Application Reminder

You have until this Friday to submit your application to become a co-blogger here at Rich in Color. Crystal and I are so thankful for all of your support here and on our tumblr and twitter accounts.

Even if you can’t commit to being a blogger, we still want whatever help you can give us, whether that’s letting us know about upcoming young adult books by and/or about PoC or submitting posts to our tumblr. Do you know about giveaways, author interviews, rereads, etc.? Send us a message! We want to promote any and all books that fall into Rich in Color’s mission, and the more information we have, the better.

(And yes, authors, agents, and publishers–we definitely want to hear from you.)

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Review: Vessel

VesselTitle: Vessel
Author: Sarah Beth Durst
Genres: Fantasy, Heroic
Pages: 424
Publisher: Simon & Schuster/McElderry Books
Review Copy: Received as a birthday gift
Availability: September 11, 2012 (on shelves now!)

Summary: Liyana has trained her entire life to be the vessel of a goddess. The goddess will inhabit Liyana’s body and use magic to bring rain to the desert. But Liyana’s goddess never comes. Abandoned by her angry tribe, Liyana expects to die in the desert. Until a boy walks out of the dust in search of her.

Korbyn is a god inside his vessel, and a trickster god at that. He tells Liyana that five other gods are missing, and they set off across the desert in search of the other vessels. For the desert tribes cannot survive without the magic of their gods. But the journey is dangerous, even with a god’s help. And not everyone is willing to believe the trickster god’s tale.

The closer she grows to Korbyn, the less Liyana wants to disappear to make way for her goddess. But she has no choice: She must die for her tribe to live. Unless a trickster god can help her to trick fate — or a human girl can muster some magic of her own. –(Summary and image via the author’s site)

Review: I thoroughly enjoyed Vessel, and that was largely due to the world building and Liyana. Durst did an excellent job of creating a desert-dwelling culture, and the book was sprinkled with fun details about the tents, clothing, animals, critters, and food. (I will admit that the food wasn’t always fun, but I suppose eating snakes is a better alternative to starving.) This attention to detail—from the embroidery on Liyana’s dress to the preparations our heroes take for incoming sandstorms—grounds the world and makes it feel lived in. This is especially helpful since there’s a bunch of mystical stuff going on. In addition to Korbyn, the tribes have magicians of their own, and this world is one filled with wolves made of sand, dragons made of not-actually-glass, monstrous silkworms, and the Dreaming (afterlife/world of gods). Some of these mystical elements and their impact on the plot are more fuzzy/arbitrary than I’d like, but I could accept them.

Liyana and Korbyn, and even the Emperor to some extent, make the world even richer through the sharing of fairytale-esque stories (which, since this is a fantasy book, are not entirely made up). Many of the stories are about the desert gods, but some are about the empire’s gods or even mortals. Some of them were pure indulgence; others revealed characters, world building, or history; and yet others were used by the characters to teach or debate within the book. I loved these stories.

Durst spends a lot of time on the nature of the vessels and their sacrifice, and these moments are particularly poignant. Some vessels are fanatically devoted to their god and their tribe; others are terrified and don’t want to die. Liyana falls along “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” line—she’s not thrilled to die, but she knows that her tribe needs her goddess, Beyla, in order to survive the Great Drought. It’s particularly wrenching when Liyana says goodbye to her family or whenever she thinks about the extra time she’s been given only because her goddess has disappeared.

I have one major complaint about the book, and that would be the last moment romantic rival—and it’s not even really a rivalry as Durst avoids any competition/jealousy between the boys. Much of the book is devoted to the kind-of-sort-of-not-vocalized romance between Liyana and Korbyn. (Things are complicated—Korbyn is Beyla’s lover, but a mutual attraction between him and Liyana grows over the course of the book.) I was taken by surprise when a certain character expressed interest in Liyana, though that plotline won me over by the end due to a combination of 1) already enjoying that character and 2) the sheer practicality of it all.

Recommendation: Get it soon. Liyana, Korbyn, and the other main characters are an enjoyable and complicated ensemble, and the world they inhabit is as magical as it is dangerous. I loved the world, and the story was a solid quest with fun characters, lots of peril, a not-too-angsty romance, and occasional armies.

