Book Recommendations, Uncategorized

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

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There’s a little witch in all of us.

I first knew Practical Magic as a movie first even though I’ve never watched it. Then I saw this on a list of witch books, and knew I needed to read it this Halloween season (yes this was supposed to be up five days ago don’t judge). For those who don’t know, Practical Magic is a magical realism romance book that follows two generations of women.

Sally and Gillion are sisters who are sent to live with their aunts after their parents died. Their aunts are the neighborhood witches that the neighborhood is afraid of. It follows their growth into adults then Sally’s children when they are teenagers.

The writing is simply beautiful. So often I felt like nothing was going on, but I remember thinking that I didn’t even care because of the way Hoffman wrote.

The pacing still is a problem for me, and what makes it not a five star read. When it picked up I was so relieved, and then suddenly, it ended and I was sad cause I wanted more.

The characters were so fleshed out except for the aunts. I didn’t understand why there was a prequel all about them until the end when they are finally given screen time. That’s when I understood that that was the first time The girls saw the aunts for who they are, and that I really needed to read the prequel. 

I still haven’t seen the movie, but I’m so glad I choose to read this book. It has the perfect atmosphere for Halloween without being spooky for those who get scared easily. It satisfied my craving for witches as well.

4 stars 

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Book Recommendations, Book Reviews, Uncategorized

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova

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My mother dips her fingers in a bowl of white clay. She covers my face with it, blows on it to help it dry quickly. Her breath is sweet like rose punch. Then comes the coal. She traces the black of bone around my eyes, down my nose, my lips, my cheeks. We wear the face of the dead so the waking spirits feel at home.

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova is the first book in a young adult fantasy trilogy. It follows Alejandra a sixteen year old bruja who has been hiding that she has come into her powers for years. I think that’s all that’s needed going into the story. I knew a lot more and so I knew what was happening for the first fifty or more pages, and it slowed the story down a lot. 

This is an own voices book regarding the Latinx representation. There is also the bisexual love triangle. Rishi is Indian. Diversity like this always elevates a book in my opinion. It makes it feel more real.

The world that Córdova creates is rich and complex. I particularly liked the excerpts from books in their world at the beginning of every chapter. The magic was fun, the belief system felt so real, and I loved exploring Los Lagos with the characters.

The characters themselves were great as well. I loved watching Alejandra grow into herself. I loved her love for her family. Rishi, her best friend, was a fun addition. I always loved her dialogue. Nova, her guide that she’s not sure she trusts, was perhaps the most fleshed out of the main characters. The love triangle between the three wasn’t the most compelling of all time, but it didn’t subtract from the story at all.

Some parts felt a little rushed. Particularly the action and some of the emotional bits. The guilt of Alejandra and the growth of how she felt about her magic felt very repeated, especially at the end. If they would have balanced that out a little more then I think this would have been a complete five star read for me. 

4 stars

Book Recommendations, Book Reviews, Uncategorized

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

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There is no escape if love is not there.

I must say The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare took me by surprise. It is a young adult historical about a girl named Kit as she moves from Barbados to Connecticut to live with her aunt and her family after her grandfather passes away. It’s a culture shock from simply how the country is to the way her mother’s sister’s family lives. They are Puritans, and the way Kit was raised was rather unconventional.

 Kit struggles with fitting in and finds friends in unlikely places. The town in general disproves of her no matter how hard she tries to fit in. Eventually, she is accused of being a witch.

I did not expect this story to be what it was. I only had it because people put it on best witch book lists which I know don’t understand at all. There is no magic in this book so that’s very misleading.

It is, however, a very good puritan book. That’s not something I read often, if at all, but I actually found myself loving Kit, her friends, and her family. Usually puritans are never relateable or in any way interesting or good people, but this book makes them so.

While not my favorite writing style, I felt it drag a little, I did enjoy the story. A lot more than I thought I would when I  figured out there was no magic. The strength of this book is the romance. I haven’t rooted so strongly for a couple in a long time.

I actually looked for a sequel, but unfortunately, there isn’t one. It’s not like the ending isn’t satisfying. I simply did not want to leave the characters.

5 stars 

Book Predictions, Book Recommendations, Uncategorized

The Name of This Book is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch

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Only bad books have good endings.
If a book is any good, it’s ending is always bad – because you don’t want the book to end.

The Name of This Book is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch is a middle grade mystery that could be compared to the writing style of Lemony Snicket. It details the adventure of Cassandra and Max-Ernest as they uncover a mystery of a missing magician as Pseudonymous Bosch warns the reader to stop reading lest they be in danger by learning the knowledge the book contains.

I think the writing style really elevated the book. I felt it kind of dragged on in some places, but the humor helped me forgive that. It does keep the book from being taken that seriously, but I think that might be the adult in me talking. I’m sure if I read this as a kid, the idea of these two kids and their secret mission I wasn’t suppose to know about would send my imagination running.

The two main characters are smart and cute. I loved following them and their blossoming friendship. I love that Cassandra has two grandpas as well. They are all fully developed, and their mistakes only endeared them to me more.

It was a fun, fast paced read. The plot interesting and exciting. This is only the first book in five book series which I think I will pick up in the future.

4 stars

Book Reviews, Uncategorized

The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon

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I ate pain. I swilled tears. If I could take enough in, I’d have no space left to fit my own.

