Blogtober Book Review: Paola Santiago and the Forest of Nightmares by Tehlor Kay Mejia

Summary:
Six months after Paola Santiago confronted the legendary La Llorona, life is nothing like she’d expected it to be. She is barely speaking to her best friends, Dante and Emma, and what’s worse, her mom has a totally annoying boyfriend. Even with her chupacabra puppy, Bruto, around, Pao can’t escape the feeling that she’s all alone in the world.
Pao has no one to tell that she’s having nightmares again, this time set in a terrifying forest. Even more troubling? At their center is her estranged father, an enigma of a man she barely remembers. And when Dante’s abuela falls mysteriously ill, it seems that the dad Pao never knew just might be the key to healing the eccentric old woman.
Pao’s search for her father will send her far from home, where she will encounter new monsters and ghosts, a devastating betrayal, and finally, the forest of her nightmares. Will the truths her father has been hiding save the people Pao loves, or destroy them?
Once again Tehlor Kay Mejia draws on her Mexican heritage to tell a wild and wondrous story that combines creatures from folklore with modern-day challenges.

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for an early copy to read and review. I read this what feels like 100 years ago and forgot to write my review. So, this is going to be short and to the point. I really enjoyed this book. There’s really no surprise there. I loved all of Mejia’s other books and I’ve really enjoyed all of the Rick Riordan Presents books.
Paola is really struggling in this second book, so when she thinks that she needs to find her father, she gets the gang back together again.
I think the only thing I didn’t like about this book was that there was so much conflict between the three friends. Dante was just plain mean to Paola at times for reasons that we never got to see. All of the conflict happened off the page after the end of the first book and before this book started. I would have liked to have gotten to see that conflict rather than been told about it because it takes such a large amount of this book for Paola to work through these issues with her friends. So, this book was really missing the wonderful friendship aspect that we got from the first book.
Aside from that, I really liked this. Paola must stand up and face danger and adventure on her own this time. We get to see some familiar faces from the first book, which is always fun. I love the mythology and the world building that we get to see. I don’t know much about Mexican folklore, so all of the monsters and creatures were unique to me and so interesting to read about. I will absolutely be continuing this series and recommending it to others.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Five Fantasy Adaptations Amanda Would Watch

Hi, lovelies! There have really been some phenomenal book to movie/tv adaptations in the past few years, so I have a few books that I think would make incredible movies or tv shows. Some recent adaptations I’ve enjoyed are Shadow and Bone (while I have my issues with it, I overall enjoyed watching it), Bridgerton, and Big Little Lies. I haven’t watched many of the newer fantasy adaptations because I haven’t read the books yet. But there are some that have recently been announced that I’m incredibly excited forr (Percy Jackson, A Court of Thorns and Roses, Daisy Jones and the Six, and the Kane Chronicles). So, I thought it would be fun to share some fantasy stories I love that I think would make the jump to the screen well.

Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi
I love this series with my whole heart. I’m really hoping that is the Disney adaptation of Percy Jackson does well, they might start working on some of the series from the Rick Riordan Presents imprint. I love Aru and the other Pandava sisters. I think this series would do so well as a tv show.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore
I have some real nostalgia for this series. And since it’s been rebooted with new installments I’ve recently reread it. I think this series would do really great as a movie series. Especially the second book, Fire, with all the stunning colors and creatures. I think the concept of ‘graces’ and the general plot and setting would look great up on a big screen.

We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia
This is another that I think would make a great movie or two. I do think that both books could be made into one movie. I would love to see Daniela and Carmen on screen. This book is queer and Latinx and I would love to see that representation in a movie.

There Will Come a Darkness by Katy Rose Pool
This is one of my all time favorite series. So, I would obviously love to see it adapted. I think it would have to be a tv series to really show all of the characters and the paths they each follow. I love these characters so much that I would love to go on a several season journey with them.

