Meagan Reads YA Fantasy: Bruja Born by Zoraida Cordova

There are spoilers ahead, so if you plan on reading the book, proceed with caution!

bruja born blog
From my Instagram page

Bruja Born by Zoraida Cordova is the followup to Labyrinth Lost, all part of the Brooklyn Brujas series. This book is told from the perspective of the older sister, Lula Mortiz, after the events of what happened in the first book. She’s still coping with the trauma and struggling to find forgiveness for her sister Alex’s actions. Meanwhile, Alex has embraced her encantrix powers, but still feels guilty , so she does everything for her sister to earn her forgiveness.

Lula is clearly undergoing the effects of PTSD, as she consistently states that she no longer feels like the same person. So much so that even the love of her life, Maks, doesn’t bring her the same joy he once did, but she’s so adamant at holding on to her old self that she clings to his presence and the relationship they once had that’s no longer there. After months of these trials and tribulations, Maks decides to call it quits, but Lula doesn’t accept that. She tries using her powers of healing to mend their broken relationship, but in that same moment Death herself comes for Lula’s school mates in a bus crash.

Lady de la Muerte comes to claim Maks in the hospital in the aftermath, but Lula won’t let go. She enlists the help of her sisters to heal Maks before Death can take him, but things go terribly wrong. He dies, and when he wakes up, he’s not himself anymore. When Lula tried to tether her life force to Maks’s, she accidentally did the same for the other victims of the bus crash, creating an army of casimuertos (almost dead). Now, the Mortiz sisters are in a race against the paranormal authorities and time to fix their mistakes, but in order to do so, Lula must learn to let go of Maks, and Lula’s sisters must let go of her.

Cordova’s characterization of Lula is adept, as readers see the Mortiz family now from her eyes. One of the things I found especially telling and heartbreaking was how Lula always had Alex glamor her scars away on her face. The scars are a remnant of what happened in Los Lagos in book one, so hiding them is a form of trying to forget the trauma she underwent. More than that though, it’s vanity.

I don’t say that to be condescending in that way sometimes teenage girls are treated for caring so much about their beauty. Lula herself recognizes that her need to cover up the scars on her face is connected to the fact that her whole life she’s been told that she’s beautiful, and she knows that beauty is power when it comes to being a woman. It’s not to say she values her other qualities less (i.e., her healing magic, her fierce loyalty, her strength), but she knows having been told her whole life how beautiful she is means the world puts value in her physical appearance, and by having a scarred face, that power has been taken away.

There’s only a few brief sentences in the beginning of the book about this power dynamic, but it’s so in line with what women in our world are constantly told. Cordova didn’t spend much time on it, but she didn’t need to. Lula said it all in those few short internal thoughts on that one page. She managed to convey a complex idea of feminism in such a small space, and that’s the mark of a great writer.

By the end of the book though, Lula has found power in her magic, her family, and her bravery and strength. In the end, she makes the ultimate sacrifice to save her family, friends, and the world, even if it means she doesn’t get to live to see it. Thankfully, Lady de la Muerte doesn’t take her life as repayment for the chaos she’s caused from her actions, but the price that’s paid isn’t cheap either. There’s clearly more to come in book three, but whatever comes their way, I’m sure the Mortiz family will overcome.

I’m also glad that Lula has found power and strength in her scars, literal and metaphorical, and that she grew into someone who is learning to live with the past, but not  necessarily holding onto it as a lifeline.

Have any of you read this book yet? What are your thoughts on the Mortiz sisters and their stories? Let me know in the comments!

It Takes Two

I used to be one of those book snobs who scoffed at romance novels, but after educating myself on the gendered implications of the genre, I decided I wanted to try to get into at least one. I won’t lie. Letting go of my old prejudices that were deeply rooted in misogyny was not easy, and try as I might, it still kept a hold of me even as I ventured into romance novels. I just couldn’t get into them (see my previous post about that here).

Two of the recently million 4 books I was reading simultaneously this past month though, turned out to be grouped as romance on Goodreads. There was War Brides by Helen Bryan (a freebie I picked up ages ago from Amazon’s deal of the day) and still in progress Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan, which I got on audio for a steal with Google Play books and a generous Book Riot promo code. I chose it because, yes, I want to see the movie and support marginalized communities in entertainment.

GR War Brides blog
Image from GoodReads

I just finished reading War Brides last night. Truthfully, I didn’t think it was so much a romance novel, because the love stories play so subtly in the background of everything else going on. It mostly focuses on the lives of 5 women converging in Crowmarsh Priors, England due to the circumstances of World War II. I suppose the true love story in this book was the relationship that developed between these women who didn’t all get along at first, but eventually a friendship was forged in the fires of the war.

Still, the weddings and romances that took place within the book allow this novel to fall into the romance category. Due to the time it takes place, intimacy is described mildly. So, here we have historical fiction with a major focus on getting through a war and female bonds, with a side of romance. I really enjoyed this book, as I kept wanting to read it instead of my textbooks for school. I was very much into the story plots of espionage, but I was equally charmed by the love stories between certain characters. I felt like I had an equal investment in the romance and surrounding story.

