Book Review: Children of Blood and Bone

Title: Children of Blood and Bone
Author: Tomi Adeyemi
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 525
Publisher: Henry Holt & Company
Review Copy: Purchased
Availability: Available Now

Summary: Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy.

Review: Tomi Adeyemi’s debut fantasy novel is Black Girl Magic – literally. Zélie is a beautiful Black girl who is finally able to tap into her magic and is goes on a journey to bring magic back to her country. Children of Blood and Bone is the Hero’s Journey novel with a Black protagonist, no with Black people and an Afrocentric bent, that I’ve been waiting for. This was another one of those reads where I had planned to read slowly over the course of a few days, but basically ended up staying up to the wee hours of the night, sleeping for a few hours, then finishing it before I did anything the next morning. I was so into Zélie ’s journey and that of Prince Inan that I couldn’t put the book down.

Based on the summary, I thought the novel would be told from just Zélie ’s POV, but in actuality it was from three different POV’s and I really loved it. Of course, since Zélie is the main protagonist we are with her more in the story, but we also get to be with Amari and Inan, the royal princess and prince of Orïsha. Amari and Zélie travel together while Inan chases them down. While Inan is the antagonist of the novel, I feel he is more of a foil to Zélie as he goes on a similar journey of the self as well. He and Zélie end up having a unique connection which created a wonderful connection that brought a unique tension to the story, forcing the two enemies to get to know each other. Their budding relationship was so compelling as I felt both had equal weight in the determination of whether magic would return to Orïsha based on their personal experiences with magic. The push and pull between them was more than just attraction as they also had a difference in beliefs and challenged each other. Despite Inan being a prince and Zélie being a resident of Orïsha, in their interactions they treated each other as equals, respecting each other’s agency and power. I also felt the same with Amari and Zélie ’s relationship, though their friendship did begin rocky, they eventually learn to trust and love each other and become like sisters. Zélie pushed Amari to become more than she ever thought she could be and Amari gave Zélie the support she needed as Zélie learned to harness and control her powers. Amari is the friend that every girl needs – the one that will fight for you if needed. I love their relationship and feel it’s a wonderful portrayal of the sisterhood that can be achieved between girls.

I would be a horrible reviewer if I did not point out the terrific world building Adeyemi created for Children of Blood and Bone. Adeyemi uses the Orisha gods and goddesses as the basis for the mythology and magic that is Zélie ’s world. Each of the gods and goddesses are revered by specific maji clans whose powers are a gift from the gods but also represent what each earthly element the god represents. I found this aspect of the novel fascinating and would love to know more about what life was like before all the maji were killed, but the wonderful part of the book is that I know the journey Zélie is on will be a rebuilding of that world (to a certain extent). As Zélie goes on her journey the world of Orïsha comes to life, my favorite being the temple at Chandomble, a former community of maji who were massacred by the king, but one persons survived. The way Adeyemi describes the buildings, the lifestyle of the community really bring home how cruel the king was and brings home the magnitude of the loss of the maji. I could imagine this beautiful temple that had a thriving community full of families living in buildings filled with amazing murals everywhere of the gods and goddesses. It was details such as these that transported me to Orisha that I wish I could really go there. So many beautiful descriptions of the people, the land, the culture made me feel with Zélie and her fight to have her world righted again.

Like I said earlier, I couldn’t put Children of Blood and Bone down. I was so captivated by the world Adeyemi created, captured by Zélie, Amari, and Inan’s stories & their growth, and the magic that Adeyemi created, that I was sad when I finished the book. I wasn’t quite ready to leave Zélie’s world just yet, but I’m anxiously awaiting the sequel. Go get this book, you won’t be disappointed.


New Releases

Two new #ownvoices books this week that will have us looking at race, culture and romance from a variety of perspectives. I’m looking forward to both of them.

A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena
Farrar Straus Giroux

A timeless exploration of high-stakes romance, self-discovery, and the lengths we go to love and be loved.

Sixteen-year-old Zarin Wadia is many things: a bright and vivacious student, an orphan, a risk taker. She’s also the kind of girl that parents warn their kids to stay away from: a troublemaker whose many romances are the subject of endless gossip at school. You don’t want to get involved with a girl like that, they say. So how is it that eighteen-year-old Porus Dumasia has only ever had eyes for her? And how did Zarin and Porus end up dead in a car together, crashed on the side of a highway in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia? When the religious police arrive on the scene, everything everyone thought they knew about Zarin is questioned. And as her story is pieced together, told through multiple perspectives, it becomes clear that she was far more than just a girl like that.

This beautifully written debut novel from Tanaz Bhathena reveals a rich and wonderful new world to readers. It tackles complicated issues of race, identity, class, and religion, and paints a portrait of teenage ambition, angst, and alienation that feels both inventive and universal.

All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout the Ages Edited by Saundra Mitchell
Harlequin Teen

Take a journey through time and genres and discover a past where queer figures live, love and shape the world around them. Seventeen of the best young adult authors across the queer spectrum have come together to create a collection of beautifully written diverse historical fiction for teens.

