Monthly Archives: March 2016

What Lies Ahead?

We can’t believe we’ve made it through an entire year!

Focusing on underrepresented, marginalized, and diverse characters and authors has beenanisha & jess.png a blast. It’s enriched our lives, it’s connected us to amazing bloggers, reviewers, and authors and we can’t wait to keep reading!

But, an anniversary deserves a taking stock. An anniversary is a time to sit back, reflect, and dig-deep.

This week, we’ve featured posts that do that reflection.

Monday we talked about how the blog changed us. Tuesday, we learned a little more about Anisha and, on Wednesday, more about Jess. Today, we’re going to share what the future looks like.


 

So where do we see things going?

Well!

There is a big personal change coming for one of us – Anisha is going to graduate school to join the Blue Devils in the fall! This means we’ll be making adjustments to the review and podcast schedule as she establishes her routine and finds her grad school rhythm. Of course, reading and reviewing these books and becoming involved in the community has had a huge impact on how we see the world and we don’t want to lose that! We’ll do our best to keep going – and on a regular schedule, even if it’s reduced.

But, don’t worry just yet – that’s months away! In fact, we’re still pretending it’s not happening.

And, while we love The Bookmark, I have been working diligently with an amazing group to help launch the Muslim Squad – a resource for Muslims in the writing, reading, and publishing community working to support each other and write themselves into the narrative! If you find you’re not hearing enough from The Bookmark – head over there or check out the blogs and people suggested in our Similar Resources page.

We have our lineup of podcasts set through the summer and we’re excited about the books we’ll be reading. Some you have probably heard about through book buzz, others may be more “quiet YA,” but they all have something to offer.

Of course, we’re still hoping for change! We want to see more quiltbag books with happy endings, Muslim characters that are dealing with everyday YA topics instead of stereotypical ones, and books featuring characters with disabilities that aren’t the result of an accident or trauma. We’re only scraping the surface of the long list of things missing from YA rep – we hope we’ll be around as representation expands and more and more readers find themselves in books!

We hope our focus on underrepresented, marginalized, and diverse characters and authors has brought your attention to some amazing books. We’re dedicated to continuing that focus, bringing great stories forward and repping them hard to whomever will listen.

Any books you’d love to hear us podcast? Let us know in the comments!

Post Author: JESS

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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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Get to Know Jess

It’s our blog birthday week and we’re celebrating by sharing a little bit about what we’ve learned and where we’re going. We also are answering some questions about ourselves so you can get to know the readers behind the reviews! Yesterday, Anisha gave us the intel.

Now, it’s Jess’s turn! winter hat2

What would alternate universe (AU) Jess be like? 

Alternate Jess would have a black cat named Mogget, spend lots of time at bookstores and cafes writing her bestseller, and live in Ireland, Scotland, or Turkey. AU Jess would spend lots of time hiking in old growth forests and actually doing camp out hikes (instead of dreaming about them). And would also be a perpetual student – attending universities around the world. (Writing this I realize how much of this I could in fact achieve as Real Jess and now I want to make some life changes.)

What are 5 things you’re into right now?

Learning How to Dress Myself – I want to put on clothes and feel like myself and wear clothes that amplify my happiness. This doesn’t come naturally to me and I didn’t learn how to do it in high school, so I’m learning now.

Short Haircuts – I had a pixie cut when I was in fifth grade and I’ve been dreaming about returning to short-hairedness for a long time. I committed to short(er) a few weeks ago, but I think I really want to go all the way. I’m pretty stoked that short hair on women became popular recently and I’m ready to join the bandwagon…just as everyone else seems to have started growing theirs out.

Notebooks/Journals – For a long time in high school, people would always buy me notebooks for my birthday. It was the go-to gift when they didn’t know me well and so I have a huge collection of beautiful notebooks. At that time, I was too nervous to actually use them, I didn’t want to mar the beauty, but now I realize that filling them with words adds instead of subtracts. Plus, what’s the point if you don’t use something for its purpose?

Turkish Sour Cherry Mineral Water – I love drinking one of these while I’m watching an episode of Supernatural or Buffy before bed. They’re the perfect mix of carbonation, fruity flavor, and crisp, cold drink.

