My Book Decluttering Journey (so far)

Back in February I counted all the hardback books I owned and discovered it was a total of 130-ish books. It may not look like a large sum of books for many, but before I started book blogging, I hardly owned any books (at most, like, 3 books) as I grew up being a library user and could never justify owning books as I moved a lot when I lived alone. However, everything changed upon joining Bookstagram. I fell down the rabbit hole of thinking I needed to own hardcover books of everything. Because, how else could I post books on Bookstagram, a visual platform of social media? (This is another topic for later…) So to me, owning 3 books to 130-ish books is a lot. Not only am I running out of shelf-space, I’m also drowning in my TBR. Please help

After a year, I’ve accumulated over 100 books. Whilst I love owning books, I feel like it weighs me down in terms of space and clutter. I want to curate my space with books I love and would enjoy re-reading and sharing. If you haven’t already seen it, I’ve written a post on How to Declutter Books (it’s mainly a post calling out myself lol). Anyway, this post is to see my progress on how I am with decluttering my books. This post is to keep myself accountable and also, I love making figures and tables.

Now, without further ado… let’s see how much damage I’ve done!

Number of Hardback Books I own in 2021

MonthBooks owned start of monthBooks I boughtBooks I declutteredTotal books at end of month
January136+ 2– 5133
February133+ 5– 4134
March134+ 5– 4135
April135+ 6– 2143
May143+ 40147
June147+ 30150
July150+ 9– 5154
August154+ 5* (pending)pending lol159*
Table 1. The total number of books I owned, bought, and decluttered each month of 2021.

Books owned at start of the year, January: 136.

Books owned at time of post (August): 159.

In January I did so well, decluttering 5 books and only purchasing 2! And then you see my rapid decline in decluttering books from May onwards. Obviously, I’m not doing that well because in the span of 8 months I have gained +23 books.

23 books!

But hey! I’m supporting authors, so yay! At least, that’s what I’m telling myself right now…

Although, in my defence, a major excuse factor that stops me from decluttering is the fact that I haven’t had time due to my city in lockdown for the past 2 months (woohoo, Sydney) and me being a HCW trying to confine my movement . And for August I’ve put aside a bunch of books I plan to declutter, which is about 8-9 books.

I don’t have a specific number of books I want to own, but I do want to be picky with what I own. Anyway, I’m glad to see my progress on this constant journey. Progress, not perfection!

PS. I didn’t count my books at the start of the year and had to do some MaTheMatiCS to figure this all out. So I’m very happy I managed to figure out the exact numbers! Hahaha… help. You wouldn’t believe that I was that kid who used to do advanced mathematics (secondary level) in primary school lmaooooo where are my braincells now???

Do you declutter your books?

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Like A Love Song | Book Review

Title: Like a Love Song
Author: Gabriela Martins
Publisher: Underlined
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Rating: ★★★★
Where can I get this? Goodreads | Booktopia | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble
Recommended for: fans of YA contemporary, fake-dating trope, and cute, fluffy romance
CW: racism, public humiliation

Check out the Goodreads synopsis below!

This debut paperback original romance follows a Latina teen pop star whose image takes a dive after a messy public breakup, until she’s set up with a swoon-worthy fake boyfriend.

Fake boyfriend. Real heartbreak?

Natalie is living her dream: topping the charts and setting records as a Brazilian pop star…until she’s dumped spectacularly on live television. Not only is it humiliating—it could end her career.

Her PR team’s desperate plan? A gorgeous yet oh-so-fake boyfriend. Nati reluctantly agrees, but William is not what she expected. She was hoping for a fierce bad boy—not a soft-hearted British indie film star. While she fights her way back to the top with a sweet and surprisingly swoon-worthy boy on her arm, she starts to fall for William—and realizes that maybe she’s the biggest fake of them all. Can she reclaim her voice and her heart?

Honestly, this was such a cute and entertaining read!

𝐆𝐔𝐒𝐇:
• Light-hearted, fast-paced and fun read
• This book explores assimilation and how it connects to one’s identity (I could personally relate to this aspect and appreciate reading it because I haven’t read many books that explore this). I love how it delves into one’s culture and the importance of self-acceptance and love. My younger self definitely needed a book like this!
• Positive female friendship. I adored how they celebrated and brought each other up. Love it.
• Love Nati’s growth and her journey.
• Would’ve loved this and needed this book when I was younger!