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Latin@ Protagonists

Just a small Latin@ appreciation post this morning!

Luminous

Luminous by Dawn Metcalf

As reality slips and time stands still, Consuela finds herself thrust into the world of the Flow. Removed from all she loves into this shifting world overlapping our own, Consuela quickly discovers she has the power to step out of her earthly skin and cloak herself in new ones—skins made from the world around her, crafted from water, fire, air. She is joined by other teens with extraordinary abilities, bound together to safeguard a world they can affect, but where they no longer belong.

When murder threatens to undo the Flow, the Watcher charges Consuela and elusive, attractive V to stop the killer. But the psychopath who threatens her new world may also hold the only key to Consuela’s way home.

Ship Breaker

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

In America’s Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being broken down for parts, Nailer, a teenage boy, works the light crew, scavenging for copper wiring just to make quota–and hopefully live to see another day. But when, by luck or chance, he discovers an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, Nailer faces the most important decision of his life: Strip the ship for all it’s worth or rescue its lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl who could lead him to a better life…

In this powerful novel, award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi delivers a thrilling, fast-paced adventure set in a vivid and raw, uncertain future.

(Images and summaries via Goodreads)

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Searching for Co-Bloggers!

Do you want to join Rich in Color in reviewing and promoting young adult fiction by and/or about people of color? Excellent! Because we want at least two other people to join us in this unpaid labor of love. You can find out more about Rich in Color’s mission over here.

Expectations
Bloggers are expected to post one book review every four weeks (roughly once a month). Please note that we prefer books that have come out within the last year. The review will need to conform to the format below and be “claimed” in advance so the other bloggers don’t have to scramble for last-minute replacements. The review will need to be properly categorized on the site and linked to the release calendar.

Additionally, bloggers are expected to post two related posts per month. These posts could be additional reviews, mini reviews of older titles, upcoming releases, link round-ups, essays/commentary, discussion questions, resource highlighting, book trailers, interviews, etc. Pretty much anything that fits in with our blog’s mission will be just fine.

Bloggers will also be responsible for adding books to the release calendar when they find them or are directed toward them by authors, publishers, and/or readers. Rich in Color also has a Tumblr and a Twitter account. If bloggers wish to help with the upkeep of those accounts, their assistance would be appreciated.

How to Apply
Respond to this post or email audrey AT richincolor DOT com by midnight Eastern time on April 5, 2013, with the following:

  1. Your name and where you’re from.
  2. Your blogging/writing experience. Don’t overthink this or be shy. If you have/run blogs, briefly mention them. If you don’t have any, then say so! The most important items are the next two anyway.
  3. A link to your sample book review. This does not have to be a review for a book that fits into this blog’s mission. You can take an old review if you have one and tweak it to fit this format, or you can write a brand new one. We’re not picky!
  4. Why you want to join us. A couple heartfelt sentences or several passionate paragraphs–either way, we want to know why you want to join us and why you would be a great asset for the site.

Crystal and I will review all applications, and the finalists will be contacted so we can get to know you/let you ask questions/give you one last chance to back out. The new bloggers will be announced to the public on or around April 12. Rich in Color will officially be in business on April 15!

Book Review Format
Please note that all of this information should be appropriately sourced.

Cover image
Title (if applicable, what # it is in the series)
Author (with link to website)
Genres
Page #s
Publisher
Source of review copy
Availability date

Summary
300+ words for review. DO NOT SUMMARIZE THE BOOK. (That’s what the summary is for.) Talk about characters, themes, culture, world-building, plot construction/holes, pacing, etc. Discuss both positive and negative aspects of the book without losing professionalism. When at all possible, avoid spoilers. If spoilers are unavoidable, warn and put them behind a cut.

Recommendation
Buy it now/get it soon/borrow it someday/just skip it scale.

Go here and here to see our example reviews.

Last Bits
If you have any questions or want something clarified before you put in the effort of applying, please ask away in the comments below! We’ll answer your questions as quickly as we can.

