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.

All the Bad Apples by Moira Fowley-Doyle

Summary:
When Deena’s wild and mysterious sister Mandy disappears – presumed dead – her family are heartbroken. But Mandy has always been troubled. It’s just another bad thing to happen to Deena’s family. Only Deena refuses to believe it’s true.
And then the letters start arriving. Letters from Mandy, claiming that their family’s blighted history is not just bad luck or bad decisions – but a curse, handed down through the generations. Mandy has gone in search of the curse’s roots, and now Deena must find her. What they find will heal their family’s rotten past – or rip it apart forever.

All the Bad Apples

Review:
Honestly, I don’t even know how to start this review. I read this book in January and it has not left my brain for a single day since then. I’m going to do my best to explain how this book made me feel but I’m apologizing in advance if this is mostly nonsensical.
All the Bad Apples follows Deena. Deena is the youngest of three sisters, Mandy and Rachel practically raised Deena, but in different ways. Rachel was the one Deena lived with and she made sure Deena went to school, had clothes that fit, fed her and helped with homework. Rachel was the responsible one and Mandy was the fun one. So, no big surprise that Mandy is the favorite. Well, Deena comes out accidentally to her father on her birthday. When Deena goes running to Mandy for comfort, Mandy enlightens Deena about the family curse. Only days later, Mandy disappears. It’s thought that she’s jumped or fallen off a cliff. But Deena doesn’t believe that Mandy is really gone. So, Deena set’s off to find Mandy and break this family curse.
This is where the story really starts. The reader is left with so many questions in those first few chapters. Questions about Mandy, the curse, and how Deena might find her. But as Deena travels, she starts finding letters. In these letters is the family history. The book alternates between following Deena and sharing the family history. I think the combination of these two was so well done. I stayed up reading this way past when I should have gone to sleep because I kept coming to a stopping point at the start of a new bit of family history and I just couldn’t stop reading. Along the way, Deena finds people to accompany her on her journey. Her best friend (who is black and bisexual), a relative that Deena didn’t know existed, and a random girl that the three found in a bar that ends up being connected to the whole story. The way this author connected the characters was so fascinating. I loved learning about why these specific characters had come together for this journey. While these three follow Mandy’s letters they learn of a horrible and devastating history. Deena’s female ancestors were treated horrifically and Deena is determined to break the family curse. She refuses to be another bad apple that’s left to rot on the ground.
Overall, I am obsessed with this book. It was written beautifully. I think Fowley-Doyle did such an amazing job weaving the past with the present in this story. I also really appreciate that this book covers some really tough topics, but it does it so well. It does it in a way that shows the horror, but also in a thoughtful way. It wasn’t for shock value or anything, it mattered to this story. I think this is a feminist masterpiece. It covers everything from being queer to getting safe and legal abortions. It was mysterious and gothic, mythological and all too real. It’s an emotional ride about soul searching and learning to speak up for yourself. I cannot say enough good things about this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore

fullsizeoutput_3401GoodReads Summary:
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.
Wild BeautyReview:
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.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore

GoodReads Summary:
The biggest lie of all is the story you think you already know.
The del Cisne girls have never just been sisters; they’re also rivals, Blanca as obedient and graceful as Roja is vicious and manipulative. They know that, because of a generations-old spell, their family is bound to a bevy of swans deep in the woods. They know that, one day, the swans will pull them into a dangerous game that will leave one of them a girl, and trap the other in the body of a swan.
But when two local boys become drawn into the game, the swans’ spell intertwines with the strange and unpredictable magic lacing the woods, and all four of their fates depend on facing truths that could either save or destroy them. Blanca & Roja is the captivating story of sisters, friendship, love, hatred, and the price we pay to protect our hearts.
Blanca & RojaReview:
This is the first of McLemore’s books that I’ve read and let me assure you, it won’t be the last. I am eager to read more of their books. Their writing is nothing short of stunning and I was so awed by this story. Blanca & Roja follows two sisters, Blanca and Roja, and then two others, Page and Yearling. I loved all four of these characters. The sisters are part of a family that has been cursed. There are conflicting stories about where it started, but every generation there are two daughters and one of them is chosen by the swans to become one of them and leave their family.
Blanca is a fierce protector of her younger sister, the one everyone thinks will be chosen by the swans. Blanca is the fairer sister, the sweeter sister, the nicer sister. But Blanca isn’t going to just let the swans take Roja. She loves her sister and will do anything, including making a deal so that the swans will take her instead of Roja. But she keeps a secret and this changes their relationship.
Roja is fiery. I adored Roja, always the other sibling. Her hair is dark brown with red in it, she is darker than Blanca. She is full of fire and anger. I loved every second I got to spend with Roja. She’s always expected to be the ones that the swans chose, despite what Blanca tries to tell her. She loves her sister dearly. But she realizes that Blanca is keeping a secret and things sour. But these two girls love each other so much that they are both willing to sacrifice themselves to the swans to save the other.
Then come Page and Yearling. The two boys disappear into the woods one day and aren’t seen again until the swans come for either Blanca or Roja. They are an unlikely set of best friends. They both have issues with their family’s but different sorts of issues. Yearling comes from a wealthy family, but he really doesn’t like how his family acquired that wealth and he wants to get the truth out to the public. Yearling is another person that has anger inside him. He gets in fights often. He’s a conflicted young man. He’s changed after he comes out of the woods. He’s having to figure a lot of things out and I liked his story. Page is a genderqueer boy that uses he/she pronouns but prefers male-gendered language. I loved Page. He was so soft and sweet and full of love. He was struggling with his family because he wasn’t sure they could give him what he needed.
I adored the relationships. The sisters were full of love but complex and interesting. I loved how much they loved one another. Both girls find themselves with feelings for the boys that came to them from the woods. Blanca and Page’s relationship was so sweet, much like the characters. They are both full of softness and love. Yearling and Roja are the opposite, full of spit and fire. Both couples find something of themselves in the other, someone that understands the things they feel.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The writing was beautiful. The characters were wonderful. The plot was slow and quiet, but there was so much emotion and love within these pages. There was magic and romance, sacrifice, and mystery. I cannot wait to pick up another one of McLemore’s books.

