Group Discussion Announcement: Want

Hey all! Our book for group discussion at Rich in Color next month will be Want by Cindy Pon. I am beyond excited for this sci-fi thriller set in Taipei, and hope you’ll join us for the discussion in August!

Want by Cindy Pon
Jason Zhou survives in a divided society where the elite use their wealth to buy longer lives. The rich wear special suits, protecting them from the pollution and viruses that plague the city, while those without suffer illness and early deaths. Frustrated by his city’s corruption and still grieving the loss of his mother who died as a result of it, Zhou is determined to change things, no matter the cost.

With the help of his friends, Zhou infiltrates the lives of the wealthy in hopes of destroying the international Jin Corporation from within. Jin Corp not only manufactures the special suits the rich rely on, but they may also be manufacturing the pollution that makes them necessary.

Yet the deeper Zhou delves into this new world of excess and wealth, the more muddled his plans become. And against his better judgment, Zhou finds himself falling for Daiyu, the daughter of Jin Corp’s CEO. Can Zhou save his city without compromising who he is, or destroying his own heart? [Image and summary via Goodreads]


We’ll post our discussion on August 9th. Be sure to grab a copy of Want and read along. See you then!

Interview with Kat Zhang + Giveaway

Everyone, please welcome Kat Zhang to Rich in Color! Kat is an author of young adult, middle grade, and pictures books. Her newest book, THE EMPEROR’S RIDDLE, came out just a little while ago:

Mia Chen is on what her mother calls a Grand Adventure. She’s not sure what to make of this family trip to China, and didn’t want to leave her friends for the summer, but she’s excited about the prospect of exploring with her Aunt Lin, the only adult who truly understands her.

Then Aunt Lin disappears, right after her old nemesis, a man named Ying, comes to visit. Mia knows that years ago, when Aunt Lin and Ying were sent to the Fuzhou countryside to work as laborers, the two searched for an ancient treasure together–one that still hasn’t been found. She’s suspicious that their shared history might be linked to Aunt Lin’s disappearance.

When Mia discovers an old map filled with riddles in Aunt Lin’s room, she quickly pieces together her mission: find the treasure, find her aunt. Now, Mia, along with her big brother, Jake, must solve the clues to rescue the person she knows best in the world—and maybe unearth a treasure greater than her wildest dreams.

We’re excited to have Kat stop by and to ask her questions about THE EMPEROR’S RIDDLE. Once you’ve finished reading the interview, be sure to enter the giveaway for a copy of the book!


Tell us more about the development of Mia. What do you hope she means to readers?

First off, thanks of much for having me on Rich In Color! I’m so happy to be here talking about THE EMPEROR’S RIDDLE 🙂

As for Mia–it’s always hard for me to talk about “developing” my characters, because it usually feels like they’re revealing themselves to me, rather than being characters that I have to make up. From the first few pages of the first draft, I knew that Mia was going to be a dreamer, a lover of history and fantasy, someone with her head up in the clouds. I knew, too, that as much as she liked these things about herself, they also made her feel inadequate next to her high-achieving mother and older brother. The rest of Mia’s quirks and traits built from these core elements of her personality.

I think there are a lot of kids like Mia, but the world eventually pushes them to change, to be more sensible and realistic and “Adult.” Of course some growing up is inevitable, and maturity is important–but I hope readers of RIDDLE find some encouragement in how it’s Mia’s fantastical, dreamer nature that helps her solve problems no one else can.

Why did you decide to write a family-based story? What importance does family have in the book?

I set RIDDLE during a family trip to China in part because similar trips were a cornerstone of my own childhood. Those summers were all about family for me–not only was I spending a whole lot of time with my parents, but I was seeing all this extended family that I usually didn’t interact with at all. And that’s on top of all the stories about my parents I’d hear, all the old pictures and places I got to see.

Considering the roots of the story, it only made sense to bind RIDDLE with themes of family and belonging. Underneath the treasure-hunt plot, RIDDLE is at its heart a story about Mia coming to terms with the various members of her family, and discovering new aspects of them she never appreciated before.

What was your research process like for the legend and cultural/historical landmarks in The Emperor’s Riddle? Tell us about some of your favorite discoveries.

The research for each of the riddle/clue landmarks was actually pretty extensive, but also a lot of fun! I wanted to make sure I touched on a variety of places, but also used places that were old enough to have realistically been around back when the riddle was created.

My mother is actually from the Fuzhou area originally, so I’m pretty excited about actually visiting these locales in the future. I’d especially like to see the “Three Lanes and Seven Alleys” area Mia and her family visits. It seems really neat!