Furyborn by Claire Legrand
I think this would have to be a tv show. There’s just so much that happens between the two different time periods that this story happens in, that there’s no way it could all successfully happen in a movie. I loved Rielle and Eliana, and I really think that it would do will if it were to be adapted.

I think these five books would make excellent movies and/or tv shows. What books would you love to see adapted?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s (Almost) Auto-Buy Authors

Hi, lovelies! Back in April, I did a post about my ‘Auto-Buy Authors‘ where I talked about authors that I love to the point where I automatically buy their books when they have a new release. There were quite a few authors that I thought have the potential to make that list, but have only published one or two books. So, I thought I’d share a list of some authors that are on their way toward that list, but don’t have enough published books for me to really say for sure yet.

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Tehlor Kay Mejia
I wrote this list in a note while I wrote my original auto-buy author post, so since then, I’ve read two more of Mejia’s books and I definitely think she’s moved solidly into auto-buy territory. I loved the We Set the Dark on Fire duology and I recently really enjoyed Miss Meteor which is co-written with Anna-Marie McLemore. I’m also very excited to read the second book in the Paola Santiago series.

Katie Henry
Henry has three books out and I’ve genuinely enjoyed all three of them. They’re contemporary books that generally involve a serious topic, but wit humor and thoughtfulness. I read This Will Be Funny Someday and totally loved it. There’s a toxic relationship and some lying, but I think it was all done with care. She has an untitled book coming in 2022 that I already can’t wait for.

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Hanna Alkaf
I read The Girl and the Ghost as one of my first books of 2021 and I absolutely devoured it. I don’t read historical fiction often, but I’ve heard really great things about The Weight of Our Sky and I absolutely am excited to read Queen of the Tiles when it’s released.

Emily Henry
Henry is coming quickly toward the definite auto-buy list because of her adult romance. I really liked Beach Read and I recently read People We Meet On Vacation and I liked that one even more. I don’t know if she’s planning to write more YA books, but I really loved all three of her YA books too.

Justin A. Reynolds
I want to add him to my auto-buy list, but he’s only published two books so far. Now, I’ve loved both of these books so, so much. I don’t expect that to change anytime soon. But, it’s still a bit early to say for sure. I highly recommend both Opposite of Always and Early Departures.

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Dahlia Adler
Adler wrote Cool for the Summer, which I believe will be making several of my ‘2021 favorites’ lists when I make them. But this is the only book I’ve read by Adler. So, despite the book having a huge emotional impact on me, I can’t quite add Adler to my auto-buy list yet.

Laura Pohl
I really loved the audiobooks for The Last 8 and The First 7. I am beyond excited to read The Grimrose Girls later this year. I absolutely think she’ll make it to my auto-buy list, but I want to try more books by her first.

Adalyn Grace
The All the Stars and Teeth duology was a really great one. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what she publishes next.

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Bethany C. Morrow
I loved both A Song Below Water and the sequel, A Chorus Rises. Morrow has a few books coming out in the near future. One is a retelling, which I think I’ll skip, but I’m really excited for Cherish Farrah in 2022.

Katy Rose Pool
I am absolutely obsessed with The Age of Darkness trilogy. The third book isn’t even out yet, but I know I’m going to love it. I also follow Pool on Instagram and she’s been talking a bit about what she’s working on next, vaguely of course, and I already can’t wait to read whatever it is.

There are so many incredible authors out there and I wish that I could read them all. But these are some of the authors that are right on the tipping point of making their place on my auto-buy author list.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Miss Meteor by Anna-Marie McLemore & Tehlor Kay Mejia

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.

