Four New Books This Week

We have five exciting books hitting shelves this week. Be sure to check them out!


Boxers: China,1898. Bands of foreign missionaries and soldiers roam the countryside, bullying and robbing Chinese peasants.

Little Bao has had enough. Harnessing the powers of ancient Chinese gods, he recruits an army of Boxers – commoners trained in kung fu who fight to free China from “foreign devils.”

Against all odds, this grass-roots rebellion is violently successful. But nothing is simple. Little Bao is fighting for the glory of China, but at what cost? So many are dying, including thousands of “secondary devils” – Chinese citizens who have converted to Christianity.

Saints: China, 1898. An unwanted fourth daughter, Four-Girl isn’t even given a proper name by her family. She finds friendship—and a name, Vibiana—in the most unlikely of places: Christianity. But China is a dangerous place for Christians. The Boxer Rebellion is murdering Westerners and Chinese Christians alike. Torn between her nation and her Christian friends, Vibiana will have to decide where her true loyalties lie . . . and whether she is willing to die for her faith.

Boxers & Saints is an innovative new graphic novel in two volumes – the parallel stories of two young people caught up on opposite sides of a violent rift. American Born Chinese author Gene Luen Yang brings his clear-eyed storytelling and trademark magical realism to the complexities of the Boxer Rebellion and lays bare the foundations of extremism, rebellion, and faith. — Cover images and summary from Goodreads

romeo Romeo & Juliet by Gareth Hinds

Summary: She’s a Capulet. He’s a Montague. But when Romeo and Juliet first meet, they don’t know they’re from rival families — and when they find out, they don’t care. Their love is honest and raw and all-consuming. But it’s also dangerous. How much will they have to sacrifice before they can be together? In a masterful adaptation faithful to Shakespeare’s original text, Gareth Hinds transports readers to the sun-washed streets and market squares of Shakespeare’s Verona, vividly bringing the classic play to life on the printed page. — cover image and summary via Goodreads


tumblr_mjourzJBS41qecal7o1_500Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices
Edited by Mitali Perkins

Using humor as the common denominator, a multicultural cast of YA authors steps up to the mic to share stories touching on race. Listen in as ten YA authors — some familiar, some new — use their own brand of humor to share their stories about growing up between cultures. Henry Choi Lee discovers that pretending to be a tai chi master or a sought-after wiz at math wins him friends for a while — until it comically backfires. A biracial girl is amused when her dad clears seats for his family on a crowded subway in under a minute, simply by sitting quietly between two uptight women. Edited by acclaimed author and speaker Mitali Perkins, this collection of fiction and nonfiction uses a mix of styles as diverse as their authors, from laugh-out-loud funny to wry, ironic, or poignant, in prose, poetry, and comic form.

“Becoming Henry Lee” by David Yoo
“Why I Won’t Be Watching the Last Airbender Movie” by Gene Luen Yang
“Talent Show” by Cherry Cheva
“Voilà” by Debbie Rigaud
“Three-Pointer” by Mitali Perkins (our awesome editor and the mastermind behind all this!)
“Like Me” by Varian Johnson
“Confessions of a Black Geek” by Olubemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
“Under Berlin” by G. Neri
“Brotherly Love” by Francisco X. Stork
“Lexicon” by Naomi Shihab Nye

antigoddessAntigoddess by Kendare Blake

Summary: Old Gods never die…

Or so Athena thought. But then the feathers started sprouting beneath her skin, invading her lungs like a strange cancer, and Hermes showed up with a fever eating away his flesh. So much for living a quiet eternity in perpetual health.

Desperately seeking the cause of their slow, miserable deaths, Athena and Hermes travel the world, gathering allies and discovering enemies both new and old. Their search leads them to Cassandra—an ordinary girl who was once an extraordinary prophetess, protected and loved by a god.

These days, Cassandra doesn’t involve herself in the business of gods—in fact, she doesn’t even know they exist. But she could be the key in a war that is only just beginning.

Because Hera, the queen of the gods, has aligned herself with other of the ancient Olympians, who are killing off rivals in an attempt to prolong their own lives. But these anti-gods have become corrupted in their desperation to survive, horrific caricatures of their former glory. Athena will need every advantage she can get, because immortals don’t just flicker out.

