This Week’s New Books

This week we have five books for you! The Book of Broken Hearts and Crumble are both contemporary romance (featuring different sorts of forbidden love), Praefatio is an urban fantasy with angels, Sunny is the first volume of a series by a famous mangaka, and Moses, Me, and Murder is a historical fiction mystery set during the Cariboo Gold Rush.

brokenThe Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler

Jude has learned a lot from her older sisters, but the most important thing is this: The Vargas brothers are notorious heartbreakers. She’s seen the tears and disasters that dating a Vargas boy can cause, and she swore an oath—with candles and a contract and everything—to never have anything to do with one.

Now Jude is the only sister still living at home, and she’s spending the summer helping her ailing father restore his vintage motorcycle—which means hiring a mechanic to help out. Is it Jude’s fault he happens to be cute? And surprisingly sweet? And a Vargas?

Jude tells herself it’s strictly bike business with Emilio. Her sisters will never find out, and Jude can spot those flirty little Vargas tricks a mile away—no way would she fall for them. But Jude’s defenses are crumbling, and if history is destined to repeat itself, she’s speeding toward some serious heartbreak…unless her sisters were wrong?

Jude may have taken an oath, but she’s beginning to think that when it comes to love, some promises might be worth breaking. –Picture and summary via Amazon.com

PraefatioPraefatio by Georgia McBride

Seventeen-year-old Grace Ann Miller is no ordinary runaway. After having been missing for weeks, Grace is found on the estate of international rock star Gavin Vault, half-dressed and yelling for help. Over the course of twenty-four hours Grace holds an entire police force captive with incredulous tales of angels, demons, and war; intent on saving Gavin from lockup and her family from worry over her safety. Authorities believe that Grace is ill, suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, the victim of assault and a severely fractured mind. Undeterred, Grace reveals the secret existence of dark angels on earth, an ancient prophecy and a wretched curse steeped in Biblical myth. Grace’s claims set into motion an ages-old war, resulting in blood, death and the loss of everything that matters. But are these the delusions of an immensely sick girl, or could Grace’s story actually be true? Praefatio is Grace’s account of weeks on the run, falling in love and losing everything but her faith. When it’s sister against brother, light versus darkness, corrupt police officers, eager doctors and accusing journalists, against one girl with nothing but her word as proof: who do you believe? –Image and summary via Goodreads

CrumbleCrumble By Fleur Philips

A modern tale of forbidden love…

Eighteen-year-old Sarah McKnight has a secret. She’s in love with David Brooks. Sarah is white. David is black.

But Sarah’s not the only one keeping secrets in the close-knit community of Kalispell, Montana. Her father George, who owns a local gun shop and proudly drives a truck with a Confederate flag bumper sticker, hides his own complicated past. When he discovers Sarah’s relationship, George decides to share his feelings with Alex Mackey—a lonely classmate of Sarah’s whom George has taken under his wing. As Alex embraces the power of George’s dark hatred, the hopes and dreams of young lives hang in the balance.

In just a few short months, Sarah and David will graduate from high school and leave Kalispell for a new life together in Los Angeles. Maybe in California, they can stop hiding their love—and the other secret they share…something George McKnight—and Alex Mackey—will never accept. –Image and summary via Netgalley

sunny1Sunny, Vol. 1 by Taiyo Matsumoto

The latest manga masterpiece from the Eisner Award-winning creator of Tekkonkinkreet.

What is Sunny? Sunny is a car. Sunny is a car you take on a drive with your mind. It takes you to the place of your dreams.

Sunny is the story of beating the odds, in the ways that count. It’s the brand-new masterwork from Eisner Award-winner Taiyo Matsumoto, one of Japan’s most innovative and acclaimed manga artists. –Image and summary via Netgalley

MosesMoses, Me, and Murder by Ann Walsh

It’s summer in 1866 in the Cariboo gold fields, and a man has disappeared. Young Ted learns from the local barber, Moses, that his friend Charles, who was travelling to the gold fields, has failed to arrive. And a forbidding stranger named James Barry has arrived in town wearing a gold nugget pin that belonged to the missing man. What could have happened to him? Was James Barry responsible for his disappearance? Moses and Ted are suspicious — but they’re also afraid for their own safety. Slowly, with several adventures and close calls, they unravel the story of a cruel murder. But have they identified the right criminal?