Book Cover

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.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: Paola Santiago and the River of Tears by Tehlor Kay Mejia

GoodReads Summary:
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.
Paola Santiago and the River of Tears (Paola Santiago #1)Review:
Tehlor Kay Mejia is very quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. I read her YA fantasy duology this year and I’ve already preordered her co-written book that comes out soon. If that’s not clear, I loved this book.
Paola Santiago and the River of Tears follows Paola (or Pao) as she tries to find her best friend. Emma was supposed to meet Pao and Dante at the river to test out Pao’s new telescope, but Emma never arrives. This leads Paola and Dante on a wild ride to find their best friend. First, the pair go home and try to call Emma because maybe she was still at home? But when they talk to her parents and learn she’s not home they go to the police. I really liked that this was included in the story. When Pao and Dante go to the police station to wait for Emma’s parents they are treated unfairly because they are Latinx. I really liked the way this story showed this reality that many deal with daily. I think it’s a really important thing to showcase in books for younger audiences. When Paola realizes that the police are not going to be helpful, she decides that she’s going to go to the river and find out what happened and try to save Emma. This is where mythology comes in. I never learned much about Mexican folklore or mythology so this was so much fun for me. I’d heard of some, like the Chupacabras, but didn’t really know much else. I had so much fun with all of the mythological aspects of this book. It was spectacularly spooky and honestly warms my heart to think of the kids that will see themselves and their culture represented in this story. I think this story is the perfect one for October (but still great year-round) because there are ghosts and all kinds of other monsters that Paola and Dante encounter.
Paola was a character I really loved. She struggles with her relationship with her mother. Her mother is very superstitious and Paola doesn’t care for that. She doesn’t believe in any of the things her mother tries to instill in her. She is a huge science nerd and I loved that. She tries to solve her problems with facts and logic and I loved the representation of a young girl interested in STEM. I really related to Pao’s issues with her mom and their rocky relationship. I really enjoyed that it was clear she loved her mom, but that they didn’t have a perfect relationship. Paola is a character I found myself rooting for the whole time.
Dante was interesting because we only see him from Paola’s perspective. I really wanted to like him, and I did. But I also felt bad because he was getting older and finding new things that interested him and Pao sort of resented him for that. Despite Paola not always being kind to him, he stood by her and protected her when he had the chance. He went with her to search for Emma even though he didn’t really want to. He was a real friend and I ended up really liking him.
There are so many other wonderful characters in this story. I loved them all. I think this was an incredible story. The world was so well built and beautifully written. I absolutely cannot wait for the next book in the series.
I do also want to mention that I listened to the audiobook and the narrator did such a great job telling this story. I will absolutely continue the series via the audiobooks if the next one has the same narrator.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

