October Book Reviews


The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio
Adding my praises to the pile for The Undocumented Americans. This book is an absolute must read. You think you know about the Flint water crisis? You don’t. You think you understand healthcare and immigrants? Nope. You think you know everything about 9/11? You absolutely do not. Well, unless you are an undocumented American, or have already read this book.
Villavicencio shares her personal stories and those of others as they are separated, exploited at every turn, and find defiant joy. The people in this book are absolutely Americans, contributing so much to this country and our daily lives, something that should be understood by all citizens.

Saving Ruby King by Catherine Adel West
“They fear our skin and we fear our power. It’s a perfect storm for destruction. Our destruction.”
This story of a murder on Chicago’s south side drew me in instantly, especially as a Chicagoan. I appreciated West’s perspective and the plotting was excellent - I was definitely surprised at a few twists and turns.
However, I think that was,in part, due to the characters being held at arms length. I never felt invested in the central relationship, Layla and Ruby’s friendship, or any other. Multiple POVs can often shed light on the dynamic between characters, but in this novel, they were all so introspective that it made each person seem like an island unto himself. There’s a lot of exclamation (!) in the actual dialogue and it felt heavy handed and angst-y, rather than nuanced and sorrowful.
I think I’d recommend this as a YA novel with it’s emphasis on plot and young people grappling with a legacy they want so desperately to break.

“It was messy. It was hard. It was wonderful, and strange, and frightening, and fragile - so fragile it hurt - and it was worth every single moment.”
As with most books I end up adoring, It’s hard to gather my thoughts about why I loved it so much. I just did, and you should read it too!
If I had to elaborate…It reminds me of how I felt when I read Circe (a cursed and timeless woman fiercely moving forward), My Name is Memory (immortal souls, melancholy, romance), The Time Traveler’s Wife (unique and magical love story full of longing), or Erin Morgenstern’s books (richly drawn love letters to art, to books).
This will fit perfectly next to those beloved books on my all time favorites shelf for all the reasons mentioned and more. Addie’s story was an unforgettable one about what matters most, to love and be loved, to be remembered.

Troubles in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand
So thankful that Little Brown sent me a gifted copy! I usually wait until December to read the Hilderbrand winter books, but this year is... different. Not gonna lie, October felt heavy. A trip to St. John was much needed and the novel delivered on all the usual things I come to expect from Hilderbrand: sense of place, dishy drama, lovable (and hate-able) characters, prose about mouthwatering food, and a heartwarming story.

Mexican Gothic by Silva Moreno-Garcia
SO pleasantly surprised by Mexican Gothic! I have seen many mixed reviews, and I have a terrible batting average with gothic novels, especially popular ones like Rebecca, but I do love Jane Eyre. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Mexican Gothic was a perfect slow burn, spooky and creepy - but not scary, with such immersive sense of place that kept me turning pages. I loved the main character Noemi and her fierce femininity. (Also, I cannot WAIT for all of the fab ‘50s costume design in the Hulu adaptation!)
As the novel comes to it’s climactic ending, it’s equally CRAZY and yet not so ridiculous of a denouement as some thrillers I have read in recent years. This book is absolute perfection for a rainy fall read to get lost in, and it actually grabbed my attention away from the news last week!!! So, I highly recommend.

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
This was the pick for my local PNW bookstagrammers for October/Latinx heritage month, a sweet YA fantasy novel about a transgender boy navigating the process of becoming a part of the Brujex - people within their culture who can see and help spirits of the dead. I found the Brujo parts of the story to be fascinating, and it lent to the fraught tensions of how gender plays a role within cultural institutions, and how they can remain the same in ways that matter, while also growing with change. Although, the YA prose was pretty heavy and many scenes were drawn out unnecessarily. Several scenes that took me what seemed like ages to read were interludes that lasted mere minutes, and I am not a fan of long winded action scenes that feel like a sports play by play, which is how the book came to it's conclusion. Overall I am glad this book is out in the world though - if you are a YA fantasy fan, I would definitely recommend giving it a go.