Shortlisted for the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction, based on true events, and set against the exciting backdrop of the Gold Rush era, Moses, Me, and Murder offers a captivating tale of betrayal, thievery, and redemption. –Image and summary via NetGalley

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Review: Shadows Cast by Stars

Shadows Cast by StarsTitle: Shadows Cast by Stars
Author: Catherine Knutsson
Genres: Dystopia/Post-Apocalyptic; Fantasy; Romance, Steamy
Pages: 456
Publisher: Atheneum
Review Copy: Checked out from library
Availability: June 5, 2012

Summary: Old ways are pitted against new horrors in this compellingly crafted dystopian tale about a girl who is both healer and seer. Two hundred years from now, blood has become the most valuable commodity on the planet—especially the blood of aboriginal peoples, for it contains antibodies that protect them from the Plague ravaging the rest of the world.

Sixteen-year-old Cassandra Mercredi might be immune to Plague, but that doesn’t mean she’s safe—government forces are searching for those of aboriginal heritage to harvest their blood. When a search threatens Cassandra and her family, they flee to the Island: a mysterious and idyllic territory protected by the Band, a group of guerilla warriors—and by an enigmatic energy barrier that keeps outsiders out and the spirit world in. And though the village healer has taken her under her wing, and the tribal leader’s son into his heart, the creatures of the spirit world are angry, and they have chosen Cassandra to be their voice and instrument….

Incorporating the traditions of the First Peoples as well as the more familiar stories of Greek mythology and Arthurian legend, Shadows Cast by Stars is a haunting, beautifully written story that breathes new life into ancient customs —(Summary and image via Goodreads)

Review: I wish I liked this book more.

As a moving-to-a-new-town book, Shadows Cast by Stars is serviceable. Cass’s struggles to fit in with the people on the Island—including wanted and unwanted attention from boys—make for some interesting character dynamics and conflict. I particularly enjoyed Cass’s scenes with Madda and her (sort-of) friendship with Helen. The women are the most memorable characters in the novel, though the boys don’t give them much competition in that regard (more on this in a bit).

Unfortunately, I wasn’t invested in Cass’s relationship with Bran. They fall for each other far too quickly for my taste, and their relationship crosses off most of the plot devices for romances (down to an ex-girlfriend stealing a kiss in such a way that the heroine thinks the boyfriend is cheating on her). It doesn’t help that Bran spends large chunks of the story away from Cass, so they end up hitting their relationship milestones really quickly compared to how many hours they actually spend together on-screen.

I have three major complaints with the book, and the first is a matter of expectations. Based on the summary, I was expecting there to be a lot more time invested in exploring this particular disease-ridden world. I wanted to see the cultural, social, and legal ramifications of a world where the government is totally okay with draining people of all their blood in order to stop the spread of Plague. The premise promised me all sorts of interesting possibilities, from a black market for blood to exploitation to national testing and IDs.

I got none of that. The most I got was a chip in all the Corridor citizens’ wrists which let them…connect to the internet? The details are supremely fuzzy and leave more questions than answers: Why doesn’t the government keep better tabs on the people who are the only cure for the Plague? How could our heroes possibly have had time to run when a new plague outbreak occurs? Why isn’t there some kind of set-up where everyone immune to the Plague donates plasma/blood/etc. every [X] days, gets paid handsomely for it, and then the government distributes those vaccines/cures to the people who can afford to get them? Do the antibodies in Others’ blood grant immunity like a vaccine or is it more of a medicine given once the illness has been contracted? Does this government really think it’s an awesome long-term solution to execute the only people immune to the Plague? What is the government going to do when they’ve “overhunted” to extinction?

My second complaint is that many of the characters in the book feel distressingly shallow. Paul spends the entirety of the book as an enigma, and once they get to the Island, Cass spends more time with Bran than him. Neither Cass nor Paul seem to care much about getting ripped out of their lives—the closest we get to them missing anything is when Cass asks her dad if the Island has a school system. (As far as I remember, this never gets answered.) Neither Cass nor Paul apparently had any friends or even extended family in their previous lives. There was one attempt to humanize Avalon, which fell flat for me, Cedar was creepy and probably triggery, and Grace was creepy with a side order of broken. Much of the time these characters (except for Madda and Ms. Adelaide) simply didn’t seem to live in the world they inhabited.

My third complaint is that the culture of the Island felt really off to me. I’ll be the first to admit that my experience with literature starring or written by native people is pretty limited, but even I was able to pick up on many of the problematic bits that Debbie Reese identified. The mixture of Greek mythology and Arthurian legend didn’t mesh well with the story and were distracting (minor) players in the narrative. Frankly, I would have much preferred that they weren’t included at all.

