Summary: There hasn’t been a winner of the Miss Meteor beauty pageant who looks like Lita Perez or Chicky Quintanilla in all its history. But that’s not the only reason Lita wants to enter the contest, or why her ex-best friend Chicky wants to help her. The road to becoming Miss Meteor isn’t about being perfect; it’s about sharing who you are with the world—and loving the parts of yourself no one else understands. So to pull off the unlikeliest underdog story in pageant history, Lita and Chicky are going to have to forget the past and imagine a future where girls like them are more than enough—they are everything. Witty and heartfelt with characters that leap off the page, Miss Meteor is acclaimed authors Anna-Marie McLemore and Tehlor Kay Mejia’s first book together.
Review: After reading and loving books by both Mejia and McLemore, I knew I needed to give Miss Meteor a try. The cover is stunning and the summary makes the book sound so enjoyable. I was not wrong at all. I really loved this book. We follow Chicky and Lita in alternating points of view. The two used to be best friends, but Chicky doesn’t feel like she can be honest about who she is and Lita was bullied and is ashamed of it. So, the two stopped being friends. But now Lita is being returned to the stars (it’s not mentioned in the synopsis, but Lita and her mother figure are aliens that came here on a meteor. This aspect of the story is a mix of both science fiction and magical realism, which I completely loved). Lita has decided that if she’s being returned to the stars, one of the last things she’d like to do is try to win the Miss Meteor beauty pageant. While this is happening, Chicky is being bullied by a mean girl named Kendra. Chicky decides that she needs to do something that will cause Kendra to lose. The best way for that to happen is for Chicky and Lita (and Chicky’s sisters) to team up and make sure that Lita wins Miss Meteor. While this story is about an unlikely girl winning a beauty pageant, it’s also about so much more than that. Both Chicky and Lita experience racism and prejudice. Chicky is pansexual. Lita is plus sized. Both are Latinx. There is also a side character, Cole (Kendra’s brother) who is friends with both girls. Cole is trans. There is so much representation in this book and the way that things like racism and fatphobia were talked about was really excellent. It was so easy to love both Chicky and Lita. Chicky is really struggling. She’s working on accepting herself and being able to proudly claim the label of pansexual. But she’s often bullied at school for being a lesbian, even though she isn’t one. So, she’s pushed away her best friend, but this pageant is a chance for her to mend things with Lita. We also get to see a lot of Chicky’s sisters which I loved. I loved all of them. They’re all so full of personality and different from one another. Seeing them all work together to help Lita was the perfect comedic relief from the more serious parts of this story. Lita is being taken back to the stars. Parts of her body are literally turning into stars. This aspect was magical and whimsical, but also suspenseful because Lita realized she can prevent her changing, but she’s failing to do so. Seeing the whole group together, Chicky, Lita, Chicky’s sisters, and also Cole and Junior, was so much fun. I loved this group of friends so much. I loved seeing their growth and supporting one another. Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Yes, it is about two ex-best friends trying to win a beauty pageant, but it’s about so much more than that. It’s about friendship, standing up for those you love, trying to create change, and most of all, loving yourself. There are so many positive things about this book. The characters were my favorite, but I also have to say that the writing was stunning. It was lyrical and beautiful without being overly descriptive. I will continue to pick up and love both McLemore and Mejia’s books.
Hey, lovelies! I have another recommendations post for you all today. I was planning to just recommend my favorite mythological retellings, but it sort of just turned into a list of books published by Rick Riordan Presents, so I expanded a bit to include books that involve folklore and mythology. Doing that allowed me to include some of the really excellent diverse stories that I’ve read recently. So, I have fourteen books that are mythological or involve folklore that I think you should add to your TBR.
Aru Shah and the End of Timeby Roshani Chokshi “Twelve-year-old Aru Shah has a tendency to stretch the truth in order to fit in at school. While her classmates are jetting off to family vacations in exotic locales, she’ll be spending her autumn break at home, in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, waiting for her mom to return from her latest archeological trip. Is it any wonder that Aru makes up stories about being royalty, traveling to Paris, and having a chauffeur? One day, three schoolmates show up at Aru’s doorstep to catch her in a lie. They don’t believe her claim that the museum’s Lamp of Bharata is cursed, and they dare Aru to prove it. Just a quick light, Aru thinks. Then she can get herself out of this mess and never ever fib again. But lighting the lamp has dire consequences. She unwittingly frees the Sleeper, an ancient demon whose duty it is to awaken the God of Destruction. Her classmates and beloved mother are frozen in time, and it’s up to Aru to save them. The only way to stop the demon is to find the reincarnations of the five legendary Pandava brothers, protagonists of the Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharata, and journey through the Kingdom of Death. But how is one girl in Spider-Man pajamas supposed to do all that?”