Every one of them dies in their own way. Some choke on feathers. Others become monsters. All of them rage against their last breath.

The Goddess War is about to begin. — Cover image and summary via Indiebound


Review: Shadows on the Moon

Shadows on the MoonTitle: Shadows on the Moon
Author: Zoë Marriott
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 447
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Review Copy: Purchased
Availability: On shelves now

Summary: On my fourteenth birthday when the sakura was in full bloom, the men came to kill us. We saw them come, Aimi and me. We were excited, because we did not know how to be frightened. We had never seen soldiers before.

Suzume is a shadow-weaver. She can create mantles of darkness and light, walk unseen in the middle of the day, change her face. She can be anyone she wants to be. Except herself.

Suzume died officially the day the Prince’s men accused her father of treason. Now even she is no longer sure of her true identity.

Is she the girl of noble birth living under the tyranny of her mother’s new husband, Lord Terayama? A lowly drudge scraping a living in the ashes of Terayama’s kitchens? Or Yue, the most beautiful courtesan in the Moonlit Lands?

Everyone knows Yue is destined to capture the heart of a prince. Only she knows that she is determined to use his power to destroy Terayama.

And nothing will stop her. Not even love.—(Summary and image via Goodreads)

Review: I went into Shadows of the Moon expecting a revenge-thriller-with-magic-and-Cinderella-elements set in a Japanese-inspired fantasy world…and I only sort of got what I wanted. When I sit down for a tale of revenge, I expect that a good portion of the work in question will center on planning revenge and the attempts at enacting said revenge. Unfortunately, Suzume/Rin/Yue (hereafter referred to as Heroine because she really does use three different given names over the course of the book) doesn’t actually get around to vocalizing, let alone enacting, the grand revenge scheme hinted at in the summary until page 262. That’s quite the delay considering the slaughter in her father’s house is over by page 16 and Heroine discovers who was behind the slaughter by page 112.

Instead, a good portion of the book actually centers on Heroine’s survivor’s guilt, particularly how she deals/doesn’t deal with her mother’s sudden remarriage and other spoiler-ific events. Heroine’s self-destructive attempts at keeping her sanity were actually quite engaging, but it took a long time for her to take control of her own life. I feel as if I spent the first half of the book wishing we could move onto more interesting things, like the revenge.

Perhaps my biggest complaint about this book is its magic. I’m not opposed to magic that’s more about the wonder than strict rules—see my love for N. K. Jemisin’s Hundred Thousand Kingdoms series—but I prefer magic that seems consistent. It’s one thing for Heroine to be able to create illusions or hide herself and quite another for her to be able to shape-shift, create matter from nothing, and heal. I could not figure out how those four separate powers went together, and I eventually had to throw up my hands and say I guess I’ll believe it if you really want me to. Heroine also does surprisingly little with her wide array of powers, to the point where in some scenes I wanted to point out other, cleverer things she could be doing with them for the sake of her revenge.

The side characters were a lot of fun, particularly Otieno and Akira. Heroine’s budding romance with Otieno was very cute, provided you’re able to roll with the fairytale-style InstaLove. At least the couple got to spend a lot of time together compared to most fairytale romances, despite the complete absence of Otieno from the summary. Akira brought a nice depth to the book with her history, especially as the ultimate enabler of Heroine’s revenge. I’m always pleased to run into adults who support teenage protagonists and allow them to make their own decisions—even if they don’t agree with those decisions.

Recommendation: Borrow it someday. Shadows on the Moon needed 100 fewer pages spent on being passive, confused, and/or powerless and 100 more pages on revenge, plot twists, and moral quandaries.


Two New Releases

MarchMarch (Book One) by John Robert Lewis and Andrew Aydin
Illustrated by Nate Powell

Top Shelf Productions is proud to present the first volume of MARCH, a graphic novel trilogy co-authored by Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) and Andrew Aydin, with art by Nate Powell (a New York Times bestseller, Eisner Award winner, and finalist for the LA Times Book Prize).

