Review: Miles Morales

Title: Miles Morales
Author: Jason Reynolds
Genre: Adventure
Pages: 272
Review copy: Digital ARC via Netgalley
Availability: On shelves August 1, 2017

Summary: “Everyone gets mad at hustlers, especially if you’re on the victim side of the hustle. And Miles knew hustling was in his veins.”

Miles Morales is just your average teenager. Dinner every Sunday with his parents, chilling out playing old-school video games with his best friend, Ganke, crushing on brainy, beautiful poet Alicia. He’s even got a scholarship spot at the prestigious Brooklyn Visions Academy. Oh yeah, and he’s Spider Man.

But lately, Miles’s spidey-sense has been on the fritz. When a misunderstanding leads to his suspension from school, Miles begins to question his abilities. After all, his dad and uncle were Brooklyn jack-boys with criminal records. Maybe kids like Miles aren’t meant to be superheroes. Maybe Miles should take his dad’s advice and focus on saving himself.

As Miles tries to get his school life back on track, he can’t shake the vivid nightmares that continue to haunt him. Nor can he avoid the relentless buzz of his spidey-sense every day in history class, amidst his teacher’s lectures on the historical “benefits” of slavery and the importance of the modern-day prison system. But after his scholarship is threatened, Miles uncovers a chilling plot, one that puts his friends, his neighborhood, and himself at risk.

It’s time for Miles to suit up.

Review: First off – check out the cover. The image screams intensity. Miles is having some serious doubts about being a superhero. His powers are acting up and he is wondering about who he really is deep down. With everything else going on in his life, Miles is one stressed-out kid. Alicia is a pleasant distraction who happens to love poetry. Poetry features prominently in this book which makes sense with Reynolds as the author. The poetry adds another layer to the story and in some cases it adds humor – especially with Miles’s best friend Ganke.

Humor shows up many times throughout the book. I appreciated some of the descriptive phrases like, “As opposed to the stench of toxic toes in the hallway, the bathroom smelled more like wet dog and corn chips.” Eew! Also, sounds about right.

Much of the story takes place in and around school with poetry and history getting most attention. Miles is into math, but with Alicia in the picture, poetry becomes more important. There’s an open mic opportunity and as you might guess, Miles works on some poetry for Alicia. He is tongue tied around her most of the time, but is at least able to write something down. There is quite a contrast between his superhero abilities and his ability to speak to a girl.

The story and characters are compelling and there is a lot going on besides the typical scenario of superhero attempting to foil the plot of an evil mastermind. Of course that is there, but there’s also a romance, friendship, awesome parents in the picture, and discussions about race specifically in the context of education.

History class is where things get complicated. It’s in history that Miles’s spidey-sense gets wacky and it’s also in history class where some bizarre discussions happen. His teacher, Mr. Chamberlain, encourages discussion around the positives of slavery and the confederacy. The points Mr. Chamberlain makes are morally reprehensible and pretty much leave students in a dilemma. Is the teacher just playing with them or does he really believe this mess he’s spouting? Regardless, what is the proper response that won’t get a student sent to the office or even expelled? Miles is basically told to stay where he belongs and comply even in the face of racism and discrimination by his teacher.

Of course, school is not the only thing going on in the story and though it’s a while before it becomes clear, there is a public enemy for Spider Man to deal with and the confrontation has plenty of action.

Recommendation: Get it now especially if you are into superheroes or poetry. There’s a ton to love in this book. Miles is a character I want to see more of and I hope that’s the plan.

Heading on a road trip

I’ll be on a mid-sized road trip soon (roughly 12 hours each way), so my first priority is deciding which books to bring with me. I’ve got a number of contenders, both older titles and newer ones. I especially want to make a dent in my Rich in Color-worthy reading pile, which means that Want by Cindy Pon, Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh, and Rebel Seoul by Axie Oh will definitely be making the cut.

Are you doing any traveling this summer or hanging out at the side of the pool? What’s on your summer TBR pile?

Want by Cindy PonWant by Cindy Pon || Group Discussion Announcement
Interview with 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?

Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist #1) by Renee Ahdieh || K. Imani’s review

The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor’s favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family’s standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.

Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she’s quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she’s ever known.

