Monthly Archives: June 2015

Book Discussion: The Wrath and the Dawn

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

Summary18798983

The king keeps getting married. And every morning his bride is murdered. After Shahrzad’s best friend falls victim to the nuptial death, she decides it’s time for someone to do something about it. She volunteers to be the next bride and is determined to survive while ensuring that the king does not. But, as she steals each new morning by telling a story and ending it just as the action climaxes, she gets to know the young man responsible for so many deaths…and things are not what they seem.

heart Romance Score: Good Effort

I liked the slow burn of emotions and the secrets and discoveries that allow the characters to open up with each other. There’s a love triangle here, but it’s not awful since the characters are rarely in the same place at the same time. We’ll see if that stands up in the second book. The romance is sweet, but Shahrzad’s first night with one of the men takes things down a notch. It’s not exactly the most romantic, healthy, or happy way to be introduced to sexy times and, while Shahrzad willingly accepts that it’s a necessity to achieve her goals, it does make me a little sad…even if it gets redeemed later in the story. EDIT a long time later: I don’t know if I would give this score now. The relationship is couched in swoony language and makes it out to be romantic, but Shahrzad is essentially a prisoner and it feels a little creepy that the relationship goes the way it does considering the situation. (See note below in Feminism Score from original post.)

RosieFeminism Score: Good Effort

I really like Shahrzad – she’s feisty, smart, dedicated, and kind. She knows what she wants (to kill!) and she knows how she’s going to do it (survive!), but she doesn’t let that get in the way of caring about the people around her. She speaks up when she has an opinion and she knows how to use words to gain power (the dinner scene with the king’s uncle is great). I think she does a decent job navigating the difficult place between first love, confusion about love, and being a good person true to herself, but there are still issues. The guys in her life are jealous, their honor is all wrapped up in her behavior, and they want to police everything she does. It’s frustrating but a. something readers still have to deal with while reading today and b. a fair representation of some of the men from the culture the source-story is pulled from. Since Shahrzad is the one (mostly) calling the shots in the story, I’m still giving it a high score.

BUT – I have to point out the power dynamic here and that, even if things change, the king is a king and Shahrzad is in no place to contradict him so sexy-times are not based in an equal and fair relationship. This part of the story was a  big NO GO for me.

diversity people circle iconDiversity Score: Good Effort

This is another book where it depends on who is reading. To many readers, it introduces a world that will be unfamiliar and which includes richer, deeper cultural references than they get elsewhere (cough Aladdin cough). For readers that know Shahrzad’s story from their own bedtime tales, it will feel much more familiar. It is an exciting addition to the list of books that include magic, swords, and royalty outside the European (or European-esque) tales usually available. We don’t get many other representations, however – the characters are mostly wealthy, educated, and of the same background. Ability levels, appearance, and education levels are fairly standard with a few exceptions.

wow iconAwesome Factor: Good Effort

I’m very excited by Shahrzad’s story! I like seeing this kind of adventure playing out in an uncommon (for published US books) setting. I think the characters are interesting, the mystery plays out well, and I’m intrigued to learn what will happen in the second book. I think a few pieces could have been more developed – the magic seems a little random and unclear. There’s an interesting parallel between Shahrzad’s father and the father that started everything else; right now, it seems underdeveloped, so I hope that is teased out a little more in the next book. I’m also waiting to see what triggers Shahrzad’s growth in strength/power as well.


Favorite Character

Despina – Yes, she’s that stereotypical straight talking servant girl that tells Shahrzad what’s what, but she’s also great! And, I love her backstory; it’s sad, but not too sad and also illustrates the traveling and mixing of cultures that happens naturally in life. I also appreciate the side plot involving her, love, and big decisions because it rounds her out. I hope it plays an important role in the next book.

Favorite Line

“I am young, and, therefore, I know my words only carry a certain weight with the world, but I do know enough to realize you cannot control the actions of others. You can only control what you do with yourself afterward.”