What have been the most challenging aspects of writing The Emperor’s Riddle? The most rewarding?

The logistics of the riddle was probably the trickiest part–just making sure that everything came together correctly, and stayed as historically accurate as possible, while still being exciting and fun. It was incredibly rewarding for me to get to delve into Mia’s travels, the cool things she sees, and to hear that readers have had fun taking this journey around Fuzhou with her.

I see that you have another middle grade book and a picture book on the horizon. What can you tell us about them? Are there any other projects you’re working on right now?

Yes! My next middle grade is called THE MEMORY OF FORGOTTEN THINGS. It’s about a girl named Sophia, whose mother died when she was six years old. However, that’s not how she remembers it–not always. You see, even after her mother’s death, Sophia kept accruing new “Memories” of her mother, memories of things that never actually happened… Now she’s on a quest to make these “Memories” come true, to change the fabric of her world so her mother never died.

AMY WU & THE PERFECT BAO is my first picture book, and it’s about a little girl on a quest to make the world’s most perfect bao 😉

I’m incredibly excited for them both!

What 2017 books by or about people of color or people from First/Native Nations are you looking forward to reading? Which ones would you recommend to our followers?

I recently got copies of two other books my editor worked on this past year: WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI and AMINA’S VOICE. I haven’t gotten the chance to read them yet, unfortunately–the last few months have been pretty hectic–but I’ve heard really great things!

Is there anything else you would like to tell us about The Emperor’s Riddle or your other work?

Only that I’m so thrilled they’re going to be out there, and I really hope they give kids the chance to see him or herself reflected in the novels they read.


Kat Zhang spent most of her childhood tramping through a world weaved from her favorite stories and games. When she and her best friend weren’t riding magic horses or talking to trees, they were writing adaptations of plays for their stuffed animals (what would The Wizard of Oz have been like if the Cowardly Lion were replaced by a Loquacious Lamb?). This may or may not explain many of Kat’s quirks today.

You can reach her at www.katzhangwriter.com, @KatZhang (twitter), or @KatZhangWriter (instagram).


Kat has generously offered a copy of THE EMPEROR’S RIDDLE to one of our readers! Enter the giveaway by using the Rafflecopter widget below. The giveaway is only open to people with U.S. mailing addresses. It will end at midnight Eastern time on July 17th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

New Releases

These two books have birthdays this week.

Vindicated (Emancipated #3) by M.G. Reyes
Katherine Tegen Books

Murder will out in the shocking conclusion to the Emancipated trilogy, where no one is who they seem and the truth has a nasty habit of showing up uninvited.

No alibis. No escape. No surrender. The six Venice Beach housemates have made some life-alteringly bad decisions since they were each legally emancipated from their parents, including confronting a killer. And the consequences have been deadly.

Now, they’re hiding out, trying to find a way out of the mess they’ve made without getting themselves killed when one of the housemates disappears, two fall in love, and another betrays them all. And when the secrets they’ve been keeping are finally laid bare, they’ll wish they’d never started looking for answers in the first place. — Cover image and summary via Goodreads

The Savage Dawn (The Girl at Midnight #3) by Melissa Grey
Delacorte Press

The sides have been chosen and the battle lines drawn.

Echo awakened the Firebird. Now she is the only one with the power to face the darkness she unwittingly unleashed . . . right into the waiting hands of Tanith, the new Dragon Prince. Tanith has one goal in mind: destroy her enemies, raze their lands, and reign supreme in a new era where the Drakharin are almighty and the Avicen are nothing but a memory.

The war that has been brewing for centuries is finally imminent. But the scales are tipped. Echo might hold the power to face the darkness within the Dragon Prince, but she has far to go to master its overwhelming force. And now she’s plagued by uncertainty. With Caius no longer by her side, she doesn’t know if she can do it alone. Is she strong enough to save her home and the people she loves?

Whether Echo is ready to face this evil is not the question. The war has begun, and there is no looking back. There are only two outcomes possible: triumph or death.

Review: Summer of Sloane

Title: Summer of Sloane
Author: Erin L. Schneider
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 304
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Review Copy: Purchased
Availability: Available now

Summary: Warm Hawaiian sun. Lazy beach days. Flirty texts with her boyfriend back in Seattle.

These are the things seventeen-year-old Sloane McIntyre pictured when she imagined the summer she’d be spending at her mom’s home in Hawaii with her twin brother, Penn. Instead, after learning an unthinkable secret about her boyfriend, Tyler, and best friend, Mick, all she has is a fractured hand and a completely shattered heart.

