Crazy on You: a review

boricuareads review crazy on you.png

Description:

Worse than a one-hit wonder, Tassia Hogan is a one-line wonder. Infamous for a memorable, extremely provocative verse, her music career is going nowhere. Finding a decent man to date has also proven fruitless . . . they all think she’s as wanton as those lyrics. But now her label is offering Tassia the chance to shine–with a catch. The album is duets. Her partner is a Country Western singer. And he’s just as reluctant to agree as she is.
Hyde Love has been in the music business since he was eleven, and he’s becoming more and more disenchanted with it. Collaborating on an album seems great in theory, but Tassia is an R&B singer. Melding their sounds and personalities will be difficult–though not as tough as keeping things strictly business. Getting involved with his partner could prove career-wrecking, yet discovering the real Tassia could be earth-shattering.

Continue reading “Crazy on You: a review”

Dance All Night: a review

boricuareads review dance all night.png

Rating: 5/5 Stars


Description:

Broadway hotshot Nik Kovalenko is a confirmed bachelor.

Ballroom champion Jess Davenport is a bona fide Scrooge.

Last year, they shared a midnight kiss at a New Year’s Eve party that made both of them believe—briefly—in the magic of the holiday season. The magic was cut short when Nik went on tour the next day, but he never stopped thinking about that kiss—or Jess.

When the holidays roll back around, Nik runs into Jess again. He doesn’t want to spend another year pining for the Scrooge who got away, so he tells Jess he’ll stay if she’ll give him a shot at being her Christmas Present.

Jess thinks he’s full of it, but she agrees to three dates. If Nik can make her believe in holiday magic in a place as un-wintery as Los Angeles—and convince her that he’s ready to stick around—she’ll give him a chance. But he won’t know until New Year’s Eve. If she kisses him at midnight, he’ll have his answer…


Review:

Have you ever labored over a homemade batch cookie dough, mixing ingredients, making sure all your chocolate chips are distributed evenly into your mix, place an even number of dough balls onto your baking sheet, watch them rise into perfect little clouds of amazingness, and bite into them and think “that’s some good shit right there?” That’s exactly how I felt while reading Dance All Night by Alexis Daria. I kept thinking “THAT’S SOME GOOD SHIT RIGHT THERE” to the point of staying up until 3am savoring all the words. Dance All Night is a cup of hot chocolate with chili powder on a cold winter day that you don’t know you’re gonna like and you end up practically licking the cup when you’re done.

Daria gives us an ideal pairing: the sweet and cheery Nik Kovalenko and the kind and prickly Jess Davenport. The setting: Christmastime! You know all those cheesy Hallmark movies about, say, a young baker who loves Christmas and the rough-around-the-edges business executive looking to settle down? It’s got the same vibe all while chewing up Christmas story tropes and spitting them out to make beautiful art.

Jess Davenport and Nik Kovalenko shared a kiss one year ago during a New Year’s Eve party, and they haven’t stopped thinking about each other since then (I know this sounds like HIgh School Musical but wait). When Nik comes back to L.A. to settle down after a long year of travel and work, he decides it’s time to slow down and explore a steady life. Nik hopes to have Jess be a part of that life, except she doesn’t believe he wants to end his wandering lifestyle.

And thus begins Nik’s new life mission: proving to Jess that he’s there for the long run and that Christmastime is a time for connection, even when the only person he wants to connect with is her. She’s not gonna make it easy for him though, keeping Nik, his three proposed dates, and the entirety of Christmas at arm’s length.

At its core, Daria’s novella is full of joy and the desire to connect with someone despite circumstances making you want to isolate yourself. Daria delivers on consent, communication between characters, balancing the fun with the dramatic, the steamy with the swoonworthy. It’s realistic with its relationship, especially in the age of social media where everything and everyone moves fast. Some may cry INSTA-LOVE, but who cares? I had fun, I rooted for the two of them, and I got a happily ever after by Alexis Daria. In the end, isn’t that what we all want during the jolliest of holidays?


