is completely up to you.

My best friend read the whole Broken Earth trilogy by NK Jemisin a while back and she’s been begging me to read the books so I can scream alongside her. I finally got around to reading The Fifth Season for a book club I found on Instagram and oh. my. god. It might be too on the nose, but I was shooketh.

The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin
The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin


In Jemisin’s world, the Earth constantly undergoes apocalypses. Every fifth season kicks off with a cataclysmic, natural disaster. Some comms survive while others don’t. Through it all are the orogenes: individuals with special powers that allow them to manipulate the Earth’s energy. They can help quell quakes, shift land, feel fault lines, etc. It’s honestly hard to give a proper summary of The Fifth Season without delving into the other aspects of the novel, so let’s get into it.


Damaya is found by a Guardian, Schaffa, who shows her kindness at first. She’s eager for warmth as her family reported her to the Fulcrum, the school for orogenes. But Schaffa’s love and affection comes with conditions. He quickly shows Damaya that when she disobeys him, he will hurt her. He tells her he does it out of love, and she believes him, because she is a child starved for love. The dynamic between them clearly illustrates an abusive relationship.

Syenite is a sarcastic young woman sent to complete a mission with a ten-ringer (the highest level for orogenes) named Alabaster. They get to a rocky start, but soon Alabaster opens Syenite’s eyes to the truth of the Fulcrum and the world. Their relationship leads Syenite to question what the Fulcrum taught her and her place in the world.

Together, Syenite and Alabaster face and evade adversaries and eventually leave the Fulcrum. They end up on an island with a community that lives on the fringes of society and end up in a polyamorous relationship with a pirate named Innon. This is one of the great examples of how Jemisin’s writing naturally incorporates nontraditional relationships and normalizes sexual fluidity.

The book starts with Essun’s narrative (the you POV) as she mourns her dead son, killed by her husband. She embarks on a journey to seek him out as he stole their daughter away too. Along the way she meets Hoa and Tonkee, unlikely allies that reveal the world is not what she thought.

Jemisin makes the reader care about the characters, no matter how small a part they play or how short a time they appear. There’s also a sense of excitement when many of the characters come full circle as she brings their stories together.

The Fifth Season World Building

Jemisin’s novel hinges on the world building. While action sequences take place, they don’t drive the story. The details of the way orogeny works captivate and fascinate. The way orogenes are viewed and treated in this world act as a direct metaphor for the enslavement and treatment of BIPOC in real life. Society even has a derogatory term for orogenes – rogga.

The language Jemisin created for this world stood out among the many incredible aspects. Many sci-fi books often create in-world slang and specific vocabulary. It doesn’t always make sense or flow organically. But Jemisin created a linguistic pattern so natural that it never felt like a foreign language for readers.

Education and history also play a major role in the world building. Every class in society receives their history and education from stonelore. This is reminiscent of the tablets of the 10 Commandments from the Christian Bible. When Alabaster tells Syenite some tablets have been destroyed or worn down, it indicates history is not as definitive as the schools teach. This creates a parallel to real life and the call for decolonizing our own education.

Rating The Fifth Season

This deserves a solid 5 out of 5 stars. An absolutely lush and mesmerizing world. Incredible writing. Dynamic characters and relationships. It has everything.

Find this book on my Bookshop.org list and other books I’ve reviewed.


Romance Novels For Non-Romance Readers

Disclosure: Some of the links in this list of romance novels are affiliate links. If you click them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. The decision of whether or not to buy something is completely up to you.

romance novels list

Readers who don’t like romance novels often cite the kitschy tropes that make them roll their eyes as the reason for hating them. Others simply aren’t looking for bodice-ripping books that delve into the characters’ sex lives. But that doesn’t mean they don’t like love stories. They just need to find the right ones. Here are six romance novels for people who hate romance novels.

Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat

The story of Damen the warrior hero who gets captured and sent to Prince Laurent, the royalty of his country’s enemy nation, will keep non-romance readers turning the page. It features LGBTQ+ romance, political intrigue and family betrayal.

Loud is How I Love You by Mercy Brown

The first in the Hub City series follows Emmylou as she pursues her dreams of rock stardom. But when she falls for the band’s guitarist Travis she puts her career on the line for a burning hot love. For people who think they don’t like romance, this book will keep them yearning for more.

The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

This story is a retelling of the Aladdin fairytale, but with a twist. Zahra is the jinni in the lamp that must grant Aladdin’s three wishes. But the King of the Jinn offers her a chance at freedom. The cost? Betray Aladdin, whom she’s falling for. This young adult romance will appeal to the Disney lovers out there.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Jones combines literary prowess with an analysis of racial injustice in America through this bittersweet love story. Celestial and Roy are newlyweds in the South, both with burgeoning careers, when the unthinkable happens: Roy is sent to prison. This is the story of how a marriage works when one spouse is imprisoned and the other must carry on.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Evelyn Hugo is a reclusive movie star of the past, but when she finally decides to tell her story, she chooses an unknown magazine reporter, Monique Grant. The protagonist Evelyn is a Cuban-American woman who details her adventures from moving to L.A. in the 50s to the several spouses she procured along the way.

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

Ishiguro’s novel follows butler Stevens as he leaves Darlington Hall to explore his past through his time in England. The book follows the protagonist as he interacts with the history of fascism and the two world wars. All the while, he never realizes the unspoken love between him and his housekeeper.

Find the books in this list at my Bookshop page.


Travel Poetry: Running With Zeus

We visited the Temple of Zeus in Olympia on my trip to Greece in 2019. It’s hard to believe I’m already coming up on two years since that vacation. I felt like a kid exploring those ruins. I was obsessed with Greek mythology in middle school.

Running With Zeus poem from Temple of Zeus, Olympia, Greece
Olympia, Greece (May 2019)

Funny though, Zeus was never one of my favorite gods. But of course, he’s the one everyone always hears about. Sure, the Disney version in Hercules was fine. Kind of funny and sympathetic in his love for his son. The myths’ version though? Always sounded like such a tool. And yet, standing at the temple erected in his honor at the Olympia ruins, I felt that audacity. I finally understood what it is about Zeus that makes him such a lasting figure.

Below is the full poem I wrote inspired by that moment, standing before the ruins of his temple.

Strap on the sandals and fly
down the lane toward the end
of the plain, that wide open green
left and right straight up into
baby blue sky. Run with the wind
as it calls out your name, promising
only glory and fame. Run with the gods
just out of their sight. Run through
the day and into the night. Run with
the thunder, run with the rain. Run
as though you’ll never feel pain.

Originally posted on my Instagram here.

Find more travel poetry here.


Not the Weirdest Plot Line This Year

As 2020 comes to an end I thought I’d share a little story I wrote for a prompt I did for a writing retreat I participated in with my friends. And since those mysterious monoliths started appearing everywhere, this felt right.


Image by Daniela Realpe from Pixabay

Wanderlust: Pichincha, Ecuador

Riding the teleferico up Pichincha trails

The final installment of my travels to Ecuador in 2018 end with a hike near the Pichincha volcanoes. We started with a teleferico ride up the mountainside to reach the first trail. Riding the cable car up the mountain, it’s blue sky and green hills all around. As the ride took us higher, I felt the thrill of climbing to heights reaching further into infinite sky.

We reached the first plateau where the volcano mirador stood. From that point, you can follow the peaks of Ecuador’s volcanoes along the horizon, using the mirador sign as your guide. After that, the path starts paved, heading toward a little church along the way up with a clear view of Rucu Pichincha.