I’m currently still working my way through Crazy Rich Asians. This book is an absolute

GR CRA blog
Image from GoodReads

trip. It’s just so much fun. I come from a Latin-American background, so I can’t say that I totally relate to the culture, but I do see hints of my own family’s quirks within these characters. There’s an overly-involved matriarch who’s trying to find the dirt on her son’s new girlfriend, while the totally laid-back husband lets her go about her insanity because he knows there’s no fighting it. There’s a down-to-earth cousin who’s more of a sister and offers sage advice. This is definitely an example of “rich people problems,” but with a cultural twist that I find just absolutely enjoyable. Roxane Gay put it best in her review of it when she called it dishy.

With these two books, I think I’ve finally found my stride with the romance genre. I just have to find love stories that take place within other environments that catch my interest, be it historical fiction or just enjoying another cultural perspective.

Has anybody else had this struggle and found a solution that works for them? What are some other romance novels you can recommend? Let me know in the comments!

Admitting — ShiftnShake

Coming soon! An excellent set of stories. Follow the writer’s blog to get a glimpse of what’s in store 🙂

I am D. Avery and it’s been 9 days since I have posted anything or written anything new. I have not quit writing. In fact I have been… formatting. I am pretty excited to be getting this project finished up. Within this cover you will find (soon) flash fiction previously shown here at ShiftnShake […]

via Admitting — ShiftnShake

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini: Review — The Misadventures of a Media Journalist

Wrote this piece for my cousin’s blog. Follow the link below to read the full review!

Review of “And the Mountains Echoed” by Khaled Hosseini

via And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini: Review — The Misadventures of a Media Journalist

Latest Publication

A link to buy the anthology where my latest work will be featured.

z publishing fl emerging writers
Cover photo from Z Publishing House website

Hello all. I’m very excited to present my latest published work (or rather, soon-to-be published). I’ve been included in an anthology from Z Publishing House for Emerging Florida Writers. Please click the link to follow to pre-order the collection. It would be of great help if you could purchase the anthology through my link, as doing so allows me to collect payment for its sales. If not, then if you could please share with others who you think might be interested in reading the collection, I’d greatly appreciate it! Thank you so much in advance 🙂

Crevice by Trina Young — BURNING HOUSE PRESS

This was a particularly haunting and compelling look at depression. An absolutely excellent read! Click the link below to see the full story.

Corinne shrunk herself to bird size, just hatched. Cupped on a leaf, she floated down from a tree branch delicately. Her mind rocked back and forth, rocking the leaf back and forth. This was something she did sometimes when she needed to calm down, more relaxing than counting to ten. In her vision, a centipede […]

via Crevice by Trina Young — BURNING HOUSE PRESS

Meagan Reads YA: The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

For my workplace book club, a coworker chose The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. I had my reservations about reading this book because of the accusations that recently came out about the author in light of the Me Too movement. I also knew that this was a book that’s been lauded and held in high esteem, and even challenged and banned by certain schools due to certain content.

sherman alexie blog postThe story follows Arnold “Junior” Spirit, a member of the Wellpinit community in Washington. It’s a coming-of-age story about growing up Indian in a racist country. It’s about growing up Indian in a dysfunctional family with an alcoholic father. It’s about growing up Indian and poor. There are so many heavy and tragic topics that take place throughout the story, but it’s all told through Junior’s eyes, meaning it’s told with a wry sense of humor to soften the blow.

I really enjoyed the main character’s voice and his sarcasm aimed not only at the white community that mistreated his people, but at his own people too. It creates this complex and layered relationship between wanting to remain loyal, but wanting more than the life allotted by circumstance and the majority in power. It’s something that many marginalized people can relate to.

Here of course is where the conflict for me as a reader occurs. I truly enjoyed this book and think it’s a good piece of work that’s worth reading. But I can’t just forget the accusations about the author from the people he hurt. In fact, I can even see some of that attitude bleed through in the main character Junior. Sure, he’s a straight teenage boy, so he’s bound to talk about masturbation and look at girls with desire. At least, that’s what’s expected, because after all, boys will be boys. The danger in that expectation is that those boys grow up to be “men who’ll be men,” who in turn continue objectifying women and seeing them as things. This leads to men who “misbehave” and end up hurting women.

While the book is an excellent read and covers important topics with a genuinely funny voice, it’s hard not to notice the moments where adult Alexie and fictional Junior crossover into one another. It becomes a question of separating the art from the artist, which is something I’ve always struggled with. To what extent can we do so, and at what point do we stop separating the two? Because it’s obvious that no one is perfect and no art is perfect, but we have to make a stand somewhere.

Alexie’s new reputation is a blow to marginalized communities because he was such a strong voice for his own. Then again, maybe if more publishers championed more marginalized voices, it wouldn’t be such a detrimental hit to those communities in the first place.

Did anybody else read this book after what came to light about the author? Did anyone read it before? What are your thoughts on liking a book but not liking an author? Let me know in the comments!