Review: Surviving Santiago

santiagoTitle: Surviving Santiago
Author: Lyn Miller-Lachmann
Publisher: Running Press Kids
Pages: 320
Genre: Historical
Review copy: ARC from publisher
Availability: June 2, 2015

Summary: Returning to her homeland of Santiago, Chile, is the last thing that Tina Aguilar wants to do during the summer of her sixteenth birthday. It has taken eight years for her to feel comfort and security in America with her mother and her new husband. And it has been eight years since she has last seen her father.

Despite insisting on the visit, Tina’s father spends all his time focused on politics and alcohol rather than connecting with Tina, making his betrayal from the past continue into the present. Tina attracts the attention of a mysterious stranger, but the hairpin turns he takes her on may push her over the edge of truth and discovery.

The tense, final months of the Pinochet regime in 1989 provide the backdrop for author Lyn Miller-Lachmann’s suspenseful tale of the survival and redemption of the Aguilar family, first introduced in the critically acclaimed Gringolandia. — Cover image and summary via Goodreads

Review: Tina is conflicted about living with her father. She remembers her papá from childhood. That papá loved his family and spent time with them. He drove his children to school and played with them at the beach. The father she has come to stay with in Santiago is a very different man. Tina knows that his imprisonment and torture caused these deep changes in him, but still, she yearns for that papá from years ago. She resents having to leave her friends and home to come stay with this cold man who doesn’t even know her age and is either working or drunk most of the day. This visit is a chance to heal their relationship, but though he asked her to come, her father doesn’t seem to be making much of an effort.

I enjoyed the first book, Gringolandia, because it gave me a look into the history of Chile. Historical fiction in young adult literature is frequently set during wars or political upheaval, but it’s not often that we see the history of South American countries. It’s not necessary to read Gringolandia to understand and appreciate this sequel/companion, but it would provide a little more background so it’s probably advisable. Both books include history and political intrigue. Gringolandia shows readers what it is like to be an exile, while Surviving Santiago is about Tina coming back to her home country. This might be part of the reason that I found this book lighter. There are certainly plenty of difficulties and danger is lurking, but Tina is on a mission of restoring connections to both family and country. She starts out counting the days until she can get back to the U.S., but she has hope that things will change.

Because Tina’s father is working most of the time, Tina has to fill her days with something or someone. An attractive young man does catch her eye. She doesn’t always make the safest choices in this relationship, but that’s part of why this book works. She’s moving forward in spite of missteps here and there. I found myself cheering for Tina. She speaks her mind on many issues and she’s learning about herself and what she is willing to fight for.

Recommendation: Historical fiction fans should definitely get it soon. Gringolandia was great, but I liked Surviving Santiago even more. Tina is a girl who loves deeply and will not give up on people easily. Readers will enjoy getting to know her while learning a bit about the past.

Extras: Lyn wrote a fantastic guest post for us back in 2013 and there’s a Goodreads giveaway of a hardcover copy going on right now (it ends on Monday, June 1st).

Dystopian YA lit!

Recently, I was recommending YA lit to a friend and, of course, the first book out of my mouth was The Summer Prince. As a result, dystopian YA lit has been on my mind, so here are six of my favorite dystopian YA books written by/about POC!

16718816Control by Lydia Kang

When a crash kills their father and leaves them orphaned, Zel knows she needs to protect her sister, Dyl. But before Zel has a plan, Dyl is taken by strangers using bizarre sensory weapons, and Zel finds herself in a safe house for teens who aren’t like any she’s ever seen before—teens who shouldn’t even exist. Using broken-down technology, her new friends’ peculiar gifts, and her own grit, Zel must find a way to get her sister back from the kidnappers who think a powerful secret is encoded in Dyl’s DNA.

A spiraling, intense, romantic story set in 2150—in a world of automatic cars, nightclubs with auditory ecstasy drugs, and guys with four arms—this is about the human genetic “mistakes” that society wants to forget, and the way that outcasts can turn out to be heroes. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

9275658Legend by Marie Lu

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths – until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

13453104The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

The lush city of Palmares Tres shimmers with tech and tradition, with screaming gossip casters and practiced politicians. In the midst of this vibrant metropolis, June Costa creates art that’s sure to make her legendary. But her dreams of fame become something more when she meets Enki, the bold new Summer King. The whole city falls in love with him (including June’s best friend, Gil). But June sees more to Enki than amber eyes and a lethal samba. She sees a fellow artist.

