The Barren Grounds Book Tour: Review, 15 Thoughts While Reading, and Fan-Art

The Barren Grounds Book Tour: Review, 15 Thoughts While Reading, and Fan-Art

By David Alexander Robertson

Publisher: Puffin Canada

Print Length: 256 pages

Release Year: 2020

Genre: Middle-Grade Fantasy

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 4.25

Available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble (and always be sure to check your local library/Libby)

Morgan and Eli, two Indigenous children forced away from their families and communities, are brought together in a foster home in Winnipeg, Manitoba. They each feel disconnected, from their culture and each other, and struggle to fit in at school and at their new home — until they find a secret place, walled off in an unfinished attic bedroom. A portal opens to another reality, Aski, bringing them onto frozen, barren grounds, where they meet Ochek (Fisher). The only hunter supporting his starving community, Misewa, Ochek welcomes the human children, teaching them traditional ways to survive. But as the need for food becomes desperate, they embark on a dangerous mission. Accompanied by Arik, a sassy Squirrel they catch stealing from the trapline, they try to save Misewa before the icy grip of winter freezes everything — including them. (Goodreads)

Special thanks to Puffin Canada and Hear Our Voices Tours for allowing me to participate in this tour.

I don’t often read middle-grade for no particular reason. There are a number of books on my TBR that actually happen to be middle-grade but for whatever reason, I’ve continually put off reading them. The Barren Grounds quickly reminded me how great these books can be, even if they’re intended for an audience much younger than myself. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and am going to get the negative out of the way by saying there is none. This is an amazing book, with amazing character development and world-building. It also serves as an introduction to indigenous culture for those who may not as familiar with it. This book had me in tears at one point, and I was so invested in the world. The books does have some similarities to the classic Chronicles of Narnia, but I personally found this much more interesting and engaging.  

I learned some new things about indigenous culture from this book that sparked an internet deep-dive into the history of many First Nations people, their beliefs and cultural practices. I found my eyes opened to a culture, that I was aware of but never truly saw. This book opens the readers to a fantasy world, yes, but it also opens a part of our world so often forgotten or overlooked. I want everyone to read this book, be moved by the story, and be inspired to learn more. I recommend reading this book, and then going out and finding out more about the beautiful stories that inspired this one. 

Subjective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

15 Thoughts While Reading

  1. I was glad to find that Morgan and Eli seem to have been placed in a truly caring foster home. I understand that that is not always the case, but this particular home has great potential. I also realized how much more meaning this had to me as an adult who is old enough to have children. 
  2. I learned about some First Nations dishes, which lead me to research more about the culture, particularly cuisine. 
  3. It was easy to draw immediate parallels between The Chronicles of Narnia and The Barren Grounds; which the portal to Misewa being opened through a drawing and one of the portals to Narnia being opened through a painting. 
  4. I learned about fishers. Prior to reading this book, I had never heard of such an animal. 
  5. I found myself often relating to Morgan in her feelings of disconnection to her heritage and the anger that made her feel. 
  6. I found myself contemplating the ethical conundrum that Ochek was faced with when he and the children came across Arik. And wondered what I would do in such a situation. 
  7. I noticed the allegory against colonizers in the description of the antagonist. It reminded me how truly wasteful modern society is, and how we take advantage of nature. 
  8. Robertson does a good job setting up a mystery surrounding Morgan’s origin, as well as Eli’s in a sense. I want to know more about how they got in the foster care system, and if it had to do with legitimate concerns or one’s based on discrimination and ignorance. 
  9. I was very interested in the character of Mahihkan, and wanted to know more about him. Especially whether or not his presence held more weight that I may have noticed. 
  10. With the mentions of North and South country, I became more curious about the stories that could be set in this world. So much was set up, with things only mentioned hopefully with the intent to more fully explore. 
  11. I was reminded of how beautiful the indigenous languages are with the book’s inclusion of Cree words. It makes me want to cry knowing that these languages are in danger of dying out. 
  12. Learning one of the stories behind what we call the Big Dipper was a beautiful experience and during this scene in the book, I cried quite a bit. 
  13. Morgan truly grew in this book, that was a beautiful thing to see. She and Eli found a home not only in Misewa but in each other.
  14. The way time worked in this story fascinated me, especially in the final conversation between the kids and Arik. Could they have sat there and talked for a literal eternity?
  15.  The final poem was so beautiful. I read it more than once. 