Shahrzad is a smart girl, but it’s more about the total scene surrounding these words; she’s trying to comfort the king’s old tutor and it’s very sweet and gentle and wonderful.

Is this worth a book hangover?

Absolutely! I loved the world Ahdieh has built around the source story (A Thousand and One Nights) with great, strong characters and a truly compelling story. Plus, there are SO MANY details! It absolutely felt like palace life.

Fun Author Fact

Renee Ahdieh is a huge fan of Alanna from Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness series, too!

Read This Next

Court of Fives by Kate Elliot for a strong lady lead doing what she can to fight the system or Sister Light, Sister Dark by Jane Yolen for a story about a girl with powers, stories, and a society to change.

Post Author

1202112022

Jess loves SFF – old and new school –  and is learning to appreciate the more lovey-dovey YA under the careful tutelage of Anisha’s recommendations.

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Book Discussion: Bumped

Bumped by Megan McCafferty

Summary

In a dystopian future where a majority of adults are infertile, pregnancy is a prized act left to the teens. The most genetically attractive teenagers are wooed by fertility agencies and infertile couples, often earning hundreds of thousands of dollars as payment for a genetically superior child. The country is birth-obsessed; suddenly, pregnant teenage girls are America’s best chance of survival.

Enter identical twins Melody and Harmony. Separated at birth, their lives could not be more different. Melody was adopted by professors who spent thousands of dollars and countless hours perfecting her – she is now one of the hottest sought-after birth mothers. Harmony was adopted by a family in a small religious community, who reject the wordly idea of “pregging for profit.” When Harmony learns that she has a sister involved in the pregnancy business, she is determined to save her from her choices.

This fascinating novel highlights an interesting dichotomy in how we see birth, pregnancy, and religion.

heartRomance Score: Between You’re Trying and Good Effort

Bumped is primarily a story about friendship and sisterhood, but the romance is pretty fun too. Both Melody and Harmony have romantic interests, one of which was kind of obvious and the other refreshingly surprising. I’m excited to read the next installation of the Bumped series to see how the romance develops.

FRosieeminist Score: Good Effort  

In Bumped, we find ourselves in a future where some teenagers are giving birth for profit, and some rejecting the notion completely. While you can’t quite compare this to the so-called “Mommy Wars”, there is definitely some interesting implications of this in the new world. It really makes you consider how feminism, religion, and pregnancy could manifest itself in the not-so-distant future.

diversity people circle icon

Diversity Score: Between You’re Trying and Good Effort

On one hand, this book isn’t particularly diverse. That being said, this future world is creepy in part because of the lack of diversity and the premium paid for European-princess looks.

wow icon Awesome Factor: Good Effort 

This book really surprised me. The premise is really interesting, and while it was definitely written for teenagers, it was very thought-provoking. I’m looking forward to reading Thumped next.


Favorite Character

Harmony. You have to love a girl with her attitude, determination.

Favorite Line

“A condom” I shriek, my voice echoing around the room.

Zen clamps his hand over my mouth, “Are you trying to get me arrested”.

.. Because there’s nothing worse than preventing teen pregnancy, right?

Is this worth a book hangover?

Yes. This is a fantastic, quick read that leaves you thinking about the future of our society. I highly recommend it.  

Fun Author Fact

According to her website, Megan McCafferty lives in Princeton, New Jersey, where Bumped takes place. As a fellow Jerseyan, I’d only ask that she include Wawa in her next book.

Read This Next
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret AtwoodBumped reminded me of a teenage version of the classic The Handmaid’s Tale.

Post Author: Anisha

AnishaAnisha adores YA romance – and thinks that all love stories should start on the beach and end with the first kiss. Jess is helping her expand her horizons with more diverse, interesting books from newer authors.