Recommendation: Just skip it, unfortunately. While there are a lot of interesting ideas in the story, they got all tangled up around each other.

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It’s the Pattern that’s the Problem

A few years ago a friend and fellow amateur writer asked me whether or not her main character being white was a problem. We had been discussing diversity in media, and I was caught by surprise by the frankness of the question. I managed to babble something that was semi-coherent, assuring her that nothing was wrong with the character, and the topic drifted from there.

I’ve thought about that conversation a lot since then, and I think I’m ready to give a more thorough answer. With a few exceptions (like the Mighty Whitey trope or deliberate erasure/whitewashing), there’s nothing inherently wrong with a main character being white. I have no quarrel with Harry Potter for being both white and The Boy Who Lived. Alanna of Trebond is still the best knight in all of Tortall no matter how fair her skin is. John Cleaver is equally terrifying and delightful as he hunts down supernatural killers.

Then there’s Tris, Peter, Bella, Rory, Hazel, Ender, Janie, Cas, Letty, Gemma, Miles, Jonas, Anne, Lyra, Charlie, Clary, Clay, Melinda, Tally, Alice, Sophie, Will, Eragon, Mia, Lena, Anna, Nora, Ginny, Jerry, Meg, Nathaniel, Samantha, Thomas, Cammie, Todd, Grace, Aerin, Lia, and hundreds of other white protagonists in young adult books whose stories dominate the bestseller lists.

The problem isn’t that these characters are white—the problem is that they all are. Last year, NPR posted a list of the 100 best ever teen novels (as voted by NPR’s 87% white audience), and only two of those books featured protagonists who were people of color. (A third book split the POV between three white girls and one Latina.) Readers submitted over 1,200 titles, which were narrowed down by a panel of experts to just 235 books. But even with an extra 135 books thrown in, an NPR assistant only found four additional titles starring people of color.

The problem is that when I look for people who look like me in the media I consume, I am thrilled when they actually exist, let alone have some plot-significant dialogue or get a POV. The problem is that this horde of books starring white characters is teaching me that the people who look like me aren’t smart enough to lead a team of heroes, aren’t powerful enough to be agents of their own fate, aren’t skillful enough to be looked up to, aren’t sexy enough for makeouts, aren’t loyal enough to be true companions, aren’t interesting enough to have their stories told.

White boy finds out he’s the chosen one, white girl overthrows corrupt society, white boy finds a doomed love, white girl goes on epic road trip to discover herself, white boy becomes a man, white girl becomes a woman, everyone else plays either a supporting role or functions as sentient scenery—that pattern is the problem.

Is any specific author obligated to write a book from the point of view of a person of color? Absolutely not. But who gets to star in the stories we love matters just as much as what happens in those stories.

It’s going to take a lot of people—writers, agents, editors, publishers, readers, bloggers, booksellers, etc.—to replace the current pattern with something more inclusive. So buy books that star people of color, interview authors/agents/editors about why they chose to write/acquire diverse stories and voices, recommend those stories to friends, create fanart or fanfic or fancasts, and reblog and retweet and comment and like and share whenever you can.

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Four New Books

We’ve got a fantastic mix of books this week! April 23rd is the release date for JANE AUSTEN GOES TO HOLLYWOOD, a contemporary novel starring two sisters; DARIUS & TWIG, a contemporary novel about a writer and a middle-distance runner; and SPIRIT’S CHOSEN, a Japanese-inspired fantasy tale. April 30th is the release date for ECHO, a science-fiction/fantasy novel about the end of the world.

Which books are you drawn to?


janeJane Austen Goes to Hollywood
By Abby McDonald
Candlewick

Hallie and Grace Weston couldn’t be more different. Older sister Hallie thinks all the world’s a stage –her stage, to be exact –while even-tempered Grace tries to keep her dramatic sister in check. When their father dies, leaving everything to his snooty new wife, the sisters face a new challenge: uprooted from their home and friends, they’re forced to move into a relative’s guest house–in shiny, status-obsessed Beverly Hills.

Plunged into a strange and glamorous new world, the penniless Weston sisters try to rebuild their lives. Aspiring actress Hallie throws herself headlong into the Hollywood scene–and an intense affair with musician Dakota. Meanwhile, shy Grace manages to find an unlikely ally in the bubbly entrepreneur Palmer, but still yearns for the maybe-almost-crush she left behind.

But is Hallie blinded by her cinematic visions of true love? And can Grace find the strength to step off the sidelines?

