Book Review: Antigoddess

antigoddessTitle: Antigoddess
Author: Kendare Blake
Genres: Fantasy, SciFi
Pages: 333
Publisher: Tor Teen
Review Copy: Barnes & Noble
Availability: On Shelves now

It’s not very often that an author makes a bold move in a novel, especially the first novel of a series, that shocks the reader and has them thinking “Did Kendare Blake really just do that?” I’m not going to give it away, you have to read the novel to discover yourself, but Blake makes a shocking decision about one of her characters in her new series about ancient Greek Gods & Goddess fighting for survival, that leaves the reader with the knowledge that her series will be dark and brutal and one fantastic read.

Just like another popular YA series that deals with the Greek Gods, Blake does a fine job of weaving history and mythology into the current events of the story. Blake’s gods and goddess haven’t gone away, they’ve been living among us ever since the fall of the Greek empire and are now starting to die, thus bringing about a new war. The difference here, in Antigoddess, is that the story doesn’t just involved the stories of gods, but also of the humans that interacted with them. The humans the gods interacted with and loved are now reincarnated though they do not remember their previous lives. I frankly loved that twist to the story, especially as other human characters were identified and their 2013 selves are very different from their ancient selves. Athena and Hermes, both sarcastic gods who read like ancient teenagers that possess a wisdom of the ages, go in search of Cassandra who was an oracle during the era of the Trojan War. The two gods come across Odysseus, who is now a cheeky teenage Brit, as well as Hector and Andromache, who for now remain their 2013 selves. I have a feeling that will change however, because the book, and by extension the series, is unpredictable.

And gory, and scary and often times doesn’t feel like a YA novel because Blake does not play it safe. The novel is full of gritty violence, after all, it is a beginning of a war with “immortal beings” who see the earth as their playground, just as they did eons ago. The old Greek myths are much old stories that since we are so removed from them, we don’t often think about the catastrophes the real people of the time experienced to create the mythological stories. By being set in modern day, Antigoddess reminds the reader of the regular people, the collateral damage, of the god’s playground. It’s a sobering thought and makes it hard for the reader to root for Athena’s survival when the lives of humans are at risk. Yet, Blake breathes such life into all the characters, both human and god, that when Cassandra and Athena finally come together and begin to fight, you know they will be an unstoppable team; they just have to learn to trust each other first. And that journey will be worth the read.

I enjoyed Antigoddess as it moved at a fairly smooth pace, switching between Athena’s voice and Cassandra’s voice. The plot slowly builds and there are crossovers between the two stories that has the reader guessing at the links and figuring it all out before Athena does, and eventually Cassandra. As I said earlier, Blake weaves in historical stories well, and those bits do not slow down the action one bit. In fact, the historical information given actually adds to the tension (at least it did for me). Blake created a world that I truly believable and scary, and I can’t wait to read what happens next. If you’re looking for a new series, now that many are ending, this is a good place to start.

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What I Mean When I Talk Diversity

In the spring I’m going to be teaching a class, currently titled “Writing the Other” and will focus on why we need diversity in literature, while giving practical tips and tools at the same time. As I was discussing the class with my reading group, one friend asked, “well, doesn’t calling it ‘the other’ further alienate, set up further differences?” Our group, which is diverse in its own right, went crazy explaining why the class is needed. I think we might have been a bit overzealous and I felt like we might have made her feel bad. Instead, she reflected on the conversation and wrote this touching blog post (Default white?) where she basically unpacked her privilege and thought about what she could do better. She explored the concept of the “default white”, which she admits, she had never given much thought too. In recognizing her own misconceptions, she realized the importance of having these discussions about diversity and that all of us, white, black, yellow, green and purple, have a responsibility to making our literature reflect our world.