From a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood set in war-torn 1870s Mexico featuring a transgender soldier, to two girls falling in love while mourning the death of Kurt Cobain, forbidden love in a sixteenth-century Spanish convent or an asexual girl discovering her identity amid the 1970s roller-disco scene, All Out tells a diverse range of stories across cultures, time periods and identities, shedding light on an area of history often ignored or forgotten.

Book Review: The Belles

The BellesTitle: The Belles
Author: Dhonielle Clayton
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 434
Publisher: Freeform Books
Review Copy: Purchased from Amazon
Availability: Available Now

Summary: Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.

But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orléans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.

With the future of Orléans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.

Review: I have to be honest that I struggled with what to say about “The Belles” because I found this book really disturbing. The novel has been described as “lush” and it is, with Clayton being extremely descriptive of the gowns, the setting, the food throughout the story, but for me after the initial few chapters, the excessive descriptions started to bother me. And then, midway through the novel I realized that this over-abundance of beautific descriptions was meant to be disturbing as to highlight how the notion of beauty has basically driven this society that Clayton created to madness, though they do not think they are mad. “The Belles” is a dark, disturbing novel that is a warning about what can happen when the desire to be beautiful reaches a point where reason is practically lost. The novel subtly explores the concept of slavery, yes that is what I feel the Belles are, even though they are celebrated, and the things people will do to keep making money off the backs of people. All in all, I realize that the point of the novel is to disturb the reader, to shake them up as the book is still with me days after I’ve finished it.

The strength of “The Belles” completely rides on the main character, Camellia (Camille) Beauregard’s, story. Camellia is a “Belle”, humans who have the power to make people beautiful, and has been trained since birth to harness her power with the intention of serving all the people the kingdom. She is one of six Belles of her generation who are debuting at the beginning of the book. She states that once she and her sisters debut, the previous generation leaves. This was my first disturbing thought – six Belles for an entire nation? Something wasn’t right. Soon, Camille realizes this exact notion when she first begins working at a tea house in the capital city. Then Camille replaces her sister Amber as the Queen’s favorite and she soon discovers how far people are willing to go to be beautiful, especially Princess Sophia. Clayton, I must say, wrote a perfect villain in Princess Sophia because it was clear that her desire to be beautiful, to mean something to someone, is what drove her to do the things she did, but her acts were so deplorable that I truly hated her. And this is where Clayton’s theme of slavery rings the loudest because Sophia has Camille to do some truly horrendous things and even though Camille knows they are wrong, she must obey. I truly felt for Camille and greatly wished she could stand up to Sophia in those moments but knew that for her, agreeing to perform those acts were all about survival. Camille does stand up to Sophia in her own way, but Sophia has ultimate power, which corrupts, and Camille unfortunately does not have enough power to truly fight Sophia. That power struggle was awful to read, butt also very real which truly added to this dark story.

I feel like “The Belles” is a true subversive book for our current time period as it hits on so many themes – the desire for beauty, power, slavery, exploitation, that it forces the reader to reflect on these themes that are uncomfortable but ones we need to ultimately examine. The Belles is the perfect book with which to have those conversations because it serves as a warning to us as to what can happen when we let our desire to be beautiful and our desire for power to get out of control.

Black Kings

Welcome to Black History Month! Last year I focused on Black Girl Magic and spotlighted some of my favorite Black heroines. With Black Panther coming out next week (did ya’ll buy your tickets yet?) and in honor of King T’Challa, I wanted to focus on our Black Kings in YA literature.

As I was compiling my list of favorite characters, I realized that a bunch of them all come from the mind of Jason Reynolds, who is truly a king himself. So, here are two of my favorite characters that Jason created.

Matt Miller – The Boy in the Black Suit
Matt was such a sweet soul who was having to deal with one of the hardest moments of his life – losing his mother, and by extension his father who was not handling the loss well. I felt that Matt’s introspective nature about life, family, and dating is what really connected with me. I felt sorry for him for his loss, but yet was touched by his strength to keep going, to find a job, and to handle being thrust into an adult role without losing it. Matt is a character that many teens can relate to and also a teen who could be a literary role model.



Miles Morales – Miles Morales: Spiderman
When I was younger I was a Peter Parker stan but after reading Spiderman, I’m like “Peter who?” I loved Miles for all of his snarkiness, his humor, his desire to seek out justice, and his inquisitive nature. He is a smart kid who is using his powers for good, but he was a wonderfully flawed character at the same time. I could imagine Miles in my classroom being that kid that I know has so much potential if given just the right nudge. I know many teens would be able to connect with him (as one of my students really does love Miles) as they will see themselves in him and see that an Afro-Latino boy can be a superhero.



Marlon Sunday – Orangeboy by Patrice Lawrence
One of the reasons I love Marlon is because he is one of the most frustrating character. Poor Marlon was put in an unfortunate position and tried to make the best of a horrible situation but ended up doing everything wrong. So many times I wanted to scream at Marlon, but that is what made him real to me. He was this geeky kid who was living with the legacy of a troubled older brother, dealing with an intense mystery that is spiraling out of control, and wanting to protect his mom from further heartbreak. What I loved about him was that no matter how many mistakes he made, he always got back up again and tried his best. His determination, his desire to help his brother and his family really stood out to me. I feel that kids who might make all the wrong mistakes can look to Marlon as an example of getting up each time you fall because that is was truly matters.