Quotes:

“I was a girl who would never exist in a fairy tale, not just because of the brown of my body but because of my heart, neither pure enough to be good nor cruel enough to be evil. I was a girl lost in the deep, narrow space between the two forms girls were allowed to take.”

“We find what is beautiful in what is broken. We find what is heartening in what is terrifying. We find the stars in the woods’ deepest shadows.”

“My sister and I had been born fair and dark, her looking like a girl in a fairy tale who would grow up sweet, a princess, and me like one who would grow into a cruel witch. I had seen the pictures in storybooks. I knew what I was, with my bloodstained hair. Girls like me were marked for the swans. How could they ever take a girl like Blanca?”

“Page set her hand on the small of my back. She did it like it was only to guide me around rocks or fallen pinecones. But when she did it, I was that glass jar with a candle set inside. The heart of me was as soft as the wax of the tea light.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moira Fowley-Doyle

GoodReads Summary:
One stormy summer in a small Irish town, things begin to disappear. It starts with trivial stuff—hair clips, house keys, socks—but soon it escalates to bigger things: a memory, a heart, a classmate.
Olive can tell that her best friend, Rose, is different all of a sudden. Rose isn’t talking, and Olive starts to worry she’s losing her. Then diary pages written by someone named Laurel begin to appear all over town. And Olive meets three mysterious strangers: Ivy, Hazel, and her twin brother, Rowan, secretly squatting in an abandoned housing development. The trio are wild and alluring, but they seem lost too—and like Rose, they’re holding tightly to painful secrets.
When a tattered handwritten spellbook falls into the lives of these six teenagers, it changes everything. The spellbook is full of charms to conjure back that which has been lost, and it lists a part for each of them to play in the calling. It might be their best chance to set everything back to rights, but only if they’re willing to pay the price.
Spellbook of the Lost and FoundReview:
I have to start off by admitting that I almost unhauled this book several times. I also have to say that I am so so glad that I didn’t. Someone on twitter mentioned that this has a bisexual main character and that’s what made me hold onto it and finally pick it up.
Spellbook of the Lost and Found follows several different characters. There are two trios. The first is Laurel, Ash, and Holly. I was honestly so confused by these girls. I liked them. They’re seen as ‘other’ by everyone in their lives. But they find one another and I really liked their friendship (for the most part). As the story goes on, it’s clear that their friendship isn’t the healthiest. They meet a boy named Jude and all three of them love him. But Jude isn’t the best influence. I didn’t like how he got in between the friends. I really thought it was fascinating (but also enjoyable confusing) how the story of these three girls intertwined with the story of the others.
The second group is Olive, her best friend Rose, then the twins, Hazel and Rowan, and their closest friend, Ivy. In the beginning, we get a bit of how close Olive and Rose are, but they grow distant for a while. I liked their friendship. Rose distanced herself from Olive because she’s dealing with something very difficult. I thought Rose’s story was dealt with thoughtfully. I really liked Rose. I also liked Olive. She has a younger sister and brother. I liked how Olive grew closer with her sister toward the end of the story. I’m a sucker for sibling relationships. When Rose and Olive meet the twins and Ivy they start to put the pieces together. Everyone is losing things. But then they find the spellbook that the trio used to find their diaries. But when they cast that spell they didn’t realize it would cause others to lose things. The second group starts finding the trio’s diary pages and are realizing they cast the spell to find lost things.
Honestly, this book was really confusing in the best way possible. Once the second group starts putting the pieces together the story really came together. I spend entirely too long guessing who the trio was from the people that the second group met in their perspectives. I did not predict at all who they really were, but I really enjoyed this twist and how the truth was revealed. I loved the relationships, all of them. This story was full of emotion and I thought the author did such a great job bringing the characters to life.
I also just have to say this book is perfect for the spooky season. It’s full of questions and magic and is a little creepy at times. I think the suspense and confusion really set the tone. I was at the edge of my seat (literally, I read this in the car and I was so tense the whole time.) The mystery of what’s going on combined with the magical elements really makes this book great for the fall.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.