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Book Chat: None of the Above

None of the Above by I. W. Gregorio

Kristin has everything. She is her school’s track star and homecoming queen. She has a full scholarship to college and a cute long-term boyfriend. But following some ill-fated sexual activity with her boyfriend, Sam, one night, Kristin realizes her body is different than she believed. Kristin is intersex: she is outwardly female, but has certain male body parts, including testicles.

Now, Kristin must learn to understand her body, as well as get a crash course in the differences between gender, sex, and sexuality. To make matters more complicated, the entire school quickly learns about her circumstance, and her friends’ reactions range from surprised to disgusted. How will Kirstin navigate the tricky path to finding her identity?

Favorite Character

Kristin’s Dad. He’s a supportive parent without being overbearing. He tries to help Kristin in the best way he knows how – research – and keeps her from wallowing in self-pity too much.

Favorite Line

Rather than pick a favorite line, I want to point to the incredible resource this book provides. Every time Kristin learns more about her body, readers learn with her. This book taught me a lot about the nuances of sexuality, gender, and sex.

Fun Author Fact

I.W. Gregorio is one of the founding members of the We Need Diverse Books campaign.

Note: If you don’t know about this campaign, stop everything you’re doing and click over. I’m not kidding.

She’s also a surgeon. Because writing ground-breaking YA novels isn’t enough for one person.

Read these next:

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. Simon is a sweet, funny story about a high school boy learning more about his own sexuality. We plan to review this book in July, but we’ve both read it and really enjoyed it!

Is this worth a book hangover?

Yes, especially if you know someone who is intersex. This is a first great step in understanding the nuances of identity while also following a well-told story. We both recommend this book .

Post Author: Anisha

AnishaAnisha adores YA romance – and thinks that all love stories should start on the beach and end with the first kiss. Jess is helping her expand her horizons with more diverse, interesting books from newer authors.

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Filed under Contemporary, Heavy Topics, High School, podcast

Book Discussion: Beneath My Mother’s Feet

Beneath My Mother’s Feet by Amjed Qamar

Summary3124412

After her brother leaves the family and her father is injured at work, Nazia finds a lot of the responsibility to care for her family falls on her shoulders. Her mother does what she believes is necessary to support her three children, pulling Nazia from school and becoming a maid for several women in the city’s rich neighborhood. As things with her father deteriorate, Nazia must navigate friendships, social barriers, and the line between right and wrong to decide what kind of life she will make for herself – while continuing to honor her beliefs.

heart

Romance Score – Not A Bit

Nazia has long known she is destined to marry her cousin. The wedding becomes imperative once the family’s situation worsens, but her mother’s decisions put the pairing in jeopardy. Nazia’s feelings toward her future husband are ambivalent at best and, once she meets him, even less positive. It is not the idea of an arranged marriage, but the economic and family pressure coupled with the lack of interest Nazia has toward her betrothed that drop the score.

RosieFeminist Score – A+ Success

Without spoilers, I can say that Nazia makes decisions about her life for herself, choosing the path that will make her happy and, ultimately, probably will enable her to help her family even more. Her mother is also a pretty awesome figure, doing what she believes is right for her children even when it means suffering indignities and abuse from her employers/life. This book highlights the various situations of women in Pakistan without making it an “oh, look at the poor foreign women” story (more on this below). There is some cruelty rained down from the wealthy mistresses, but because Nazia is such a strong, self-respecting character I’m saying it balances out (and that this is more classist behavior than woman-on-woman, although ignoring classism is definitely a big part of the problem with some current feminist movements). This book does fall a bit into the “all men are bad, let’s hate them all” category, but if you remember that this is ONE story of multitude then I can get over it.

diversity people circle iconDiversity Score – Good Effort

I’m in two minds about this score – on one hand, it could go to A+ Success because it’s set in Pakistan, has only Pakistani characters who are (mostly?) Muslim and for most of the US audience this would be a huge check in the diversity box. BUT, for Pakistani-Americans or Pakistanis, this would be a book about their culture, families, and homeland with little diversity. Even so, there are wide ranges of economic classes, education level, and employment types in the book, so other types of diversity are on full display if we discount nationality and religion. Plus, since we’re reading in the US, I’m grading based on that and I’m so excited to see a book about Muslims in another country just going about their lives like everyone else – though, it does feel like the author may have a bit of a n ax to grind about women’s treatment in Pakistan.