An eARC was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!


You can pre-order this book online on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online book retailers now! E-Book will be released on December 11th, 2018. Paperback is out now!

Review available on Goodreads.

Follow me on Instagram and Twitter @boricuareads, and make sure you check out my other reviews, as well as my book lists, edits, and more! If you enjoyed this, know that I put a lot of work into my reviews, so a monetary donation helps keep this blog going. I also have two Amazon Wishlists: one for books by Latinx authors, and another one for the rest of the books that I’d love to read and buy for myself.

Their Perfect Melody: a review

boricuareads review their perfect melody

Rating: 3/5 Stars


Description:

Growing up, Lilí María Fernandez was affectionately known as the family “wild child.” The life of the party, she loved to dance, especially salsa, merengue, and bachata, and often sang beside her father during rehearsals for his trío group. But tragedy and loss have drawn out Lilí’s caretaking side, compelling her to become a victim’s advocate. These days, the special rhythms of the past seem like a distant memory. Until she meets Diego Reyes . . .

A police officer with the Chicago PD, Diego also has a talent for playing classical Spanish guitar. And Lilí soon finds herself inspired by his passion–for the music, for her, and for their shared love of familia and community. Can Diego reignite Lilí’s fun-loving spirit, persuade her to balance work and pleasure–and embrace her wild side once more?


Review:

(Trigger Warnings for the review: physical assault, sexual assault, date rape, domestic violence, police brutality, stalker behavior, racial profiling. Full list of trigger warnings for the book after the review)

This year has been marked by the sheer amount of Romance novels I’ve read. In no other year have I read as much as I have this time around. I have a very complicated relationship with the genre, as I always come in with low expectations, not because I don’t respect the Romance genre. To the contrary, I think in Romance is where most progress in terms of representation and subversion of tropes can be seen, especially among marginalized writers. I come in low because sometimes… there’s a lot of work to be done… Which is why when I enter a Romance book with high expectations I have to look at myself and say “Congratulations, you played yourself.”

Their Perfect Melody by Priscilla Oliveras is by no means perfect. One might argue that, of course, no person and, therefore, relationship is perfect. From the description alone, I thought the pairing could be good: two Latinx people, both of Puerto Rican descent, in Chicago with their own emotional baggage figuring out how to work through that together by showing how passionate they are in what they do.

Lilí Fernandez is a Victim’s Advocate, working with battered women to help them cope and get better. She meets Diego Reyes when she responds to one of her clients’ call for help after their partner threatened her and turned violent. Reyes, a police officer, has also answered the victim’s emergency call and is standing guard outside, obstructing the way and not letting Lilí do her job to protect her client.

After she’s allowed inside, she proceeds to do her job, though Reyes keeps antagonizing her inside and, again, obstructing her process by contradicting her and defying her decisions. Lilí wants her client to press charges against the abuser, but we know that the victim must be the one to bring it up and come to terms with it. Yet Reyes gets angry and confrontational when Melba (the victim) hesitates to do so, which is the opposite of what Lilí needed. The antagonizing particularly annoyed me, seeing as it’s played as a cute thing. I’d be furious, especially when we see from his perspective that he riles her up on purpose.

The story continues with Lilí deciding to let her stay at her own apartment until Melba decides to go to a women’s shelter. Reyes is beside himself for some reason, which we later find out why, but it made me wonder if he took it personal any time a woman, who isn’t conventionally attractive like Lilí or connected to him in some way, who’s been assaulted and decided not to report it to the police. He proceeds to “investigate,” in the name of law and order, where Lilí lives by following her car after she leaves the crime scene, even though she explicitly asks him not to. Eventually, he goes to her apartment building (without her knowledge) to canvas and notify the head of security to help find the abuser. He saw it as a part of his job; I saw it as an invasion of privacy, but Lilí doesn’t seem to mind for some reason.