Fan Art

Portrait of character Arik

10 Horror Movies to Stream on Netflix US

Here’s yet another list of great films to give you the right amount of spook for October. Some are more extreme then others, but I tried my best to create as well-rounded of a list as I could. Hope you enjoy.

Hush (2016)

A deaf writer who retreated into the woods to live a solitary life must fight for her life in silence when a masked killer appears in her window.

The Platform (2019)

Two prisoners per floor, wondering how much they’ll get to eat that day. One inmate has had enough of not getting enough. It’s time to send a message.

Gerald’s Game (2017)

When her husband’s sex game goes wrong, Jessie– handcuffed to a bed in a remote lake house– faces warped visions, dark secrets and a dire choice.

The Girl with all the Gifts (2016)

As a virulent fungus turns humanity into zombies, a band of survivors flees with a curiously evolved zombie girl who may hold the key to a cure.

Cargo (2018)

Amid a terrifying pandemic, a father searches the wilds of Australia for someone willing to protect and care for his infant daughter. 

Would You Rather (2012)

In need of cash to help her sick brother, a young woman agrees to take part in a lethal winner-takes-all parlour game hosted by a sadistic millionaire.

Horns (2013)

Accused of murder, Ig Perish wakes up one day to find he’s grown a set of horns– compelling people to confess their sins to him.

The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)

A father-son team of small-town coroners performs an autopsy on an unidentified woman with mysterious injuries and a terrifying secret.

The Perfection (2018)

In this twisty horror-thriller, a once-promising music prodigy reconnects with her former mentors, only to find them taken with a talented new pupil.

13 Sins (2013)

A man agrees to appear on a game show with a $6 million prize. But as the challenges become more extreme, he realized he’s made a grave mistake.

All descriptions are taken for Netflix US.

10 Creepy Books to Read in October

With the spooky season finally here I thought I’d curate a shortlist of creepy books to read during the month of October. Some are adult fiction, some YA, a non-fiction book, and a couple of mystery-thrillers. Whatever tickles your fancy I hope there is an option you enjoy!

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other.

1984 by George Orwell

Among the seminal texts of the 20th century, Nineteen Eighty-Four is a rare work that grows more haunting as its futuristic purgatory becomes more real. Published in 1949, the book offers political satirist George Orwell’s nightmarish vision of a totalitarian, bureaucratic world and one poor stiff’s attempt to find individuality. The brilliance of the novel is Orwell’s prescience of modern life—the ubiquity of television, the distortion of the language—and his ability to construct such a thorough version of hell. Required reading for students since it was published, it ranks among the most terrifying novels ever written.

Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews

It wasn’t that she didn’t love her children. She did. But there was a fortune at stake—a fortune that would assure their later happiness if she could keep the children a secret from her dying father.

So she and her mother hid her darlings away in an unused attic.

Just for a little while.

But the brutal days swelled into agonizing years. Now Cathy, Chris, and the twins wait in their cramped and helpless world, stirred by adult dreams, adult desires, served a meager sustenance by an angry, superstitious grandmother who knows that the Devil works in dark and devious ways. Sometimes he sends children to do his work—children who—one by one—must be destroyed….

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Buliosi and Curtis Gentry

Prosecuting attorney in the Manson trial, Vincent Bugliosi held a unique insider’s position in one of the most baffling and horrifying cases of the twentieth century: the cold-blooded Tate-LaBianca murders carried out by Charles Manson and four of his followers. What motivated Manson in his seemingly mindless selection of victims, and what was his hold over the young women who obeyed his orders? Here is the gripping story of this famous and haunting crime.

Unwind by Neil Shusterman

Connor, Risa, and Lev are running for their lives.

The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child “unwound,” whereby all of the child’s organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn’t technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state, is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive.

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancy

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother-or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

Girl Gone Mad by Avery Bishop

They say everything is fun and games until someone gets hurt. Well, someone did—and now the game has changed…

Emily Bennett works as a therapist in Pennsylvania, helping children overcome their troubled pasts—even as she struggles to forget her own. Once upon a time, Emily was part of a middle school clique called the Harpies—six popular girls who bullied the new girl to her breaking point.

The Harpies took a blood oath: never tell a soul what they did to Grace Farmer.

Now, fourteen years later, it seems karma has caught up to them when one member of that vicious circle commits suicide. But when a second Harpy is discovered dead shortly after, also from apparent suicide, the deaths start to look suspicious. And when Emily starts seeing a woman who looks a lot like Grace Farmer lurking in the shadows, she’s forced to wonder: Is Grace back for revenge? Or is Emily’s guilt driving her mad?