Rebel Seoul by Axie Oh

After a great war, the East Pacific is in ruins. In brutal Neo Seoul, where status comes from success in combat, ex-gang member Lee Jaewon is a talented pilot rising in the ranks of the academy. Abandoned as a kid in the slums of Old Seoul by his rebel father, Jaewon desires only to escape his past and prove himself a loyal soldier of the Neo State.

When Jaewon is recruited into the most lucrative weapons development division in Neo Seoul, he is eager to claim his best shot at military glory. But the mission becomes more complicated when he meets Tera, a test subject in the government’s supersoldier project. Tera was trained for one purpose: to pilot one of the lethal God Machines, massive robots for a never-ending war.

With secret orders to report on Tera, Jaewon becomes Tera’s partner, earning her reluctant respect. But as respect turns to love, Jaewon begins to question his loyalty to an oppressive regime that creates weapons out of humans. As the project prepares to go public amidst rumors of a rebellion, Jaewon must decide where he stands—as a soldier of the Neo State, or a rebel of the people.

Pacific Rim meets Korean action dramas in this mind-blowing, New Visions Award-winning science fiction debut.

New Releases

The finale to Kate Elliott’s Court of Five Triology finally arrives this week. I’m so excited to find out what happens. Kwame Alexander also returns with another of his novels in verse and this one looks like it’s a compelling story. And lastly, a debut novel that sounds like a great bit of literary fiction.

Buried Heart (Court of Fives #3) by Kate Elliott
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

The explosive finale to World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott’s captivating, New York Times bestselling young adult series

In this third book in the epic Court of Fives series, Jessamy is the crux of a revolution forged by the Commoner class hoping to overthrow their longtime Patron overlords. But enemies from foreign lands have attacked the kingdom, and Jes must find a way to unite the Commoners and Patrons to defend their home and all the people she loves. Will her status as a prominent champion athlete be enough to bring together those who have despised one another since long before her birth? Will she be able to keep her family out of the clutches of the evil Lord Gargaron? And will her relationship with Prince Kalliarkos remain strong when they find themselves on opposite sides of a war? Find all the answers in this beautifully written and exciting conclusion to World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott’s debut New York Times bestselling young adult trilogy!

Solo by Kwame Alexander, Mary Rand Hess
Blink

Solo, a YA novel in poetic verse, tells the story of seventeen-year-old Blade Morrison, whose life is bombarded with scathing tabloids and a father struggling with just about every addiction under the sun—including a desperate desire to make a comeback. Haunted by memories of his mother and his family’s ruin, Blade’s only hope is in the forbidden love of his girlfriend. But when he discovers a deeply protected family secret, Blade sets out on a journey across the globe that will change everything he thought to be true.

 

 

The Gallery of Unfinished Girls by Lauren Karcz
HarperTeen

Mercedes Moreno is an artist. At least, she thinks she could be, even though she hasn’t been able to paint anything worthwhile in the past year.

Her lack of inspiration might be because her abuela is in a coma. Or the fact that Mercedes is in love with her best friend, Victoria, but is too afraid to admit her true feelings.

Despite Mercedes’s creative block, art starts to show up in unexpected ways. A piano appears on her front lawn one morning, and a mysterious new neighbor invites Mercedes to paint with her at the Red Mangrove Estate.

At the Estate, Mercedes can create in ways she hasn’t ever before. But Mercedes can’t take anything out of the Estate, including her new-found clarity. Mercedes can’t live both lives forever, and ultimately she must choose between this perfect world of art and truth and a much messier reality. — Cover image and summary via Goodreads

Review: Noteworthy

Noteworthy by Riley RedgateTitle: Noteworthy
Author: Riley Redgate
Genres: Romance
Pages: 400 pages
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
Review Copy: Library
Availability: Available now!

Summary: A cappella just got a makeover. Jordan Sun is embarking on her junior year at the Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts, hopeful that this will be her time: the year she finally gets cast in the school musical. But when her low Alto 2 voice gets her shut out for the third straight year—threatening her future at Kensington-Blaine and jeopardizing her college applications—she’s forced to consider nontraditional options.

In Jordan’s case, really nontraditional. A spot has opened up in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s elite a cappella octet. Worshipped…revered…all male. Desperate to prove herself, Jordan auditions in her most convincing drag, and it turns out that Jordan Sun, Tenor 1, is exactly what the Sharps are looking for.

