Tag Archives: Mermaids

Review: Secrets We Tell the Sea by Martha Riva Palacio Obón, translated by Lourdes Heuer

Secrets We Tell the Sea by Martha Riva Palacio Obón, translated by Lourdes Heuer

Secrets We Tell the Sea
Martha Riva Palacio Obón
Translated by Lourdes Heuer
Bloomsbury USA Children’s
Published October 24, 2023

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About Secrets We Tell the Sea

The only good thing about Sofia’s mom sending her to live with her abuela is that finally Sofia and the sea will meet face-to-face.

The sea has always called to Sofia, even when she and her mom lived in a big city nowhere near its shore. That’s how Sofia always knew she was a mermaid–that, and the fact that the sea and its creatures are much easier to understand than people. Like her mother, who is sending Sofia away instead of her barracuda of a boyfriend; that’s a flying fish if Sofia’s ever seen one, spending so much time reaching for the sky she can’t see what’s going on below the surface. When Sofia meets her abuela, she knows she’s up against a sea fierce and guarded, but maybe not so bad when you’re the one she’s guarding. Still, Sofia longs to meet another mermaid, someone who understands her and the sea completely.

When Sofia meets Louisa, it seems like she’s found just that–until the sea betrays them both in one irreversible moment. Soon their town is overtaken by hurricanes and floods and emotions and questions so big Sofia doesn’t know what to do with them. Like, how do you catch a flying fish? How do you make friends with the sea again? And how do you calm the rough waters within yourself?

My Review

I loved the sound of this book and the beautiful cover, but I’ll confess that I wasn’t sure what to make of the back cover copy. Is Sofia truly a mermaid? Is it something she imagines? Does the sea actually speak to her?

The story has a very literary voice and really blurs the lines between what Sofia imagines and what is actually happening around her. Sometimes, it’s clear that things are in her mind. At other times, there are explanations for things that happen. For example, one night, she sees her grandmother walking on the beach and the sea and places where her grandmother’s steps are glowing. Sofia learns this is because of bioluminescence rather than some magic of her grandmother’s.

At other times, it seems like the magical/inexplicable things are supposed to be actually happening. For instance, a shell spurts water, vibrates, and changes color to express its thoughts/feelings.

I really liked the relationships between the characters in the story. I think all the major characters are female except one. There are some really heartbreaking dynamics between the three generations of women in Sofia’s family. I felt like the story read in an accessible way to kids, but it’s one where older kids or adults will pick up on a lot of things that happen between the lines, too.

This is a pretty short book. I think it’s less than 150 pages, so I read it in one sitting, and I really loved it.

I think readers who enjoy stories with strong female voices and especially stories about the sea or ocean will love this heartbreaking story of family bonds and the transformative power of friendship.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 10 to 14.

Characters are Brazilian and living in Brazil.

Profanity/Crude Language Content

Romance/Sexual Content
A man signals sexual interest in Sofia by putting a hand on her arm. She avoids him as much as possible. Sofia believes that her mother is a nighttime circus performer after finding a photo of her in a “bathing suit” with her work friends. Later learns about her mother’s real job at a bar at night.

Spiritual Content
Sofia believes that humans start out as mermaids after she learns how a fetus grows in a liquid environment inside their mother.

Violent Content
See sexual content above. A woman tells her family she fell and was injured, but later it’s revealed that her partner hit her.

Drug Content

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of SECRETS WE TELL THE SEA in exchange for my honest review.

Review: Mermaids Never Drown edited by Zoraida Córdova and Natalie C. Parker

Mermaids Never Drown: Tales to Dive For
Edited by Zoraida Córdova and Natalie C. Parker
Feiwel & Friends
Published September 26, 2023

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About Mermaids Never Drown

14 Young Adult short stories from bestselling and award-winning authors make a splash in Mermaids Never Drown – the second collectionin theUntold Legends series edited by Zoraida Córdova and Natalie C. Parker – exploring mermaids like we’ve never seen them before!

A Vietnamese mermaid caught between two worlds. A siren who falls for Poseidon’s son. A boy secretly pining for the merboy who saved him years ago. A storm that brings humans and mermaids together. Generations of family secrets and pain.

Find all these stories and more in this gripping new collection that will reel you in from the very first page! Welcome to an ocean of hurt, fear, confusion, rage, hope, humor, discovery, and love in its many forms.

Edited by Zoraida Córdova and Natalie C. Parker, Mermaids Never Drown features beloved authors like Darcie Little Badger, Kalynn Bayron, Preeti Chhibber, Rebecca Coffindaffer, Julie C. Dao, Maggie Tokuda-Hall, Adriana Herrera, June Hur, Katherine Locke, Kerri Maniscalco, Julie Murphy, Gretchen Schreiber, and Julian Winters.

