K. Imani’s Favs of 2016

Usually each year I keep a list of all the books I read, but this year I got lazy therefore had to really think about which books I absolutely loved this year. Basically the deciding factor came down to books I want everyone to read, but wouldn’t let anyone borrow my copy (yeah, I’m that selfish, lol).

Yoon_9780553496680_jkt_all_r1.inddThe Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon (My Review)

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?

 

This Is Where It EndsThis is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp (My Review)

10:00 a.m. The principal of Opportunity High School finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.

10:02 a.m. The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.

10:03 a.m. The auditorium doors won’t open.

10:05 a.m. Someone starts shooting.

Told from four different perspectives over the span of fifty-four harrowing minutes, terror reigns as one student’s calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival.

 

evereywhereThe Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig (Jessica’s Review)

Nix has spent her entire life aboard her father’s ship, sailing across the centuries, across the world, across myth and imagination.

As long as her father has a map for it, he can sail to any time, any place, real or imagined: nineteenth-century China, the land from One Thousand and One Nights, a mythic version of Africa. Along the way they have found crewmates and friends, and even a disarming thief who could come to mean much more to Nix.

But the end to it all looms closer every day.

Her father is obsessed with obtaining the one map, 1868 Honolulu, that could take him back to his lost love, Nix’s mother. Even though getting it—and going there—could erase Nix’s very existence.

For the first time, Nix is entering unknown waters.

She could find herself, find her family, find her own fantastical ability, her own epic love.

Or she could disappear.

 

Star Touched QueenThe Star Touched Queen by Roshani Chockshi (Read an excerpt here)

Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen?

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…

But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.

 

bladeThe Poisoned Blade (Court of Fives #2) by Kate Elliott (My Review)

The Fives Court is treacherous.
The world outside is far worse.
Jessamy is moving up the ranks of the Fives–the complex athletic contest favored by the lowliest Commoners and the loftiest Patrons in her embattled kingdom. Pitted against far more formidable adversaries, success is Jes’s only option, as her prize money is essential to keeping her hidden family alive. She leaps at the change to tour the countryside and face more competitors, but then a fatal attack on her traveling party puts Jes at the center of the war that Lord Kalliarkos–the prince she still loves–is fighting against their country’s enemies. With a sinister overlord watching her every move and Kal’s life on the line, Jes must now become more than a Fives champion….She must become a warrior.

 

doorThe Door at the Crossroads by Zetta Elliott (RiC’s Book Discussion)

One summer night, Genna Colon makes a fateful wish that sends her and her boyfriend Judah spiraling

through time. They land hours apart in the city of Brooklyn—and in the middle of the Civil War. Genna is taken to the free Black community of Weeksville, but Judah suffers a harsher fate and is sent to the South as a slave. Judah miraculously makes his way back to Genna, but the New York City Draft Riots tear them apart once more. When Genna unexpectedly returns to her life in contemporary Brooklyn, she vows to fulfill the mandate of sankofa: “go back and fetch it.” But how will she summon the power she needs to open the door that leads back to Judah?

The Door at the Crossroads is the long-awaited sequel to A Wish After Midnight by award-winning author Zetta Elliott.

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Crystal’s 2014 Favorites

It’s been a great year of reading for me. Here are some of my favorites and why they stood out for me.

Poetry

howHow I Discovered Poetry by Marilyn Nelson
Dial
My Review

Summary: A powerful and thought-provoking Civil Rights era memoir from one of America’s most celebrated poets.

Looking back on her childhood in the 1950s, Newbery Honor winner and National Book Award finalist Marilyn Nelson tells the story of her development as an artist and young woman through fifty eye-opening poems. Readers are given an intimate portrait of her growing self-awareness and artistic inspiration along with a larger view of the world around her: racial tensions, the Cold War era, and the first stirrings of the feminist movement.

A first-person account of African-American history, this is a book to study, discuss, and treasure.

* From my review: “Reading How I Discovered Poetry is like looking through a photo album with a loved one while they share memories. Here a laugh, there a tear, sometimes even an admission of mischievousness. Marilyn Nelson has crafted fifty sonnets that begin with the simplicity of a pre-schooler and progress to the complexity of the early teen years.”

Brown Girl DreamingBrown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Nancy Paulsen Books
My Review

Summary:Jacqueline Woodson, one of today’s finest writers, tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse.

Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.