Following the path is easier and takes you the long way, but you can go off road and climb the dirt paths created for horse riders and hardcore hikers. I still needed a little help to climb these paths, but I managed to make it up those dirt hills to see the view of mountains and grass all around. It leaves you breathless, but for someone like me, asthmatic and unathletic, it’s a triumph.

guagua pichincha ecuador
View of Guagua Pichincha

As we traversed the trail further up we got a clear view of Guagua Pichincha. The wind blew strong as we overlooked the cliffside, but I never felt more stable. There’s something about traveling to my father’s home country that makes it feel like home to me too, even though I’ve never lived there. I can only imagine what it feels like for him to return.

Experiences like these motivate me to become more active and involved in nature. This 2018 trip to Ecuador inspired me to take on hiking so I could get ready for the next adventure.

What trips have inspired you to become more active? Share in the comments!

Shop your local indie bookstore for a guide to Ecuador travel.


Weeknights With Walter

Had the great honor and pleasure to be published in LA LEY DEL KARMA: A JOURNAL DEDICATED TO WALTER MERCADO.

Many Latinx people from my generation grew up seeing Walter Mercado give astrological predictions on Primer Impacto as they watched their elders listen to him with rapture. Walter became a mainstay in many Latinx cultures simply by being himself, flourishes and all. I’m so happy I got to write a poem about what he meant to my own family ties and Latinx identity. Click the link above to see it!


Wayward Witch by Zoraida Cordova Review

Disclosure: Some of the links in this Wayward Witch review are affiliate links. If you click them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. The decision of whether or not to buy something is completely up to you.

The third and final installment in Zoraida Cordova’s Brooklyn Brujas series absolutely delivers. Wayward Witch follows the youngest sister, Rose Mortiz. She finds herself portaled from her Deathday party and into the Kingdom of Adas. It’s a fairy kingdom based in the Caribbean with fair folk inspired by Latinx cultures.

Find my review for Labyrinth Lost here and Bruja Born here.

Summary of Wayward Witch

Rose can’t leave well enough alone and casts a Canto to learn the truth. But she gets more than she bargained for. As her world comes crashing down, she and her father get pulled into the Kingdom of Adas. She must contend with her newly discovered power and survive King Cirro, the adas and the rot that threatens to consume the kingdom and break into her world. Along the way, she makes unlikely allies and friends and learns that she’s so much more than she thought.


The protagonist Rose was so relatable. She’s the youngest and suffers from baby of the family syndrome. She feels the pressure of being the good sister who doesn’t make huge mistakes. But when she casts her truth Canto, she gets sent on an adventure she never wanted. It leads her to understand her sisters and family better.

Throughout the novel, Rose hears the voices of her sisters in her mind, wondering what Alex or Lula would do in her situation. She starts out as a fine balance of bookish, quiet and sarcastic, evolving into a powerful, warrior bruja who eventually learns to listen to her own inner voice. It’s a fantastic journey as Cordova illustrates how an individual is shaped by their familial ties while finding their own way.

Supporting Cast

The cast of Wayward Witch consists of various magical beings and the different kinds of fae created for this Latinx-inspired fairy kingdom. The twins, Iris and Arco, the prince and princess of the kingdom, become Rose’s companions along with the chosen Guardians. They journey together on a quest to rid Adas of the rot. While Arco chooses the path of storyteller and historian, Iris chooses a soldier’s life. Both come to love Rose in their own ways, but the dynamic between Iris and Rose stands out. Iris starts out feeling disdain for Rose. But she comes to find there’s more to the young bruja than meets the eye. Throughout the narrative the relationship between Rose and Iris plays a significant role in bringing out Rose’s true power.

In the novel’s end notes, Cordova acknowledges how the first two books adhered to the gender binary, so she sought to make space for more identities in the final book. Enter Lin Octavio, a brujex that goes by they/them pronouns. Lin and Rose become attached quickly, since they share similar backgrounds of growing up with parents missing from the picture. They’re much closer than they think, and that’s all I’ll say about that.

It would take a novel of a post to go through each character in the cast, so I’ll leave it at this. Even in an ensemble of so many people, no one fades into the background. Each supporting character brings a memorable personality to the table, making for a well-rounded story.


While the first two books in the series are great, Wayward Witch showcases how far Cordova’s writing has come. The story had me turning the pages like crazy and every time I thought I saw where it headed, it took another twist and turn. Cordova created gasp-worthy revelations at the end that felt like an appropriate ending to the whole series.

The Kingdom of Adas takes inspiration from Latinx cultures and the Caribbean environment. Cordova paints a vivid and lush picture with specific details of food, the environment and characters’ physical features. Therefore, everything about the world built in this book lets the readers know where it finds its roots. Cordova created a refreshing take on the fairy kingdom idea by incorporating Latinx heritage, language and folklore into a brand new world.

Wayward Witch Rating

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars. It’s a wild ride from start to finish. It keeps you invested in the world and characters all the way through.

Get your copy here! Let me know if you read the book what you thought of it. What other witchy books do you recommend?


How to Write a Book Review

The first thing to note when learning how to write a book review is that there’s no one right way to do it. Throughout the years, I’ve gone through a few formats of book reviews myself. But today, I will outline the latest structure that works for me. I hope it helps other writers who want to start writing book reviews. Here is my outline for the anatomy of a book review.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you click them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. The decision of whether or not to buy something is completely up to you.

how to write a book review library shelf of books

How to Write a Book Review Summary

This is by far the hardest part of writing a book review. That’s why I recommend you save it for last. But when you do get to this part, keep it to no more than a paragraph (that’s five sentences max). Capture the essence of the plot with a taste of the characters in a few short sentences to entice your audience to keep reading the review. This will be easier once you’ve written the rest of it.

Character Development

Talk about the main characters or important secondary characters that move the story. Consider their character arcs and how they’ve changed from beginning to end. If they haven’t changed, that could be a type of critique to make in your review. You can also discuss the portrayal of certain character traits. Did the author use harmful stereotypes? Did characters react realistically to situations? Do the characters act as stand-in symbols? There are so many ways to interpret character development.

Plot Development

Dive a little deeper into the plot than you would in the summary. But don’t give a complete, beat-by-beat breakdown. It’s enough to talk about the main plot points and subplots that made the story interesting or dull. This is where you would address if the plot’s pacing worked well or had issues. You can also talk about setting and world-building. Where does the story take place and how does that affect the narrative? How does it affect or influence the characters? Explore the world to give readers a preview of what to expect.

How to Write a Book Review With Cultural or Social Critique

Authors don’t write novels in a vacuum. Every story has a theme or message that it wants to convey, and the author’s culture and society influences these messages. Perhaps the author’s characters challenge the status quo of their worlds. Maybe the entire story is a metaphor for current events. Likewise, some authors write a book as a call to maintain world order. Take all these aspects into consideration when writing a thought-provoking book review. Your personal opinions about events and circumstances will likely seep in at this point, and that’s ok.

Genre Discussion

Some bloggers like to discuss the book in terms of the genre it falls under. This helps readers understand what structure to expect. For example, romance novels are known for the HEA – the Happily Ever After. When a book that’s categorized as romance deviates, that’s cause for analysis. Is it really a romance novel? Or is it a story with romantic elements? I admit, that genre isn’t my forte, but I’ve seen this discussion. Fantasies and sci-fis create intricate worlds and systems of magic. Mystery thrillers set up red herrings. You can think about all these facets when writing your review.