(Picture via Goodreads and summary via Amazon.com)


DariusDarius & Twig
By Walter Dean Myers
Amistad Press

New York Times bestselling author and current National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Walter Dean Myers was asked to write a novel about friendship by his fans. Here it is.

Darius is a writer struggling to find his own way, with only his alter ego, Fury, a peregrine falcon, and Twig, his best friend, in his corner. Twig, a middle-distance runner, has the skills to make it but wants to dictate his own terms for success. He may be a winner on the track, but it doesn’t stop him from getting picked on. For these friends, money is tight; there are bullies and absent adults and, most disturbing, the notion that their Harlem life doesn’t have much to offer. They need to navigate their world: the thugs, the seamy side of sports, the uncertainty of their prospects. And they need to figure out how to grow up together, but apart.

This raw teen novel is the latest from highly acclaimed award-winning author Walter Dean Myers.

(Cover image and summary from Goodreads.)


SpiritsSpirit’s Chosen
By Esther M. Friesner
Random House Books for Young Readers

Himiko’s world is falling apart. An attack by the Ookami clan has left many from her tribe dead or enslaved. And those who remain in the ransacked Matsu village are certain they’ve angered the gods. Amid the chaos and fear, Himiko hatches a plan to save her beloved tribe. Traveling through the treacherous wilderness with her best friend Kaya, their only goal is to free her clanfolk from the Ookami. At every turn she encounters other tribes and unforeseen challenges. But just when it seems that she will outwit Ryu, the cruel Ookami leader, she is captured. Held agains her will, Himiko starts to realize that not all of the Ookami are her enemies and every step of her unconventional journey has prepared her for something greater than life as a princess. Though she may not see her path as clearly as the spirits seem to, there’s more adventure (and even unexpected love) for this young shamaness and warrior.

(Image and summary via Goodreads)


echoEcho
By Alicia Wright Brewster
Dragonfairy Press

A young adult science fiction adventure novel, this story features a strong, but flawed heroine and themes of friendship, loss, faith, tolerance—and the end of the world. With the countdown clock showing 10 days until the end of their planet, everyone has been notified and assigned a duty—but the problem is no one knows for sure how everything will end. Energy-hungry Mages are the most likely culprit, traveling toward a single location from every corner of the continent. Fueled by the two suns, each Mage holds the power of an element: air, earth, fire, metal, water, or ether. They harness their powers to draw energy from the most readily available resource: humans. Ashara has been assigned to the Ethereal task group, made up of human ether manipulators and directed by Loken, a young man with whom she has a complicated past. Loken and Ashara bond over a common goal: to stop the Mages from occupying their home and gaining more energy than they can contain. But soon, they begin to suspect that the future of the world may depend on something unexpected—Ashara’s death.

(Picture via Goodreads and summary via Amazon.com)

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Review: Fragments

Fragments
Title: Fragments
Author: Dan Wells
Genres: Dystopia/Post-Apocalyptic; Science Fiction, Hard
Pages: 564
Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins
Review Copy: Received as a birthday gift
Availability: February 26, 2013 (on shelves now!)

Summary: Kira Walker has found the cure for RM, but the battle for the survival of humans and Partials is just beginning. Kira has left East Meadow in a desperate search for clues to who she is. That the Partials themselves hold the cure for RM in their blood cannot be a coincidence—it must be part of a larger plan, a plan that involves Kira, a plan that could save both races. Her companions are Afa Demoux, an unhinged drifter and former employee of ParaGen, and Samm and Heron, the Partials who betrayed her and saved her life, the only ones who know her secret. But can she trust them?

Meanwhile, back on Long Island, what’s left of humanity is gearing up for war with the Partials, and Marcus knows his only hope is to delay them until Kira returns. But Kira’s journey will take her deep into the overgrown wasteland of postapocalyptic America, and Kira and Marcus both will discover that their greatest enemy may be one they didn’t even know existed.

The second installment in the pulse-pounding Partials saga is the story of the eleventh hour of humanity’s time on Earth, a journey deep into places unknown to discover the means—and even more important, a reason—for our survival. —(Summary and image via Goodreads)

Review: Second books in a trilogy are always complicated. They’re rarely satisfactory on their own since their primary purpose seems to be setting everything up for the final book. Even if you do get answers to questions, you’re immediately peppered with more questions.