MARCH is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights (including his key roles in the historic 1963 March on Washington and the 1965 Selma-Montgomery March), meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation.

In MARCH, a true American icon teams up with one of America’s most acclaimed graphic novelists. Together, they bring to life one of our nation’s most historic moments, a period both shameful and inspiring, and a movement whose echoes will be heard for generations.

winds of salemWinds of Salem (The Beauchamp Family #3) by Melissa de la Cruz

Modern-day witch Freya Beauchamp is cast back in time to 1692 amongst the Salem Witch Trials by an enemy spell, as her present-day family attempts to reopen the passages of time to bring her home. Moving between past and present, Winds of Salem’s dizzying plot twists and page-turning suspense is sure to bewitch fans old and new.

[Image and summary via Goodreads]


Cover Reveal: Killer of Enemies

Killer of EnemiesTake a first look at the cover of Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac, one of Tu Book’s upcoming fall titles!

This is not a once upon a time story.

Years ago, seventeen-year-old Apache hunter Lozen and her family lived in a world of haves and have-nots. There were the Ones—people so augmented with technology and genetic enhancements that they were barely human—and there was everyone else who served them.

Then the Cloud came, and everything changed. Tech stopped working. The world plunged back into a new steam age. The Ones’ pets—genetically engineered monsters—turned on them and are now loose on the world.

Fate has given seventeen-year-old Apache hunter Lozen a unique set of survival skills and magical abilities that she uses to take down monsters for the remaining Ones, who have kidnapped her family.

But with every monster she kills, Lozen’s powers grow, and she connects those powers to an ancient legend of her people. It soon becomes clear to Lozen that she is meant to be a more than a hired-gun hunter.

Lozen is meant to be a hero.

Doesn’t this sound like a blast? I’m excited to get my hands on this book!


Publishing Diverse Books Isn’t About Meeting Quotas

Please welcome Stacy L. Whitman to Rich in Color! Stacy is the publisher of Tu Books, an imprint of Lee & Low Books that publishes fantasy, science fiction, and mystery for children and young adults. She has agreed to stop by the blog today to talk about why she publishes diverse books and what she’s looking for.

In the years since I started Tu Books in 2009, I’ve had many conversations about why diversity is so important in genre fiction and in fiction for young people. Many times, especially when talking to people who are steeped in fantasy/SF fandom who haven’t had much opportunity to really think about why diversity is important to young readers, I’ve heard comments such as “But speculative fiction is diverse. It’s all about diversity and understanding the Other.” I’ve also been told that we shouldn’t be looking to meet quotas.

Wolf MarkBut publishing diverse books isn’t about meeting quotas, much as we use the stark numbers to show how little things have changed over the years. It’s not about hitting a certain number so much as acknowledging how badly we’re doing at reflecting the real diversity out there in the world, right now. And while speculative fiction really has always been about meeting the Other, it hasn’t always been about understanding the Other (we are getting better at this part, I think). My frustration as a lifelong fan, however, is that although we have plenty of orcs and elves and aliens in spec fic filling symbolic diverse roles, we don’t always do that well on human diversity. Instead, white humans stand for the default “human” role in far too many of our stories.

I publish diverse books because I feel like we’re missing out on (literally) a whole world of awesome stories that have been ignored for far too long: stories in which people of color star as heroes of their own tales, stories in which the worldbuilding and the cultures and the characterization are at once both completely new compared to what’s already out there in the mainstream, and familiar because of our common humanity. I’m looking for stories inspired by folklore that hasn’t been seen enough in the U.S. mainstream and stories that extrapolate another culture’s worldview into the future. I’m looking for fantasy creatures that are not another reincarnation of the British tradition that Tolkien made famous.

This is not to say that I am not looking for stories starring non-humans, though as of now I haven’t quite found a story starring elves or aliens that has quite been the right fit for me. Some have come close; some haven’t. But when it comes to submissions, I look first and foremost for story. Is it a story I love, that I’ll be excited to work on for the next two to three years? Because that’s how long it takes to put a book out, and if I am bored from the first read, I’ll be even more bored in the second, third, and fourth reads.