The Girl and the Ghostby Hanna Alkaf “Suraya is delighted when her witch grandmother gifts her a pelesit. She names her ghostly companion Pink, and the two quickly become inseparable. But Suraya doesn’t know that pelesits have a dark side—and when Pink’s shadows threaten to consume them both, they must find enough light to survive . . . before they are both lost to the darkness.”
Paola Santiago and the River of Tearsby Tehlor Kay Mejia “Space-obsessed 12-year-old Paola Santiago and her two best friends, Emma and Dante, know the rule: Stay away from the river. It’s all they’ve heard since a schoolmate of theirs drowned a year ago. Pao is embarrassed to admit that she has been told to stay away for even longer than that, because her mother is constantly warning her about La Llorona, the wailing ghost woman who wanders the banks of the Gila at night, looking for young people to drag into its murky depths. Hating her mother’s humiliating superstitions and knowing that she and her friends would never venture into the water, Pao organizes a meet-up to test out her new telescope near the Gila, since it’s the best stargazing spot. But when Emma never arrives and Pao sees a shadowy figure in the reeds, it seems like maybe her mom was right. . . . Pao has always relied on hard science to make sense of the world, but to find her friend she will have to enter the world of her nightmares, which includes unnatural mist, mind-bending monsters, and relentless spirits controlled by a terrifying force that defies both logic and legend.”
Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee “THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD MIN comes from a long line of fox spirits. But you’d never know it by looking at her. To keep the family safe, Min’s mother insists that none of them use any fox-magic, such as Charm or shape-shifting. They must appear human at all times. Min feels hemmed in by the household rules and resents the endless chores, the cousins who crowd her, and the aunties who judge her. She would like nothing more than to escape Jinju, her neglected, dust-ridden, and impoverished planet. She’s counting the days until she can follow her older brother, Jun, into the Space Forces and see more of the Thousand Worlds. When word arrives that Jun is suspected of leaving his post to go in search of the Dragon Pearl, Min knows that something is wrong. Jun would never desert his battle cruiser, even for a mystical object rumored to have tremendous power. She decides to run away to find him and clear his name. Min’s quest will have her meeting gamblers, pirates, and vengeful ghosts. It will involve deception, lies, and sabotage. She will be forced to use more fox-magic than ever before, and to rely on all of her cleverness and bravery. The outcome may not be what she had hoped, but it has the potential to exceed her wildest dreams.”
Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia “Seventh-grader Tristan Strong feels anything but strong ever since he failed to save his best friend when they were in a bus accident together. All he has left of Eddie is the journal his friend wrote stories in. Tristan is dreading the month he’s going to spend on his grandparents’ farm in Alabama, where he’s being sent to heal from the tragedy. But on his first night there, a sticky creature shows up in his bedroom and steals Eddie’s journal. Tristan chases after it — is that a doll? — and a tug-of-war ensues between them underneath a Bottle Tree. In a last attempt to wrestle the journal out of the creature’s hands, Tristan punches the tree, accidentally ripping open a chasm into the MidPass, a volatile place with a burning sea, haunted bone ships, and iron monsters that are hunting the inhabitants of this world. Tristan finds himself in the middle of a battle that has left black American gods John Henry and Brer Rabbit exhausted. In order to get back home, Tristan and these new allies will need to entice the god Anansi, the Weaver, to come out of hiding and seal the hole in the sky. But bartering with the trickster Anansi always comes at a price. Can Tristan save this world before he loses more of the things he loves?”
The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee “Genie Lo is one among droves of Ivy-hopeful overachievers in her sleepy Bay Area suburb. You know, the type who wins. When she’s not crushing it at volleyball or hitting the books, Genie is typically working on how to crack the elusive Harvard entry code. But when her hometown comes under siege from hellspawn straight out of Chinese folklore, her priorities are dramatically rearranged. Enter Quentin Sun, a mysterious new kid in class who becomes Genie’s self-appointed guide to battling demons. While Genie knows Quentin only as an attractive transfer student with an oddly formal command of the English language, in another reality he is Sun Wukong, the mythological Monkey King incarnate—right down to the furry tail and penchant for peaches. Suddenly, acing the SATs is the least of Genie’s worries. The fates of her friends, family, and the entire Bay Area all depend on her summoning an inner power that Quentin assures her is strong enough to level the very gates of Heaven. But every second Genie spends tapping into the secret of her true nature is a second in which the lives of her loved ones hang in the balance. “
Trail of Lightningby Rebecca Roanhorse “While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters. Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last—and best—hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much larger and more terrifying than anything she could imagine. Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel to the rez to unravel clues from ancient legends, trade favors with tricksters, and battle dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology. As Maggie discovers the truth behind the disappearances, she will have to confront her past—if she wants to survive. Welcome to the Sixth World. “
The Star Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi “Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire… But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.”