𝐆𝐑𝐈𝐏𝐄:
• Maybe it’s just me, but I would’ve appreciated more communication on William’s end, especially towards the end of the book.

𝐈𝐧 𝐚 𝐧𝐮𝐭𝐬𝐡𝐞𝐥𝐥, 𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐢𝐟 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐥𝐢𝐤𝐞:
✔ fake-dating trope
✔ golden retriever/cinnamon roll love interest
✔ only one bed
✔ opposites attract
✔ celebrity main characters

“𝐇𝐨𝐰 𝐝𝐨 𝐈 𝐭𝐞𝐥𝐥 𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐈 𝐜𝐚𝐧 𝐛𝐞 𝐛𝐨𝐭𝐡 𝐨𝐮𝐭𝐫𝐚𝐠𝐞𝐝 𝐚𝐭 𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐢𝐦𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐢𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐬𝐭 𝐥𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐮𝐚𝐠𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐚𝐥𝐬𝐨 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐰𝐚𝐧𝐭 𝐭𝐨 𝐠𝐨 𝐛𝐚𝐜𝐤 𝐭𝐨 𝐦𝐲 𝐡𝐨𝐦𝐞 𝐜𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐭𝐫𝐲 𝐭𝐨 𝐝𝐨 𝐯𝐨𝐥𝐮𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐞𝐫 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐤 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐬𝐭𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐞𝐫𝐬 𝐢𝐧𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐚𝐝 𝐨𝐟 𝐰𝐫𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐦𝐲 𝐦𝐮𝐬𝐢𝐜 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐥𝐢𝐯𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐦𝐲 𝐥𝐢𝐟𝐞?”

~ 𝑮𝒂𝒃𝒓𝒊𝒆𝒍𝒂 𝑴𝒂𝒓𝒕𝒊𝒏𝒔, 𝑳𝒊𝒌𝒆 𝒂 𝑳𝒐𝒗𝒆 𝑺𝒐𝒏𝒈

𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐬: assimilation and reconnecting to your culture (Brazilian-American), identity, coming of age

𝐑𝐞𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐝 𝐟𝐨𝐫: fans of YA contemporary, fans of fake-dating trope,

𝐂𝐖: racism, public humiliation

Thank you to @NetGalley and the publisher (@GetUnderlined) for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 ❀

𝐐𝐨𝐭𝐃: What are you currently reading and what’s a song that reminds you of it?

𝐀𝐨𝐭𝐃: Obviously, I thought of “Love you like a love song” by Selena Gomez when I read this book and man that song is so nostalgic for me.

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The Wolf and the Woodsman | Book Review

Title: The Wolf and the Woodsman
Author: Ava Reid
Publisher: Del Rey
Genre: Adult Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Rating: ★★★★
Where can I get this? Goodreads | Booktopia | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble
Recommended for: fans of atmospheric reads set in a magical forest setting, fans of intricate world-building, fans of enemies to lovers
CW: torture, animal deaths, death, self-harm, gore (dismemberment, amputation, mutilation) antisemitism, child abuse, cultural genocide and ethnic cleansing

Check out the Goodreads synopsis below!

In her forest-veiled pagan village, Évike is the only woman without power, making her an outcast clearly abandoned by the gods. The villagers blame her corrupted bloodline—her father was a Yehuli man, one of the much-loathed servants of the fanatical king. When soldiers arrive from the Holy Order of Woodsmen to claim a pagan girl for the king’s blood sacrifice, Évike is betrayed by her fellow villagers and surrendered.

But when monsters attack the Woodsmen and their captive en route, slaughtering everyone but Évike and the cold, one-eyed captain, they have no choice but to rely on each other. Except he’s no ordinary Woodsman—he’s the disgraced prince, Gáspár Bárány, whose father needs pagan magic to consolidate his power. Gáspár fears that his cruelly zealous brother plans to seize the throne and instigate a violent reign that would damn the pagans and the Yehuli alike. As the son of a reviled foreign queen, Gáspár understands what it’s like to be an outcast, and he and Évike make a tenuous pact to stop his brother.