There’s a theme throughout the whole book about the lines the characters are willing to cross, be they personal or professional. Lilí will cross her own professional boundaries to keep her clients safe, while Diego will cross his own to keep his sister and Lilí safe. It’s implied that he looks out for the kids in the neighborhood, but there’s not much evidence of it except when he’s at the community youth center. Lilí will cross her personal boundaries after knowing how the system fails victims of assault and previously having a bad relationship with a cop; Diego will actually do some emotional labor for change (?).

The book says that Lilí went into Women and Gender Studies in college after helping a younger student go through the reporting of a date rape, which ended up in nothing as most of these cases usually do. After that, she decides to become a Victim’s advocate, helping them get better and being a positive but realistic person. As someone who graduated with a Women and Gender Studies degree from a school in the Midwest, this was especially comforting to see, seeing as it’s something a lot of my classmates also do. And yet, Lilí’ll do and say things that are incongruous with many of the things we’re taught in a basic Women and Gender Studies class. For example, at the beginning of the book, after Lilí’s first brush with Diego, she’s thinking about maybe having a different meet-cute: “It made her wonder what it would have been like had they run into each other at a club or bar out with friends. To have those intense brown eyes focused on her in a totally different way. The male-female kind of way (bolded for emphasis).” I re-read this line plenty of times, at first confused and then insulted. It’s an incredibly hetero- and cisnormative way to view passion and even how some people experience sexual tension/attraction.

If that’s not enough, Diego’s constant insistence that he’s a “nice guy” grated me; no “nice guy” needs reiterating the fact. This especially when he’s repeatedly undermining Lilí and her job. Sure, he sometimes admits fault. But Lilí, who finds fault in him and knows Diego doesn’t take her career seriously and that he doesn’t ever take the time to actually listen to victims, won’t look him in the eye and never calls him out. And she doesn’t point out his chosen profession and say the obvious: domestic violence is more prevalent in police officers’ families than in non-police officer families. Lilí, who knows firsthand about the failings, oppression and ignorance of certain institutions, who’s probably seen her fair share of domestic violence survivors at the clinic, ignores these facts. How many of Diego’s coworkers have probably been abusive toward their families? Does he know and keep quiet, therefore maintaining a culture of abuse within the police? What about racial profiling done by the police? Police brutality? Where does Diego stand on the issues that affect the community he so loves? How many victims have been to Lilí’s workplace that Diego probably knows?

I know that Diego has his issues with his family and his sister. But throughout most of the book he lets Lilí do most of the emotional labor, and when the climax of the story (or “The Big Misunderstanding”) happens, Diego bails. Lilí tells him exactly why she did what she did, and he still makes it about himself. He isolates himself and doesn’t contact Lilí. It takes him two weeks, a grand romantic gesture, and a private conversation where he grovels a little bit, to apologize. (And not for everything.)

I know this review looks like I didn’t like the story, which isn’t the truth. I thoroughly enjoyed Lilí and the heavier topics the book tackles, such as trauma, what family means in different contexts, as well as assault and its repercussions. I liked the fact that there wasn’t a declaration of love, seeing as they’d met about a month (?) before the book’s conclusion. However, I don’t think the two characters need to have a happy ever after together. At least, not in the “let’s get married and have kids” way. I think they can grow together, have sex together, learn from each other. I don’t think Diego deserves to have Lilí doing so much emotional labor for him. He needs to take a look at his life and realize all that he needs to do to get better. In the end he does seem like he wants to start mending those things, which I appreciate.

To conclude, the book isn’t perfect, and the relationship between Lilí and Diego isn’t perfect except in their own eyes, but it’s still an enjoyable story that hits a lot of topics ignored in the Romance genre. I hope to read more from the author, as I believe she’s a great writer in terms of the technical aspects and in developing her characters. Oliveras captures Latinx family dynamics in the most heartfelt and loving way that could only be possible if written by a Latinx author. It’s in the crowded scenes, such as the baseball game and the family dinner, where Oliveras finds her strength as an author when she makes a big cast melt into the background so that the two characters always gravitate toward each other; which is why the story still resonated with me. It’s when the scenes are loudest that the more moving, quiet moments happen. And that’s what still makes this story a good one in my books.