My feelings about Fragments are equally complicated. On the one hand, yes, Kira finds out who and what she is in this book and what the Trust is—that is awesome. (And this is the point where I highly recommend that you re-read Partials before you launch into Fragments. The science-y plotlines will be much easier to follow if you do.) On the other hand, very little else in this book gets resolved. All the other movements, particularly with the other POVs, seem specifically designed to position all the pieces for book three. As a reader, that’s frustrating, but it also has become standard for the trilogy format. (I had a higher standard for Wells as Mr. Monster was an amazing and satisfying second book, and I’d hoped that magic would extend to Fragments.)

One of the greatest weaknesses of this book is the other points of view. From a story standpoint, these POVs are crucial as they develop plotlines that Kira can’t (since she spends the entirety of the book away from Long Island). However, these other POVs weren’t as “in character” as Kira’s were—most weren’t distinctive enough for me to tell them apart easily. This was particularly disappointing with Marcus as the summary made it sound as if he would have a heftier amount of the book devoted to him. While he had more POVs than anyone other than Kira (and I enjoyed his sense of humor most of the time), I wish we had seen more from him as I felt that the events on Long Island could have merited additional screen-time.

What Wells excels at in this book is the ongoing discussion between Kira and other characters (especially Samm) about morality. What extremes do you go to for survival when the human population has been reduced to 35,000 people and there are 500,000 enemy super-soldiers still around? Fragments spends a lot of time exploring this theme, and it is done superbly. I’d talk about it more, but my favorite conversation involves major spoilers for the book.

I especially enjoyed the wider look at the ruined world. Wells clearly spent a lot of time figuring out what would happen to various cities after twelve years of neglect, and the results were stunning (and a bit terrifying and depressing, honestly). The more we got to know about ParaGen and its creations, the more fascinating (and repulsive) the world got. As a character, Afa also helped widen the scope of the world (and raise the possibility of other humans surviving outside Long Island), though he was emotionally taxing most of the time.

The romance that developed in this book was delightfully un-dramatic, and the action scenes were superb. I have a deep fondness for action scenes that rely on the character’s intelligence (and not necessarily skill) in order to win, and Kira’s smarts are often the key to her survival, especially as she learns to use the link. Give me brainy characters over brawny characters any day. (That said, there were some moments where I thought the characters needed to put the dots together sooner, like what the use of “control” meant. Come on, Marcus, you worked in the hospital. Even I figured it out, and I haven’t had a science class since 2005.)

Recommendation: Get it soon if you’re already invested in the trilogy and are willing to put up with all the frustrations inherent in second books. Wells does an amazing job of expanding the world in many ways, but in the end, the book isn’t as satisfying as Partials was. If you’re not already invested, I’d say wait until book three is out and read the series in one go. I have confidence that Wells will give us a fantastic and satisfying ending, especially now that all of the pieces are in the right place. You’ll just have to wait until next year for that to happen.

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Meet Our New Bloggers

Crystal and I would like to thank everyone who has re-tweeted, linked, blogged, or tumblr’d about Rich in Color. We are thrilled with all the support you have shown us–and we are excited to announce that we are adding two new co-bloggers and one new contributor to our site. Please extend a warm welcome to them!

Co-bloggers
Jessica is a bookworm to the core (in the place of a heart, she has a book). Every year she tries to carve a novel out of Nanowrimo and fails. In consolation, she scours the bookshelves for YA lit for comfort reading. Her hobbies are summarizing modernist Japanese literature to her friends and practicing her Gollum voice.

When not asleep, she can be found on tumblr, youtube or goodreads.

K. Imani Tennyson calls herself a teacher/writer and writer/teacher because her two professional selves often overlap. An English/Language Arts teacher for 10 years, 8 of them in a middle school, K. Imani also holds an MFA in Creative Writing. She was reintroduced to YA literature as an adult by falling in love with a boy wizard named Harry, and continues to devour the all the wonderful goodness YA brings. Her writing is heavily influenced & inspired by her students as she realized that stories featuring Persons of Color were lacking. Her desire to find and spread the word about quality YA works featuring characters of color and/or written by authors of color is what drove her to join Rich in Color. Lastly, when she isn’t reading, writing or teaching, K. Imani loves to sleep and compete in the occasional triathlon.

You many find her at her website, on Twitter or Facebook.

Contributor
Jon has slummed it in the valley with the Wakefield twins; slumber partied with Huey, Dewey and Louie; joined Krakow in stalking Angela; and climbed every mountain with the Von Trapps. He has written a guide to blogging, and currently writes young adult and middle grade. He lives online at www.jonyang.org, tweets @jayang, and collects covers of MG/YA books featuring Asian males on his Pinterest. Call it a hobby.

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