* From my review: “Story is a ribbon running through the book as she tells the stories from family members and of how she herself breathes stories. In her author’s note she explains that this book is “my past, my people, my memories, my story.” Most readers will be tumbled into their own memories along the way.”

danceA Time to Dance by Padma Venkatramen
Nancy Paulsen Books
My Review

Summary: Padma Venkatraman’s inspiring story of a young girl’s struggle to regain her passion and find a new peace is told lyrically through verse that captures the beauty and mystery of India and the ancient Bharatanatyam dance form. This is a stunning novel about spiritual awakening, the power of art, and above all, the courage and resilience of the human spirit.

Veda, a classical dance prodigy in India, lives and breathes dance—so when an accident leaves her a below-knee amputee, her dreams are shattered. For a girl who’s grown used to receiving applause for her dance prowess and flexibility, adjusting to a prosthetic leg is painful and humbling. But Veda refuses to let her disability rob her of her dreams, and she starts all over again, taking beginner classes with the youngest dancers. Then Veda meets Govinda, a young man who approaches dance as a spiritual pursuit. As their relationship deepens, Veda reconnects with the world around her, and begins to discover who she is and what dance truly means to her. — Cover image and summary via IndieBound

* From my review: “Venkatraman’s writing brought me to tears, but also gave me many opportunities to smile. Above all, as Veda found out more about herself and explored her beliefs, readers will be likely to think about their own beliefs and spiritual life.”

noNo Matter the Wreckage by Sarah Kay
Write Bloody Publishing

Summary:Following the success of her breakout poem, “B,” Sarah Kay releases her debut collection of poetry featuring work from the first decade of her career. No Matter the Wreckage presents readers with new and beloved work that showcases Kay’s knack for celebrating family, love, travel, history, and unlikely love affairs between inanimate objects (“Toothbrush to the Bicycle Tire”), among other curious topics. Both fresh and wise, Kay’s poetry allows readers to join in on her journey of discovering herself and the world around her. It’s an honest and powerful collection.

* I didn’t actually review this for Rich in Color because it wasn’t marketed as a young adult book, but it would certainly appeal to readers of YA. Sarah Kay is a young author and many young adults are familiar with her spoken word poetry. I was fortunate enough to see her in Chicago this year and get a signed copy of No Matter the Wreckage. She has a way of stringing the words together in powerful ways. Here’s a sample:

Defying Genre Labels

dreamingDreaming in Indian by Lisa Charleyboy
Annick Press

Summary:A powerful and visually stunning anthology from some of the most groundbreaking Native artists working in North America today.

Truly universal in its themes, “Dreaming In Indian” will shatter commonly held stereotypes and challenge readers to rethink their own place in the world. Divided into four sections, ‘Roots, ‘ ‘Battles, ‘ ‘Medicines, ‘ and ‘Dreamcatchers, ‘ this book offers readers a unique insight into a community often misunderstood and misrepresented by the mainstream media.

Emerging and established Native artists, including acclaimed author Joseph Boyden, renowned visual artist Bunky Echo Hawk, and stand-up comedian Ryan McMahon, contribute thoughtful and heartfelt pieces on their experiences growing up Indigenous, expressing them through such mediums as art, food, the written word, sport, dance, and fashion. Renowned chef Aaron Bear Robe, for example, explains how he introduces restaurant customers to his culture by reinventing traditional dishes. And in a dramatic photo spread, model Ashley Callingbull and photographer Thosh Collins reappropriate the trend of wearing ‘Native’ clothing.

Whether addressing the effects of residential schools, calling out bullies through personal manifestos, or simply citing hopes for the future, “Dreaming In Indian” refuses to shy away from difficult topics. Insightful, thought-provoking, and beautifully honest, this book will to appeal to young adult readers. An innovative and captivating design enhances each contribution and makes for a truly unique reading experience.

* Here I feel like I’m cheating. I’ve only just begun to read this, but I am still claiming it as a favorite. I’m taking this one slowly and savoring it. The many different voices and perspectives are vivid and speak truths using words, art, and other means. It is visually stunning and I’m thankful that so many people shared their stories.

Graphic Novel

heroThe Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang
First Second
My Review

Summary: n 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.

* From my review: “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.”

Contemporary

To All the Boys I've Loved BeforeTo All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
Audrey’s Review

Summary: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

* This was a very fun story at a time when I was needing just that. I even got to have a bit of a twitter conversation with Jenny Han about one such bit of fun. I wrote about that here.

howHow it Went Down by Kekla Magoon
Henry Holt and Co.
My Review

Summary: When sixteen-year-old Tariq Johnson dies from two gunshot wounds, his community is thrown into an uproar. Tariq was black. The shooter, Jack Franklin, is white.