Jordan finds herself enmeshed in a precarious juggling act: making friends, alienating friends, crushing on a guy, crushing on a girl, and navigating decades-old rivalries. With her secret growing heavier every day, Jordan pushes beyond gender norms to confront what it means to be a girl (and a guy) in a male-dominated society, and—most importantly—what it means to be herself. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

Review: I am the opposite of musical, but I loved reading this book, which truly is a love letter to a cappella. And, I liked the queer and Asian representation within the book. But just to be clear, this is not a book about a non-binary or trans character. The language of the original book blurb on the cover seems to hint at this, but it isn’t the case – something that the author addresses in this post.

I’ve grown up with a love-hate relationship with crossdressing manga series like Ouran High School Host Club and Hana Kimi. They were just so fun to read! But also pretty problematic, especially when it came to much older books. I was curious as to how Noteworthy would handle the subject. Gender and identity is discussed, and the heroine Jordan doesn’t shy away from grappling with the ethics behind what she does to keep her place in an all-male a cappella group. But again, if you’re looking for a non-binary or trans main character, this book is not it.

I just bet this book is amazing for people who have anything to do with a cappella. Despite being not at all musical, I was hooked by all of it, and immediately looked up youtube playlists to listen to afterwards. In Noteworthy, Jordan is plunged into an intense world of competitive a cappella and the social life that goes with it – all while, on the sidelines, her attention jumps to her parents on the West Coast struggling to get by.

While my ship didn’t sail in Noteworthy (cry), what I truly fell in love with was the group dynamics, the strong thread of friendship that runs through the book. I would happily read an entire book made up entirely of the Sharpshooters’ group chat. One driving force for Jordan is her need to belong, and that’s a powerful theme throughout the book. Consider my heartstrings tugged.

As with Seven Ways We Lie, I read Noteworthy in a few days and loved every moment of it. Days later, I feel like there’s still a lot about Noteworthy that I’d like to mull over. Whatever happens, I’m looking forward to the next book that Redgate writes! If you have any love at all for a cappella, definitely check this book out!

Recommendation: Get it soon!

Interview with Pintip Dunn

We are so excited to have Pintip Dunn at Rich in Color today! Pintip’s new book, GIRL ON THE VERGE, came out last month, and we’re thrilled to be able to interview her. If you haven’t heart of GIRL ON THE VERGE, you should definitely check out the summary before you read the interview.

From the author of The Darkest Lie comes a compelling, provocative story for fans of I Was Here and Vanishing Girls, about a high school senior straddling two worlds, unsure how she fits in either—and the journey of self-discovery that leads her to surprising truths.

In her small Kansas town, at her predominantly white school, Kanchana doesn’t look like anyone else. But at home, her Thai grandmother chides her for being too westernized. Only through the clothing Kan designs in secret can she find a way to fuse both cultures into something distinctly her own.

When her mother agrees to provide a home for a teenage girl named Shelly, Kan sees a chance to prove herself useful. Making Shelly feel comfortable is easy at first—her new friend is eager to please, embraces the family’s Thai traditions, and clearly looks up to Kan. Perhaps too much. Shelly seems to want everything Kanchana has, even the blond, blue-eyed boy she has a crush on. As Kan’s growing discomfort compels her to investigate Shelly’s past, she’s shocked to find how it much intersects with her own—and just how far Shelly will go to belong…


Tell us more about Kanchana and her relationship with her family—and with Shelly.

Kanchana is a Thai-American girl who is caught between cultural worlds. She doesn’t feel quite Thai enough, but she doesn’t feel quite American enough, either. She has one foot in each world, and she wants desperately to belong — somewhere. Although her personality and situation are not remotely similar to mine, her feelings of otherness are inspired from my own experiences as a Thai-American girl. She loves her family with all of her heart — but she doesn’t feel understood by them.

When she meets Shelly, she feels understood for once in her life — before it all goes horribly wrong, since Shelly approaches the problem of not fitting in from a wholly different perspective. Girl on the Verge may be a thriller, but at its core, this novel is really a story about the intense loneliness of not having a place in this world.

I think it’s neat that Kanchana designs clothes! Why did you give her that trait?