Once she arrives in Honolulu, though, Sloane hopes that Hawaii might just be the escape she needs. With beach bonfires, old friends, exotic food, and the wonders of a waterproof cast, there’s no reason Sloane shouldn’t enjoy her summer. And when she meets Finn McAllister, the handsome son of a hotel magnate who doesn’t always play by the rules, she knows he’s the perfect distraction from everything that’s so wrong back home.

But it turns out a measly ocean isn’t nearly enough to stop all the emails, texts, and voicemails from her ex-boyfriend and ex-best friend, desperate to explain away their betrayal. And as her casual connection with Finn grows deeper, Sloane’s carefree summer might not be as easy to find as she’d hoped. Weighing years of history with Mick and Tyler against their deception, and the delicate possibility of new love, Sloane must decide when to forgive, and when to live for herself.

Review: If you’re looking for a book to take with you on vacation this summer, look no further than Erin L. Schneider’s Summer of Sloane. It is an engaging contemporary romance that starts off with two bombshell scenes about Sloane’s best friend’s and boyfriend’s betrayals. As a reader, Sloane’s anger, confusion, and betrayed feelings were things I easily sympathized with. I’m glad Sloane had a network of family and friends to help support her while she struggled to figure out what to do with her fractured relationships, though I do wish we had seen more of Sloane’s relationship with her mother and with Mia.

Some of the best scenes in the novel are when Sloane ponders the things she’d lost and tries to figure out where she should go from there. Summer of Sloane is all about the messiness of life, establishing boundaries, and coming to terms with the fact that sometimes the people we love deeply are just as deeply flawed. Schneider did a great job of describing the emotional rollercoaster Sloane was on throughout the book and exploring the many ways Sloane was and wasn’t handling everything that had been thrown her way.

The developing romance between Sloane and Finn was fun, and they had a pretty natural progression from acquaintances to friends to significant others. I liked their banter and the way they could get each other to open up with the things they were each struggling with. I was less enthused with Finn failing to give Sloane more space during their rockier moments (to the point where I half wished Sloane would handle him like she had Tyler just so Finn would back off), but I did like where the two of them ended up.

I do have a few nitpicks about the lead-in to the finale, but they’re all spoilery. Suffice it to say, I was bothered by what I viewed as the disparity between Mick’s and Tyler’s resolutions. That isn’t the way I had hoped things would go, and I feel as if Mick got the raw end of the storytelling. In spite of that, I appreciated the generally optimistic tone of the ending and felt that it did well by Sloane’s character.

Recommendation: Get it soon if you’re looking for a fun summer vacation read. Despite a few specific-to-me nitpicks, Summer of Sloane was a good contemporary romance about love, forgiveness, and growing up. It should definitely make its way into your TBR pile if it hasn’t already.

Extras

Goodreads giveaway (ends July 10)

Interview at Next Page Please

 

 

Kwame Alexander and Solo

Though the title is Solo, this book was not created in isolation. Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess worked together to craft the poetry. In addition, Randy Preston added his musical talent in the creation of the songs that are included in the text. The songs may also be heard on the audio version of the book.

Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess during the Q & A session.

Last month, Alexander, Hess, and Preston shared about their creative journey and also read and sang portions of the book at a launch party in Chicago. When asked about how they worked on the poetry together, Alexander described a somewhat messy process. At times they alternated scenes, but not always. If Alexander was having trouble with a metaphor, Hess might help. Of course, Alexander added, “All the good poems in the book, I wrote.” Hess nodded and responded, “True.” One truth is there is no easy way to tease out who provided which words. When reading the poems, the authors voices are indistinguishable. The text appears seamless.

Randy Preston laughs as Kwame Alexander shares both the poetry in Solo and some of his own humorous family stories.

Music is a huge part of this book. Hess and Alexander they knew they wanted to include a lot of songs that defined their generation. Hess is a Guns N’ Roses and Metallica fan while Alexander’s taste runs more towards 80’s classic soft rock. They were able to weave music references throughout the book, but they wanted original music too. Preston played a part in creating that music. One evening in Milwaukee, Preston and Alexander were together and started brainstorming music. That night they worked on music to accompany some of Alexander’s previous books and over time they moved on to pieces for Solo.

When talking to Randy after the presentation, we discussed the power of having music tied to literature. Some readers may be drawn into books by the music even when they aren’t typically thrilled about reading. Randy noted that, “music is an equalizer.” He’s excited about the opportunities to go beyond traditional pages of books. With the audiobook, Solo goes well beyond the written word. The audiobook is narrated by Alexander and is accompanied by the original music. I’ve read and enjoyed the ARC, but after hearing an excerpt of the audiobook, I believe the audio will be an experience not to be missed.