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Review: City of a Thousand Dolls

DollsTitle: City of a Thousand Dolls (Bhinian Empire #1)
Author: Miriam Forster
Genres: Fantasy, Mystery
Pages: 359
Publisher: HarperTeen
Review Copy: Purchased
Availability: February 5, 2013 (on shelves now!)

Summary: Nisha was abandoned at the gates of the City of a Thousand Dolls when she was just a child. Now sixteen, she lives on the grounds of the isolated estate, where orphan girls apprentice as musicians, healers, courtesans, and, if the rumors are true, assassins. Nisha makes her way as Matron’s assistant, her closest companions the mysterious cats that trail her shadow. Only when she begins a forbidden flirtation with the city’s handsome young courier does she let herself imagine a life outside the walls. Until one by one, girls around her start to die.

Before she becomes the next victim, Nisha decides to uncover the secrets that surround the girls’ deaths. But by getting involved, Nisha jeopardizes not only her own future in the City of a Thousand Dolls—but her own life. –(Summary and image via Goodreads.com)

Review: City of a Thousand Dolls was a fun read, once I got over the telepathic cats. (The dust jacket does not mention that the cats can talk. I actually stopped reading so I could reread the dust jacket in case I had missed something.) The world of the Bhinian Empire is a fascinating mixture of Indian culture (with a Chinese-style two-child policy and some isolationist Japan vibes) and fantasy.

The City itself—established so parents could drop off their unwanted girl children instead of killing them—is very much a lesser-of-two-evils establishment. While many of its inhabitants don’t fret much about the City’s purpose, Nisha and some of the other characters will at least acknowledge that training girls from infancy so they can be sold as courtesans, rich men’s wives, soldiers, etc., has definite skeeve potential. One minor critique (which could easily be leveled at books like Divergent or even the Harry Potter series), is that I think there are more available slots to humanity than just the seven presented in the novel via the Houses of Combat, Flowers, Beauty, Jade, Music, Pleasure, and Shadows (or Abnegation/Erudite/Amity/Candor/Dauntless or Gryffindor/Ravenclaw/Hufflepuff/Slytherin). Then again, Forster does offer some condemnation of both the City and the Houses through characters like Zann and Tanaya.

One of the biggest flaws in this book is that there is a lot of infodumping. Sometimes the infodumping is strictly for the readers, but oftentimes Nisha gets a secret history lecture. While the latter is important for the plot, both forms are awkward and occasionally difficult to get through. Whenever the Bhinian Empire comes up as a discussion topic, be prepared to learn.

The mystery itself is fairly good. While Nisha is not the kind of detective who would fit into a procedural or noir, she does the best she can with her limited skill set and resources. I was wrong about the murderer and the murderer’s motives, but I easily guessed several other important plot twists. (Protip: You ruin the mystery of whether or not the City trains assassins when they’re listed in the cast of characters.) I also felt that Forster cheated in a big way in the deaths of one of the girls—her death only happened in order to keep the mystery going. Honestly, almost all of the characters in this book are hiding something from Nisha. It didn’t vex me too much, but it will probably be infuriating for some people.

Nisha’s romance with Devan is cute but is undercut by a lot of the City’s skeeviness. Much to my delight, this is explicitly acknowledged in-world (and gets contrasted with another relationship later on). Nisha is often competent and typically knows when she’s about to go in over her head. Of course, since she’s the heroine, sometimes she has far more bravery than caution, but that is far from atypical in a fantasy novel.

Recommendation: Get it soon if you want a fun, quick read set in an India-inspired fantasy. There were a few too many missteps, particularly with the mystery, for me to recommend it whole-heartedly. However, there is a lot of potential in the world, and that means I’ll be back for the companion novel in 2014.

What did you guys think about City of a Thousand Dolls? Do you have any similar novels you’d like to recommend?

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We Are Getting Ready

We’re still tinkering with plugins, themes, and social networks and polishing our profiles, mission statement, and review policy. Please keep us bookmarked because we will be ready to recruit soon.

Yes, recruitment. Crystal and I are searching for at least two other co-bloggers/reviewers to join us here at Rich in Color. If you have a passion to support YA books by or about people of color, have an excellent command of the written word, and can commit to one review and two related posts a month, we want your application.

Just not yet. Check back next week for more information.

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