Sticks and stones may break your bones, but the Harpies are about to find out just how much words can hurt you.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror. It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a “haunting”; Theodora, the lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.

Please note that all descriptions are taken from the book’s respective Goodreads.

Book Tag: Meet the Blogger

Geek Declassified has been up for a little more than a couple of months now, and I figured it’s about time I sit down and formerly introduce myself. What better way than through a bookish-tag!? I found this tag through Mystery Bookworm Blogs, and it was originally created by one Lauren Bodiford. Be sure to check them out after you give this a read!

Introduce Yourself

My name is Crystina Luna, but I go by C. Luna and CL. I live in California and work full-time as a writer. 

That’s me! (Pic from March 2020)

Do you have any pets?

I have two beautiful old ladies. There is Mina, who is a pomeranian, and Gidget, who is an Eskimo Dog. I’ve had Mina for 11 years, and this coming December she will turn 12. We adopted Gidget summer of 2016, and she recently turned twelve herself. They are my darling fur-children.

This is Mina! (Pic from July 2019)
This is Gidget! (Pic from Oct. 2019)

I’d like to also mention Kel, a stray cat who lives in my backyard. While I’ve never gotten to pet them, or really spend any proper time with them, I do regular feed and provide water for them. Honorarily, I consider them my cat. 

What is your favourite thing to drink?

This is a hard question… Do you mean like every day? On special days? Or, like, alcohol? I guess I’ll answer all of them: my go-to everyday drink is water, cause adulting; on occasion, I enjoy some nice cold brew with sweet cream and in the evenings a few times of week I enjoy a nice glass of Stella Rose Red blend wine. 

What is your favourite season?

Without a doubt, Spring! I love blooming flowers and warm breezes. It’s the perfect temperature to be outside. Of course, living in California means Spring only lasts, like, a week. 

Do you have any special talents?

Okay, now this is a hard question… Math, maybe? In high school, I went beyond Calculus in maths. Though I don’t like doing it, if actually use effort I’m quite good at math. I just rather not.

When and why did you start your blog?

I originally started reviewing books on my personal website (crystinaluna.com). That was where I realized how much I enjoyed doing it. After a while I started to worry though, taking into account my personal website is primarily for my personal writing blog. Separation of the two seemed the most appropriate. So the following year, which would be this year, I created Geek Declassified as my home for all things, well, geeky. Whether it be books, movies, or videogame related content it can go here. 

What is something that you wish you knew about blogging when you first started?

To be honest, I find blogging, for the most part, to be quite intuitive, but this is most likely a result of being born at the beginning of the technological age. Also, before creating this website I already had a fair amount of experience with blogs.

What is the hardest part of blogging?

For me, it has to be “advertising.” I find it hard to be consistent on social media, which can definitely make it hard to grow an audience for your blog. The fact that I can schedule a tweet to go out along side with the post has been a literal lifesaver. I wish there was an option like that for instagram because that’s where I really struggle. 

What is the most rewarding part of blogging?

Finding and building a community. I’ve met so many cool people, as well as had some great opportunities as a result. Also, I love writing. And when I’m not working on my own writing projects, I’m reading and watching films. This blogs is a way for me to share my thoughts with others and start discussions. I also love getting the opportunity to give visibility to up-and-coming authors, filmmakers, and game developers.

Do you write your post ahead of time or write them the day of posting?

Generally, I write my reviews a week or two ahead of time. I like to have a bit of a buffer, in case life gets in the way or I just don’t feel like writing a review one day. There are occasions that, for whatever reason, I don’t manage to have anything ready for a specific date ahead of time. As a reader, you can tell by the fact that these reviews tend to not come out at my usual 10 am PST.

Who are your top five favourite authors?

Ray Bradbury

Sarah J. Maas

Brandon Sanderson

Kohei Horikoshi

Elise Kova

What genre do you read the most?

As of this year, Young Adult Fantasy. I’ve been reading it a lot.

What genre surprised you with how much you love it?

This would, again, be Fantasy. For the longest time, I thought I didn’t like fantasy, but something must have changed because now its all I want to read. 

What book didn’t live up to the hype for you?