I wanted Kan to have a passion that doesn’t fit in neatly with what is revered in Thai culture. Her mother immigrated to the U.S. for a reason: so that her daughter can have a safe and secure life with a safe and secure income. The creative field of fashion design — and the risks that come with it — do not fulfill this requirement.

The synopsis says that she has difficulties fitting into her two worlds. Can you tell us more about that?

Kanchana was raised by her Thai mother and grandmother — but in America, which means that she’s not like all the other girls in Thailand. At the same time, she’s really not like the other girls at her predominantly Caucasian school in a small town in Kansas. Whether she is in Thailand or America, she’s look at as different. (She’s bigger than most Thai girls because of her American diet; she has the Asian features that cause her to stand out in Kansas, etc.) But the differences are internal, too. Kan is shaped by both cultures, which can either mean she belongs to neither or both. As the story progresses, she gradually swings from one side to the other.

What have been the most challenging aspects of writing Girl on the Verge? The most rewarding?

This story is very important to me. While every book I write has parts of me in it, this novel might have the most of me. Like I said, while Kanchana’s situation is not remotely mine, her feelings are directly inspired from my own. I have to admit, it was scary to put these words on paper, and it is still really scary now to think about people reading them. The difference between this book and my other books is that I’ve always hidden the part of me that I had to tap into to write this story. In the Forget Tomorrow series, for example, the part of me that I put into the stories is the intense love I have for my sister. I don’t mind if everyone knows this fact about me. In contrast, I’ve never really talked about the loneliness that comes from not belonging. If I’m being honest, I still don’t feel like I belong, even now.

The most rewarding thing about writing this novel is that I get to publish a book about a girl who looks just like me. I’ve wanted to be an author ever since I was six years old, but I grew up believing that if I wanted to be published, I had to write a story about Caucasian characters. If my story helps even one person feel less lonely,…then, to quote Hamilton, that would be enough.

It looks like you have another series starting in October 2018. What can you tell us about it?

Fit To Die is a book I wrote with pure passion burning inside me, and it was the very first book I sold. For a long time, it was also my favorite book that I’ve written (although I don’t think I’m supposed to admit that!), but now there are several others competing for that spot.

Fit To Die is set in a world where food is scarce and calories can be transferred between people via a pill. Society is split into Eaters and Non-Eaters. The Eaters have been genetically modification to convert food into energy more efficiently, and they consume food for the rest of the people. The heroine is the daughter of the king. Her father is ailing, and she has been tasked to find the person who is fit to die for the king. However, the one who emerges as the best candidate turns out to be…the boy she loves. She can only save one: her father or her one true love. Who will she choose?

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 just finished Want, by Cindy Pon, which I thought was fantastic, and The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas, was absolutely stunning. I loved, loved, loved November Girl, by Lydia Kang, which comes out this November. It was so unique and mesmerizing. I’ve never read anything quite like it, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

I’m really looking forward to reading The Education of Margot Sanchez, by Lilliam Rivera; When Dimple Met Rishi, by Sandhya Menon; Hollywood Homicide, by Kelleye Garrett; Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, by Julie Dao; and A Distant Heart, by Sonali Dev.

Is there anything else you would like to tell us about Girl on the Verge or your other work?

I’m so thrilled that Girl on the Verge is out in the world, and I hope that readers will enjoy Kan’s story. It has — and will also have — a special place in my heart. My next book, Seize Today, comes out in October of this year. It is the conclusion to my Forget Tomorrow trilogy, and I’m so pleased with how Olivia and Ryder’s story turned out. You know the other books competing for the favorite book title? This is one of them.


Pintip Dunn is a New York Times bestselling author of YA fiction. She graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B. in English Literature and Language. She received her J.D. at Yale Law School, where she was an editor of the YALE LAW JOURNAL.

Pintip is represented by literary agent Beth Miller of Writers House. Her novel, FORGET TOMORROW, won the RWA RITA® for Best First Book. In addition, it is a finalist for the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire, the Japanese Sakura Medal, the MASL Truman Award, and the Tome Society It List. THE DARKEST LIE was nominated for a Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award. Her other books include GIRL ON THE VERGE, REMEMBER YESTERDAY, and the forthcoming SEIZE TODAY.

She lives with her husband and children in Maryland. You can learn more about Pintip and her books at www.pintipdunn.com.

