New Releases

Happy book birthday to Alpha Goddess!

Alpha Goddess by Amalie Howard

In Serjana Caelum’s alphaworld, gods exist. So do goddesses. Sera knows this because she is one of them. A secret long concealed by her parents, Sera is Lakshmi reborn, the human avatar of an immortal Indian goddess rumored to control all the planes of existence. Marked by the sigils of both heaven and hell, Sera’s avatar is meant to bring balance to the mortal world, but all she creates is chaos. A chaos that Azrath, the Asura Lord of Death, hopes to use to unleash hell on earth.

Torn between reconciling her past and present, Sera must figure out how to stop Azrath before the Mortal Realm is destroyed. But trust doesn’t come easy in a world fissured by lies and betrayal. Her best friend Kyle is hiding his own dark secrets, and her mysterious new neighbor, Devendra, seems to know a lot more than he’s telling. Struggling between her opposing halves and her attraction to the boys tied to each of them, Sera must become the goddess she was meant to be, or risk failing, which means sacrificing the world she was born to protect. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

Review: The Shadow Hero

heroTitle: The Shadow Hero
Author: Gene Luen Yang
Illustrator: Sonny Liew
Publisher: First Second
Genres: Action/Adventure, Fantasy
Format: Graphic Novel
Pages: 176
Review Copy: Netgalley
Availability: July 15, 2014, but digital issues are being released monthly until then.

Summary: In the comics boom of the 1940s, a legend was born: the Green Turtle. He solved crimes and fought injustice just like the other comics characters. But this mysterious masked crusader was hiding something more than your run-of-the-mill secret identity… The Green Turtle was the first Asian American super hero.

The comic had a short run before lapsing into obscurity, but the acclaimed author of American Born Chinese, Gene Luen Yang, has finally revived this character in Shadow Hero, a new graphic novel that creates an origin story for the Green Turtle.

With artwork by Sonny Liew, this gorgeous, funny comics adventure for teens is a new spin on the long, rich tradition of American comics lore. Cover image via Goodreads, summary via publisher

Review: After reading an interview with the creators of The Shadow Hero, I couldn’t wait to get it into my hands. Fortunately, it turned up on Netgalley so I only waited two months. The Shadow Hero was worth every bit of that time though.

Yang and Liew have taken a super hero from the past and built a backstory for him that combined Chinese American culture, a tiny taste of the supernatural, and a rather colorful mother. She is not the most nurturing person, but she had other strengths. She certainly provided comic relief. I have seen women keep money, keys or other random things down their shirts, but this was my first experience with storage of pork buns in that particular location. We get to know her early in the story because Yang starts the backstory way back – before the boy who would become The Green Turtle is even born.

What I love is that The Shadow Hero has such a nice balance of action, adventure, humor, seriousness, and flirtation. There are action sequences in each issue and several doses of comedy. I didn’t want it to end. I have not been a reader of many superhero comics. That just never was my genre of choice, but Yang and Liew are winning me over. This comic was extremely entertaining.

Like Yang’s previous work, there are some potentially offensive racial slurs, but they make sense for the time and place. The mother is also quite  exaggerated, but she grew on me in spite of her obsession and dangerous single-mindedness.

As for the illustrations, Liew wowed me. I am relatively new to the comic/graphic novel scene, but it seemed that Liew used a color palette pointing to an earlier time. That would make sense with this resurrection of a superhero from the 1940s, but it could just be his style. There were many shades of brown and most colors appeared a bit muted especially in the beginning when they were setting the stage. It made me feel like I had stepped back into time. The artwork was also fantastic. The reason I didn’t read a lot of comics in the past was that pictures slow me down. I am a plot fan and want to know what happens next. Right now. I zip through the words and tend to ignore illustrations. These pictures required me to take my time and pay attention, but I didn’t mind in the least. Liew added so much life and personality to each of the characters and the surroundings were rich in detail. To see for yourself, there is an excerpt available here. Gene Luen Yang also provides some background on the creation of the book here which includes the text, rough sketches, and final images of the first few pages. Sonny Liew also gives some background information on his blog.

Finally, as an added bonus, the hardcopy includes a section at the end that provides facts and rumors about the original comic that was created back in the 1940s. It also includes pages from the original. I have to admit, I enjoyed the updated version significantly more, but I appreciated the history involved.

To hear about this collaboration, watch this video.

Recommendation: Buy it now or at least as soon as it is possible. The first issue is available now digitally and the second issue will be released on March 18th. The digital copies look amazing so I would recommend them as they are released. Otherwise, get the hardcopy in July. I will be singing the praises of The Shadow Hero for quite some time and I hope that this is not the last we see of the Green Turtle.