I do a pretty good job of not hyping up books for myself, but the only one I can think of is maybe Legend by Marie Lu. I remember everyone reading it when it came out and it just never appealed to me. When I finally got around to reading I struggled to get through it and will likely not be continuing with the series beyond the first book. I still plan on reading more Marie Lu though. 

Who are some popular authors you haven’t read?

I read a lot in such a wide variety of genres it’s really hard to say. Of the top of my head, the first author I can think of is Alice Oseman. Though I’ve read Heartstopper I haven’t read any of her novels. Some others are Jim Butcher, Jennifer L. Armentrout, and Robert Jordan. I should mention though, that I have one or more books by all of the authors I’ve mentioned. 

What upcoming releases are you excited to read?

Oh my god! There are so many! But at this very moment, I am really looking forward to A Deal with the Elf King by Elise Kova, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab, and A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas. 

Do you listen to music while reading?

The vast majority of the time I actually wear earplugs. I like to be in complete silence because I find the world to just be too loud. There is rare occasion where I listen to ambient nature noises though, but those are considerably rare. 

Where else can I find you online?

Oh, I’m everywhere. The easiest way to find me though is through my Linktree! Feel free to check me out wherever you fancy.

Miss Meteor Review, Theme Analysis & TV Recommendations + Fan Art

Miss Meteor Review, Theme Analysis & TV Recommendations + Fan Art

By Tehlor Kay Mejia, Anna-Marie McLemore

Publisher: Harper Teen

Print Length: 320 pg

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, LGBT

Release Date September 22, 2020

Buy this book at Amazon and B&N

Special thanks to HarperTeen and HearOurVoices Tours for providing me with an ARC and allowing me to participate in this book tour.

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. (Goodreads)

Lita Fanart

Miss Meteor proves to be a top of the line coming-of-age story with plenty of drama and laughs for everyone. Exceptionally inclusive with a hint of magic, we follow a group of friends who learn probably the most important lesson of them all: about being yourself. The book goes to great lengths to illustrate this common lesson in a way that shows the wide variety of acceptance someone can come to, whether it be on there own or with the help of those around them. Miss Meteor is a feel-good read for anyone who has ever felt other, and for me, one of the very few books I felt represented as a queer Latinx woman. 

I loved this book and felt truly blessed when I realized this is a five-star read (the second of this month!) I related deeply to a lot of the story and found myself rooting for the characters and crying alongside them. This is one of those books you read when you’re not having the best time; cosy up with it under the covers with a cup of warm tea and escape into Meija and McLemore’s version of Meteor(ite), New Mexico. 

Subjective Rating

Objective Rating

Final Rating

As mentioned above, Miss Meteor is full of a lot of important lessons and themes. I’d like to take a moment to highlight a few of the themes explored in this book. All of which are important, and represented masterfully:

Stand-Up for Others (and Yourself) is one of the smaller themes explored in this book with the character of Cole (who, let’s just be honest, is my new book boyfriend). Throughout the book, he stands-up for those being bullied by his sister’s boyfriend, but when it comes to himself he stays considerably silent. As the book continues we see him realize that if he’s going to stand up for his friends, he also needs to stand up for himself. And, in doing so, he puts the book’s bullies in their place in a triumphant scene that had me cheering out loud for him as I read it. 

The Value of Friendship is heavily featured in this book, as we see old friends come together, friendships grow stronger, and relationships metamorphosis. The character of Chicky is probably the one who learns the most from this lesson, as she realizes how much she needs her friends and how important they are to her. We watch as she overcomes personal struggles to preserve her friendships as she realizes that her friends are much too important to lose. 

Self-acceptance is the explicit theme heavily woven throughout this story. Every character has something holding them back, and as the story progresses we follow them as they come out of their shells and learn one of live’s most important lesson. While the focus is mostly on Lita and Chicky, it’s hard to miss the personal growth in Cole and Junior as well. This definitely gave the book a sense of depth that I’m truly amazed the authors managed to put in so few pages.

I don’t want to let go of this book yet. I could re-read it right now if it wasn’t for the fact that I have other things to read. If you share these feelings with me, I hope you enjoy a short list of series I’ve included below that embody some aspect of this book in some way (in order of least related to most related):

Switched

This series is the most different from Miss Meteor, but I wanted to include it because there are definitely parallels in the lessons of this show to that of the book. 

Switched follows a depressed and bullied young woman who decides her only option is to commit suicide. After a series of unexpected events she switches bodies with a popular classmate, the young woman is forced to more closely examine the reasons that lead her to want to end her life.