diversity1
A few months ago I wrote about that I’m tired of the “it’s diversity surprise” but I think I have to amend my statement because as I was beta reading a friend’s novel, I had the “it’s diversity, surprise” and I was actually glad to have it. And when I sent her an email thanking her for the surprise, it made me realize that by sending the “Thank Yous” and the “Nice Diverse world” notes to authors who are not of color, we encourage more authors (and by extension publishers) to open the doors for more diverse stories. In my friend’s novel, the diversity isn’t forced, isn’t a “very special topic”, it just is. As diversity is in real life – it just is. The “it’s diversity surprise” is just a reaction to seeing diversity just as it is and not some overreaching lesson. Those stories still do have a place as well, but we also need to have more stories where diversity just is. It’s in the background where characters interact at the coffee shop, in the classroom, at the movies. It’s in the variety of friends, and not the token Person of Color, especially in a story that is set in a big city. Its in the way teachers, community leaders are presented in a story as diversity exists there as well. Diversity is everywhere and our literature needs to embrace it.

Those examples of seeing diversity in every day lives is what we mean when we talk diversity. We need publishers to understand that the world we live in is not filled with just one type of person, one type of story. The world is colorful with skin tones of every different shade, with numerous cultures that are just as valid as any other. We all have the responsibility to make diversity in literature a very real thing. No one group should be responsible for shouldering the work. We all have a stake in this world; we need to help each other when we make mistakes and lift each other up in praise when we achieve greatness.

So, what do I mean when I talk diversity? I mean that we are all in this fight together. With my friend who wrote the blog post, with my other friend who included diversity in her novel, with my fellow writers here at Rich in Color – everyone. We are a diverse group and if we want to see change, we need to make it happen.

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New Releases

It’s a big week for diverse works as 6, count them 6, books with characters of color are released. I don’t know about you, but I’m excited. So, shall we begin?

inheritanceInheritance

by Malinda Lo

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Reese and David are not normal teens—not since they were adapted with alien DNA by the Imria, an extraterrestrial race that has been secretly visiting Earth for decades. Now everyone is trying to get to them: the government, the Imria, and a mysterious corporation that would do anything for the upper hand against the aliens.

Beyond the web of conspiracies, Reese can’t reconcile her love for David with her feelings for her ex-girlfriend Amber, an Imrian. But her choice between two worlds will play a critical role in determining the future of humanity, the Imria’s place in it, and the inheritance she and David will bring to the universe. (summary from author’s webpage http://www.malindalo.com)

I am so happy this book is finally out so I can talk about it with people! Check out my review, hereand then run and get your own copy. 

 

UntoldUntold (The Lynburn Legacy #2)

By Sarah Rees Brennan
Simon & Schuster UK

It’s time to choose sides… On the surface, Sorry-in-the-Vale is a sleepy English town. But Kami Glass knows the truth. Sorry-in-the-Vale is full of magic. In the old days, the Lynburn family ruled with fear, terrifying the people into submission in order to kill for blood and power. Now the Lynburns are back, and Rob Lynburn is gathering sorcerers so that the town can return to the old ways.

But Rob and his followers aren’t the only sorcerers in town. A decision must be made: pay the blood sacrifice, or fight. For Kami, this means more than just choosing between good and evil. With her link to Jared Lynburn severed, she’s now free to love anyone she chooses. But who should that be?

(Image and summary via Goodreads)

 

InvasionInvasion

By Walter Dean Myers
Scholastic Press

Josiah Wedgewood and Marcus Perry are on their way to an uncertain future. Their whole lives are ahead of them, yet at the same time, death’s whisper is everywhere.

One white, one black, these young men have nothing in common and everything in common as they approach an experience that will change them forever.

It’s May 1944. World War II is ramping up, and so are these young recruits, ready and eager. In small towns and big cities all over the globe, people are filled with fear. When Josiah and Marcus come together in what will be the greatest test of their lives, they learn hard lessons about race, friendship, and what it really means to fight. Set on the front lines of the Normandy invasion, this novel, rendered with heart-in-the-throat precision, is a cinematic masterpiece. Here we see the bold terror of war, and also the nuanced havoc that affects a young person’s psyche while living in a barrack, not knowing if today he will end up dead or alive. — Image and summary via Goodreads.

don't know

You Don’t Know Me Like That

by ReShonda Tate Billingsley
K-Teen/Dafina

She dishes celebrity dirt no one else dares. But now, Maya Morgan is about to get a taste of her own medicine.