Seven Carter – The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
While Seven is not the main character of THUG, he does play a significant role in Starr’s life. Seven is the type of older brother I wish I had. He’s the one that can tease you like no one else, but also be the one who will have your back whenever you need it. I truly loved his and Starr’s relationship, but also that he was a young man who had a good head on his shoulder and was always looking forward. He is definitely a character that many teens can relate to both as a young man who is trying to figure out life as a young man on the cusp of adulthood, and as a big brother.

New Releases

Only one new book this week and it sounds like it’s one of those books that wrenches your heart and stays with you for a long time.

The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary by NoNieqa Ramos
Carolrhoda Books

Macy’s school officially classifies her as “disturbed,” but Macy isn’t interested in how others define her. She’s got more pressing problems: her mom can’t move off the couch, her dad’s in prison, her brother’s been kidnapped by Child Protective Services, and now her best friend isn’t speaking to her. Writing in a dictionary format, Macy explains the world in her own terms—complete with gritty characters and outrageous endeavors. With an honesty that’s both hilarious and fearsome, slowly Macy reveals why she acts out, why she can’t tell her incarcerated father that her mom’s cheating on him, and why her best friend needs protection . . . the kind of protection that involves Macy’s machete.

Book Review: Meet Cute: Some People are Destined to Meet

Title: Meet Cute: Some People are Destined to Meet
Author: Sona Charaipotra, Dhonielle Clayton, Nicola Yoon, Ibi Zoboi and others
Genres: Short Story Anthology
Pages: 320
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Review Copy: ARC from NetGalley
Availability: Available Now

Summary: Whether or not you believe in fate, or luck, or love at first sight, every romance has to start somewhere. MEET CUTE is an anthology of original short stories featuring tales of “how they first met” from some of today’s most popular YA authors.

Readers will experience Nina LaCour’s beautifully written piece about two Bay Area girls meeting via a cranky customer service Tweet, Sara Shepard’s glossy tale about a magazine intern and a young rock star, Nicola Yoon’s imaginative take on break-ups and make-ups, Katie Cotugno’s story of two teens hiding out from the police at a house party, and Huntley Fitzpatrick’s charming love story that begins over iced teas at a diner. There’s futuristic flirting from Kass Morgan and Katharine McGee, a riveting transgender heroine from Meredith Russo, a subway missed connection moment from Jocelyn Davies, and a girl determined to get out of her small town from Ibi Zoboi. Jennifer Armentrout writes a sweet story about finding love from a missing library book, Emery Lord has a heartwarming and funny tale of two girls stuck in an airport, Dhonielle Clayton takes a thoughtful, speculate approach to pre-destined love, and Julie Murphy dreams up a fun twist on reality dating show contestants.

This incredibly talented group of authors brings us a collection of stories that are at turns romantic and witty, epic and everyday, heartbreaking and real.

Review: I found the premise of this collection of short stories a fun idea as one of the most intriguing aspects of romance is the fun and unique ways couples meet. Folks always ask couples for their “meet cute” story, so to have a entire short story collection of diverse meet cutes makes for some great winter break reading (at least for me). Not all the stories were sugar sweet; some had some deep questions about identity, fate, the notion of friendships, etc. The genres of the stories were diverse too, as not all stories were contemporary; there were some speculative fiction stories, some fantasy (or felt like fantasy), which I greatly enjoyed as the “meet cute” is a trope that is in all genres. There were a few stories that truly stood out to me, making me invested in the characters so much that I was disappointed that all I got was their meet cute story.

Dhonielle Clayton’s “The Way We Love Here” was a sweet story that challenged the notion of destined lovers. The story is set in a world where people are born with markings on their ring finger which fade as they age and come closer to meeting their beloved. Our two main characters aren’t looking for that day but end up learning what they will mean to each other. Both learn that their future will one they could not have expected, but that they will always be in each other’s lives in some way. I love how this story challenges the concept of “happily ever after” and that the future we believe we dream of when we are children become vastly different than what we could ever imagine.

Another favorite of mine featured a kick ass mathematician who decided to use statistics and probability to determine if she would ever meet the cute guy she had a chance meeting with on the subway. Jocelyn Davies’s “The Unlikely Likelihood of Falling in Love” follows the main character as she decides to write a term paper about the chances of meeting someone twice in New York City. We follow her as she develops her hypothesis, runs her tests, and lastly, her conclusion. It is a fun read as she theorizes about the cute guy and the different results of her tests to see if she would see him again. I loved this story because I loved that the main character was a math whiz and looked at the world very analytically. She was also the only girl in her class, but did not receive any negative push back from her classmates. This story was also fun in a “will she succeed or won’t she” way that made me really question if a meet cute was every going to happen.

Meet Cute is an anthology you must read slowly, taking your time to savor all the different stories and how they incorporate deeper themes all within the fun story of “how did this couple meet.”