Most readers and reviewers are familiar with the star rating, but that doesn’t mean you have to stick to it. Get creative with the way you rate a book. Use emojis to identify the emotions it made you feel. Pick a graphic that’s all your own and works similar to star ratings. I once saw a Latinx blogger use avocados as her rating system. Take a page out of Litsy’s book and rate books with a Bail, Pan, So-So or Pick. Whatever you choose, the most important thing a rating has to do is convey whether or not a reader would be interested in picking up the book.

Grab a book review journal here


Blazewrath Games by Amparo Ortiz Review

Blazewrath Games book tour banner

Disclosure: Some of the links in this Blazewrath Games review are affiliate links. If you click them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. The decision of whether or not to buy something is completely up to you.

I received an ARC for the Hear Our Voices book tour. Thank you so much to them and the publisher for this opportunity. Let’s dive in!

Summary of Blazewrath Games

Lana Torres has dreamed of playing in the Blazewrath Games since she was a child and to represent her home country of Puerto Rico. When she catches the eye of the International Blazewrath Federation’s president and gets chosen as team Puerto Rico’s runner, she thinks all her dreams are coming true. But when she learns the sinister truth, she must fight against a system and people she’s admired all her life.


The protagonist Lana Torres is easy to root for. She’s spunky, brave, strong and smart. Her character also brings to light a discourse about what makes someone Latinx. Her teammate Victoria scrutinizes her for not having lived on the island her whole life. While Lana was born in Puerto Rico and lived there as a child, she hasn’t set foot on it since she left. Victoria calls into question if she deserves to represent Team Puerto Rico. She considers Lana an outsider. The book doesn’t delve too deep into the theme, but readers get a taste of a bigger discussion on identity within diaspora.

There are so many characters between the different Blazewrath teams that it’s hard to keep track of sometimes. But each one Ortiz introduces gets a chance to shine in their own way for at least a scene or two. It gives the story and Lana’s development just enough support to show she’s not in it alone. Team Puerto Rico gets the most stage time of course. It feels like Victoria gets the most though, as she represents the inner confrontation about Lana’s identity.

Victoria is a hard character to gravitate toward. It never goes into full detail, but her narrative does tell a story of abuse and survival. So, it’s easy to understand her harsh demeanor. However, the story felt like it lacked an important discussion: victims becoming abusers. While one can see and understand why Victoria would be so quick to judge and distrust, it doesn’t give her the right to verbally and emotionally abuse others the way she does to Lana. And by the end of the book, Victoria and Lana come to an understanding, but it happened too quickly to feel organic or earned.

Throughout the book, there are various characters that are queer and/or PoC. I appreciated the way Ortiz wove them into the tapestry of the story without making it a story about acceptance and tolerance. There were hints that homophobia exists in this world, but the story doesn’t go into detail with that. Instead, Ortiz chose to focus on the support such characters had from friends and family. It felt like an honest way to address the issues without making the characters live out their trauma on the page.

Plot of Blazewrath Games

Ortiz creates a contemporary world in which Regulars (non-magical people) and witches and wizards exist side by side. And of course, dragons. She creates an interesting point in her magic system, in which dragons mostly Bond with Regulars. This makes it possible for people without natural, magical abilities to experience it. But as with all worlds like this, not everyone’s on board. Some, like Lana’s mother and, later, her cousin, consider dragons dangerous creatures that cannot be trusted, even if they do Bond with a rider.

The way Ortiz opens each chapter of the book with an excerpt from a textbook, article or interview in-world helps flesh out the reader’s understanding of dragons and magic. It’s actually a clever way to offer background details without letting them bog down the narrative and action. And there is plenty of action. The details Ortiz provides when Lana’s on the field and when the final showdown happens leaves readers with a rush. It feels very much like they’re running right beside the characters.


Overall, it’s a fun book with a set of characters you can relate to and get invested in. There are certain themes and characters that feel like they could have gone deeper, but it doesn’t detract from the magical world Ortiz created. I’m looking forward to more from this author and this world.

Grab a copy of Blazewrath Games here!

About the Author

Amparo Ortiz, author of Blazewrath Games

Amparo Ortiz was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and currently lives on the island’s northeastern coast. Her short story comic, “What Remains in The Dark,” appears in the Eisner Award-winning anthology PUERTO RICO STRONG (Lion Forge, 2018), and SAVING CHUPIE, her middle grade graphic novel, comes out with HarperCollins in Winter 2022. She holds an M.A. in English and a B.A. in Psychology from the UPR’s Río Piedras campus. When she’s not teaching ESL to her college students, she’s teaching herself Korean, devouring as much young adult fiction as she can, and writing about Latinx characters in worlds both contemporary and fantastical. Her debut novel, BLAZEWRATH GAMES, hits shelves on October 6, 2020 from Page Street Kids.


Happy Latinx Heritage Month

Disclosure: Some of the links in this Latinx Heritage Month post are affiliate links. If you click them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. The decision of whether or not to buy something is completely up to you.

For those who don’t know, Latinx Heritage Month takes place from September 15 – October 15. And what better way to support and celebrate Latinx cultures across the world than with books? This week I’m participating by sharing a couple of YA horror books perfect for Halloween. Thank you to Tor Publishing for sending copies of the two books featured today.

Latinx Heritage Month celebrating with Five Midnights and Category Five by Ann Davila Cardinal spooky reads

Five Midnights for Latinx Heritage Month

Five Midnights is a young adult horror mystery that follows Lupe Dávila as she spends the summer with her uncle, the chief of police, on the hunt for a killer from legends hunting five childhood friends one by one.

Some believe their shady pasts finally caught up to them. Others believe it is El Cuco, a mythical beast of Latinx lore that is used to scare children. But what if El Cuco isn’t a myth? What if he’s real? It’s up to Lupe to find out and save her new friend, Javier Utierre.

Read my full review of Five Midnights here.

Category Five

In the sequel to Five Midnights, Cardinal brings us back to Puerto Rico with protagonist Lupe, this time in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Lupe looks forward to her summer vacation back on the island, her first time seeing her boyfriend Javier and best friend Marisol since the hurricane hit.

She hopes to lift their spirits and find out how she can help. But as she arrives in Vieques, she gets dragged into a mystery as her uncle investigates the murder of the sons of some wealthy investors. Lupe and her friends encounter specters and real-life killers as they try to help her uncle keep his job by solving the mystery for him.

Read my full review of Category Five here.

My favorite thing about Latinx Heritage Month is that it coincides with the spooky season. These are great reads to kill two birds with one stone: read Latinx and horror. Want more spooky and magical Latinx books for Halloween? Check out my Bookshop page with a few recs here!


Writing a Book That’s Smarter Than Me

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you click them to make a purchase, I will earn a commission. The decision of whether or not to buy something is completely up to you.

writing a book smarter than me is confusing

I’ve been writing a book for almost 10 years now that has truly tested my intelligence. Two years ago I started writing another story, a YA sci-fi retelling of Thumbelina, that is beyond any science I ever learned. In fact, science was my weakest subject in school. So, why put myself through these struggles?

With the first story, I wanted to create a dystopian world that, frankly, looks more real every day. It started out with Star Wars vibes, a ragtag group of rebels fighting the government. But in writing a book that takes on themes of feminism, sex work, and dictatorships, I went in over my head. Or did I? The more I work on this manuscript, the more I see myself learning.