— Image via Goodreads and summary via Amazon

 

 

 
chasing shadows

Chasing Shadows

by Swati Avasthi, Illustrated by Craig Phillips

Knopf Books for Young Readers

Before: Corey, Holly, and Savitri are one unit—fast, strong, inseparable. Together they turn Chicago concrete and asphalt into a freerunner’s jungle gym, ricocheting off walls, scaling buildings, leaping from rooftop to rooftop. But acting like a superhero doesn’t make you bulletproof…
After: Holly and Savitri are coming unglued. Holly says she’s chasing Corey’s killer, chasing revenge. Savitri fears Holly’s just running wild—and leaving her behind. Friends should stand by each other in times of crissi. But can you hold on too tight? Too long?

In this intense novel, told in two voices, and incorporating comic-style art sections, Swati Avasthi creates a gripping portrait of two girls teetering on the edge of grief and insanity. Two girls who will find out just how many ways there are to lose a friend . . . and how many ways to be lost. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

I really want to read this. Once my self-imposed book buying punishment is over, this is one of the first books I’m buying!

Screen Shot 2013-07-06 at 1.32.27 AMKiller of Enemies
by Joseph Bruchac
Tu Books

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.

All of us at Rich In Color are excited about this book as in August we were able to participate in the Tu Book’s cover reveal extravaganza!

 

 

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Book Review: Inheritance

inheritanceTitle: Inheritance
Author: Malinda Lo
Genres: Speculative Fiction
Pages: 480
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Review Copy: ARC from NetGalley
Availability: Releases on Sept. 24

Summary: Reese and David are not normal teens—not since they were adapted with alien DNA by the Imria, an extraterrestrial race that has been secretly visiting Earth for decades. Now everyone is trying to get to them: the government, the Imria, and a mysterious corporation that would do anything for the upper hand against the aliens.

Beyond the web of conspiracies, Reese can’t reconcile her love for David with her feelings for her ex-girlfriend Amber, an Imrian. But her choice between two worlds will play a critical role in determining the future of humanity, the Imria’s place in it, and the inheritance she and David will bring to the universe. (summary from author’s webpage http://www.malindalo.com)

Review: I thought long and hard what to write for this review because there is so much to Malinda Lo’s awesome-sauce speculative fiction novel that I just don’t know where to begin, or to write without giving away spoilers. Inheritance is the sequel to Lo’s third novel, Adaptation, where high school students Reese Holloway and David Li undergo surgery where their bodies are transformed by the Imria. Adaptation is a fast paced novel that explores the changes Reese and David experience, as well as Reese coming to terms with her sexuality when she falls for a girl named Amber Gray. The novel ends right at an intense point, where I could imagine Lo fans screaming in frustration, desiring to know what happens next. Luckily for me, a mere days after I finished Adaptation, the opportunity to read the ARC of Inheritance was presented to me and I jumped at the chance.

 

 
Fans of Adaptation will not be disappointed with the conclusion of Reese’s and Amber’s and David’s story. In fact, the tension in Inheritance becomes even more intense. The conspiracies spin out of control, the danger becomes real as both Reese and David experience violence from extremists on both sides who react exactly as imagined upon learning that beings from another world exist. And the love triangle between Reese, David and Amber is handled with such delicate care that the reader really can’t choose who to root for. Lo resolves the triangle in an unconventional way that will have fans either loving the resolution or hating it. I, in fact, loved it and thought it to be a brave choice by Lo.

 

 
Inheritance begins where Adaptation left off and doesn’t slow down for a minute. While there is less physical action scenes, the novel explores the consequences of what would happen to our society if the notion of aliens visiting our planet turn out to be true. The novel also explores the idea of “fame” and the role the media plays into the daily lives of those who are thrust into the spotlight as Reese and David are. I find that these types of stories are more compelling than your regular action mystery/SciFi novel because it allows us, both the writer and the reader, to look at our society in a unique way and answer the question of “what if”. By playing with these “what if” scenarios through novels like Inheritance, we can be prepared for when the events actually occur.