Trigger warnings for novel: domestic violence (secondary character experiences it and describes it), physical assault (described by victim and then experienced by MC), abuse, sexual assault of secondary character (actual act isn’t described or seen), date rape of secondary character (mentioned), reporting of sexual assault of secondary character (perpetrator isn’t apprehended), drug use (specifically crack cocaine; mentioned and seen, usage of it isn’t described), drug rehab, stalker behavior, homo- and transphobia (wording), misogynistic slurs used by man during an assault, emotional trauma, PTSD (MC experiences signs of it after assault, showing mostly anxiety), mention of death of loved ones (one of the MCs has lost their parents, the other lost their mother), parental negligence (father of one of the MC’s is an absent parent).


An eARC was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All quotes are taken from said copy and may be changed in the final print. Thank you!


You can pre-order this book online on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Indiebound, and other online book retailers now! Book will be released on November 27th, 2018.

Review available on Goodreads.

Follow me on Instagram and Twitter @boricuareads, and make sure you check out my other reviews, as well as my book lists, edits, and more! If you enjoyed this, know that I put a lot of work into my reviews, so a monetary donation helps keep this blog going. I also have two Amazon Wishlists: one for books by Latinx authors, and another one for the rest of the books that I’d love to read and buy for myself.

The Resolutions: a review

boricuareads review the resolutions
[image description: banner with magenta in the background, the cover of The Resolutions in the center with dark blue and yellow lights behind the cover, and the text saying “boricuareads Reviews: The Resolutions by Mia García”]

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Description:

New Years are for fresh starts, but Jess just wants everything to go back to the way it was.

From hiking trips, to four-person birthday parties, to never-ending group texts, Jess, Lee, Ryan, and Nora have always been inseparable—and unstoppable. But now, with senior year on the horizon, they’ve been splintering off and growing apart. And so, as always, Jess makes a plan.

Reinstating their usual tradition of making resolutions together on New Year’s Eve, Jess adds a new twist: instead of making their own resolutions, the four friends assign them for each other—dares like kiss someone you know is wrong for you, show your paintings, learn Spanish, say yes to everything.

But not even the best laid plans can take into account the uncertainties of life. As the year unfolds, Jess, Ryan, Nora, and Lee each test the bonds that hold them together. And amid first loves, heart breaks, and life-changing decisions, beginning again is never as simple as it seems.

Review:

Sometimes you’re on the verge of greatness and need a little push from someone you care about to see how amazing you really are. That’s the basic premise that Mia García brings with The Resolutions. Four friends challenge each other on New Year’s Eve by writing resolutions for each other. These goals are written to see each other thrive, especially as Senior year and graduation are fast approaching.

First, we have Ryan. Ryan’s a gay mixed Asian-Latino kid who’s lost his groove after his first ever break-up. He’s struggled with picking his art back up, resorting to obsessively going over all of his ex’s social media platforms.

Second, there’s Nora. Nora’s pretty much a ghost in her friend group due to having to juggle working at her mother’s restaurant, being a good student, having a stable relationship with her girlfriend Beth, and shoving down all her own dreams and ambitions.

Third is Lee, full name Francheska Lee, who lost her mom a few years back and has left any memory that has to do with her mother and heritage locked away.

And last, but not least, Jess, who’s an overachieving Afro-Latina who seeks to please everyone around her, often ignoring her own well-being to do so.

All four band together to make this year a good one with the following resolutions:

  • Ryan needs to kiss someone who’s wrong for him and to show his work unapologetically.
  • Nora has to put her feet in the ocean and to choose her own adventure.
  • Lee is going to relearn Spanish and decide whether to take a test that will tell her whether or not she has the same disease as her mother.
  • And Jess has to… say yes to everything that is deemed spontaneous.

As the four come to terms with what their friends’ challenges mean and if that’s how they see themselves, they still tackle each with… varying degrees of success.