wow iconAwesome Score – Good Effort

I really liked reading Nazia’s story- I admired her efforts to see the best in people and to do what she can to ease her family’s and friends’ pain. She is strong and resourceful and stubborn, all things I like in my characters. I loved that the book was about a mother and daughter butting heads but still able to show and share their love for each other. Also, I truly felt like this was about Pakistan, with small details capturing every day life while not alienating the (non-Pakistani) reader. It’s a little light on depth and not super original, but I liked Nazia’s spunk enough to give it a higher score. The story is pretty negative towards men and I do worry that it repeats a lot of tropes/stereotypes about life in a Muslim country, but I think that it is also an honest portrayal of what life can be like. I think, if it’s coupled with another Pakistani story that’s completely different, that would go a long way to ameliorating the “one story” problem.


Favorite Character

Maleeha – Nazia’s best friend never gives up hope and is the kind of person we should all be lucky to have in life – she’s willing to tell you the difficult truths, keep your secrets, and rescue you for a day at the beach when you really need it. I liked that we had this image of girls supporting each other through thick and thin (and the contrast with Nazia’s other friend).

Note: I could have gone with Sherzad because he kept his spirits up and was so positive, but since we don’t know what happens to him in the end I couldn’t let myself choose him.

Favorite Line

Fun Author Fact

Her characters will get into her mind and take over, making it hard to concentrate and even sleep (!) until the story is fully developed and ready for writing!

Is this worth a book hangover?

I think you can get your sleep with this one. It’s an interesting story but it doesn’t pull you in like some others. I would also recommend this for younger YA rather than YA/NA readers. I do think it’s important to remember that this is ONE story about ONE girl’s life in Pakistan. Not every girl will have the same life – even Maleeha, a girl from Nazia’s neighborhood and economic class would have a totally different story.

Read this Next

Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed (reviewing soon!) or Keeping Corner by Kashmira Sheth.

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1202112022

Jess loves SFF – old and new school –  and is learning to appreciate the more lovey-dovey YA under the careful tutelage of Anisha’s recommendations.

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Book Discussion: Gilt

Gilt by Katherine Longshore

Summary

Kitty has always always been overshadowed by her best friend, Cat. Cat is fierce, brave, fun, and also, at times, cruel. She’s also very determined to have the best of everything, including the best man in Tudor England: King Henry VII. But as Kitty finds her way to the British court, she realizes that Cat is in way over her head, and her childish flirtations will lead to danger very quickly. Can Kitty manage to get herself out alive, or will she get caught in Cat’s plans as usual?

Set in 1530s Tudor England, Gilt is the story of fictional character Kitty Tylney and her best friend, Catherine Howard (the 5th wife of Henry VIII).

heartRomance Score: You’re Trying 

This book is set in Tudor England, so the ideas of romance are different than our modern standards. There are occasional scenes of flirtation between characters, but this is really a story of intense female friendships.

FRosieeminist Score: Between You’re Trying and Good Effort  

I thought that Kitty was fairly advanced for her time without overstepping the bounds of historical context. At the beginning of the novel, Kitty is a shadow of her best friend, Cat. I like her growth throughout the story into a woman with her own opinions, taking charge of her own life.

diversity people circle icon

Diversity Score: Not A Bit

Okay, it’ s a little unfair to complain that a book about Tudor England has no diversity, given the time period. But the characters are all white heterosexuals with similar viewpoints. There are no non-white or gay characters, even though Tudor history alludes to some alternate possibilities during that time period.

wow icon Awesome Factor: Between You’re Trying and Good Effort 

I’m a huge fan of any Tudor time period book, and this was an interesting story. I will say that all of the characters except Kitty were a bit flat, and I wished to see a bit more depth in them. However, I like the author’s concept of adapting typically adult stories (e.g. The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory) to a younger audience.