TankbornPart of the excitement comes from meeting a world that, as a white American of mostly Swedish/German/British/Irish descent, I haven’t seen before. When I first read Tankborn as a submission in 2010, its universe was completely new in the dystopian genre. It’s both hard science fiction and a dystopian tale at once, and it deals deftly yet head-on with the kinds of class and race issues that dystopian stories hint at but don’t always take on boldly, and at the same time it feels like the real future in its technology and language evolution and biology of a new planet.

Not that a world needs to be completely new to me to catch my attention. Sometimes all it takes is one small twist, such as the Chicago I know twisted to become a world in which people have Talents, such as blending into one’s surroundings, moving things with one’s mind, or talking to cats. What matters in each story is that it move me—because it’s so dramatic, or so funny, or so full of action, or perhaps all of the above wrapped in complicated worldbuilding that the author ties together with a neat bow.

But because I’m looking for such a large number of factors to come together in one book, sometimes it’s hard to find exactly what I’m looking for. For example, I’d love to see more submissions in which the main character is African American or of some other African descent, in which the character’s slice of contemporary culture is a strong part of the worldbuilding. Tankborn stars a girl who is of African descent genetically, but it’s set so far in the future and on a world in which the culture is derived from the Indian caste system, so we still don’t have a book from Tu that reflects contemporary African American readers in a way I’d like.

Galaxy GamesI’d also like to see more optimistic forward-looking science fiction. Dystopias are on the wane, and I’d like to see more science fiction in the vein of our launch title Galaxy Games, in which a boy is recruited to play in a galactic competition much like the Olympics. I’m not looking for more sports-related titles per se, just more books with that kind of forward-looking excitement, the idea that the future for people of color will look just as bright as Gene Rodenberry once envisioned it.

I’ve also been on the hunt for years for an Asian-set steampunk. The Victorian era happened all over the world. I’d love to see a take on the vision of steampunk from the point of view of a citizen of the British colonies all over the world, particularly somewhere like India or Hong Kong (or even in the minority communities of the UK, the way Y.S. Lee did so well in the mystery series The Agency). Let’s look at the past with a new lens, as well, especially in this genre that captures the imagination so enticingly.

I’m looking in particular for more authors of color, as well, because part of our mission as a company is to nurture new authors of color. We were very excited to acquire our first New Visions Award winner earlier this year, and we’ll be announcing the opening of our 2nd annual New Visions contest in the coming months. (I say 2nd annual, but this contest will not be exactly annual due to the amount of reading required of our committee. It will probably be held roughly every year and a half for the first few years at least.)

Until we stop thinking that diversity is an agenda, rather than just a reflection of our readership, we’ll continue to have readers say things like the following: “I prefer ‘diversity neutral’ characters in my reading unless there is a reason to make it part of the story. Religious people might like being preached to in their readings, but most people don’t. If these things are jammed into books because ‘it is the right thing’, people will know, and they won’t likely be pleased. Not many of us care for books with agenda.” (Quote from an anonymous commenter on Nathan Bransford’s blog)

The Monster in the MudballI like to believe that the reason people say things like this is because they still think we’re stuck in an After-School Special world, a world that preaches instead of telling a good story, and they don’t realize that we’re way past that in YA lit today. A few I’m looking forward to, books that star diverse main characters just going about their business being awesome: my fall titles Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac, for which we’ll be doing a cover reveal later this week and you’ll be able to hear all about it then, and The Monster in the Mudball by S.P. Gates, a middle grade adventure about a boy who, with the artifact inspector he meets along the way, must track a monster that’s hatched from a ball of mud in his neighbor’s flat.

Coming next spring, we finally get to see how the Tankborn trilogy ends (it’s GOOD, y’all—you’re going to love it!) and we meet a new world in M.K. Hutchins’s Drift, about a brother and sister who live in a world where everyone lives on islands set on the backs of turtles that drift on the surface of Hell. And further out, we have our first mystery title by New Visions Award winner Valynne E. Maetani, about a girl who accidentally brings the Japanese mafia, the yakuza, down on her family when she discovers her deceased father was once a member of it.