What I’ve Learned From Writing a Book About Dystopia

When I started writing Operation Succubus (pending title), I only looked at the story through a basic feminist lens. I focused on the overarching patriarchal society’s control of women’s bodies. But then I had to consider my characters and their lived experiences. I have a Chinese-American woman who’s a lesbian and a black trans woman as supporting characters. I’ve had to dig deep to write a narrative that does justice to their experiences as women. These are not perspectives that come from my own voice.

Hell, even my main character isn’t completely my own voice. I wrote her as Latinx American, with Puerto Rican and Ecuadorian roots. That’s me. But I decided to make her asexual. That’s not. Once more, I’ve had to do research, read blogs, and think about the ways feminism and her role in the world I created affect her.

Even though I’ve been writing a book with these characters and themes for years, it wasn’t until recently I stopped to think about what message it sent about sex work. I’d included it as a plot device in the narrative, but I never gave it nuanced thought. I realized I have to do better, to show at least a basic understanding of sex work’s role in feminist discourse. Again, I find myself diving into research and seeking resources to gain a better understanding of the topic.

What I’ve Learned From Writing About Nanotech

My second manuscript that’s lived less time in my brain took on the science of nanotechnology. I admit science has always been my downfall. Though I love science fiction dearly. When I started writing Belina (pending title), I had to do a little research to get the foundations of nanotech. I fell into a world beyond my understanding.

I’d barely passed biology both times I had to take it, once for high school and once for college. How on Earth could I start writing a book about nanotechnology? What even is it? How does it work? What are its basic applications? All these questions swam in my mind as I dove into the rabbit hole.

As I’ve continued to write and revise my book, I realized I don’t need to be an absolute expert. But I did need to have some semblance of understanding. My protagonist is a STEM character. She loves science. She loves solving puzzles. And that’s when I realized what I had in common with her. She wants to solve problems. That’s how I started understanding what role nanotech played in her life and in the story.

My question for fellow writers (or anyone who is thinking about starting): What stories have you written or plan to write have made you think critically? Let me know in the comments! And any recommendations for research on the aforementioned topics are also greatly appreciated.

Check out some books about writing here!


Always Human by Ari North Review

always human by ari north hear our voices book tour own voices bisexual pansexual lesbian

Disclosure: Some of the links in this book review for Always Human by Ari North are affiliate links. If you click them to make a purchase the book tour company Hear Our Voices or myself will earn a commission. The decision of whether or not to buy something is completely up to you.

I’m happy to be part of the Always Human book tour for Hear Our Voices. Thanks to HOV and the publisher for providing a paperback ARC for review. Click the banner at the top of the post to see the rest of the tour schedule.

First serialized on the popular app and website WebToon, Always Human ran from 2015-2017 and amassed over 76,000 unique subscribers during its run. Today, as an archived piece on the site, the title has always over 400,000 unique viewers. Reformatted for a print edition in sponsorship with GLAAD, this beautifully-drawn, soft sci-fi, queer graphic novel will available wherever books are sold in both paperback and hardcover formats.


ISBN: 9781499811094

Publisher: Yellow Jacket

Number of Pages: 256

On-Sale Date: May 19, 2020


The first collection of North’s Always Human comic series is filled with sweet and angsty queer romance between two young women, Sunati and Austen. As the story develops, you can’t help but feel every perfect ache and ounce of anxiety alongside the characters, navigating this brand new relationship together.


Austen and Sunati live in a world where almost everyone uses body mods to enhance physical aspects of their appearance and performance. From fashion mods for changing hairstyles to more functional mods that alter capabilities like focus. But some, like Austen, can’t use the modification tehcnology of this future world. Some have chronic illnesses that compromise their immune systems, leaving them unable to process the mods.

As they get to know each other, Sunati and Austen stumble, make mistakes, come together, pull apart, and learn how to navigate the world seeing through each others’ eyes. The narrative moves quickly but it never feels too fast. It’s just right for pulling the reader into all the drama and warm and fuzzy moments between the two characters.


Sunati is a sweet, caring and considerate 22-year-old woman, but that doesn’t mean she gets things right all the time. In fact, she has a habit of saying the wrong things at the wrong time. She often means well, but she falls into the trap of using language that excludes or invalidates the experiences of others, like Austen, who has Egan’s syndrome. But Sunati is not incapable of learning. She tries, and that alone makes her so loveable.

Austen, an 18-year-old student in college, tends to get hyperfocused and obsessive when it comes to proving herself. She struggles with knowing her value outside of Egan’s syndrome, hating when people look at her or treat her differently. It’s clear as day she doesn’t use mods, and when people find out why, they often give her pity or worse, treat her like an inspiration.

Disability Discussions

Aside from the adorable budding romance and depiction of missteps that take place throughout a relationship, Always Human creates a great depiction of how to have conversations about ableist language and presumptions.

Sunati frequently puts Austen up on a pedestal, thinking her brave for not using mods, when she doesn’t really have a choice. Many also tiptoe around Austen, wondering if she would feel hurt or dislike them for using mods when she can’t. So many of these scenes depict what it’s like for differently abled people to live in a world made for the able-bodied.


Since I received an ARC, not all aspects of the artwork were complete. It came in black and white with some lettering issues. But that does not speak to the artistry itself. I only wish I could have seen the whole thing in color. I wanted to have a greater appreciation for the art as a whole.

Thanks to the publisher, Little Bee Books, we have a few panels to share. Scroll through to see them all.


Overall, I give this a solid 4.5/5 stars. It’s such a fun and fluffy read with a fun sci-fi twist and sweet romance.

Has anyone else read Always Human? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

Shop your local indie bookstore for a copy or find it here.

About the Author

Ari North is a queer cartoonist who believes an entertaining story should also be full of diversity and inclusion. As a writer, an artist, and a musician, she wrote, drew, and composed the music for Always Human, a complete romance/sci-fi webcomic about two queer girls navigating maturity and finding happiness. She’s currently working on a second webcomic, Aerial Magic, which is about the everyday lives of the witches who work at a broomstick repair shop. She lives in Australia with her husband.


Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas Book Review

Con Sabor and Hear Our Voices Presents Cemetery Boys Book Tour

Disclosure: Some of the links in this book review for Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas are affiliate links. If you click them to make a purchase the book tour company Hear Our Voices will earn a commission. The decision of whether or not to buy something is completely up to you.

I had the good fortune of winning an advanced reader copy from a book giveaway from pocket.librarian on Instagram, so thank you! This is a debut young adult novel from the promising Aiden Thomas.

I originally wrote this review for my own blog but am revising and re-amplifying it for the Hear Our Voices book tour. This is my first book tour ever, so it will be a learning experience. I’m definitely open to hearing your comments and thoughts!

Publisher: Swoon Reads
Release Date: September 01, 2020
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Romance

Summary of Cemetery Boys

Yadriel comes from a long line of brujx, a magical Latinx community gifted with the powers to heal or to release spirits to the afterlife. Traditionally, women are healers and men are the ones who release the spirits. But Yadriel faces the closed minds of his family and community, as he is denied the honor of becoming a brujo because he is trans.

He sets out to prove his worth alongside his best friend Maritza. As Yadriel tries to summon the spirit of a recently-deceased brujo to find out what happened to him, he instead winds up summoning the spirit of another boy, Julian. Now, to solve the murder of one of his own, he must team up with Julian to find out how the pieces of the puzzle fit. Along the way, the two fall hard for each other.