Vision Lists (instead of a board) – I’m trying to look to the future and seeing a beautifully created list of things to focus on (whether it’s power words or goals for the year or whatever) is helping me prioritize and remember what I’m looking toward.

What are some things you love (or hate) that are “unpopular opinions”?

Hate leggings as pants – They can function similarly to pants, but I just don’t think they function the same.

Hate cheese – I learned to tolerate some cheese while living in Turkey and I cherish a few random cheesy treats, but honestly, I can’t forget that it’s basically rotten milk!

Hate iphones – They are hard to use and I don’t like them. Together, Anisha and I have officially crossed into “old curmudgeon” territory with our love/hate lists.

What book do you wish you could live in (excluding the obvious answer- Harry Potter)?

I would probably choose EarthSea from Ursula K. Le Guin’s series, especially in the later books when balance between gender powers starts to return and assuming, of course, that I could harness the power of names because the world would be a little less interesting otherwise.

If you could pick your siblings, what book characters would you pick?

My sisters are pretty stellar, so I’d add to my sibling list rather than replace. I think I would pick Tenar from EarthSea because she has a badass hidden…talent, Quinn from All American Boys because he would be a great older brother to learn from, and Andy from Under a Painted Sky because she has nerves of steel, but also allows herself the space to reconsider her position.

What are your three favorite non-YA books? 

My go-to adult rereads are listed here. I have a feeling that a book by Nnedi Okorafor will be on this list soon. I started reading one of hers and the writing drew me in, but I want to read more books before choosing a favorite. And limiting to three is REALLY hard, so I’m choosing the ones that I would absolutely pack in my bag if I were leaving for a really long, very luggage-limited trip.

  1. Dune by Frank Herbert
  2. Among Others by Jo Walton
  3. Anything by Ursula K. Le Guin because she is amazing and her words are soulfire

What is your favorite tv show?

Downton Abbey has just left me adrift- Anisha and I used to live-text each other during the show and now we won’t have that. Any suggestions for a replacement?

I LOVE Doctor Who, although I haven’t been watching this season because Clara drives me up the wall. Jane the Virgin is also pretty amazing. I love that they slide political things into the story and that it’s about women supporting and loving one another in strong and vulnerable ways.

If you had to eat one food (not cuisine, FOOD) for a whole month, what would it be? 

Assuming that this food will sustain me and not lead to some terrible health condition: Ice Cream or popcorn because there’s a wide variety and I love them both so much.

What’s one silly thing you can’t live without? 

Netflix. I didn’t have cable for 4 years and I loved being able to watch full tv series without waiting for the next episode. It gave me the opportunity to catch up on some shows I’d been dying to watch (hello, Buffy!) and to find some of those older, hidden shows that no one really remembers but are the perfect “I’m almost asleep, but want to snuggle with some tv” shows. Now I have cable, but only because my internet provider makes it cheaper when you have both (which is RIDICULOUS) and I still don’t use it much.

What’s one thing people are always surprised about you? 

This is really hard for me because I definitely have verbal vomit where I just tell stuff –

car window

This might be what my car looks like.

even things that are probably best left unshared with strangers. But, I think people are surprised that I am as much of a scifi geek as I am. Also, that I am somewhat conversant in Turkish. That’s always fun for starting conversations.

So, that’s Jess in 10 questions!

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Get to Know Anisha

It’s our blog birthday week and we’re celebrating by sharing a little bit about what we’ve learned and where we’re going. We also are answering some questions about ourselves so you can get to know the readers behind the reviews!anisha1.png

Today, it’s all about Anisha!

What does alternate universe (AU) Anisha look like?

I’ve thought long and hard about this one. Alternate universe Anisha has a Yorkie teacup puppy named Tobi (my husband hates dogs) and a tattoo of a book on her back right shoulder (I have a very low pain tolerance). I would live in Colorado and run all the time (in this world, I like running). I would also have a really cool hipster job, like working in a bookstore while doing stand-up comedy at night.

 What are 5 things you’re into right now?