Four Releases Yesterday

We’ve got quite the mix of genres for you this week! If you haven’t heard of these books already, you should check them out. I know my to-read list just got longer.

secretsideThe Secret Side of Empty by Maria Andreu

Acting like a potential valedictorian who tutors other students while still finding time to ride shotgun in her best friend’s car as they flirt with boys is fairly easy for Monserrat Thalia–it is exactly who she is. And combined with her blondish hair and pale skin, M.T. is as apple-pie American as a high school senior can get. Almost.

The one simple, very complicating exception: M.T. was born in Argentina and brought to America as a baby without any official papers. She is undocumented and illegal in the eyes of the law. And as questions of college, work, and the future arise, M.T. will have to decide what exactly she wants for herself, knowing someone she loves will unavoidably pay the price for it.

Author Maria E. Andreu draws from her personal experience of formerly being an undocumented immigrant to explore an issue that is relevant to thousands of teenagers and countless families, schools, and communities.

promisePromise of Shadows by Justina Ireland

A teen who is half-god, half-human must own her power whether she likes it or not in this snappy, snarky novel with a serving of smoldering romance.

Zephyr Mourning has never been very good at being a Harpy. She’d rather watch reality TV than learn forty-seven ways to kill a man, and she pretty much sucks at wielding magic. Zephyr was ready for a future pretending to be a normal human instead of a half-god assassin. But all that changed when her sister was murdered–and Zephyr used a forbidden dark power to save herself from the same fate.

On the run from a punishment worse than death, an unexpected reunion with a childhood friend upends Zephyr’s world–and not only because her old friend has grown surprisingly, extremely hot. It seems that Zephyr might just be the Nyx, a dark goddess that is prophesied to shift the power balance: for hundreds of years the half-gods have lived in fear, and Zephyr is supposed to change that.

But how is she supposed to save everyone else when she can barely take care of herself?

Violet HourThe Violet Hour by Whitney A. Miller

Some call VisionCrest the pinnacle of religious enlightenment.

Others call it a powerful cult.

For seventeen years, Harlow Wintergreen has called it her life.

As the adopted daughter of VisionCrest’s patriarch, Harlow is expected to be perfect at all times. To other Ministry teens, she must be seen as a paragon of integrity. To the world, she must be seen as a future leader.

Despite the constant scrutiny Harlow has managed to keep a dark and dangerous secret, even from her best friend and the boy she loves. She hears a voice in her head that seems to have a mind of its own, plaguing her with violent and bloody visions. It commands her to kill. And the urge to obey is getting harder and harder to control . . .

RuinsRuins by Dan Wells

Kira, Samm, and Marcus fight to prevent a final war between Partials and humans in the gripping final installment in the Partials Sequence, a series that combines the thrilling action of The Hunger Games with the provocative themes of Blade Runner and The Stand.

There is no avoiding it—the war to decide the fate of both humans and Partials is at hand. Both sides hold in their possession a weapon that could destroy the other, and Kira Walker has precious little time to prevent that from happening. She has one chance to save both species and the world with them, but it will only come at great personal cost.

Review: For Today I Am a Boy

for today i am a boy

 

Title: For Today I Am a Boy
Author: Kim Fu
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 256
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Review copy: the lovely library
Availability: January 14th 2014

 

 

 

 

Summary: Peter Huang and his sisters—elegant Adele, shrewd Helen, and Bonnie the bon vivant—grow up in a house of many secrets, then escape the confines of small-town Ontario and spread from Montreal to California to Berlin. Peter’s own journey is obstructed by playground bullies, masochistic lovers, Christian ex-gays, and the ever-present shadow of his Chinese father.
At birth, Peter had been given the Chinese name juan chaun, powerful king. The exalted only son in the middle of three daughters, Peter was the one who would finally embody his immigrant father’s ideal of power and masculinity. But Peter has different dreams: he is certain he is a girl. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

Review: I’ll be honest. I was hooked in by the cover design, which is gorgeous. (It looks even more beautiful in person.) When I read the description, I thought — I’ve got to read this. I read For Today I Am a Boy on a three hour train ride. When I got off the train, I still had the last quarter of the book to go, so I walked about the city in a daze, still reading.

For Today I Am a Boy matches its cover — it’s beautifully written and utterly heartbreaking. The story of Peter’s life, from her childhood to her thirties, is told in a series of memories, conversations, and moments all woven together. While far from straightforward and linear, it’s still very easy to fall into the rhythm and flow of the story.

At first glance, For Today I Am a Boy seems to be an issue novel about growing up as a transgender girl, but it’s not quite that. Though Peter yearns to be the girl she knows she is, the pressure and influence of her father forces her to conform to his standards of masculinity, even as her sisters’ flee from their father’s control. This is a story as much about sisterhood and culture as it is about gender identity. Fair warning, the book is incredibly grim for a large part of the book (despite an ambiguously happy ending). Do not read this as a pick-me-up.