The POVs jump between the four characters from chapter to chapter, which means we don’t often get a lot of reactions to certain characters’ decisions, like when Nora cuts off her hair. I wanted to get that moment when the mom saw her change, and though Nora comments on it in passing, I wished to see more of that. However, the changing POVs are when you got most of the characters’ inner machinations. You get frustrated as a character decides to hide something from another, yet the other doesn’t even realize they’re hiding something. That’s what’s fantastic about the changing POVs. They’re biased toward their own dilemmas and relationships, that they often overlook what’s right in front of them. An example of this can be said of when Jess starts overworking herself, leading to anxiety and panic attacks.

There are four different subplots for each of the characters, which could be isolating, but you know that in the end they’d rally around each other. That’s the thing that hit me the most, the characters always care about each other and never do something that would hurt someone outright. They have each other’s interests at heart, but the way each interpret that affection internally is vastly different. It’s incredible how García managed to tap into each of their voices, and it’s never more evident than when they message each other (this was pointed out in Dahlia Adler’s review, too).

By the end of the book I wanted to gather all the characters into a group hug and tell them they’re worth the world. Validation may be a bitch, but they’re so valid and I want to tell them that.

Anyway, come here for the friendship, and stay here for the budding romances, Beth and Nora, the FOOD (oh my God I was hungry half the time I was reading this), healthy relationships, discussions on Latinx identities, and the character development. I wholeheartedly approve of this book and you’ll love this if you’re searching for some queer and Latinx contemporary YA with a focus on friendships and personal growth.


Some TWs/CWs I can remember: description of anxiety and panic attacks, insomnia, alcohol consuming, sexual harassment (someone manhandles Jess at a party while she’s drunk), driving under the influence, car crash, death of a loved one (mother), hospitals, injuries.


I got the ARC from an auction and it was provided by the author. 

The Resolutions will be available on November 13th, 2018. You can pre-order now and send your receipt to Mia’s preorder page to get some awesome book swag like a cool tote bag, a bookmark, a signed bookplate, and some stickers.


Review available on Goodreads.

Follow me on Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter @boricuareads, and make sure you check out my other reviews, as well as my book lists, edits, and more! If you enjoyed this, know that I put a lot of work into my reviews, so a monetary donation helps keep this blog going. I also have Amazon wishlists for #ReadLatinx books and the rest of the books I want to read.

Merci Suárez Changes Gears: a review

boricuareads review merci suarez.png

Rating: 5/5 stars

Description:

Thoughtful, strong-willed sixth-grader Merci Suárez navigates difficult changes with friends, family, and everyone in between in a resonant new novel from Meg Medina.

Merci Suárez knew that sixth grade would be different, but she had no idea just how different. For starters, Merci has never been like the other kids at her private school in Florida, because she and her older brother, Roli, are scholarship students. They don’t have a big house or a fancy boat, and they have to do extra community service to make up for their free tuition. So when bossy Edna Santos sets her sights on the new boy who happens to be Merci’s school-assigned Sunshine Buddy, Merci becomes the target of Edna’s jealousy. Things aren’t going well at home, either: Merci’s grandfather and most trusted ally, Lolo, has been acting strangely lately — forgetting important things, falling from his bike, and getting angry over nothing. No one in her family will tell Merci what’s going on, so she’s left to her own worries, while also feeling all on her own at school. In a coming-of-age tale full of humor and wisdom, award-winning author Meg Medina gets to the heart of the confusion and constant change that defines middle school — and the steadfast connection that defines family.

Review:

Merci Suarez Changes Gears has become one of my favorites of the year. I’d never read a book by Meg Medina and after finishing the book I sought to remedy it, so I already have Burn Baby Burn at the ready for later.

In this middle grade, Medina explores the life of a sixth grader named Merci  as she has to live a sort-of double life between her Southern Florida elite private school, Seaward Pines Academy, and Las Casitas, home to her Latinx family. Her household is divided into three houses, all of their members coming and going comfortably between each one. There’s Merci’s dad who has a painting company, her mom who’s a physical therapist, her brother who’s a genius senior at their school, her aunt and twin little cousins, and her paternal grandparents.