Not one of these books has an agenda, unless that agenda is entertaining young readers with awesome stories, just as books do that star white characters. And I think there’s plenty of room out there for more books like these, so that the nearly half of the kids in our country that are people of color can see themselves reflected in the stories they read, and so that the other half might be able to be entertained putting themselves in the shoes of people like the friends they go to school with. Because even if our books are about fantastical events and people, the effect on the kids that read these books is very real.

Stacy L. WhitmanStacy Whitman is the publisher of Tu Books, an imprint of Lee & Low Books that publishes fantasy, science fiction, and mystery for children and young adults. In 2009, she founded a small press named Tu Publishing, dedicated to publishing multicultural fantasy and science fiction for children and young adults, which was acquired by Lee & Low Books and became Tu Books. Prior to starting Tu, she was an editor for Mirrorstone, the children’s and young adult imprint of Wizards of the Coast in Seattle. She holds a master’s degree in children’s literature from Simmons College. She has edited elementary school textbooks at Houghton Mifflin, interned at the Horn Book Magazine and Guide, and spent a brief stint working as a bookseller.


Review: Team Human

Team HumanTitle: Team Human
Author: Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Mystery, Contemporary, Comedy
Pages: 344
Publisher: Harper Teen
Review Copy: Borrowed from roommate
Availability: On shelves now

Summary: Readers who love vampire romances will be thrilled to devour Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan. Team Human celebrates and parodies the Twilight books, as well as other classics in the paranormal romance genre.

Mel is horrified when Francis Duvarney, arrogant, gorgeous, and undead, starts at her high school. Mel’s best friend, Cathy, immediately falls for the vampire. Cathy is determined to be with him forever, even if having him turn her could inadvertently make her a zombie.

And Mel is equally determined to prove to her BFF that Francis is no good, braving the city’s vampire district and kissing a cute boy raised by vampires as she searches evidence in this touching and comic novel. —(Summary and image via Goodreads)

Review: Team Human works best if you are familiar with and have a fondness for vampires. Even though I’m only middling on both of those criteria, Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan did a great job of keeping my interest with Mel, their American Born Chinese protagonist.

What I find most fascinating about Mel is how, in a book from Cathy’s point of view, she would fit neatly into the Meddling Second Lead™ role. Most books and Korean television shows have trained me to despise such characters and their repeated attempts to break up True Love™, but I adored seeing the vampire romance play out from Mel’s point of view. The fact that Mel is motivated by genuine concern and fear for her friend (as opposed to romantic jealousy) helps a great deal in this regard. While I was occasionally annoyed by Mel’s insistence that she knew what was better for Cathy than Cathy did, I was still extremely sympathetic to her. In her place, I probably would have acted much the same after my best friend fell in love with and decided to become a vampire (which carried a 10% chance of death and a 10% chance of zombification) in a matter of weeks.

The other character standout was Kit, the vampire-raised human that Mel falls for. Kit’s backstory (and how some of his vampire family treated him) made me rather upset on his behalf and wishing for all sorts of bad fortune upon minor characters. Despite this, Kit was consistently a source of humor and awkward misunderstandings thanks to his lack of knowledge about human society. Some of these misunderstandings were brilliant and hilarious (kissing) and others were disappointingly easy to predict (promising to call).

The world building for this book was unexpectedly delightful, from therapists who deal with vampires who are having trouble transitioning to laws requiring smoked glass in all public buildings to block vampire-killing UV rays. I love that turning people into vampires is a regulated process requiring counseling and you-could-turn-into-a-zombie scare tactics. Mundane details like that really make this world feel like it could exist if vampires were real.

Unfortunately, the mystery surrounding Anna, her mother, and her missing father wasn’t something that held my attention very well. If Anna had been the narrator, I would have been more invested in it, but Mel was constantly distracted by getting in the way of True Love™ or establishing a loveline of her own. While I’m normally not much of a comedy person, I really wish that Team Human had focused more on the comedy/satire of the vampire genre and less on a mystery that I did not find compelling.

Recommendation: Borrow it someday. Ultimately, Team Human is a quick read, but it doesn’t have much staying power for me. It would be a great beach book for the last part of summer, especially if you are in the mood for some gentle mocking of vampire tropes.