 

 
I greatly enjoyed Inheritance and while the ending is left on a positive note, and definitely completes the story, there is much more to explore in Reese’s world. I hope Malinda Lo has more planned for Reese, Amber and David, because I’d really like to spend more time with them.

 

 
Recommendation: Get it now! Inheritance comes out on Sept. 24th. If you haven’t read Adaptation, buy it now and then pre-order Inheritance.

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Flashback in Color: Tears of a Tiger

Summer is officially over and all the children are back in school, learning the three R’s and reading, hopefully, diverse literature. In this “Back to School” themed post of Flashback in Color, I’d like to reminisce on the book that opened my eyes to using YA literature in the classroom, Sharon Draper’s first book in the Hazelwood High Trilogy, Tears of a Tiger.

Photo courtesy of Goodreads

Photo courtesy of Goodreads

I was introduced to this book during my first year of teaching when I was struggling with my sophomore students. My principal at the time suggested that instead of using the literature book, which was boring to the students (and to me, I must admit), that why don’t I have them read a novel that will relate to their lives and be of interest of them. He pulled out a copy of the book, handed it to me to read over the weekend, which I actually read in about 2 hours. It was just that intense and such a good read that the minute I put it down, I was already planning how to tie the book to my curriculum. The unit ended up being a success as my boys (I was at an all boys school) connect to the book, loved it in fact, and couldn’t wait to discuss the novel in class. Many students read it all in one sitting. Teaching Tears of a Tiger opened my eyes to Young Adult literature beyond Harry Potter (all I had read at that point) and what a powerful tool YA literature can be in the classroom. Ever since then, I have incorporated YA literature in all of my units, allowing for students to connect to the stories and be able to discuss issues that are important to them. While I have not taught Tears of a Tiger in a number of years, I still recommend it to students, specifically my young men, and actually teach another one of Sharon Draper’s novels.  Her novels accurately portray the teenage voice (Ms. Draper was a teacher herself) and deals with issues that teenagers face in high school. Draper doesn’t sugarcoat the lives of her characters, often being very frank and descriptive in the violence and/or the tragedies they face.

 
Tears of a Tiger is one such book that explores the tragic consequences of drinking and driving. In the novel, Andy Jackson is a star basketball player and one night after a game, he and a few friends decide to drink and drive. They ultimately crash and his best friend Robert is burned alive when the car catches fire. The rest of the novel deals with Andy’s guilt and the effects of the crash in his relationships, school work, and overall outlook on life. Draper uses a variety of methods, from newspaper clippings to school essays, to tell Andy’s story. The novel moves at a fast pace as you read about Andy’s downward spiral into depression. Tears of a Tiger is a touching story that made my heart race at points and brought tears at others. I can tell you that middle school boys and high school sophomores highly recommend this book. Buy one for them, they will thank you for it.

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New Releases

One new release for the end of August and end of summer. I have not read any of the previous books in the trilogy, but I am a lover of series, so the Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy, now that it is finished, is added to my already long reading list.

BitterThe Bitter Kingdom, by Rae Carson

Greenwillow Books

The third book in Rae Carson’s award-winning The Girl of Fire and Thorns fantasy trilogy. Elisa, the seventeen-year-old sorcerer-queen, will travel into an unknown enemy’s realm to win back her true love, save her kingdom, and uncover the final secrets of her destiny.

Perfect for fans of Tamora Pierce and George R. R. Martin’s style of sweeping and deeply satisfying epic fantasy, the third and final book in the trilogy takes the young queen on a journey more dangerous than any she has faced before. Elisa will stand before the gate of the enemy. And she must rise up as champion—even to those who have hated her—or her kingdom will fall. Full of sorcery, adventure, sizzling romance, and secrets that challenge everything she believes, this is a bold and powerful conclusion to an extraordinary trilogy.

(Image & summary via Amazon)

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