Characters of Cemetery Boys

Yadriel gives off high anxiety vibes that can overwhelm a reader at first. But his awkward personality grows on you and he burrows his way under the skin. It’s this very same charm that endears him to the spirit he summoned, Julian.

Yadriel only wants to be accepted within his community for exactly who he is. What reader wouldn’t relate to that? As he grows more confident in his identity, you can’t help but keep rooting for him. You know he full well deserves a happy ending.

Julian Diaz, the spirit boy that has attached himself to Yadriel, is fiercely loyal. He also constantly defies expectations, including Yadriel’s. Thomas did a great job creating a character that embodies certain traits that are associated with a specific persona and breaking all those rules. Julian is a vibrant and energetic teenage boy that cares deeply for the ones he loves, always putting their well-being above his own.

He is also Afro-Latinx and does poorly in school because he has a learning disability. This makes Julian the type of kid that often gets deemed disruptive and bad. Rumors about him abound, his peers and classmates causing hurt they don’t realize stems from racial and ableist stereotypes. Even Yadriel falls victim to believing the lies at first. But as they spend time together, Yadriel quickly realizes that Julian is the farthest from bad. He is the epitome of good.

Plot of Cemetery Boys

The story plods along at a good pace, giving just enough room for the characters to breathe. As Yadriel and Julian work together, they discover there’s more that connects them than at first they thought.

Thomas does a great job of putting time on the clock for the story to take place. Yadriel and Julian have to solve the mystery fast, as Dia de Muertos quickly approaches. That time restriction does a lot of work in developing both their characters. It heightens Yadriel’s anxious nature and highlights Julian’s abundant energy.

I most appreciated how in the midst of such high stakes, normal life continues. Yadriel remains concerned about attending school and passing a test. His grandma, Lita, still provides sustenance as the search for their lost brujo continues. Thomas truly captures that feeling of finding normalcy amid the chaos.

In hindsight, the plot twist at the end should have been clear. But Thomas handled it so deftly that it left me reeling and feeling Yadriel’s pain. I won’t spoil it, but the twist creates a shining moment for Yadriel as he moves past the pain to do what’s right. It solidifies his hero’s journey.


Thomas’s debut YA paranormal romance is a delightful romp with charming characters. It makes me excited to see what else they will bring readers in the future. I give it 5 out of 5 stars.

If you have had the pleasure of reading an ARC, let me know what you thought of the book! If you would like to pre-order, get your copy here. Cemetery Boys is set to release September 1, 2020.

Author Bio

Author portrait of writer Aiden Thomas
Aiden Thomas, author of Cemetery Boys

Aiden Thomas is a YA author with an MFA in Creative Writing. Originally from Oakland, California, they now make their home in Portland, OR. As a queer, trans, latinx, Aiden advocates strongly for diverse representation in all media. Aiden’s special talents include: quoting The Office, Harry Potter trivia, Jenga, finishing sentences with “is my FAVORITE”, and killing spiders. Aiden is notorious for not being able to guess the endings of books and movies, and organizes their bookshelves by color.

Their debut novel, CEMETERY BOYS, will be published September 1, 2020.


Wanderlust: Chimborazo, Ecuador

I left off on Chimborazo, Ecuador in my travel tales. It’s been a while, but I still remember the feeling of triumph. I’m not an athletic person. I like to “hike” in the sense that I can walk for a short period. Sometimes, I can walk uphill.

In the case of el Chimborazo, I met a challenge. It inspired me and sparked a desire to get better at hiking. I have bad knees and asthma, so every hike will be an uphill climb. But after my experience with the highest point on Earth, I know I can do it. Even if it’s slow and steady.

man and woman on Chimborazo mountain
My dad and I sitting along the path up el Chimborazo

I donned my new llama wool jacket I’d bought in Otavalo. I strapped on my hiking boots. And I began the walk up the pathway leading to the second refuge on the trail. With each step, my muscles ached and knees throbbed. My lungs expelled air at an alarming rate. How much further to the refuge?

My father and I both forgot a crucial detail: altitude. My asthma never affects me so bad in cold weather. But we both forgot that Chimborazo Ecuador has a peak that lies over 20,000 feet above. The thinner atmosphere exacerbated my lungs’ usual battle for air.

As we climbed further up, my head began to spin. My legs wobbled. The corners of my vision blurred. It felt like I would pass out. But my dad remembered something else: sugar. When he made the climb up the volcano in his youth, he brought rapadura along. The lump of raw sugar from the cane helped combat altitude sickness.

Like he did as a kid, my dad started to beg for pieces of candy and rapadura from strangers making their way back down the trail. I sucked on the sweet bits, feeling the sugar quell my growing nausea. I caught my second wind. But it didn’t last long. Try as I might, I couldn’t make it to the second refuge from where we began our journey at the park entrance.

I didn’t reach my goal of making it to the second refuge. But I still did something I’d never done before: hiked the tallest mountain on Earth. I’d like to go back when we can travel again, better prepared and better trained. And maybe, with an inhaler as backup.

Have any of you done a seemingly impossible task? Or visited Chimborazo Ecuador? Let me know in the comments.

Updated 8/17/2020: My dad reminded me we’d driven to the first refuge, and when we hiked, it was toward the second refuge.


Lobizona by Romina Garber Book Review

Disclosure: Some of the links in this Lobizona book review are affiliate links. If you click them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. The decision of whether or not to buy something is completely up to you.

Lobizona by Romina Garber marketing banner

I received an e-book advanced reader copy from the publisher Wednesday Books. This review is entirely composed of my own thoughts and opinions. Thank you to the publisher for the opportunity to read this book before it’s release on August 4, 2020.

Summary of Lobizona

Manuela “Manu” Azul lives in constant fear as an undocumented immigrant alongside her mother in Miami, Florida. She also lives in hiding because her distinctive eyes make her standout. They are bright yellow with silver like stars inside a sun. All her life she has sought to fit in.

When she learns that her mother has been keeping secrets, it breaks their bond. Before she has a chance to repair it, she takes a journey to where she will discover a place she could belong, making friends along the way.


The main character Manu has great energy that pulls you in from the start. She’s clearly on the verge of making that life-changing discovery about her own identity. When events unfold and she’s left to fend for herself, she takes on the challenge with so much courage. Manu’s endearing nature makes her a protagonist to root for all the way.

Her magical being status parallels her experiences as an undocumented immigrant. It turns out she is something special and previously unheard of. This puts a target on her back among the Septimus, the world of witches and werewolves. Manu becomes the first ever lobizona, a female werewolf. She defies gender roles in the community she’s been kept secret from her whole life.

Gender in Lobizona

The study of gender dynamics within the Septimus society makes one of the most compelling aspects of the book. When she arrives at El Laberinto, she learns that all women are witches while all men are werewolves. That’s how the magic has always been distributed among the Septimus. Except for her. She was born lobizona, a werewolf. Manu’s status as defying gender roles within a magical society rings similar to Aiden Thomas’s Cemetery Boys.

These gender roles also bring to the surface an issue of homosexuality as Other in their society. The Septimus expect witches and werewolves to pair off. It’s their duty to perpetuate their dwindling population. Some of the supporting characters who defy these expectations find themselves drawn to Manu for that reason.

Immigrant Exceptionalism

Manu’s status as exceptional makes for one of the most fascinating aspects of her character. Not only is she the first lobizona they’ve ever heard of, but she holds extraordinary power. This power keeps her safe from immediate execution. But she soon recognizes that if not for that power, she would have been subject to immediate consequences based on Septimus law.