I would hesitate to say that For Today I Am a Boy is strictly Young Adult literature, but I wouldn’t call it adult literature either. (What defines YA lit, anyway?) That being said, the categorization is unimportant. For Today I Am a Boy is a beautiful and incredible read that I would absolutely recommend to just about everyone.

Recommendation: Borrow it someday.*

EDIT: This book grapples with a number of issues, including homophobia, transphobia, sexism, assault, and more. Please be aware that this is not a light book and can be triggering. For an article that discusses the book’s problems with trans representation, please read this.

*Rating has been revised after further reflection.

Are You Up For a Challenge?

Back in January, I wrote a post about the reading challenges that I would be guiding my reading this year. During the CCBC-Net diversity in literature discussion in February, someone (I wish I could remember who) mentioned one more that I am excited to add to my list. First though, a recap of the ones I have been participating in already:

latin@s

The Latin@s in Kid Lit Challenge has been a lot of fun and is focused around reading children’s and young adult lit written by Latin@s or starring Latin@s. I’ve read many picture books (since I am an elementary school librarian), but the YA books I have read and enjoyed are Saving Baby Doe by Danette Vigilante (coming March 20th), The Lord of Opium by Nancy Farmer, and Death, Dickinson and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia by Jenny Torres Sanchez (which Jessica reviewed last year).

Diversity

The Diversity on the Shelf Challenge is great because the books from the Latin@s in Kids Lit Challenge also count in addition to anything that I would review here on Rich in Color. This challenge is to read books that are written by an author of color or have a main character that is a person of color. My favorites from this challenge were The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang (available digitally in installments over the next several months and in hardcopy in July), Inheritance by Malinda Lo (reviewed by K. Imani last year), Romeo and Juliet adapted by Gareth Hinds, and Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices edited by Mitali Perkins.

Africa Challenge

The Africa Reading Challenge is the new one that I was reminded of during the CCBC-Net discussion. I’m excited to get started on this one. It’s focus is concentrating on literature by African authors or taking place in Africa. The host, Kinna, encourages readers to try reading from a variety of countries. After reading Jessica’s review of Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor, I knew I wanted to read it so I bought it recently. It’s fantastic so far. As with the other two challenges, the host provides resources and suggestions so I won’t have a shortage of titles to choose from once I finish Akata Witch.

I am loving the exposure to many titles through the lists, but also through the reviews of the participants. There are still ten months left in the year, so it is not too late to get started. You don’t need to have a blog either. You can create a list in Goodreads or find some other creative way to keep track on your own just so long as you are reading and venturing out into new territory. Do you know of any other diverse lit challenges? Are you participating in one or more? Let us know and have a great time exploring diverse lit this year.

A Death-Struck Year & Dangerous

We have two new releases to kickstart March!

deathA Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier

For Cleo Berry, the people dying of the Spanish Influenza in cities like New York and Philadelphia may as well be in another country–that’s how far away they feel from the safety of Portland, Oregon. And then cases start being reported in the Pacific Northwest. Schools, churches, and theaters shut down. The entire city is thrust into survival mode–and into a panic. Headstrong and foolish, seventeen-year-old Cleo is determined to ride out the pandemic in the comfort of her own home, rather than in her quarantined boarding school dorms. But when the Red Cross pleads for volunteers, she can’t ignore the call. As Cleo struggles to navigate the world around her, she is surprised by how much she finds herself caring about near-strangers. Strangers like Edmund, a handsome medical student and war vet. Strangers who could be gone tomorrow. And as the bodies begin to pile up, Cleo can’t help but wonder: when will her own luck run out?

Riveting and well-researched, “A Death-Struck Year” is based on the real-life pandemic considered the most devastating in recorded world history. Readers will be captured by the suspenseful storytelling and the lingering questions of: what would I do for a neighbor? At what risk to myself?

An afterword explains the Spanish flu phenomenon, placing it within the historical context of the early 20th century. Source notes are extensive and interesting. — Cover image & summary via IndieBound

dangerousDangerous by Shannon Hale

How far would you go to save the world?

When Maisie Danger Brown nabbed a spot at a NASA-like summer boot camp, she never expected to uncover a conspiracy that would change her life forever.

And she definitely didn’t plan to fall in love.

But now there’s no going back—Maisie’s the only thing standing between the Earth and annihilation. She must become the hero the world needs. The only problem is: how does a regular girl from Salt Lake City do that, exactly? It’s not as though there’s a handbook for this sort of thing. It’s up to Maisie to come up with a plan—and find the courage to carry it out—before she loses her heart . . . and her life.

Equal parts romance and action-adventure, this explosive story is sure to leave both longtime Shannon Hale fans and avid science fiction readers completely breathless. — Cover image and summary via IndieBound