At school, Merci has to work hard to keep her grades up in order to keep her scholarship. She has to survive catty classmates and overbearing faculty members that want Merci to befriend a new kid. She doesn’t know how to fit in, often gravitating toward the more popular kids, even as she knows they don’t like her that much.

Back home, she deals with her family’s economic problems, seeing the contrast between her classmates’ opulence and her own family’s struggle to stay afloat. Merci doesn’t know how to fit in at school, but at home she is at ease; she helps keep an eye on her little cousins, hangs out with her grandfather, helps her father’s soccer team win little scrimmages.

And even though Merci doesn’t really understand how to fit in, she’s very convinced about who she is, which is surprising to see. She’s a fantastic soccer player and she loves her family (even when they can be a pain), her photography, and riding her bike. She might not now how to handle the code-switching that is being asked of her, or even how to deal with mean girls, but she’s snarky, ambitious, and a hard-worker.

At its core, Medina’s book is a study on the real pressures that young kids have to live with, be they familial ones, the ones created by their peers, and those that have been internalized. Most of the time they’re brushed over, seen as inconsequential because they’re kids and adults say ignorance is bliss. If they can keep the kid isolated from the problems that exist outside of them, they’ll stay happy. But kids are intuitive, they can empathize and observe the people around them and absorb all that the universe is throwing their way.

Merci’s intuition shines through especially when it concerns her grandfather. When she starts noticing his forgetfulness, loss of balance, and mood swings, she keeps those things a secret. Modeling her family’s behavior, she hides her feelings about her grandfather’s continued decline in health. Her hurt and sense of betrayal at the news of her grandfather’s diagnosis was impactful, especially when she starts demanding her family tell her what’s happening.

In Merci, I saw myself as a nine or ten-year-old when my own grandfather was dying. The whole thing felt completely out of my control and it made me feel very sad. I don’t remember much of the details, so I don’t recall if my parents ever sat me down to actually go through everything that was happening. I know I visited my grandfather a lot, and that my dad and his siblings took turns to take care of him. I was sat down the fated week that my grandfather would pass and told that he didn’t have much time left. I remember my aunt calling in the morning of Thanksgiving to tell us the news. My dad was asleep and he’d woken up to not having a dad anymore. I cried a lot, because I didn’t understand what was happening but I was still sad. I didn’t spend that much time with him, and I don’t remember ever really talking that much with him. Memory is such a fickle thing.

When Merci finally was allowed her moment to rage and just be angry over her grandfather’s condition, I cried with her. I sobbed so hard into my bed because I understood her, even as a 23-year-old. It felt raw and true and unfair. I was so glad to see this, a kid allowed to feel and not internalize her hurt.

All in all, Merci’s story is one of bravery in the face of many events designed to keep her down. She’s shut down from all sides: from her mother denying her permission to practice soccer to her grandfather’s Alzheimer’s kept a secret, Merci still keeps her head up while being allowed to feel overwhelmed and disappointed with the world around her.

I want to see more of Merci. I want her to have a series like Dear Dumb Diary or Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I want to see her grow up and become more sure of herself, see her explore her identity and friendships and relationships. I think Merci has so much potential, and I don’t mean to project myself onto her, but I wanna see her trip and find her ground again. I believe we deserve to see a young Afro-Latina spit in the eye of the systems designed to keep her down. She deserves greatness.


An eARC was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!


You can find this book online on AmazonBarnes and Noble, Indiebound, and other online book retailers now!

Review available on Goodreads.

Follow me on Instagram and Twitter @boricuareads, and make sure you check out my other reviews, as well as my book lists, edits, and more! If you enjoyed this, know that I put a lot of work into my reviews, so a monetary donation helps keep this blog going. I also have two Amazon Wishlists: one for books by Latinx authors, and another one for the rest of the books that I’d love to read and buy for myself.