As their mission takes them from the bitter northern tundra to the smog-choked capital, their mutual loathing slowly turns to affection, bound by a shared history of alienation and oppression. However, trust can easily turn to betrayal, and as Évike reconnects with her estranged father and discovers her own hidden magic, she and Gáspár need to decide whose side they’re on, and what they’re willing to give up for a nation that never cared for them at all. 

𝐆𝐔𝐒𝐇:
• rich and evocative world-building, great atmospheric read
• compelling, lyrical writing
• Jewish mythology inspired
• Prideful prince brought to his knees
• Évike’s (MC) relationship with a certain family member

𝐆𝐑𝐈𝐏𝐄:
• pacing especially the last 10%
• I wish we could witness more resolution regarding certain aspects

Writing:
The writing style immediately drew me in. Whimsical and magical at times, there’s a dark and gritty atmosphere throughout the novel which is quite fitting to the tone of the story.

Romance:
If you’re a fan of enemies-to-lovers that are not only stuck with each other but must work together, boy, do I have a book for you. There’s a romance that will bring you to your knees. Your knees.

Setting & World-Building:
As previously mentioned, this novel is inspired by Hungarian history and Jewish mythology. Additionally, the author states that this is a work reflecting and exploring nation-building. Therefore, brutal themes such as cultural genocide, ethnic cleansing, and religious persecution are explored in this novel.

Also, the scenes and experiences in this novel may give off visceral reactions. There were times where I had to physically put down the book and think, pace around the room, and pick the book up again. For me, being in the diaspora, struggles with identity and searching for a sense of belonging evoked such feelings and emotions I can’t quite articulate yet as I witnessed Évike’s journey. Évike is a character that is both heartbreaking and hopeful. Despite exploring heavy themes, Reid ensures that joy, wit, and hope are woven throughout the story and I adored it. This is particularly evident when Évike is reunited with a certain character and certain interactions with characters.

Overall, The Wolf and the Woodsman is a riveting read, a book that must be savoured upon reading.

“𝐁𝐮𝐭 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐮𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐭𝐨𝐨𝐝, 𝐚𝐬 𝐈 𝐝𝐨, 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐬𝐮𝐫𝐯𝐢𝐯𝐚𝐥 𝐢𝐬 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐚 𝐛𝐚𝐭𝐭𝐥𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐰𝐢𝐧 𝐨𝐧𝐥𝐲 𝐨𝐧𝐜𝐞.
𝐘𝐨𝐮 𝐦𝐮𝐬𝐭 𝐟𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐢𝐭 𝐚𝐠𝐚𝐢𝐧 𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐲 𝐝𝐚𝐲. 𝐀𝐧𝐝 𝐬𝐨 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐭𝐚𝐤𝐞 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐬𝐦𝐚𝐥𝐥 𝐥𝐨𝐬𝐬𝐞𝐬 𝐬𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐜𝐚𝐧 𝐥𝐢𝐯𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐟𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐭𝐨𝐦𝐨𝐫𝐫𝐨𝐰.”

𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝑾𝒐𝒍𝒇 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑾𝒐𝒐𝒅𝒔𝒎𝒂𝒏, 𝑨𝒗𝒂 𝑹𝒆𝒊𝒅

𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐬: culture, religion, and identity are explored in this novel

𝐑𝐞𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐝 𝐟𝐨𝐫: fans of atmospheric reads set in a magical forest setting, fans of intricate world-building, fans of enemies to lovers

𝐂𝐖: torture, animal deaths, death, self-harm, gore (dismemberment, amputation, mutilation) antisemitism, child abuse, cultural genocide and ethnic cleansing

Thank you to @NetGalley and the publisher (@DelRey) for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

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The Thursday Murder Club | Currently Reading

This year I decided to venture off to genres I don’t often read—thrillers, mystery, and sci-fi. And guess what? I love them. 🥰

The Thursday Murder Club is a Goldsboro Premier book pick and I’m really enjoying it so far. Here, we follow a group of retirees as they use their knowledge, skills, past connections, and perhaps dubious methods to solve cold cases. One day, there’s a murder close to home and who better to pick up the case than the Thursday Murder Club?