Sorta Awesome PodcastI’m a podcast addict, and this podcast is on the top of my list. Sorta Awesome is co-hosted by Megan Tietz and three rotating co-hosts, including Laura Termaine of the Hollywood Housewife blog. This podcast has a range of topics – from Hollywood Life to crime shows to dealing with social anxiety. I love that this show celebrates the wonderful awesomeness of every-day life.

Under Armour Socks – Okay, socks are kind of boring, I get it. But they’re on your feet all the time! I used to buy the cheap socks at Target, and get holes in them within three months. But I bought a pack of ankle-high socks and LOVE them. I thought they would be very expensive, but I got a ten-pack at TJ Max for $15 dollars, and they’ve been awesome!

The only problem is that my husband has been trying to convince me to buy them for months, and I hate when he’s right.

Meatballs – I’ve been trying new meatball recipes lately, and putting them in everything. My current favorites are half-sausage, half-beef, and full of parmesan cheese.

Target Storage ContainersI can’t deal with clutter, and if given a choice, my husband would be a hard-core hoarder. Cute storage bins have saved us from so many fights. I can deal with saving a year’s worth of Time magazines if they are stored in a cute, neat basket underneath our coffee table. And I have an excuse to throw some of them out when the bin gets too heavy.

My Planner – My friends got me a beautiful planner for my bachelorette party, and it’s my baby. I keep everything in my planner. It’s definitely more expensive than I’d buy on my own, but as a bachelorette party gift, it’s absolutely perfect.

What are some things you love (or hate) that are “unpopular opinions”?

Hate Twitter – I feel like such a weird millennial to say that I hate Twitter. I love social media, and I read a lot of blogs, so it’s not an issue of me being a visual person. I just don’t like Twitter! It’s too fast, too loud, and too confusing. Thankfully, Jess is a Twitter rock star and runs our account with grace and humor.

Love Gluten – I feel like everyone’s hating on bread these days, or at least trying to cut back. I’m absolutely the opposite. Give me bread in any form – from rolls to naan to tortillas to a French loaf, and I’ll eat it.

Love Justin Bieber – Maybe he’s back and other people love him now too? But in my mind, he never left. I sing Love Yourself in the car every time I’m alone.

What book do you wish you could live in (excluding the obvious answer- Harry Potter)?

Ugh, Harry Potter is totally the obvious answer. If I had to pick another, I’d be in Tortall in the Tamora Pierce series Protector of the Small. Yes, I know it’s idiotic, and that people die all the time for stupid wars and like… patriarchy / tough social structure. But living in a world with magic and knights, and a changing political time, would be so interesting.

If you could pick your siblings, which book characters would you pick?

My brother is pretty awesome, so I wouldn’t trade him willingly. But if I had to pick: Lara Jean from PS: I Still Love You and Simon from Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda as my younger siblings. Both are super cute, and look like they need an older sibling for advice. Plus Lara Jean has her fashion and baking skills together, two areas that I’d like to get better in!

What are your three favorite non-YA books?

One of my favorite books is Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott. That may or may not count as young adult, so I’m going to pick three additional ones.

I love The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Greggory, Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner (no, it’s not all about sex), and Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin. And I have to give a shout-out to Jodi Picoult, who is one in my top-three author list, as she consistently writes thought-provoking books, but missed the cut on my all-time favorite book list.

There we go. I can’t limit myself to three books or three authors. Because books are all my friends.

What’s your favorite TV show?

Gilmore Girls is my historical favorite, and I’m so excited (and terrified) for the reboot next year. I’m currently binge-watching Parenthood on Netflix. I’m currently on the last season, so I’ll be very sad to leave these characters soon.

If you had to eat one food (not cuisine, food) for a whole month, what would it be?

So let’s assume that whatever I eat has enough nutritional value so I don’t die, right? Because if not, then I’d pick some super food and, you know, be alive in a month.

But if I can live on this food, I’d pick ice cream. Preferably a mix of varieties, but if I had to pick one only – Ben and Jerry’s Tonight Dough. It has peanut butter cookie dough in it.

What’s one silly thing you can’t live without?