Together, June and Enki will stage explosive, dramatic projects that Palmares Tres will never forget. They will add fuel to a growing rebellion against the government’s strict limits on new tech. And June will fall deeply, unfortunately in love with Enki. Because like all Summer Kings before him, Enki is destined to die. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

15721624Orleans by Sherri L. Smith

After a string of devastating hurricanes and a severe outbreak of Delta Fever, the Gulf Coast has been quarantined. Years later, residents of the Outer States are under the assumption that life in the Delta is all but extinct… but in reality, a new primitive society has been born.

Fen de la Guerre is living with the O-Positive blood tribe in the Delta when they are ambushed. Left with her tribe leader’s newborn, Fen is determined to get the baby to a better life over the wall before her blood becomes tainted. Fen meets Daniel, a scientist from the Outer States who has snuck into the Delta illegally. Brought together by chance, kept together by danger, Fen and Daniel navigate the wasteland of Orleans. In the end, they are each other’s last hope for survival. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

16034526Stranger by Rachel Manija Brown, Sherwood Smith

Many generations ago, a mysterious cataclysm struck the world. Governments collapsed and people scattered, to rebuild where they could. A mutation, “the Change,” arose, granting some people unique powers. Though the area once called Los Angeles retains its cultural diversity, its technological marvels have faded into legend. “Las Anclas” now resembles a Wild West frontier town… where the Sheriff possesses superhuman strength, the doctor can warp time to heal his patients, and the distant ruins of an ancient city bristle with deadly crystalline trees that take their jewel-like colors from the clothes of the people they killed.

Teenage prospector Ross Juarez’s best find ever – an ancient book he doesn’t know how to read – nearly costs him his life when a bounty hunter is set on him to kill him and steal the book. Ross barely makes it to Las Anclas, bringing with him a precious artifact, a power no one has ever had before, and a whole lot of trouble. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

13552764The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina

Ashala Wolf has been captured by Chief Administrator Neville Rose. A man who is intent on destroying Ashala’s Tribe — the runaway Illegals hiding in the Firstwood. Injured and vulnerable and with her Sleepwalker ability blocked, Ashala is forced to succumb to the machine that will pull secrets from her mind. And right beside her is Justin Connor, her betrayer, watching her every move. Will the Tribe survive the interrogation of Ashala Wolf? [Image and summary via Goodreads]



Are any of these books on your reading list?

New Releases

Just in time for summer, a whole slew of great new diverse reads. One of which is the sequel to last summer’s best seller, “To All the Boys I Loved” and another book that has received tons of buzz finally arrives. You can read my review for Tiny Pretty Things here.

tinyTiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton

TINY PRETTY THINGS digs beneath the practiced poise of a cutthroat Manhattan ballet academy, where three young protagonists all fight for prima position while navigating secrets, lies, and the pressure that comes with being prodigies.

Free-spirited new girl Giselle just wants to dance – but the very act might kill her. Upper East Side-bred Bette lives in the all-encompassing shadow of her ballet star sister, but the weight of family expectations brings out a dangerous edge in her. Perfectionist June forever stands in the wings as an understudy, but now she’s willing to do whatever it takes – even push someone out the way – to take the stage.

In a world where every other dancer is both friend and foe, the girls have formed the tenuous bond that comes with being the best of the best. But when New York City Ballet Conservatory newbie Giselle is cast as the lead in The Nutcracker – opposite Bette’s longtime love Alec – the competition turns deadly.


psP.S. I Still Love You (To All the Boys I’ve Love Before, #2) by Jenny Han
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter.

She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever.

When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once?

In this charming and heartfelt sequel to the New York Times bestseller To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, we see first love through the eyes of the unforgettable Lara Jean. Love is never easy, but maybe that’s part of makes it so amazing. — Cover image and summary via Goodreads


reyesEmancipated by M.G. Reyes
Katherine Tegen Books

The good girl, the bad boy, the diva, the hustler, the rock star, and the nerd. Six teens legally liberated from parental control for six different reasons, all with one thing in common: something to hide.