My Review

There’s a pretty large range of stories in this collection, some exploring romance and others the power of family. Some also explore the way they merfolk could be treated as other and denied basic rights. I enjoyed the range of topics and interpretations probably as much as any single story. I’ve written brief reactions to each story, but I’ll group them under topic, so they’re not in the order they appear in the book.


Storm Song by Rebecca Coffinder – I think this one is my favorite. It’s in second person point of view (speaking directly to the reader), which is unusual. It really worked in this piece, though. I loved the intensity and the high-action feel of the story.

Return to the Sea by Kalynn Bayron – This one is the most anchored in the present world where, instead of discussing allyship in the context of race or gender/sexual identity, it’s discussed in terms of environmental impact. The story also draws attention to the way that what we want for animals sometimes diverges from what’s good for them.

The Merrow by Zoraida Córdova and Natalie C. Parker – A tenuous friendship between a girl and the mermaid kept in captivity at the aquarium where her mother works. I loved the otherworldliness and humanity of the merrow and the sweetness of her relationship with Josie.


We’ll Always Have June by Julian Winters – A sweet summer romance. The innocence and sweetness of this one perfectly offset the ferocity of some of the other stories. I’ve loved everything by Julian Winters that I’ve read, so this was bound to be a hit for me.

The Dark Calls by Preeti Chhibber – This one takes place completely underwater, and I loved the way the characters challenged divisions beneath the sea. This fully captured the curiosity and precociousness that I think of as central to the Little Mermaid stories I grew up with.

The Nightingale’s Lament by Kerri Maniscalco – Definitely more of a classic sexy-siren vibe in this one. I liked that the story wasn’t headed where I expected.

The First and Last Kiss by Julie Murphy – Twins as rivals. Merpeople who spend a year walking the land for two nights a month. Romance. This one has so much to love.

Shark Week by Maggie Tokuda-Hall – I thought this was so clever. And again, a story that went places I didn’t expect. There’s one reference to something in the story that made me pretty queasy, but the story moves past that moment pretty quickly.


The Story of a Knife by Gretchen Schreiber – Oh, man. I loved the way this one took the original story of the Little Mermaid, changed it up a little bit, and added a distant epilogue. Really enjoyed it.

The Deepwater Vandal by Darcie Little Badger – This one might be my second favorite in the collection. I loved that it focuses on family relationships. This full and compelling story left no room for romance, and I didn’t miss it.

Sea Wolf in Prince’s Clothing by Adriana Herrera – This is another one that explores some social/political themes about consent and autonomy and racism in the context of humans and mermaids. I liked the tension and the characters in this one.

Nor’Easter by Katherine Locke – I feel like I should not have been surprised that this author chose a historical setting for their short story, but somehow I still was. But I was also delighted. I loved the way the story is anchored in a real moment in history but creates room for merpeople and a celebration of family.

Jinju’s Pearls by Jun Hur – This one blew me away. It perfectly captures the longing for a different life that I think of as classic to the Little Mermaid and what the terrible cost of such a life would be.

Six Thousand Miles by Julie C. Dao – This reminded me a little bit of the author’s note from THE MAGIC FISH, in which Trung Le Nguyen talks about how the story of the Little Mermaid has always resonated with him as an immigrant story. This captured that idea perfectly. I loved that the main character didn’t accept easy answers and had to figure out how to forge her own path forward.


This makes a well-rounded collection of stories exploring love, independence, family bonds, and human rights. I really enjoyed reading this one.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

14 stories with diverse casts of characters, including LGBTQIA+, Indigenous, Black, Asian, and Latine characters. One character’s parent is an abortion doctor.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used somewhat frequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between boy and girl. Kissing between two boys. Brief nudity, sometimes used sexually and sometimes just referenced as part of changing from human to mermaid/merman. One story includes graphic sexual references to sex and the desire for sex.

Spiritual Content
Vague references to prayer. In one story, sirens use their songs to cause human death in order to appease the gods. One Indigenous character briefly prays to the Creator. In another story, the son of a sea god battles a siren.

Violent Content
Situations of peril. References to mermaids or similar characters killing humans. One character craves a particular kind of blood during her monthly cycle. The story doesn’t show her interacting with it and refers to it as a “creepy” desire.

Drug Content

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of MERMAIDS NEVER DROWN in exchange for my honest review.

Review: Athlanmara by J. M. Burrows

Athlanmara: Seaborn Series 1
J. M. Burrows
Published on September 1, 2018

Amazon | Goodreads

About Athlanmara
The beautiful Florida Keys is the setting for love, adventure and a family secret that will affect every creature on earth.

