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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Something Wicked | Review

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Title: Something Wicked

Author: Nicole M. Rubino

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal

Publisher: Magnolia Press

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

 

 

 

 

 

The premise is full of intrigue and promise—witches and witch hunters situated in Salem. In ‘Something Wicked’ we follow Theo, a girl who seemingly received bad luck for her seventeenth birthday (bad break-up? Check. Car crash? Check.). After a series of unfortunate events and tragedy, Theo moves to Salem with her aunt.

I was immediately hooked on the premise. I liked the setting of modern-day Salem and the opening scene. I also love stories where someone discovers their powers and true origins. However, despite the that, I found the plot a bit mediocre and predictable at some points with an amalgamation of YA tropes. Furthermore, I felt the foreshadowing to be a little heavy-handed. Whilst there is plenty of drama and action, it was a quick and easy read.

Unfortunately, this book is riddled with common tropes I’m not so fond of (such as girl on girl hate, not like other girls™, etc.) and therefore affected my reading experience. This book wasn’t for me. I feel like this book would be suitable for younger teens, pre-teens, or people who don’t mind such tropes or are new to fantasy/paranormal romance. If you’re looking for a quick and easy read and into witches and forbidden romance, this may be for you.

I received an eARC in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Netgalley and the author.

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When Breath Becomes Air | Review

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Title: When Breath Becomes Air

Author: Paul Kalanithi

Genre: Non-fiction, Memoir, Health

Publisher: Random House

Rating: N/A. I find it difficult to rate a memoir/autobiography.

“You can’t ever reach perfection, but you can believe in an asymptote toward which you are ceaselessly striving.” ~ Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

 

‘When Breath Becomes Air’ is a sobering read, centring on Paul Kalanithi and his journey from doctor to patient upon discovering his diagnosis of stage IV cancer. At age 36 Kalanithi is on the verge of completing his neurosurgeon residency. However, his life is upended upon his diagnosis.

Drawing upon anecdotes from his life (childhood, med student, surgeon, and his personal life), Kalanithi continues to search meaning and purpose. In this book, Kalanithi questions and grapples with his diagnosis and definition in life. At times, I found his writing a little gratuitous with classic literature references (he is an avid fan and lover of English literature and I’m not as well-versed in it as I’d like to be—goes to show I need to brush up on my reading), to sobering and gritty, to hopeful and determined.

Overall, I enjoyed his writing and voice—particularly his clever use of similes, his stark honesty of the reality of disease and prognosis, and his continuous strive for living a meaningful life. What struck me the most in this book wasn’t only his message to strive for meaning in life, but in a clinical (medical) setting, technical excellence is not enough—compassion, empathy, and integrity is needed.

“Here we are together, and here are the ways through—I promise to guide you, as best as I can, to the other side.”

“I had met her [the patient] in a space where she was a person, instead of a problem to be solved.”

I suppose given my background these aspects resonated within me. And even if one isn’t in the medical field, the message is still applicable—live with integrity and treat people with compassion.

Yes, this book is sad. Yes, you’ll probably cry (I did the ugly cry in the Epilogue—no shame in that). However, this book doesn’t only dwell on death and mortality, but it’s also a testimony to life, love, and meaning. His wife, Lucy, so eloquently puts it:

“What happened to Paul was tragic, but he was not a tragedy.”

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(Ugh, I had to use the hospital’s cheapo stethoscope because I lost my ‘nice’ one in one of the wards…)