National Hispanic Heritage Month started on September 15th as a way to celebrate histories, cultures, and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and South America. Five Latin American countries (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua) gained independence on the 15th, while Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on the 16th and 18th.
One of my reading goals for the last few years has been to read more books by BIPOC authors or about BIPOC characters, and I have to admit, they’ve been some of the best books I’ve read lately. The Hacienda and Mexican Gothic are definitely in my top 10 for recent years. There’s something so refreshing about learning more about different cultures and histories, and for me personally, there’s something comforting in reading books with the Spanish language in it.
This month, from September 15 to October 15, I’m going to aim to read eight Hispanic novels. Eight seems like a high number considering I’ve been in a reading slump most of the year, but I’ve been highly anticipating a lot of these stories for a long time and can’t wait to finally get to them! As always, I’ll do a wrap-up at the end of the month and review everything I’ve read.
Summary: Oliver Marks has just served ten years in jail – for a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day he’s released, he’s greeted by the man who put him in prison. Detective Colborne is retiring, but before he does, he wants to know what really happened a decade ago.
As one of seven young actors studying Shakespeare at an elite arts college, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingenue, extra. But when the casting changes, and the secondary characters usurp the stars, the plays spill dangerously over into life, and one of them is found dead. The rest face their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, and themselves, that they are blameless.
This is a PSA that dark academia has my heart completely and absolutely no other genre in the entire world can compare to how If We Were Villains makes me feel. I know I’ve been throwing out five-star reviews pretty frequently lately, but I truly have not been this enamored with a book since I read The Maidens by Alex Michaelides last year. I know that this book is going to stay with me for a long time, and even though I’m usually not someone who rereads, I cannot wait to revisit this and fall in love all over again.
Summary: Jennette McCurdy was six years old when she had her first acting audition. Her mother’s dream was for her only daughter to become a star, and Jennette would do anything to make her mother happy. So she went along with eating little and weighing herself five times a day. She endured extensive at-home makeovers. She was even showered by Mom until age sixteen while sharing her diaries, email, and all her income.
Jennette recounts her life in unflinching detail—just as she chronicles what happens when the dream finally comes true. Cast in a new Nickelodeon series called iCarly, she is thrust into fame. Though Mom is ecstatic, Jennette is riddled with anxiety, shame, and self-loathing, which manifest into eating disorders, addiction, and a series of unhealthy relationships. These issues only get worse when her mother dies of cancer. Finally, after discovering therapy and quitting acting, Jennette embarks on recovery and decides for the first time in her life what she really wants.
Genre: nonfiction, memoir Rating: ★★★★★
I was in high school when iCarly came out, so I knew very little about Jennette McCurdy before reading this memoir. I’m certainly not a non-fiction reader, and I generally find memoirs to be too dull for my liking. Admittedly, the shocking, uncomfortable title is what drew me into this book.
Jennette never dreamed of being an actress – it was her mother’s dream that she never got to fulfill, so she forced it upon her daughter. I’ve always been curious about the abuse that child actors endure, and it was horrifying to see how deeply and rapidly Jennette’s life spiraled. This book is not for the faint of heart. Jennette’s story depicts child abuse, disordered eating, terminal illness, hoarding, bulimia, gaslighting, narcissistic parents, alcohol abuse, and more.
Summary: Hazel Sinnett is a lady who wants to be a surgeon more than she wants to marry. Jack Currer is a resurrection man who’s just trying to survive in a city where it’s too easy to die. When the two of them have a chance encounter, Hazel thinks nothing of it at first. But after she gets kicked out of renowned surgeon Dr. Beecham’s lectures for being the wrong gender, she realizes that her new acquaintance might be more helpful than she first thought. Because Hazel has made a deal with Dr. Beecham: if she can pass the medical examination on her own, the university will allow her to enroll. Without official lessons, though, Hazel will need more than just her books – she’ll need bodies to study, corpses to dissect.
Lucky that she’s made the acquaintance of someone who digs them up for a living, then. But Jack has his own problems: strange men have been seen skulking around cemeteries, his friends are disappearing off the streets. Hazel and Jack work together to uncover the secrets buried not just in unmarked graves, but in the very heart of Edinburgh society.
Genre: historical fiction, romance, young adult Rating: ★★★★★
Anatomy: A Love Story is aptly named, because, as such, when you read this book, you will promptly fall in love with it. Seriously, I am swooning. The cover is breathtaking; Hazel is a fierce, young woman who won’t let society’s standards and expectations of her stop her from chasing her dreams; her relationship with Jack is dreamy and cutesy; the ending completely swept me off my feet and left me unsure of everything I assumed I knew. This book truly had everything, and I could not get enough of it.
Summary: Loulie al-Nazari is the Midnight Merchant: a criminal who, with the help of her jinn bodyguard, hunts and sells illegal magic. When she saves the life of a cowardly prince, she draws the attention of his powerful father, the sultan, who blackmails her into finding an ancient lamp that has the power to revive the barren land—at the cost of sacrificing all jinn.
With no choice but to obey or be executed, Loulie journeys with the sultan’s oldest son to find the artifact. Aided by her bodyguard, who has secrets of his own, they must survive ghoul attacks, outwit a vengeful jinn queen, and confront a malicious killer from Loulie’s past. And, in a world where story is reality and illusion is truth, Loulie will discover that everything—her enemy, her magic, even her own past—is not what it seems, and she must decide who she will become in this new reality.
Genre: fantasy, retelling Rating: ★★★
The Stardust Thief was my BOTM pick, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this because it sounded so promising. It’s loosely based on stories from One Thousand and One Nights, and all the storytelling and history of jinns were so beautifully crafted. There was so much potential here and so many great pieces to the story, but unfortunately I found myself disappointed in the end.