She does not want to be an exception. That leaves room for other lobizonas like her to be killed simply because they don’t have the same powers. This rhetoric of exceptionalism parallels the discourse of the exceptional immigrant that can offer something to our society. Manu makes a commentary on how this idea of exceptionalism damages the fight for immigrants’ status in the United States. Who decides who has value and and worth to stay?

Plot of Lobizona

Garber creates a brilliant plot in which Manu’s fight against ICE mirrors her fight against Septimus law. It’s the kind of fantasy story that highlights why the genre shines when it comes to metaphors for real-life issues.

The novel takes a lot of inspiration from Harry Potter. We cannot ignore the issues many readers have now with stories of the legendary boy wizard, as they come from a transphobic author. But it’s important to recognize the far-reaching influence Harry Potter has had across cultures, as Lobizona is an Own Voices novel.

While the idea of a school of magic comes from a now controversial franchise, the story also takes inspiration from Argentine folklore. The Septimus and their world come straight out of legends. I was not familiar with the Argentine folklore, but Garber’s prose speaks so authentically to it, that it sucks you into this mythos. It’s easy to accept it as possible as witches and wizards of European folklore.


Hands down, I give this book 5 stars. There’s no doubt in my mind that this is a must-read for anyone who loves fantasy. It’s a fantastic take on magic. It delves into issues of gender and immigration. Plus, it’s just a fast, fun read to devour in a couple of days.

If you pick up a copy and read it, let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Get your copy here.


Reading Nora Roberts for the First Time

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post about Nora Roberts are affiliate links. If you click them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. The decision of whether or not to buy something is completely up to you.

cover of Dark Witch by Nora Roberts
Dark Witch (The Cousins O’Dwyer Trilogy #1) by Nora Roberts, 2013

A few months ago I read a Nora Roberts book for the first time. Her books never appealed to me before because I considered her a romance writer. I’m not much into the romance genre. Or at least, I wasn’t before. I’ve changd my reading tastes a lot in the last year.

But my mom has always read her books. She always tells me about how good they are, and how they range in genres. Finally, one of the latest series we picked up from Barnes & Noble sold me. It’s The Cousins’ O’Dwyer Trilogy that starts with Dark Witch. A book set in Ireland following an ancient magical line of witches? Of course I decided to read it.

The whole thing had promise. The beginning of the book sucked me in. But when it jumped to the present day with the witch’s descendants, that’s when it fell apart for me. It became a paranormal fantasy that favored the protagonist’s love affair over the building of a magical world. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just not my thing.

I didn’t care much for the love interest and the dynamic between him and the main character. Frankly, I didn’t care much for the main character. She wasn’t my cup of tea. But I read the book all the way through.

On the one hand, my mom really loves Nora Roberts books, and she wanted to share those stories with me. I share my books with my mom all the time. She reads the Shadowhunters books as voraciously as I do. There’s something special about being able to share the stories that mean something to us with one another.

On the other hand, Dark Witch just didn’t live up to my expectations. But I want to share in that magic with my mom. I want to share her enthusiasm for these books, so I’m willing to put in the effort. I might have to trudge through a protagonist that, honestly, I find obnoxious, and a romantic relationship that makes no sense in my mind. But if it means swapping reactions with my mom, who raised me to be a fangirl like her, then I can do it.

What Nora Roberts books have you read? How do you feel about her writing? Let me know in the comments.

Find a copy here.


Website and Blog Update

writer typing on keyboard
Image by ROBERT SŁOMA from Pixabay 

Greetings all! I wanted to do a little check-in and update post to let everyone know what’s been going on with my blog and website. Lately I’ve made some major changes. I wanted to become more than a blog, so I built my website out to include pages for my services.

Storytelling is my passion. I’m currently working full-time as a copywriter in the travel industry. But my dreams lie in publishing. I hope to someday become a part of that world and help bring the diversity it needs and deserves.

That’s why I’ve decided to become a freelance book editor. My specialty lies in poetry, as well as young adult sci-fi and fantasy. You can find details about my book editing services here. I’m ready and excited to help self-published authors or authors working with independent publishers.

But don’t worry. I’ll still use this blog space to share my stories, poetry, book reviews, and reading life thoughts.

Feel free to check out the website and let me know your thoughts. I’m open to feedback for improvements!

Thanks, all.


5 Afro-Latinx Books to Read More Black Stories

Disclosure: Some of the links in this book review for Afro-Latinx books are affiliate links. If you click them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. The decision of whether or not to buy something is completely up to you.

titles of 5 afro-latinx books

I first wrote this list for Cultura Colectiva when the movie trailer for In the Heights came out. But it never got picked up. To keep up the momentum of supporting Black voices, here are some Afro-Latinx books to add to your TBR.

Lin-Manuel Miranda gained fame as the creator of Hamilton. But before he brought the founding father’s story to life, he brought Broadway In the Heights, a story about a Latinx community in Washington Heights, New York. Now, that musical is coming to the big screen, and fans are excited.

But the lack of diversity among the cast can’t be ignored. Washington Heights is primarily an Afro-Latinx community, and the trailer for the film didn’t feature many black actors. Here are some diverse books to read to prepare for the In the Heights movie.

Pride by Ibi Zoboi

This young adult novel is a retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with a full cast of people of color. The protagonist Zuri Benitez struggles with the gentrification of her neighborhood while dealing with her four crazy sisters. When the Darcy family moves in across the way, it’s the worst thing Zuri could have imagined.

Get a copy here!

Dominicana by Angie Cruz

This historical fiction novel is about family duty, immigration, and coming-of-age. 15-year-old Ana Cancion finds herself in a position to make a difference for herself and her family. By marrying a man twice her age, she gets the chance to move to Washington Heights, New York. It’s all to make a new life for her whole family. Meanwhile, the Dominican Republic is in political turmoil. But Ana’s heart does not lie with the man she married for opportunity.

Get a copy here!

Down These Mean Streets by Piri Thomas

Among these Afro-Latinx books is Thomas’s memoir explores a childhood on the streets of Spanish Harlem. He explores growing up a Puerto Rican whose family denied their African heritage for so long. His struggle with his identity within his own family and in American society led to a life filled with drugs and violence. It eventually led to his incarceration after he shot a cop when he was 22-years-old.

Get a copy here!

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Among the best books written in verse is Acevedo’s YA contemporary novel about Xiomara Batista growing up in Harlem. Xiomara delves into her feelings about her relationship with her mother and religion through slam poetry. She develops feelings for a boy her Mami can never know about. The young heroine turns to poems to untangle her emotions. But she must also contend with her mother finding out.

Get a copy here!

Halsey Street by Naima Coster

Coster’s contemporary literary fiction novel dives into the issue of gentrification as the protagonist Penelope Grand returns to Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. Penelope gave up on her dream of becoming a successful artist to be by her sick father’s side as he slips further away from life. Meanwhile, Penelope’s mother left for the Dominican Republic to reconnect with her roots, leaving the protagonist to feel abandoned.

Get a copy here!


Black Bloggers, Vloggers and Content Creators List

In light of current events, I’m compiling a list of black bloggers to follow to help uplift their voices. I’m a great believer in the power of storytelling, and right now, the world needs the voices of black writers and creators more than ever. Make no mistake of where this blog and I stand: Black Lives Matter.