𝐐𝐨𝐭𝐃: If you had to solve a murder with the protagonist of your last/current read, who is it and would you crack the case?

𝐀𝐨𝐭𝐃: I’d be working with the unorthodox members of the Thursday Murder Club (Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim, and Ron) and I’m sure we’d crack the case 😁

I wanted to showcase the gorgeous details of the stencilled edges.
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Monstrous Heart | Review

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Title: Monstrous Heart

Series: The Monstrous Heart Trilogy (#1)

Author: Claire McKenna

Publisher: Harper Collins

Genre: Fantasy, Romance

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Where can I find this? GoodReads | Book Depository | Booktopia |

Recommended for: Fans of flowery writing, dark romance

 

In Monstrous Heart, we follow Arden, tasked to keep the lighthouse burning with her magical blood. Readers are promised a gothic feel so there’s a melancholic voice in the narration which works well with the story. However, there were some instances where the prose felt excessively flowery to the point of confusion (at the beginning). Despite that, I did like how the narration complemented the story and overall atmosphere of the novel.

Unfortunately, the world-building felt lacking in some areas. Whilst there was focus on certain aspects (such as characters) which was great, the narration never solidified the world thereby leaving readers confused and baseless. For example, terms and concepts were presented yet never fully explored. Also, the novel utilised words and places from our world (‘Fiction’ and ‘Manhattan’) as names of places which felt jarring upon reading.

Despite that, I did like how Arden was portrayed to be determined and hard-working. I also liked and was intrigued by the concept of sea monsters and the world. I just wished the world-building was fleshed out more. Monstrous Heart held so much promise, however, I feel that this book wasn’t for me. If you’re a fan of flowery writing and a determined protagonist, this may be for you. The elements in this story held great potential and I am curious to see more from this author.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

CW: sexual assault, attempted rape, and violence

 

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Bear | Review

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𝐓𝐢𝐭𝐥𝐞: Bear

𝐀𝐮𝐭𝐡𝐨𝐫: Ben Queen

Illustrator: Joe Todd-Stanton

Publisher: Archaia

Genre: Children’s Fiction

𝐑𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

In Bear, we follow the paw steps of a guide dog named Bear. As a guide dog, Bear’s job is to assist his owner Patrick, who is blind. Patrick and Bear happily live their lives in-sync until the unthinkable happens—Bear loses his sight. Scared he’ll no longer be useful to Patrick and lose his job, Bear then follows the racoons to find a mysterious bear to teach Bear magic for his sight. Despite making friends in unlikely places, Bear finds trouble and then gets lost.

Bear’s search is rewarded and reunites with Patrick. Upon their reunion, Bear undergoes surgery for his eyes. Whilst Bear states he wasn’t “one hundred per cent” after the surgery, he notes that he gained something far greater than what he thought he ever wanted—he becomes Patrick’s friend.

Bear is such an endearing character and I found it easy to emotionally invest in him and his endeavours. I enjoyed the themes explored in this book and liked the unique premise of the story and how it highlights the importance of guide dogs. The book also educates the readers regarding how blindness impacts people.

This is a heart-warming read with themes of identity, friendship, and perseverance woven into Bear’s journey. Through his blindness and his tireless search, Bear discovers true friendship and acceptance. His emotional journey for purpose showcases resilience in the face of adversity.

Also, I LOVE the illustration! The artwork is adorable and colourful. The art panels are engaging, successfully evoking intended emotions upon reading the book.

This is a book I’d highly recommend and I’d definitely buy a copy. I can’t wait to read this to the kids.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

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Bad Book Buying Habits Anonymous | Book Confession + Haul

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Welcome to the Bad Book Buying Habits Anonymous. When was your last bookish purchase? I’ll start. Hi, I’m Joy and it’s been 0️⃣ days since I’ve last purchased a book.

Now, I may say buying second-hand books ‘don’t count’ but that doesn’t detract the fact I’m still running out of shelf space. 🙈 Anyway, rather than shame my book habits I wanted to display my latest book haul. We all know I’m always touting that I want to read more science fiction and thrillers. Well. I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole and loving it. 😁

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What’s was the last book you bought/borrowed?