I Am Not Okay With This

I’ve reviewed this series in the past, and while it is tonally very different from Miss Meteor, it heavily includes themes of friendship and otherness. 

I Am Not Okay With This is a coming of age story following a young woman as she develops telepathic powers. 

Ugly Betty

Ugly Betty shares a lot of themes with Miss Meteor, including those listed above as well as some not mentioned, such as Latinx-culture and queer culture. 

Ugly Betty follows a young woman who, despite a chronic lack of style, lands a job at a fashion magazine.

Always Human Theme Analysis + Fan Art

Always Human Theme Analysis + Fan Art

By Ari North

Publisher: Little Bee Books

Print Length: 256 pages

Release Year: 2020

Genre: Graphic Novel, LGBT, Science Fiction

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 4.38

Available on Amazon and B&N

In the near-future, people use technology to give the illusion of all kinds of body modifications—but some people have “Egan’s Syndrome,” a highly sensitive immune system that rejects these “mods” and are unable to use them. Those who are affected maintain a “natural” appearance, reliant on cosmetics and hair dye at most to help them play with their looks. 

Sunati is attracted to Austen the first time she sees her and is drawn to what she assumes is Austen’s bravery and confidence to live life unmodded. When Sunati learns the truth, she’s still attracted to Austen and asks her on a date. Gradually, their relationship unfolds as they deal with friends, family, and the emotional conflicts that come with every romance. Together, they will learn and grow in a story that reminds us no matter how technology evolves, we will remain . . . always human.

Rendered in beautiful detail and an extraordinary color palette, Always Human is a sweet love story told in a gentle sci-fi setting by a queer woman cartoonist, Ari North.

Always Human is a fun and light-hearted read, but within it is a plethora of deep themes rarely explored in YA Science Fiction, let alone graphic novels. While reading it is an absolute pleasure, you are absorbing concepts that are for many hard to understand. The author, Ari North, does an exceptional job presenting these themes in a way anyone can understand while not losing the overall tone of the story. I’d like to take some time to look deeper into some of the themes I picked up on while reading Always Human and further discuss their representation and lessons. 

Self-Expression is the theme that truly at the forefront of this series. After all, this story takes place in a future where people use technology to enhance their bodies in various ways, including aesthetically. These modifications are implied as being endless and allow the society represented to be much better suited for a wide variety of self-expression. Always Human is unique in that it includes a wide variety of characters with differing sexualities, race, and gender identity. It’s implied that such differences no longer hold the weight they do in our current society, as it’s much easier for one to alter their physical self to better reflect their feelings and personal views. It’s interesting to see how society would view people in a world where you can truly look however you want, and “other” is commonplace. 

Invisible Illness (disability) is the second most important theme as it closely pertains to the protagonist, Sunati’s, love interest Austen. Austen suffers from the fictional Egan’s Syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that makes her unable to use mods, which in many ways leaves her “disabled” in a world where people use mods to help with things such as memorization and illness prevention. Throughout this volume we see not only how this affects her but how people respond and act towards her. North does an exceptional job illustrating life with an invisible illness and how it can often skew other’s perception of someone, as well as how it can negatively affect the person’s mental health and relationships. It’s refreshing to read such an honest representation that manages to stay away from some potentially harmful tropes that often follow characters with a disability. We view Austen’s struggle in a very honest way from both her perspective and Sunati’s which provides a lot of room for learning to the readers. 

Communication is the key to a healthy relationship and is explored at length in this graphic novel. Whether through mistakes and triumph, North presents a realistic representation of communication that is mostly healthy but definitely not perfect. There are things to be learned from the conversations that go well and, of course, lessons to be learned from the ones that don’t. Both are in this book and so well written. 

Humanity in the technological era is a theme often explored in science fiction, and North definitely takes a more literal approach to this one. We are given a society that is very different from ours in a way that could be seen for the better. The amount of self-expression allotted to individuals in this world has opened up peoples mind to many things otherwise considered “other.” At the same time, this leaves some people at a great disadvantage (those with Egan’s syndrome). The way disease is handled is different, and the human body becomes, in a way less organic. The book explores what it means to be human is an area of endless possibility. 

In addition to my analysis, I was to create fan-art for this comic which was an absolute pleasure. This series is truly worth the read and the publication of it is also for a good cause. I highly recommend looking into it and buying a copy of your own. 