For too long, the voices of Black people have been unheard and it’s led to generations of pain and trauma. We cannot continue the way we have in the past. If we are to move forward as a society, then we need to listen and hear the voices of our fellow humans. Stories are a tool for empathy, communication, and connection.

This is a preliminary list pulled together from what I found on my own and others that responded to my call. But I absolutely want to continue updating it with other content creators. So whether you are a black blogger, booktuber, vlogger, mental health advocate, independent journalist, screenwriter, poet, etc., your voice is welcome here. Link me to your websites and blogs in the comments!

blog image with finger pointing

Fashion & Beauty

Eboni Curls – Eboni currently has a list of useful links that connect to resources for actively helping the black community and supporting black-owned businesses.

Travel & Lifestyle

HighOnTrice – This blog provides helpful tips for economical travel, inspiration to go beyond one’s own town, and real lifestyle deals and tips.

Bella Rosa – Maria Cadet combines a passion for fashion, style, and travel into a lifestyle blog that aims to inspire young women to express themselves.

The Ashley Nicole Blog – Ashley Nicole writes about experiences with travel, self-care, and lifestyle through the lens of motherhood and marriage.

Trendy ERA – Trene is a Los Angeles-based food and travel blogger. They specialized in food and restaurant reviews for the LA area. Their blog includes topics like road trip tips and destination recommendations.

Ke and Russell’s Hustle – This YouTube duo covers a variety of topics, from travel to food to books to fashion and dating.

The Reclaimed – Whitney Alese showcases her inner thoughts and rants, whether it’s tips on the latest thriftstore finds or what makes something beautiful.

Fab Glance – Written by Nasheville writer Melissa Watkins, this blog covers fashion, discussions on being plus-size, and tips on how to become a better social media influencer and blogger.

Navigating Jas – This blog takes on pop culture, current events, identity, and so much more, all through the focused lens of the writer’s life experiences.

Fashion & Media Vlogs

Aissata Amadou – From books to movies to music to general life stories, Aissata shares their stories of life. Their video on black and Muslim representation in their May reading wrapup is a good one to dive into.

Sincerely Tahiry – Tahiry creates videos about fashion, books, and self-care with a perspective of living as a plus size and Muslim woman.

Health & Wellness

DarkerBerrie – Yasmine Owoolabi shares tips about “fashion, fitness and finance topics for urban millennials.”


Eatz & Beatz – This blog covers food and music mostly in the Chicagoland area, but includes good eats and beats from around the world as well.

Afroculinaria – Michael W. Twitty is a food writer, independent scholar, culinary historian , and historical interpreter personally charged with preparing, preserving and promoting African American foodways and its parent traditions in Africa and her Diaspora and its legacy in the food culture of the American South.

Book Blogs

Sometimes Leelynn Reads – Leelynn shares book reviews and bookish memes to spread their passion for reading.

Literally Black – As the blog’s tag says, it’s the home of Black Lit reviews. It is a book review site dedicated to promoting Black literature.

Book Girl Magic – This is a book club dedicated to supporting and promoting the voices of black women authors.

Well-Read Black Girl – WRBG’s book club centers on the works of black authors who are queer, trans, nonbinary, and disabled.

bookswhitme – Whitney shares their love of books and reading through reviews, reading wrapups, and lists.

BookishEnds – Alexia’s passion for bookstagram led them to take the leap into book blogging in 2020. Here they share book reviews, recommendations and more.


Myonna Reads – Myonna posts weekly videos about book reviews, book hauls, and monthly reading wrapups.

Chanelletime – This booktuber discusses lots of YA, romance, book adaptations, and more good reading content. Their passion for love triangles is especially entertaining.


My Passion for Basketball – An Afro-Latinx blogger with a passion for the sport writes most recently about their experience as a minority in America and their community.


The P Word – Tiffany D. Brown is a blogger and podcaster. Her podcast focuses on business, offering expert advice, redefining success, and helping people get closer to their dreams.

GirlTrek – GirlTrek is the largest public health nonprofit for African-American women and girls in the United States. They encourage women to use walking as a practical first step to inspire healthy living, families, and communities.

1619 – A New York Times audio series hosted by Nikole Hannah-Jones examines the long shadow of the history of slavery.

On She Goes – A digital travel platform that helps women of color travel more confidently, more adventurously, and more often.

California Love – Hosted by NYT writer Walter Thompson-Hernández, California Love covers race, identity and belonging, all while acting as a love letter to the state.

Ear Hustle – The daily realities of life inside prison shared by those living it, and stories from the outside, post-incarceration.

Audio Dramas

Flyest Fables – An anthology of hopepunk fables for the 21st century created by Morgan Givens.

Centered – Created, written, and produced by Beandrea July, Centered follows Selah Copeland, a recent college grad being prepared to take over her mother’s accounting business. But she considers other options after a life-changing yoga retreat.

Black Widow – A scripted podcast that investigates the mindset of fucking as a millennial. It is a show which promotes positivity around sexual experiences, especially the experiences of women, whatever end of the sexual spectrum they might be on.

All Things Undone – The story of an ancient prophecy that comes to fruition in the form of a solar eclipse that alters the DNA of all humans on the planet in the 1850’s. The supernatural effect on Blacks makes them “unkillable.”

The AAU Murders – A four-part fiction True Crime podcast about Virginia Collins, an African American corporate executive who falls in love in Rochester, NY.

Updated 9/16/2020


Travel Poetry: Keystone Gate

Writing travel poetry whenever I go somewhere new helps keep those memories fresh in my mind, whether I visited just a year ago or five years past. For this edition of travel poetry, I’m sharing my piece about the Agamemenon Keystone Gate in Mycanae, Greece from my trip in 2019.

travel poetry for mycanae greece
Travel Poetry for Mycanae, Greece

Ancient stone ruins hold a reverent magic that transport you for a second back to those times. Walking through the paths created for tourists doesn’t lessen the experience. I couldn’t help but get overtaken with a sense of wonder. I marveled at the stone structures that stood the test of time. How did those ancient people build such complex constructs without the use of modern technology?

Amid the ruins remained signs of past lives. Old wells from which the people gathered water. Gravestones marking the passing of loved ones. I did wonder at the battles fought to protect the old king’s fortress. Those stones didn’t fall on their own after all. Maybe they simply fell to time and age. But more likely, they were taken down by battles won and wars lost.

Below is the travel poetry I wrote as I reflected on my wanderings through the keystone gate of King Agamemnon’s former castle.

King Agamemnon where did you go?
Are these old stones still your home?
From the front gates they called
your name, seeking refuge or just to
see your face? Oh mighty king, come down
from your throne. Are these old stones
still your home? Safe in your tower
you watch the world go by. Do the people
you look down on make you cry? King
Agamemnon, shake off your bones. Are these
old stones still your home? Is this old keystone
a part of your throne?

Poem originally published here.


Meagan Reads YA Horror: Category Five by Ann Davila Cardinal

Disclosure: Some of the links in this book review for Category Five are affiliate links. If you click them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. The decision of whether or not to buy something is completely up to you.

Book cover of Category Five by Ann Davila Cardinal
Category Five by Ann Davila Cardinal, Tor Teen, June 2020

The team at Tor Teen graciously sent me an Advanced Reader Copy, making this book review possible. I read the first book in the series, Five Midnights, just at the beginning of this year.