Favorite Character

Kitty. I like her growth throughout the book, especially in her relationship to Cat.

Favorite Line

“And I was the perfect mirror. I helped her refine every performance – etching and casting back at her all the things I couldn’t be myself. She took me with her everywhere. We complemented each other. Completed each other.”

Is this worth a book hangover?

If you’re one of those people who inhales everything related to Tudor history, especially fictional accounts (e.g. Alison Weir or Philippa Gregory), you will enjoy this story. It’s quick, descriptive, and provides a new, younger perspective on Catherine Howard.  If you’re not a Tudor nerd, (or, in contrast, are a SUPER Tudor nerd, and care a lot about accuracy in Tudor history) this probably won’t be your book. I squarely fall into the first category, and look forward to reading Katherine Longshore’s other books. Tarnish, about Anne Boleyn, is currently on my library waiting list. 

Fun Author Fact

On her website, Katherine Longshore refers to Tudor historical fiction as The Real Housewives of the Tudor Court. I love this description, and it basically explains my love of all things Tudor history.

Read This Next

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory. This is the fictionalized story of Mary Boleyn, sister of King Henry’s second wife, Anne Boleyn. A warning to anyone who actually studies history: This is fiction. Philippa takes a lot of liberties with her characters. That being said, if you want to read about The Real Housewives of the Tutor Court, she’s your author.

Post Author: Anisha

AnishaAnisha adores YA romance – and thinks that all love stories should start on the beach and end with the first kiss. Jess is helping her expand her horizons with more diverse, interesting books from newer authors.

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Book Chat: Under a Painted Sky

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

Summary Sammy and Andy are running away from their lives. Sammy has just suffered a terrible loss and Andy is chasing freedom. One is Chinese-American and the other is a black slave. 22501055They leave their frontier town to join the other pioneers going West, but traveling the Oregon Trail alone isn’t easy – especially as a girl and wanted criminal. So they dress up as boys and make their way, but just a few days into their escape, they meet up with three young men who might be willing to take the novice travelers under their wings – for a price. As the small group travels across the Plains, their friendship grows and their relationships with the boys deepen. But, as all Gen Xers (and some Millenials) know, the Oregon Trail is a road full of obstacles – fording the river can kill oxen, dysentery and cholera lurk in every stream and camp, and supplies can be hard to come by. This is an adventure story with two strong, dedicated friends at the center. Favorite Character Andy – she’s honest, caring, and has some of the best one-liners regarding young man behavior! I appreciated her dedication to her family and her determination to hold on to hope for as long as possible.

Favorite Line “She might be right, but it still fails to cheer me. I don’t understand the constant need to prove one’s manhood, as if it is always on the verge of slipping away. We never need to prove our womanhood.” Captures the essence of a lot of relationships in this book! There are a lot of other great quotes that capture Sammy’s background as a Chinese-American and it’s hard to pick just one, but the above captures the girls’ difficulties as they journey.

Fun Author Fact She wrote her first book (in childhood) on a typewriter!

Is this worth a book hangover? I feel like this book is a great summer read – especially for a road trip! It’s a quick, light adventure story with good, strong characters and the addition of Sammy and Andy’s personal backgrounds help make it more than just another Western. Also, take a look at that BEAUTIFUL cover!

Read These Next The Girl of Fire and Thorns is another journey book – with magic. Any of the Tortall books by Tamora Pierce would also be a great choice as they feature awesome ladies journeying and making connections with people they meet.

Post Author: Jess

1202112022

Jess loves SFF – old and new school –  and is learning to appreciate the more lovey-dovey YA under the careful tutelage of Anisha’s recommendations.

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Filed under Adventure, Historical, podcast, Romance