I’ve pre-ordered A Deadly Education and Kingdom of the Wicked and I’m planning to buy Raybearers later this week. I’m excited for both as they all sound so promising (plus I’ve so many positive reviews about Raybearers).

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This Is Your Brain on Stereotypes: How Science is Tackling Unconscious Bias | Review

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Title: This Is Your Brain on Stereotypes: How Science is Tackling Unconscious Bias

Author: Tanya Lloyd Kyi

Illustrator: Drew Shannon

Publisher: Kids Can Press

Genre: Non-fiction, children’s fiction

Where Can I Find This? Goodreads | Book Depository | Booktopia

Rating: ★★★★★

A gorgeously illustrated book with fantastic information. This book is not only useful for children, but for teens and adults. Topics like stereotypes, prejudice, racism, and many more are covered and well approached. Furthermore, this book contains rhetoric questions and examples in history, keeping the read engaging and informative.

The art is bright and vivid, great for holding attention. The illustrations aren’t overwhelming and complement the text and subject well.

This book serves as a great introduction or place to spark conversation pertaining to stereotypes, prejudice, racism, sexism, and homophobia. I appreciate how carefully and effectively nuanced this book is, guiding the discussion points and possibly contributing to developing an understanding of such complex topics. Consequently, I’d highly recommend this for parents, educators, and anyone else interested in this. This is a book I’d definitely a copy for myself.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

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Waterstones Mail | Book Hauls

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Hope everyone has been well. Given this whole situation, I’m fully aware of how we (okay, I mean myself) have taken full advantage of online shopping.

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Anyway, props to the postal workers because I’ve received some book mail today. (I may or may not have obsessively checked the tracking every day since ordering but that’s not the focus here haha). Thankfully, I’ve managed to fight off temptation and reduce my original total of eight books down to four. Progress. Now, I’ve never worked in Waterstones, but I’ve ordered four books, paid for postage for one package and have been receiving each book one. By. One. (Insert privileged crying here). As of today, I’ve received two books. I’ve received the last book of a series (haha) and a standalone.

My anticipated book haul:

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (1/3 of Winternight series)

The Winter and the Witch by Katherine Arden (3/3 of Winternight series)

Pocketful of Crows by Joanne M. Harris (standalone)

The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave (standalone)

Okay, I’ll be honest. I usually prefer UK covers over the US version and that definitely was the case for The Bear and the Nightingale. AND! Because vain Joy just had to purchase the UK versions, I disregarded the fact that the middle of the series was out of print. LOL. I usually prefer to have one type and one copy of a book/series but that usually isn’t the case. Have a gander of my The Folk In The Air trilogy: two copies of two of the books (first and last book) but!!! Again I’m missing the second book??!! I am noticing this reoccurring pattern here…

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Okay. Let’s ignore my terrible shopping habits and marvel at the two gorgeous books!

 

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Lobizona | Review

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Title: Lobizona

Author: Romina Garber

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Where can I find this? Goodreads | Book Depository | Booktopia | Google Play | Apple

“You’re saying if no one’s told my story before… I get to tell it the way I want?” ~ Romina Garber, Lobizona

Behold! Marvel at this cover art! Read the synopsis! Isn’t this promising? Doesn’t this make you wish you had a copy? Because, yes—after seeing the cover art and the synopsis, I desperately wanted to read this book. I needed this book. And the bookish gods of Netgalley smiled graciously on me and granted my earnest wish.

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my face @ netgalley. yes, I’m aware I’m probably annoying lol

In Lobizona, we follow Manuela (Manu) as she navigates life without detection. Hiding from both the US government and from the people of her father’s past, Manu is undocumented and unprotected. Isolated due to hiding, secrecy is Manu’s constant companion besides Perla and Ma. But hiding Manu isn’t the only secret that gets discovered. When Manu’s mother is taken by ICE, Manu discovers a magical world that is eerily familiar… Now in a magical world, Manu wages forward to uncover the secrets that gnawed on her since childhood. And just like the secrets that fought so hard to remain hidden, Manu must fight harder to uncover the truth.