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Interview: Aditi Khorana

The Library of Fates was released yesterday and sounds amazing. The author, Aditi Khorana, answered a few questions for us and I’m excited to get my hands on a copy of this lovely piece of lit soon.

Summary: A romantic coming-of-age fantasy tale steeped in Indian folklore, perfect for fans of The Star-Touched Queen and The Wrath and the Dawn 

No one is entirely certain what brings the Emperor Sikander to Shalingar. Until now, the idyllic kingdom has been immune to his many violent conquests. To keep the visit friendly, Princess Amrita has offered herself as his bride, sacrificing everything—family, her childhood love, and her freedom—to save her people. But her offer isn’t enough.

The palace is soon under siege, and Amrita finds herself a fugitive, utterly alone but for an oracle named Thala, who was kept by Sikander as a slave and managed to escape amid the chaos. With nothing and no one else to turn to, Amrita and Thala are forced to rely on one another. But while Amrita feels responsible for her kingdom and sets out to warn her people, the newly free Thala has no such ties. She encourages Amrita to go on a quest to find the fabled Library of All Things, where it is possible for each of them to reverse their fates. To go back to before Sikander took everything from them.

Stripped of all that she loves, caught between her rosy past and an unknown future, will Amrita be able to restore what was lost, or does another life—and another love—await?

Your first published novel, Mirror in the Sky, was science fiction. Was there a big difference between writing that type of story and writing fantasy for The Library of Fates?

Yes and no! When I’m writing a book, I’m mostly focused on themes and characters and the transformation of a character. Mirror in the Sky is a book about belonging, finding one’s place in the world, what it means to be a part of a family or community, to be a citizen of the world, and also about how the choices we make, big and small, collectively have a huge impact on the people around us. With The Library of Fates, I wanted to explore the journey of a character who has always belonged, always been beloved by those around her, and what happens when she loses everything. Essentially, how does one start over when everything is lost? Beyond this, I was investigating this question of what are the things worth sacrificing for and where do we draw the line and refuse to give in? What does it mean to be a feminist? A good friend?

I did a lot more outlining for The Library of Fates, and in many ways, it’s much more intricate in terms of plot, but the fundamental process was similar.

Amrita is facing the unknown. What does she draw on to forge ahead in spite of having no idea of what she will come up against?

The Unknown is basically navigating your own psyche, your worst demons, your greatest fears. And Amrita is a character who has essentially no life skills and is forced to navigate a world she has always been sheltered from. It’s a terrifying idea. But the unknown – as scary as it is – doesn’t exist to cruelly taunt and terrify us. It forces us to shut out all the voices that come from outside of ourselves that are urging us to find safety or comply or compromise ourselves or our vision. The unknown exists to help us find out who we truly are and what we’re truly capable of. It gives us a breadcrumb trail of clues that we can follow, and that trail comes from within ourselves. To trust the unknown inevitably means to trust yourself and I wanted to show a character who does this, despite all her fears, her loneliness and her doubts.

Your TedTalk, “Harnessing the Power of the Unknown” seems to be related to The Library of Fates in a few ways. Can you explain the relationship?

I think being a writer or working in any sort of creative profession, you’re facing the unknown every day. You are creating something out of nothing. And that’s exactly what Amrita is doing once her life is turned upside down. But I think this is what real life is about. Those kernels of inspiration, insight, the exploration of your true self, facing your greatest demons: that’s what the unknown forces us to do and hold and contend with, and try as they might, nobody escapes this.

What do you enjoy about being a writer? What is the most difficult thing about being a writer?

Without sounding too pretentious, I love thinking about ideas. I like being my own boss, and devoting my mental energies to what I want to think about rather than what someone else wants me to think about. I love exploring new themes, and I feel like I learn so much with each book that I write. It’s the closest thing I have to some sort of devotional practice. I work through everything with the simple act of writing. It’s made me a more empathetic, creative and disciplined person.

The most difficult part is probably the long arc of publishing. It’s often a year between the time that you finish a manuscript and it’s out in the world, sometimes longer.

What are some of your favorite books? Have any of them inspired or influenced your writing?

My favorite book of all time is The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. It’s the book that made me want to become a writer.

What’s up next for you as a writer?

I’m working on experimental feminist fiction for smart women and teens. It’s contemporary, it’s dark and it challenges the conventions of the novel as well as the conventions that women are often forced to abide by. It’s really fun to write.