When timid misfit Brooke is rescued from drowning by a handsome merman, Adrian, her eyes are opened to a world she didn’t know existed.

Adrian can’t stay away from the human girl he rescued, even though he faces certain death if their relationship is discovered. He is torn between his desire for love and his desire to save his people.

The two teens join forces to save both races as illegal pollution threatens to destroy Adrian’s people and the Athlanmara are planning to fight back against the human threat. Brooke and Adrian’s forbidden relationship will change both worlds, but not without a cost.

My Review
I’m kind of a sucker for stories about mermaids or mer-people, so I was pretty intrigued when I heard about this book. The way it’s written is a bit unusual as it shows a lot of direct thoughts of different characters, but they’re not in italics. I found it a little confusing at first. The story mostly follows the point of view of Adrian and Brooke, but other characters have scenes or moments from their perspectives, too.

The Athlanmara (mer-people… maybe just mermen?) had an interesting culture and the author included some language and history, which were cool and fit with the story pretty well. I wasn’t really clear on whether the genders live separately all the time or part of the time or how that worked. I enjoyed some of the goofy moments between Adrian and his best friend Maksim and some of the inevitable faux pas that happened when they tried to pass for human.

I really liked the way the plot explored pollution and its effect on marine life and thought it was a great message. I also thought the Athlanmara were a neat take on mermaids even if I didn’t fully understand all the elements of the culture.

Recommended for Ages 12 up.

Cultural Elements
Brooke is white, and her best friend is Latina. Other characters are white.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Most often the characters say things like, “oh my gosh,” or “dang it,” or “shoot.” There’s one instance of a crude word for female anatomy.

Romance/Sexual Content
When the boys transform from Athlanmara (mer-people) to human, they appear naked. Brooke feels embarrassed by this and unsafe especially before she knows them well. Kissing between boy and girl. One scene shows a girl and boy lying in the sand together making out.

Spiritual Content
The Athlanmara have magical artifacts which have certain powers. Adrian is hoping to find one which has the ability to heal so he can save a family member.

Violent Content
A man threatens people with a gun. More than one scene shows giant crabs brutally killing people.

Drug Content

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Review: To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

To Kill a Kingdom
Alexandra Christo
Feiwel & Friends
Published on March 6th, 2018

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About To Kill a Kingdom

Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most—a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever.

The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good—But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?

My Review

This was a very different look at The Little Mermaid tale. And by different, I mean on the complete opposite end of the spectrum compared to the Disney version we are familiar with. This tale pays more homage to the Brothers Grimm than it does to Andersen.

Setting: The world-building was neat, and I’d like to learn more about the various countries represented in the story. I especially liked how the royalty of each country had their own unique myth or legend that made them stand out compared to the rest of the citizens.

Characters: The characters were entertaining, on the whole, even if they did fall a little flat. Lira’s character arc stuttered a bit, and I struggled to understand and empathize with what she was going through. I felt like she changed a lot without enough description of what was going through her head to make it believable. Elian, on the other hand, was more enjoyable to read about; however, I felt like he was two different characters, depending on if I was reading from his perspective, or Lira’s perspective. I get the author was doing that on purpose, but it just made it harder to connect with him.

Plot: Nothing special here. It’s a typical band of YA characters going on a mission to save the world from an oppressive ruler. Read it for the retelling, not for the plot.

Overall: I didn’t like this one. It had waaay too much violence (it really should have been a DNF), and the characters weren’t especially endearing. If you like brutal, bloodthirsty fairytales, then this book is for you. On the other hand, if you’re looking for something with a little less content, and a little more a unique plot, then I suggest checking out The Mermaid’s Sister by Carrie Anne Noble.

Recommended for Ages 16 and up

Cultural Elements
Some characters are described as having brown skin. Some characters are described as being pure white, with blue lips. One lesbian couple. Sirens seduce both men and women. 

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Frequent profanity, and some innuendo. 

Romance/Sexual Content
One heavy, detailed kiss. A monster forces a kiss. Sirens kiss seduced sailors. Some innuendo, and veiled mentions of castrating people. One royal family has the power to seduce anyone they touch.

Spiritual Content
A goddess, Keto, is frequently mentioned and referred to. Magic is attributed to her.

Violent Content
There is a lot of graphic violence in this one. Torture, beatings, attacks, blood, wounds, burns by acid, etc. Very gory.

Drug Content
A brief mention of using poison/sedative to get what a character wants.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Lullaby by Amanda Hocking

Lullaby byAmanda Hocking
St. Martin’s Griffin

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

After Gemma disappeared with Penn and the other Sirens, her sister Harper won’t rest until she tracks them down. She’ll rescue Gemma no matter what it takes. Even if it means spending time with Daniel, whose tanned muscles and bright smile are sure to distract her.