In the sequel to Five Midnights, Cardinal brings us back to Puerto Rico with protagonist Lupe, this time in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Lupe looks forward to her summer vacation back on the island, her first time seeing her boyfriend Javier and best friend Marisol since the hurricane hit.

She hopes to lift their spirits and find out how she can help, but as she arrives in Vieques, she gets dragged into a mystery as her uncle the sheriff investigates the murder of the sons of some wealthy investors. Lupe and her friends encounter specters and real-life killers as they try to help her uncle keep his job by solving the mystery for him.


Lupe’s character always showed a great deal of stubbornness, but it felt like in Category Five she became downright reckless. The 16-year-old girl wants so desperately to help her uncle that she often foregoes common sense.

As an adult reading young adult, it’s easy to cast judgment on such obvious mistakes. But considering the brash nature of many teenagers, her character’s development under the circumstances makes sense. That does not make it any less frustating though as the reader watches Lupe walk into an apparent trap.

Meanwhile, Javier suffers from PTSD after the hurricane and does not know how to work through his anger. He places a great deal of blame on the colonizing influences for his island’s inability to recover, and rightfully so. But he also takes that anger out on the wrong people, namely Lupe, his girlfriend. As the two deal with the mystery afoot, they also run circles around each other. As they navigate their still-new relationship, it takes a terrible hit from the lack of communication.

I did appreciate how they left their relationship at the end of Category Five. Javier and Lupe took a mature approach to the nature of their relationship. After having been through so much trauma, they recognized how to leave things. It’s refreshing to see young characters have a healthy handle of what a friendship and romantic relationship should constitute.

The friendship between Marisol and Lupe came a bit out of left field. In the last book, they left off in a place that indicated mutual understanding and acceptance. But it did not hint at a growing friendship that would bloom into a close connection. The growth of their relationship happened behind the scenes, off the pages. Davila only tells the audience of this friendship through Lupe’s and Marisol’s inner thoughts and dialogue. It never felt organic.


Unlike Five Midnights, the supernatural element in Category Five did not play as prominent a role. But it did still hold weight and create a fun mystery that reminded me of Scooby Doo On Zombie Island. It also connected the story to Puerto Rico’s long history with its struggle with colonization.

The island finds itself once more at the mercy of wealthy white investors profiting from its disasters. This awakens the ghosts to bring them fear. But ultimately, the real monster of this story does not come from beyond the grave.

The plot used supernatural elements as a tool to misdirect the audience. The story and reason for the murders focuses more on the politics and tensions between the natives of the island and the invading colonizers. But that did not detract from the fun of solving the mystery and being spooked by the undead.


Overall, I give Category Five 3.5 out of 5 stars. While the horror elements entertained a great deal, the story sometimes felt rushed. Lupe’s and Marisol’s relationship needed to grow more on the page for the audience to accept it as a natural progression. But its condemnation of colonization and its effects made the story dive deeper than it could have if it only focused on the paranormal elements.

Let me know your thoughts on this book if you read it!

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Travel Poetry: Columns of Legend

I love to travel, but more than that, I love to write poetry based on those travels. I find exploring and discovering the world so inspiring to create poems about my observations.

I’ve had a passion for travel poetry for a while now. I’ve posted a few other poems from my other destinations, like Ireland and Ecuador, that I hope to keep sharing with you all. But I’ve posted the destination poetry in the past without any backstory or notes. I’d like to start changing that.

I wrote the following piece of travel poetry on my trip to Greece last year, in the capital, Athens. I traveled with EF Ultimate Break on the Off the Beaten Path tour that took us to the Parthenon. It’s a famous historical site seen in many pictures. But seeing it in person is another experience altogether.

Seeing ancient ruins in person usually depicted in textbooks, movies, and television shows changes the way you perceive the world as a whole. Seeing it under construction took me by surprise though. The tour director explained that maintenance keeps the Parthenon upright.

It makes sense that modern technology upkeeps these ancient ruins. But there is still something strange about contemporary machinery keeping such legendary structures from crumbling and being lost to history. It somehow changed the magic of these long-lasting archaeological finds.

Still, I felt compelled and in awe that it did last this long, even with the help of our modern tools. The travel poetry I wrote in response to those feelings follows.

travel poetry parthenon athens greece

You see them rendered in
movies or in still shots in
history books, but it doesn’t
prepare you for the real deal.
To stand before the gods’ temples
and the testament to the ancients’
brilliance makes you feel small
in comparison. How could we ever
live up to that legend? Will anything
we create stand the test of time
as those that came before us?
A thousand years from now, will another
young woman stand before our ruins in awe
and think the same thing? Can we become legends?

I originally posted this travel poetry here.


Meagan Reads YA Fantasy: Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you click them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. The decision of whether or not to buy something is completely up to you.

chain of gold the last hours shadowhunters
Hardcover copy of Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare, The Last Hours, Shadowhunter Chronicles

Chain of Gold is the first in The Last Hours series. This story follows the children of beloved characters from The Infernal Devices series. Cordelia Carstairs and her family travel to London while her father undergoes a trial for a mission gone wrong. She tries to make friends among the influential Shadowhunter families to gain favor for her father’s trial. But she ends up befriending the Merry Thieves and stumbles into much more than she bargained for.

It’s an absolute delight seeing the offspring of Will Herondale, Tessa Grey, Gabriel and Gideon Lightwood, and company get into trouble much like their parents before them. Nostalgia and humor abound in seeing the once young and reckless heroes of TID become the concerned parents. Watching them chastise the new generation of Shadowhunters for doing the very same things brings a great sense of joy.

The dynamics between the characters in this novel read differently than in Clare’s past work. Perhaps it’s the inclusion of more queer characters that changed the way these fictional people interact. The novel contains at least four queer characters, and one heavily coded as queer. It’s refreshing to see that many among the core group of heroes. Their sexuality doesn’t make up the majority of their development (at least not for all of them). But the writing doesn’t ignore it either. Clare weaves it in rather well to become an aspect of their identity, rather than being their entire identity.

The dynamic is also different because there’s so many more in the group of friends, rather than the usual three at the forefront. The story follows all the secondary characters on their side quests and eventually brings them all together. Clare develops the characters in a more nuanced way than she has done with her world in the past. These characters are complex and can’t be defined by any one trait. There’s an underlying darkness in many of them that speaks to their personalities and roles.

While I appreciated the large cast of characters, it did feel like a detriment to the overall story. Clare has always been adept at weaving an incredibly tangled web and still making it clear to the reader what’s happening, dropping clues about where the story is going. But in this case, it created a complication that felt more like keeping up with the who’s who of Shadowhunter families.

There were so many instances where I found myself trying to remember who’s kid was who and how they were related or the nature of their relationshp to the other characters that it distracted from the plot. It felt like the story got stretched thin by including so many characters. Focusing on so many characters made for a convoluted narrative.

Even so, Clare weaves her magic as always and makes the reader fall in love with the characters. The investment in their stories and their paths happens immediately. It’s especially easy to dive into this new set of characters if fans of Clare’s work have already read the short story collection Ghosts of the Shadow Market.

The way this novel ends of course leaves the reader yearning for more, ready for the next installment. Overall, I give it 4 out of 5 stars and am looking forward to the rest of the series.

Have you read this book or others by Cassandra Clare? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

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Call and Respond

Image from Instagram @meagankc21

Let the echo clap back as you shout
to the masses that you are here and you
hear them, and like a wave that breaks
on seashore, your voices ring as one
at the center of the arena, like the one
is the many and the many are the one.

Originally shared here.