Now they’re sharing a house in Venice Beach, acting like a family, and living their lies. No parents. No limits. No alibis. One witnessed a crime, another might be a murderer—and one’s been spying on them all.

As they cling to a fantasy of freedom and slowly let down their guards, the past creeps up on them. And when one of them gets arrested, everyone’s carefully constructed facade comes crumbling down.

In this steamy, drama-filled series, relationships are tested and secrets revealed as lies threaten to destroy their perfect setup. — Cover image and summary via Goodreads


thievesThe Tenderness of Thieves Donna Freitas
Philomel Books

A summer romance filled with danger and lies

Jane is ready for a fantastic summer. In fact, she’s pretty sure the universe owes her one.

This past winter, Jane was held at knifepoint during an armed robbery and the specter of that night still haunts her. A summer romance with one of the town bad boys — sexy Handel Davies, who takes her breath away and makes her feel like a bolder version of herself — seems like the universe’s way of paying her back.

But bad boys always have secrets, and Handel’s secret just might shatter Jane completely.

This suspense novel marries psychological thriller with summer romance and is perfect for teen fans of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. — Cover image and summary via Goodreads


truthThe Porcupine of Truth by Bill Konigsberg
Arthur A. Levine Books

The author of OPENLY STRAIGHT returns with an epic road trip involving family history, gay history, the girlfriend our hero can’t have, the grandfather he never knew, and the Porcupine of Truth.

Carson Smith is resigned to spending his summer in Billings, Montana, helping his mom take care of his father, a dying alcoholic he doesn’t really know. Then he meets Aisha Stinson, a beautiful girl who has run away from her difficult family, and Pastor John Logan, who’s long held a secret regarding Carson’s grandfather, who disappeared without warning or explanation thirty years before. Together, Carson and Aisha embark on an epic road trip to find the answers that might save Carson’s dad, restore his fragmented family, and discover the “Porcupine of Truth” in all of their lives. — Cover image and summary via Goodreads


vesselVessel by Lisa Cresswell

The sun exploded on April 18, 2112. It exploded in a Class X solar storm the likes of which humankind had never seen.

They had nineteen minutes.

Nineteen minutes until the geomagnetic wave washed over the Earth, frying every electrical device created by humans, blacking out entire continents, every satellite in their sky.

Nineteen minutes to say goodbye to the world they knew, forever, and to prepare for a new Earth, a new Sun.

Generations after solar storms have destroyed nearly all human technology on Earth and humans have reverted to a middle ages like existence, all knowledge of the remaining technology is kept hidden by a privileged few called the Reticents and books are burned as heresy.

Alana, a disfigured slave girl, and Recks, a traveling minstrel and sometimes-thief, join forces to bring knowledge and books back to the human race. But when Alana is chosen against her will to be the Vessel, the living repository for all human knowledge, she must find the strength to be what the world needs. — Cover image and summary via Goodreads

Review: The Girl at Midnight

20345202Title:  The Girl at Midnight
Author: Melissa Grey
Genres: fantasy
Pages: 368
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Availability: April 28th, 2015

Summary: Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she’s ever known. Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she’s fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it’s time to act.

Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, though if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it’s how to hunt down what she wants . . . and how to take it. But some jobs aren’t as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

Review:  The fact that the beginning of the first chapter takes place in Taipei was the moment I fell in love with this book. The Girl at Midnight‘s heroine, Echo, is a city-hopping thief who uses the magic of her adopted family to get around. Her adopted family is the Avicen, an ageless people with feather hair and magic. When she stumbles upon the secret of the Firebird, which is prophesied to end the war between the Avicen and the Firedrakes (basically the dragon people), she begins her adventures.

The way the Avicen and Firedrakes are incorporated into the modern world was incredibly well done. I enjoyed the way that some Avicen and Firedrakes talked like everyday teenagers, while others spoke like the wise and the ancient. And Echo’s interaction with both the outside world and her adopted family was fascinating. Found families are, in my opinion, the best kind to read about.

The story itself is one of familiar fantasy adventure — Echo must find the Firebird by uncovering clues around the world. Echo’s spunky thief character and the motley crew she gathers to her, are what makes this adventure worth reading. Unfortunately, the resolution to Echo’s quest felt a little bit rushed, but the fact that there will be a sequel is a good sign. Hopefully, the sequel will flesh out the story even more. I’m absolutely looking forward to reading it!