Hidden away in a white beach house, Gemma tries to understand her new Siren needs and abilities. She promises not to run away in a bargain to protect her family and Alex, her boyfriend. At first she’s determined to be miserable, but when that backfires she decides to make the best of it. She tries to enjoy the sea and get to know her fellow Sirens better. Thea has the potential to be an ally, but she won’t easily give up any secrets about Sirens or her own tragic past.

Harper, Alex and Daniel close in on Gemma’s whereabouts. The plan: rescue her from the Sirens and find a way to break the Siren curse so Gemma can be free.

Mermaid stories aren’t hard to find, but this is the first series about sirens I’d ever read. After reading the first book in the series, I wanted to find out what happened to Gemma, a star swimmer-turned-siren and her organized, overprotective sister Harper. Harper’s interactions with the other characters may have been my favorite parts, especially her friendship with her coworker Marcy, whose dry monotone made her offbeat ideas pretty funny at times.

The writing isn’t spectacular. Sometimes passive writing left me disconnected from the story. There were some odd decisions with regard to point-of-view. All characters are referred to by their first names, which seemed strange especially for Harper and Gemma’s parents. The situation with the girls’ parents definitely added to the story and explained some of the girls’ important thoughts and motivations. I just didn’t find it all that believable that they’d refer to their parents as “Brian” and “Nathalie” in the narrative.

I think I liked the first book better than this second one. It seems to fall into the pit that second books often do, where the story winds up feeling like a filler needed to set up for the big finale. Not enough really happened to make it feel like its own novel. Readers interested in mermaid stories might like Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly or Of Poseidon by Anna Banks.

Language Content
Extreme profanity and some crude language used infrequently throughout the story.

Sexual Content
Gemma spends time kissing a couple of boys. Penn uses her Siren abilities to control a young man named Sawyer, whom she appears to be sleeping with. She invites Gemma to join them for sex, but Gemma refuses, grossed out. Both Gemma and Harper reflect on how hot boys are several times throughout the story.

Spiritual Content
The Siren curse began when four girls failed to protect the goddess Demeter’s daughter. Demeter found them swimming and flirting with men, so she transformed them into Sirens, whose songs can convince humans to do their bidding and transform into mermaids and bird-like creatures.

Harper’s friend Marcy decides to hold a séance in an area where a boy was found dead hoping that the boy’s spirit will tell Harper where Gemma and the Sirens have gone. No spirits reveal themselves, so they give up.

Violence (and a bit of a spoiler)
To survive, Sirens must eat the hearts of young men. Gemma refuses to do this at first, but the Siren curse means she becomes more and more susceptible to the desire to feed. She ends up killing a man who is possibly about to rape her.

In one scene, a Siren shoves her hand through a man’s chest and grabs his heart. It’s icky, but brief, and she does not eat the heart.

Drug Content


Review: Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly

Deep Blue (Waterfire Saga Book One)
Jennifer Donnelly
Disney Hyperion
Published on May 6, 2014

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Dark dreams haunt Princess Serafina as she prepares to prove herself worthy to one day be Regina and rule her people. When an assassin attacks her mother and an army overtakes her home, Sera and her best friend are forced to flee for their lives. Could there be truth to the voices from Sera’s dreams? If she can find the ones she hears in her sleep, can they stop the evil force and restore Sera’s world to what it was?

As far as mermaid books go, Donnelly wins the award for best story world and most unique story ideas. If you’re rolling your eyes expecting there to be a human prince out there waiting for rescue, think again. This author has developed an entire Mer culture with rituals, history and complex political alliances with other Mer kingdoms. Delicious stuff. And instead of the familiar mermaid-longs-to-be-human-for-love theme, we experience an entirely different adventure full of danger and intrigue.

As a part of the ceremony in which Sera proves herself the rightful heir to the throne of her kingdom, she will pledge to marry her childhood sweetheart, Prince Madhi. Troubling rumors surround the young prince, and Sera fears he is no longer the friend and love she once knew him to be. In one scene in which Sera confronts the prince, he claims there’s more going on than she knows. As the story unfolded, I developed a pretty specific theory about what I think is going on. I’m anxious to read the second book in the series, Rogue Wave to learn if I’m right!

Language Content

Sexual Content

Spiritual Content
Sea witches chant a song about five mermaids gathering to stop a terrible evil from destroying their kingdoms. Mer people worship powerful ancestors who saved them when Atlantis fell, giving them tails, the ability to breathe under water, and the power to perform magic through song for protection.

Serafina and her friends are captured by an evil man who threatens to torture them and has already cut the thumb from another prisoner. Some brief details.

Battle scenes show armies fighting one another and civilians caught in the fray. Descriptions are brief.

Drug Content
Green pill.