In the aftermath of Tariq’s death, everyone has something to say, but no two accounts of the events line up. Day by day, new twists further obscure the truth.

Tariq’s friends, family, and community struggle to make sense of the tragedy, and to cope with the hole left behind when a life is cut short. In their own words, they grapple for a way to say with certainty: This is how it went down.

* From my review: “This wasn’t an easy book to read. There are many moments of pain to be found and experienced. The worst part is that our news headlines contain similar situations. The story seemed all too possible.”

GreatestWhen I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Our Group Discussion – with spoilers

Summary: In Bed Stuy, New York, a small misunderstanding can escalate into having a price on your head—even if you’re totally clean. This gritty, triumphant debut captures the heart and the hardship of life for an urban teen.

A lot of the stuff that gives my neighborhood a bad name, I don’t really mess with. The guns and drugs and all that, not really my thing.

Nah, not his thing. Ali’s got enough going on, between school and boxing and helping out at home. His best friend Noodles, though. Now there’s a dude looking for trouble—and, somehow, it’s always Ali around to pick up the pieces. But, hey, a guy’s gotta look out for his boys, right? Besides, it’s all small potatoes; it’s not like anyone’s getting hurt.

And then there’s Needles. Needles is Noodles’s brother. He’s got a syndrome, and gets these ticks and blurts out the wildest, craziest things. It’s cool, though: everyone on their street knows he doesn’t mean anything by it.

Yeah, it’s cool…until Ali and Noodles and Needles find themselves somewhere they never expected to be…somewhere they never should’ve been—where the people aren’t so friendly, and even less forgiving.

* The strength in this book for me was the strong relationships between friends and family. There are rough patches, but the relationships are key. It doesn’t hurt that there was knitting in the book too. I’m a sucker for knitting books.

What were some of your favorite books this year?

Unless otherwise noted, cover images and summaries are via Goodreads.

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My Favs of 2013

When I first decided to write my year in review, I thought it would be easy to write a post on the books I read this year. But then came time to sit down and write and my mind went blank. I had a hard time trying to even remember most of the books I read this year, especially ones that were published in 2013. Next year, I’m making a list and checking it twice. In the end, I was able to come up with a small list, plus a few books I’m looking forward to in 2014.

 
eleanor and parkOverall Favorite Book of 2013
Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell

OMG, I loved this book! The minute I started reading it, I had a smile on my face all the way through. Okay, not all the way as the story takes a darker turn, but I was still rooting for Eleanor and Park because I loved both the characters and I loved their relationship. Rainbow Rowell tells their love story in such a sweet and realistic way that you fall in love with both of them as they fall in love. Another aspect of the novel, for me, was the nostalgia factor as the story was set in 1986, so a number of cultural references I could relate to. Even thinking about this book gives me a warm fuzzy feeling and I know this will be a book I will read again and again.

 
Favorite SciFi/Fantasy Book of 2013
Immortal Rules/The Eternity Cure, by Julie Kagawa

julie-kagawa-immortal-rules-eternity-cure-book-covers-2

I know that Eternity Cure actually came out this year, but in order for me to write my review (link here) I had to read Immortal Rules, so I’m placing both books as my favorite for this year. This series is just so intense and it makes vampires scary again, not mopey teenagers in love. I completely lost myself in the world that Julie Kagawa created and fell in love with Allison and Zeke. The Blood of Eden series will be one I’m sure I’ll read again and again. Plus, after the cliffhanger that Kagawa left us on, I’m eagerly anticipating the next book, which is titled “The Forever Song” and publishes in April.

 

 

via Goodreads

via Goodreads

My “Diversity Done Right” Award
House of Hades, by Rick Riordan

I only started reading the Heroes of Olympus series at the request of my students and ended up enjoying the series. While my students were over the moon excited for the 4th book, I was a bit ambivalent as I really didn’t like Mark of Athena all that much. I have to say that I was extremely pleased with House of Hades, the improvements by Riordan to handle the narrative of 7 points of view, as well as how he handled issues of diversity amongst the characters. He doesn’t shy away from it, but he also doesn’t make it a “afternoon school special” feel. He also made a beloved character gay, which shocked my students, but pleased me immensely because Riordan’s world now felt like the one we live in.

 Book I Can’t Wait For

courtesy of Goodreads

courtesy of Goodreads

Ignite Me, by Tahereh Mafi

If you haven’t read the “Shatter Me” series  you need to. It is such an intense series and beautifully written at the same time. Ignite Me is the last book of the series and I can’t wait to see how it’s going to end. Also, isn’t the cover just gorgeous?

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