Plot
The book weaves Argentinean folklore surrounding lobizon and bruja into Manu’s world which presents an interesting aspect into the novel. I liked how Argentinean culture was incorporated into the storytelling. Garber naturally incorporates Spanish into the dialogue. I appreciate how flawless and natural it was. However, the Spanish can make the reading experience disjointed if you’re not familiar with the language. There were times where the narrator (Manu) will translate, and other times where one can gauge the meaning from context and times where you won’t get it. I’ll be honest, I’ve never formally learnt Spanish nor learnt how to read it but can only understand and pick it up from sound (because 1. I’m uneducated hahah and 2. that’s how I learnt—when a family member spoke). Often, I’d have to pause and read passages aloud for my two brain cells to figure out the translation. Yes, I’m a child of immigrant parents and as a result, lost my mother’s tongue to assimilating to the culture I lived in… I’m like the meme:

‘Me? Bilingual? More like, bye-lingual’

Therefore, pausing and rereading some phrases often impacted my reading experience. I’m already a slow reader haha… ANYWAY! I like how Garber unapologetically and fluidly weaves Spanish into her novel.

Lobizona is broken down into four phases. I won’t say much to spoil the story; however, the story really picks up in phase two for me. In phase two, we discover more about this magical world. The world-building felt a little thin and due to that, the story felt more of magical realism rather than fantasy.

This book takes a while to get into the promised action. After the 40%, that’s where all the action began and it was great. Although, the pacing felt disjointed at times. For example, the first 40-50% of the book we are dragging our feet to this magical world. And then, at the last 15-20% action happens! All! At! Once! I’d appreciate if there were moments for the audience to process all that is going on.

Despite the pacing, I did appreciate Garber’s writing style. Garber weaves emotions well into her characters without weighing down the narrative with too many descriptions. The read was compelling and I read this novel in one sitting.

Characters
I love an underdog character. With everything going on, you can’t help but root for Manu! I was invested in her and her dreams. Yeah, she has her insecurities and doubts, but Manu is determined despite all odds. She dreams and yearns for more and when an opportunity shows itself, she’ll take it. I liked that about her. However, the chosen one trope is strong in this one. If you’re not a fan, you may not enjoy the incessant specialness of Manu. I’m a fan of the chosen trope so I’m never really bothered by such things—in fact, I relish in it.

Other than Manu, there is a large cast in this book (I can’t remember all their names but I remember Cata and Sasya—the two other girls). I enjoyed Manu’s and Sasya’s interactions. Sasya is a kind and gentle soul, the welcoming friend to Manu. Whereas, Cata is perceived to be the ‘mean girl’ who is ruthless to Manu. I wasn’t a fan of how that part was portrayed like the typical ‘popular girl mean to the new girl’ trope.

Another aspect I didn’t enjoy was the romance. long sigh yes, the romance. I didn’t like how the romance gave a forbidden vibe to it (spoiler-y: more like almost cheating vibes). And when the truth came out it felt convenient and cheap. Also, I couldn’t understand why the love interest and Manu had feelings for each other? It felt superficial. I would rather focus on other pressing matters, such as Manu’s mother and Manu’s discoveries.

Enjoyment
Aside from the romance, there were many aspects I liked. I liked how alienation and challenging the norm was a major factor in this book. I liked how the themes of alienation and immigration were woven in the story. Manu’s fear of discovery rings true to too many people. Garber writes well, enveloping the reader into Manu’s world that you feel the constant fear and even the threat in living. But despite the fear, there’s the unyielding hope. It was hope in the characters that I loved in this book. Lobizon grapples with and comments on various themes such as misogyny, privilege, undocumented immigrants, amongst many more and I deeply appreciated it did so.

I, myself am a child of immigrants and I have experienced cultural assimilation so on one side, parts of this book resonated with me. I liked how powerful Garber wrote various aspects (especially the first phase). Again, I liked how she wove another language into her book so naturally and how this book was an easy and compelling read. I just wished there were more. In actuality, I think I had higher expectations due to wanting to really love this book. (Why do I do this to myself?) Despite that, I’m very curious to see where this tale (or… tail) will go.

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Recommended for: fans of fantasy schools with magical creatures, fans of YA fantasy, latinx readers looking for latinx authors, people looking for diverse books

Content warning: xenophobia, sexism, bullying, trauma, misogyny, homophobia

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

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