If you’re looking for an awesome urban fantasy, definitely check out The Girl at Midnight! (Also, if you read the main villain character as Azula from Avatar: The Last Airbender, it’s that much more fun.)

Recommendation: Get it soon!

Mini-Review: More Happy Than Not

happyTitle: More Happy Than Not
Author: Adam Silvera
Publisher: Soho Teen
Pages: 304
Genre: Contemporary
Review copy: ARC from publisher
Availability: June 2, 2015

Summary: The Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-relief procedure seems too good to be true to Aaron Soto — miracle cure-alls don’t tend to pop up in the Bronx projects. But Aaron can’t forget how he’s grown up poor or how his friends aren’t always there for him. Like after his father committed suicide in their one bedroom apartment. Aaron has the support of his patient girlfriend, if not necessarily his distant brother and overworked mother, but it’s not enough.

Then Thomas shows up. He has a sweet movie-watching setup on his roof, and he doesn’t mind Aaron’s obsession with a popular fantasy series. There are nicknames, inside jokes. Most importantly, Thomas doesn’t mind talking about Aaron’s past. But Aaron’s newfound happiness isn’t welcome on his block. Since he’s can’t stay away from Thomas or suddenly stop being gay, Aaron must turn to Leteo to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he is.

Adam Silvera’s extraordinary debut novel offers a unique confrontation of race, class and sexuality during one charged near-future summer in the Bronx. — Cover image and summary via Goodreads

Review:  Adam SIlvera brought me into Aaron’s world and twisted up my emotions. There were tears – multiple times. The characters were distinct and devastatingly realistic. The cover and title would imply that this is a happy book – and there is happiness to be found here, but there’s also a heap of unhappiness.

Aaron is a teen who’s gone through some tough times and wants to remove them from his memory to make the pain stop. Anyone can probably understand the temptation to erase the painful bits of life. The book is about much more than that single decision though. Aaron is navigating relationships and searching for happiness where he can find it. He often finds it with his friends. Their laughter and love keep him going, but may not be enough.

This is a book that you won’t want to miss. More Happy Than Not will be available soon and I hope you grab it.

Faith, Feeling, and Fantasy

We found three books by or about people of color this week, and we’ve got a great mix of genres. Which of these are you interested in checking out?

convictionConviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Ten years ago, God gave Braden a sign, a promise that his family wouldn’t fall apart the way he feared.

But Braden got it wrong: his older brother, Trey, has been estranged from the family for almost as long, and his father, the only parent Braden has ever known, has been accused of murder. The arrest of Braden’s father, a well-known Christian radio host, has sparked national media attention. His fate lies in his son’s hands; Braden is the key witness in the upcoming trial.

Braden has always measured himself through baseball. He is the star pitcher in his small town of Ornette, and his ninety-four-mile-per-hour pitch already has minor league scouts buzzing in his junior year. Now the rules of the sport that has always been Braden’s saving grace are blurred in ways he never realized, and the prospect of playing against Alex Reyes, the nephew of the police officer his father is accused of killing, is haunting his every pitch.

Braden faces an impossible choice, one that will define him for the rest of his life, in this brutally honest debut novel about family, faith, and the ultimate test of conviction.

threeThree Day Summer by Sarvenaz Tash
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

Michael is unsure about most things. Go to college? Enlist in the military? Break up with his girlfriend? All big question marks. He is living for the moment and all he wants is a few days at the biggest concert of the summer.

Cora lives in the town hosting the music festival. She’s volunteering in the medical tent. She’s like that, always the good girl. But there is something in the air at this concert and suddenly Cora finds herself wanting to push her own boundaries.

When Michael and Cora meet, sparks fly, hearts race, and all the things songs are written about come true. And all the while, three days of the most epic summer await them…

scarlettScarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Meet Scarlett, a smart, sarcastic, kick-butt, Muslim American heroine, ready to take on crime in her hometown of Las Almas. When a new case finds the private eye caught up in a centuries-old battle of evil genies and ancient curses, Scarlett discovers that her own family secrets may have more to do with the situation than she thinks — and that cracking the case could lead to solving her father’s murder.

Jennifer Latham delivers a compelling story and a character to remember in this one-of-a-kind debut novel.