We Unleash the Merciless Storm by Tehlor Kay Mejia

GoodReads Summary:
In this nail-biting sequel to Tehlor Kay Mejia’s critically acclaimed fantasy novel We Set the Dark on Fire, La Voz operative Carmen is forced to choose between the girl she loves and the success of the rebellion she’s devoted her life to. Perfect for fans of The Handmaid’s Tale and Anna-Marie McLemore.
Being a part of the resistance group La Voz is an act of devotion and desperation. On the other side of Medio’s border wall, the oppressed class fights for freedom and liberty, sacrificing what little they have to become defenders of the cause.
Carmen Santos is one of La Voz’s best soldiers. She spent years undercover, but now, with her identity exposed and the island on the brink of a civil war, Carmen returns to the only real home she’s ever known: La Voz’s headquarters.
There she must reckon with her beloved leader, who is under the influence of an aggressive new recruit, and with the devastating news that her true love might be the target of an assassination plot. Will Carmen break with her community and save the girl who stole her heart—or fully embrace the ruthless rebel she was always meant to be?
We Unleash the Merciless Storm (We Set the Dark on Fire, #2)Review:
We Unleash the Merciless Storm was a great ending for the story of Dani and Carmen and the world they live in. I realize that I didn’t really explain much in my review of the first book (read it here if you feel like it). I’m going to spoil a few things from the first book, so please don’t continue this review if you don’t want spoilers for We Set the Dark on Fire (just know I absolutely loved both books and they’re super gay and you should read them.) This story takes place in a world where the inner island and outer island are at odds. In the first book, Dani and Carmen are both just finishing school. They end up married with Dani as the Primera and Carmen as the Segunda. The man they marry is high up in Medio’s government. Which is great as both girls are working for the resistance organization that goes by La Voz. La Voz is working to bring down the Median government which basically is just run by the wealthy people on the island and leaves the rest to live in poverty. So much more happens in this story, but that was a quick overview.
One of the best things about this book was that, unlike the first book which was entirely from Dani’s perspective, this story is told by Carmen. I loved this because there was so much that was unknown about Carmen with where the first book ended. I really loved getting to know her history. Carmen also really struggled between her feelings for Dani and coming back to a home that she doesn’t totally recognize anymore. At the end of book one, Carmen is taken back to La Voz home base and that’s where this book starts. Carmen has been gone from La Voz for several years while she was deep undercover going to school to become a Segunda. So, when she comes back, she doesn’t totally recognize the La Voz that was her home before she left. Her best friend, Alex, is angry with her. And there’s someone new, someone, that is whispering into the Vulture’s ear. The Vulture is the leader of La Voz, but he isn’t acting like the leader that Carmen knows him to be. I loved the mystery of the ending which I’m not going to say anything further about because of spoilers. I also really enjoyed the conclusion in general. I would have liked to have gotten a ‘ten years later’ or something, but I was still satisfied with the ending. I really enjoyed all of the parts with Carmen and Dani reuniting, but also Carmen’s journey to get to Dani and find out what was going on was just as good. As much as I was disappointed that we didn’t get to see Dani until a decent way through the story, I think the anticipation of her and Carmen reuniting is what got me through.
Overall, I loved this book and I wish more people talked about this series. The world is fascinating and diverse. The relationship is queer and I’m so obsessed with it. There are wonderful friendships and a found family. I just think this is a great book and a great series.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia

GoodReads Summary:
In this daring and romantic fantasy debut perfect for fans of The Handmaid’s Tale and Latinx authors Zoraida Córdova and Anna-Marie McLemore, society wife-in-training Dani has a great awakening after being recruited by rebel spies and falling for her biggest rival.
At the Medio School for Girls, distinguished young women are trained for one of two roles in their polarized society. Depending on her specialization, a graduate will one day run a husband’s household or raise his children. Both paths promise a life of comfort and luxury, far from the frequent political uprisings of the lower class.
Daniela Vargas is the school’s top student, but her pedigree is a lie. She must keep the truth hidden or be sent back to the fringes of society.
And school couldn’t prepare her for the difficult choices she must make after graduation, especially when she is asked to spy for a resistance group desperately fighting to bring equality to Medio.
Will Dani cling to the privilege her parents fought to win for her, or will she give up everything she’s strived for in pursuit of a free Medio—and a chance at a forbidden love?
We Set the Dark on FireReview:
We Set the Dark on Fire totally blew me away. I bought this book as a kindle daily deal a few months ago and I’m so glad that I did. It was basically what the synopsis said the story is, but it was still so good.
The story was a bit predictable, but honestly, that made it better. The anticipation of the things I predicted happening was the best part of this story. Dani is picked to be the Primera of an up and coming politician. His family is one of the most powerful in the country. Dani was struggling with many emotions. She was trained that Primera’s don’t show those emotions. They are strong, logical, and strategic. They are equals with their husbands, there to support their careers and households. Dani was trying to pretend to be the perfect Primera when in reality she was anything but that.
Which brings us to Carmen, Dani’s rival at school. Carmen is chosen as Segunda. This was a challenge for Dani because Carmen was never very nice to Dani and now the two live together and are married to the same man, and essentially each other. They grow closer while they live together. I really loved these two getting to know one another better outside of their school rivalry.
Overall, this book was excellent. There was a female/female romance that I am totally obsessed with. They also attempt to overthrow the government. Dani is more or less forced to join the resistance and I love stories like that. Women fighting against a corrupt system is something I always want to read about.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.