Special thanks to Hear Our Voices book tours for allowing me to participate in this tour.

Cemetery Boys OwnVoices Reflection

Cemetery Boys OwnVoices Reflection

By Aiden Thomas 

Publisher: Swoon Reads

Release Date: September 1, 2020

Genre: Young-Adult Paranormal Romance

Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.

When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.
However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie up some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.

As a reviewer, I consume a lot of content, especially books. I’m not very picky and like to diversity my reading with a large variety of genres, authors and subject matters. But even in doing so, I’ve found it difficult to find books I can see myself in The closest I’ve ever gotten was Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, which I first read my sophomore year of high school. It was the first time I read a book with queer Latinx characters, and it was the first time I truly related to a character on such a deep cultural level. Ari and Dante will forever hold a special place in my heart, a place I hope they will share with Yadriel and Julian. 

When I first heard about Aiden Thomas’s Cemetery Boys I was immediately excited at the prospect of reading it. Not only because it will give me an opportunity to enjoy a book that highlights my Latin heritage, but because of it’s positive representation of Brujeria. 

If my more traditional family members knew me for who I truly am, they’d likely disown me for two reasons: the first being that I am queer; the second being the fact that I spiritually identify as an eclectic witch. In they’re very traditional Catholic eyes any form of brujeria is cursed. To see a Latinx novel include it and not have it portray as this horribly bad thing is exceptionally comforting and exciting. And, to be honest, I don’t know much about things like Dia de los Muertos, nor traditional brujeria of the Latin world. The chance that I may learn some about those things, even a little, is so invigorating!

What I am mostly looking forward to is the connection this book will provide me with my culture. I am often burdened by it: the sad truth of being a light-skinned Latina is that it puts me in a place of privilege that has often lead to a cultural disconnect caused by colourism. I often find myself not feeling like I’m a true Latina, but at the same time, I’m not (fully) white. I feel like I don’t belong anywhere really. Throughout my life, I’ve been left out of things because of how I look and what I believe. As a result, books like Cemetery Boys are invaluable to me, as they allow me to connect with my culture without barriers and allow me to learn and experience things I’ve missed out on. These books allow me to feel free and safe as I explore my cultural identity and help me understand what it means to be a member of the Latinx community without fear of being excluded over such stupid things as skin colour and lack of fluency in my native tongue. I’ve spent too long feeling like I’m on the outside, that I’m somehow “other,” but books like this remind me that I’m not alone. 

I can’t wait to read Cemetery Boys, and am patiently waiting for my pre-ordered copy to arrive. If you are interested in reading this book, it is currently available for pre-order on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, The Book Depository, Kobo, and Google. And a special thanks to Aiden Thomas for writing this wonderful book, and Hear Our Voices Book Tours for allowing me to participate in this tour.

Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet Cover Reveal

As an aspiring pastry chef, Penelope Prado has always dreamed of opening her own pastelería next to her father’s restaurant, Nacho’s Tacos. But her mom and dad have different plans — leaving Pen to choose between disappointing her traditional Mexican-American parents or following her own path. When she confesses a secret she’s been keeping, her world is sent into a tailspin. But then she meets a cute new hire at Nacho’s who sees through her hard exterior and asks the questions she’s been too afraid to ask herself.

Xander Amaro has been searching for home since he was a little boy. For him, a job at Nacho’s is an opportunity for just that — a chance at a normal life, to settle in at his abuelo’s, and to find the father who left him behind. But when both the restaurant and Xander’s immigrant status are threatened, he will do whatever it takes to protect his new found family and himself.

Together, Pen and Xander must navigate first love and discovering where they belong — both within their families and their fiercely loyal Chicanx community — in order to save the place they all call home. (Goodreads)

Coming in April of 2021 is the beautiful book Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet by the sweet Laekan Zea Kemp. This cover is gorgeously designed by the talented Poppy Magda. And let me tell you, I am so excited for this book!

In order to celebrate the cover reveal, I couldn’t help but create a food inspired flat-lay. The description of the book describes the struggles of a young woman wanting to become a baker rather than work for her families Taqueria. So, for the flat-lay, I purchased a beautiful Tres Leches cake and cooked a dish I love to have on a hot summer’s day– okay, let’s just be honest… everyday– Tacos. As a pescatarian, a fish taco to be specific.

The book is currently available for pre-order on LYBR, Indiebound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Apple, and Google Play.

This cover reveal is in association with Hear Our Voices Book Tours.