Shadow of the Foxby Julie Kagawa “One thousand years ago, the great Kami Dragon was summoned to grant a single terrible wish—and the land of Iwagoto was plunged into an age of darkness and chaos. Now, for whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers, a new wish will be granted. A new age is about to dawn. Raised by monks in the isolated Silent Winds temple, Yumeko has trained all her life to hide her yokai nature. Half kitsune, half human, her skill with illusion is matched only by her penchant for mischief. Until the day her home is burned to the ground, her adoptive family is brutally slain and she is forced to flee for her life with the temple’s greatest treasure—one part of the ancient scroll. There are many who would claim the dragon’s wish for their own. Kage Tatsumi, a mysterious samurai of the Shadow Clan, is one such hunter, under orders to retrieve the scroll…at any cost. Fate brings Kage and Yumeko together. With a promise to lead him to the scroll, an uneasy alliance is formed, offering Yumeko her best hope for survival. But he seeks what she has hidden away, and her deception could ultimately tear them both apart. With an army of demons at her heels and the unlikeliest of allies at her side, Yumeko’s secrets are more than a matter of life or death. They are the key to the fate of the world itself.”
The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White “There was nothing in the world as magical and terrifying as a girl. Princess Guinevere has come to Camelot to wed a stranger: the charismatic King Arthur. With magic clawing at the kingdom’s borders, the great wizard Merlin conjured a solution–send in Guinevere to be Arthur’s wife . . . and his protector from those who want to see the young king’s idyllic city fail. The catch? Guinevere’s real name–and her true identity–is a secret. She is a changeling, a girl who has given up everything to protect Camelot. To keep Arthur safe, Guinevere must navigate a court in which the old–including Arthur’s own family–demand things continue as they have been, and the new–those drawn by the dream of Camelot–fight for a better way to live. And always, in the green hearts of forests and the black depths of lakes, magic lies in wait to reclaim the land. Arthur’s knights believe they are strong enough to face any threat, but Guinevere knows it will take more than swords to keep Camelot free. Deadly jousts, duplicitous knights, and forbidden romances are nothing compared to the greatest threat of all: the girl with the long black hair, riding on horseback through the dark woods toward Arthur. Because when your whole existence is a lie, how can you trust even yourself?”
Girl, Serpent, Thornby Melissa Bashardoust “There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story. As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison. Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster.”
Circeby Madeline Miller “In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child – not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power – the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves. Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus. But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.”
American Godsby Neil Gaiman “Days before his release from prison, Shadow’s wife, Laura, dies in a mysterious car crash. Numbly, he makes his way back home. On the plane, he encounters the enigmatic Mr Wednesday, who claims to be a refugee from a distant war, a former god and the king of America. Together they embark on a profoundly strange journey across the heart of the USA, whilst all around them a storm of preternatural and epic proportions threatens to break. Scary, gripping and deeply unsettling, American Gods takes a long, hard look into the soul of America. You’ll be surprised by what – and who – it finds there…
The Wicked + the Divine, Vol. 1: The Faust Act by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, & Matt Wilson “Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead. The team behind critical tongue-attractors like Young Avengers and PHONOGRAM reunite to create a world where gods are the ultimate pop stars and pop stars are the ultimate gods. But remember: just because you’re immortal, doesn’t mean you’re going to live forever.”
There are quite a few books that will fit this list once I manage to read them and get them off my TBR. I didn’t realize how many mythology/folklore books I still had on my TBR, but after writing this post I’m excited to get to them. What books would you add to this list?
Love grows such strange things.
For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.
The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family. Review:
Every time I read a book by McLemore I am completely blown away by their ability to write such stunning prose. The writing was beautiful and lyrical. The setting was stunning and so vivid. I am in awe of this authors ability to tell a story and create such a vivid world.
I feel like I won’t be able to succinctly or accurately explain what this book was about and my feelings about it. So, I think I’m going to keep this review short and sweet. This story focuses on a family of women, three generations, that live on and care for the grounds of La Pradera. These women have power over flowers, each able to grow a different flower or plant (some grow trees and other plants, but it seemed to mainly be flowers). I loved the magical aspect of the story. It was unique and compelling and I wanted to know more. I loved the family dynamic. I thought it was great that the story focused on the youngest generation, but I loved that the mothers and the abuelas were still a big part of the story.
Their world changes when in an attempt to protect their neighbor, Bay, brings a boy, Fel, to La Pradera. This family is cursed with not being able to keep the ones they love. The women either send them away or La Pradera takes them away. So, the girls worry that this is a past lover given back to them, or perhaps it’s something else.
I didn’t realize that this was going to be as much of a mystery as it was. I think aside from the magic and the family, the mystery was my favorite part of the story. The questions of who Fel was, where he came from, why he has no memory, and what his being there meant, were a great way to build suspense in the story.
Overall, McLemore did not disappoint with this book. It was full of beautiful prose, incredible and diverse characters (they are all or mostly Latinx and quite a few of them are bisexual.) The setting was stunning and so vivid I could picture it perfectly (which isn’t something I can usually do.) I’m excited to read more books by McLemore.