The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon is an adult literary novel following as a young man pieces together how his girlfriend found herself in a cult. 

It’s written in a style I don’t think I’ve seen before. There is no dialogue. It’s written strictly as a guy trying to remember past events. Sometimes with the cult leader’s and girlfriend’s perspective. It took me a while to get used to, but it’s very interesting.

I can’t say I was invested in the characters per say, but I can’t deny I was invested in learning about how the story unfolded. It wasn’t a fun story, but it was a story I wanted to know the ending to. I did felt confused a lot. I’m not sure if I missed some themes or something in that confusion which is unfortunate.

There is terrorism in this story. Violence, pro-life extremists, and rape. Just as a warning.

Overall, I think this book was good. It’s short and quick but it packs a punch. I do think it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea though.

4 stars

Book Reviews

Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram – Book Review

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“I was one tiny pulsar in a swirling, luminous galaxy of Iranians, held together by the gravity of thousands of years of culture and heritage.”

What a lovely book.

I read this book in one day, and I enjoyed every second. This book has stayed with me for days. Even now, a week later, I find myself thinking about these characters and everything they’ve left with me.

Darius the Great Is Not Okay follows Darius, a Persian boy who finds out his grandfather has a brain tumor, which leads to his entire family traveling to Iran to spend some time with him. Darius was an excellent narrator. Since his father is Caucasian, he spends a lot of time exploring his Persian culture through his mother’s side of the family. I liked that I got to see things through his perspective because I came to understand his culture with the same amount of curiosity he did. I loved learning about how important tea was for his culture. I love tea, but I clearly don’t love it as much.

Darius’s culture was so prominent in the story because he spent a lot of time with his family. I absolutely loved that. His grandparents were really great people. His grandmother was sweet and kind, and she reminded me so much of mine. His grandfather was a bit more complicated, but I liked that. Sometimes, you can’t really connect instantly with members of your family. I liked the way he talked about knowing his family in Iran through nothing more than video calls. That’s true for me as well, and for many other immigrants in America. I also loved the food he got to eat, and the way everything was described.

The complicated relationship Darius had with his father was so realistic. I liked the way he wanted to connect with him, spend quality time with him, but still disliked many things about him. I liked that his father wasn’t painted as a bad guy, but he wasn’t great either. These gray areas are so important, because that’s the reality of the world. Parents are human, and they make so many mistakes. It’s important to see them portrayed like this. My favorite thing was that both Darius and his father suffered from depression, and they were actually treating it with medication. How great is that? This is something I don’t think I’ve ever read about in a YA book. Mental illness can definitely be inherited through your parents (I speak from personal experience) and it’s good to see that they both took the time and care to find the right medication. The conversations this brought up were important as well, especially considering the stigma against mental illness in Iran, as well as many other countries. I know in Mexico, my family shies away from any conversation about mental illness. The portrayal of depression was necessary and well executed.

I left my precious Sohrab for the end because he is very special to me, and I still haven’t fully processed my thoughts on him. Sohrab is a young boy Darius befriends in Iran. A very sweet, charming boy that helps out Darius’s grandparents as much as possible, who’s basically another member of the family. They play a few games of soccer, which is my favorite sport, so I was ecstatic about this. I loved that Darius could confide in Sohrab about everything, and Sohrab genuinely cared for him. I loved their friendship so much. It was so sweet and so natural and so freeing. It broke my heart any time they had any argument because them not being friends just felt wrong to me. I loved everything about Darius and Sohrab. Their scenes were some of my favorites.

The only reason I’m not one-hundred percent in love with this book (more like ninety-five percent, which is still pretty high) is because I knew there was potential to explore Darius’s sexuality. It was there all along. It was right on the surface, ready to be seen, but it never was. Darius’s sexuality was never explored. It was maybe hinted at, but that’s it. I’m not entirely sure why they author decided not to go there, when all the signs were there, but alas, that’s not something we got to see. Even without the exploration of sexuality, I thought the book was incredible. I loved it all so much. I would read a sequel. So many sequels. I loved Darius, his family, and my dear Sohrab.

4,5 stars

Book Recommendations, Book Reviews, Uncategorized

Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson

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A scoop of dried rosemary goes into the bag, followed by salt. Sometimes, magic looks a lot like how my mom prepares chicken.

Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson pretty much made it on my top favorite books of the year at the very first sentence. It is a young adult, paranormal, mystery following Mila Flores as she brings her best friend and two enemy’s, those were accidents, back to life for a week. She’s convinced her friend was murdered, and needs her help in order to solve it.

The writing of this book was so easy and smart and funny. I quickly sank into this world, and did not want to exit it even as I tore through the pages desperate to find out what would happen. It was gripping and the twist at the end I did not see coming.

The characters were the best part of the book in my opinion. Mila is a fat, Mexican, Wiccan who is snarky and insecure and funny, and one of my new favorite characters. I love her growth throughout the story. The female friend group that forms is great, and I came to really care for each of them.

This book talks about feminism, fatness, cultural appropriation, depression, PTSD, therapy, and I’m sure I’m forgetting some. There are two fat girls of color who talk about their town being small and white. There is an f/f couple as well.

This book should be on everyone’s radar. It’s tragically under talked about. And with it now being October, this could be a perfect book for those who like spooky vibes without things being too scary.

5 stars