Music is a key part of Solo. I asked Kwame how music has shaped his life. “It’s been a soundtrack through every stage of life. Music can make people feel better about themselves. I want people to feel better – that’s why I write.”

In addition to music, Solo is a book that explores what it means to be a family. Alexander shared that family is the most important thing in life.”It’s what we rely on and they encourage us. Family is something to be treasured, honored, and respected.”

Solo will be available on July 25th. My full review of the book may be found here.

Need Some Romance?

One of the ARC’s I received at the LA Times Book Festival was Sarah Dessen’s new book. My friend is a big fan of her books, but I had never read anything by her so I decided to give the book a try. I found the book to be kinda bland and the romance was predictable, however I know that teenage me would have loved it. When I was a teenager I loved reading all sorts of romance novels rooting for the couple to beat whatever obstacles they were up against. I got lost in the fantasy of falling in love with your soulmate and riding off into the proverbial sunset. When I was a teen, however, there was not much diversity in YA contemporary romance, so I definitely missed seeing myself as the heroine/love interest. Times have changed, but not by much. While there are more YA romances with characters of color, the number of novels actually published is still very dismal compared to the number of romances featuring white couples. And, as a proponent of Black Love, I could barely think of any romances that focused on Black love or even Latinx love. I found that most titles were interracial couples (not that there is anything wrong with that), but that is an examination for another time. What I want to do is highlight some YA romance that I’ve read and loved, and that you should read too. Also, if there is a title that you’d like to share, please do so in the comments below.

*PS I would have included “When Dimple Met Rishi” but since we just discussed it just last week, read our discussion to learn what we all thought of the book. When Dimple Met Rishi Discussion

PPS A few months ago I did a post about adaptations of Romeo & Juliet. Check out that list for more romance titles. Romeo & Juliet 2,0: Reflecting Our World.

Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan

High-school junior Leila has made it most of the way through Armstead Academy without having a crush on anyone, which is something of a relief. Her Persian heritage already makes her different from her classmates; if word got out that she liked girls, life would be twice as hard. But when a sophisticated, beautiful new girl, Saskia, shows up, Leila starts to take risks she never thought she would, especially when it looks as if the attraction between them is mutual. Struggling to sort out her growing feelings and Saskia’s confusing signals, Leila confides in her old friend, Lisa, and grows closer to her fellow drama tech-crew members, especially Tomas, whose comments about his own sexuality are frank, funny, wise, and sometimes painful. Gradually, Leila begins to see that almost all her classmates are more complicated than they first appear to be, and many are keeping fascinating secrets of their own.

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han (Really the entire series)

Lara Jean’s love life gets complicated in this New York Times bestselling “lovely, lighthearted romance” from the New York Times bestselling author of The Summer I Turned Pretty series.

What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them… all at once?

Sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Maria McLemore

For twenty years, the Palomas and the Corbeaus have been rivals and enemies, locked in an escalating feud for over a generation. Both families make their living as traveling performers in competing shows—the Palomas swimming in mermaid exhibitions, the Corbeaus, former tightrope walkers, performing in the tallest trees they can find.

Lace Paloma may be new to her family’s show, but she knows as well as anyone that the Corbeaus are pure magia negra, black magic from the devil himself. Simply touching one could mean death, and she’s been taught from birth to keep away. But when disaster strikes the small town where both families are performing, it’s a Corbeau boy, Cluck, who saves Lace’s life. And his touch immerses her in the world of the Corbeaus, where falling for him could turn his own family against him, and one misstep can be just as dangerous on the ground as it is in the trees.

The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brackenburgh

Antony and Cleopatra. Helen of Troy and Paris. Romeo and Juliet. And now… Henry and Flora.

For centuries Love and Death have chosen their players. They have set the rules, rolled the dice, and kept close, ready to influence, angling for supremacy. And Death has always won. Always.

Could there ever be one time, one place, one pair whose love would truly tip the balance?

Meet Flora Saudade, an African-American girl who dreams of becoming the next Amelia Earhart by day and sings in the smoky jazz clubs of Seattle by night. Meet Henry Bishop, born a few blocks and a million worlds away, a white boy with his future assured—a wealthy adoptive family in the midst of the Great Depression, a college scholarship, and all the opportunities in the world seemingly available to him.

The players have been chosen. The dice have been rolled. But when human beings make moves of their own, what happens next is anyone’s guess.

Achingly romantic and brilliantly imagined, The Game of Love and Death is a love story you will never forget.

The Sun is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

 

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.