Hair elastics. I’m constantly putting my hair up, and I probably go through at least one a day. Maybe I’ll feel like a grown up when I can leave my hair down for more than one hour at a time.

What’s one thing people are always surprised about you?

Jessa and Ben

She totally did.

 

I’m obsessed with anything related to fundamentalist, conservative Christian culture. I follow the Duggars (from 19 Kids and Counting) and other fundamentalist families online, and may or may not have attended a Southern Women’s Show a week before my wedding in order to see one of the Duggar women speak. I’m really cool.

So, that’s Anisha in a nutshell!

 

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A YEAR OF THE BOOKMARK!

IMG953345It’s our anniversary! We’ve made it a year – highlighting the books and authors that are underrepresented and marginalized in publishing. During our very special birthday week, we’re bringing you posts about The Bookmark and a fantastic giveaway!

Today, I’m writing about how The Bookmark has changed us. On Tuesday and Wednesday, we’ll share interviews, so you can get to know us a little more. On Thursday, Jess will talk about our future – personally and for the blog.

……

……..

Can I just say that the blog has changed us in All The Ways?

In all seriousness, running The Bookmark has profoundly changed both of us. We’ve learned more than we could have ever imagined. Most importantly, we’ve learned about the challenges facing marginalized and underrepped communities. We weren’t very knowledgeable to start with (and we certainly don’t claim to be experts now!), but we’ve learned how to do our research, where to go to learn more, and how to navigate the learning process.

Through the blogging and twitter community, we’ve also realized how much we still have to learn. From Jess, “Through the blogging and twitter community, I’ve realized how much I still have to learn about being sensitive. I thought I was a pretty empathetic person and I try to be kind. But, I know no matter how careful I am with my words, I will always manage to say something that offends someone. Being in the community, I’m gaining a better sense of the nuances and issues that surround certain terms. And I realized that the best source for learning is from the community you’re talking or learning about.”

We’ve also learned about the incredible online community. There are tons of people dedicated to a similar goal who come out to cheerlead the stories. But we’ve also learned how divisive diversity, marginalized groups, and repping the underrepresented can be. That’s why we’re going to keep fighting the good fight.

The Bookmark has also changed the way we see our roles as allies and advocates.

Says Jess, “The blog has taught me more about being an ally than any class or lecture or scholarly book ever did. I’ll never forget reading on twitter somewhere (if you have the source, help me!) that being an ally is only good for 24 hours. No matter how hard you worked and how well you did on Monday, it expires when you go to sleep. On Tuesday you have to earn your right to be called an ally all over again. I try to remember that every morning and make the intention to do better.”

From Anisha, “I think that prior to The Bookmark, I worried that online advocacy really just focused on speaking to those who already agreed with your views – so how are you changing anything? But over the past few months, I’ve realized that even ‘good people’ – people who want to be sensitive and go about advocacy the right way – don’t know everything. And more than anything, you can help inform those people. I learn about new terms, sensitivities, and the “rules of engagement” every day by reading blogs. Advocacy comes in many forms, and writing a blog certainly matters.”

We’re trying to live up to what we’ve learned.

On a more technical level, The Bookmark has taught us the basics of blogging and podcasting. Neither of us knew how to even record a podcast prior to our launch, but we stumbled through it with trial and error – and we are finally getting the hang of it. (Even if Audacity restarts on us at least once per recording!)

Finally, on a personal note, The Bookmark has allowed the two of us to stay connected. Although we used to work in the same place (I would stalk Jessica’s cube every morning in a desperate plea for friendship), we now live a plane-ride (or very, very long car-trip) apart. The Bookmark has given us something tangible to discuss, with regular dates and deadlines. We’ve both had a very busy year – and it’s easy to see a friendship slip away if you aren’t careful. But the Bookmark has given us even more of a shared connection. And through it, we’ve grown closer.

POST AUTHOR: ANISHA

Anisha

 

Anisha loves books, Gilmore Girls, and her Kuerig. She’s been reading mainstream YA since she was actually a young adult, and Jess is helping her expand her horizons with more diverse, interesting books from newer authors.

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Book Discussion: Pointe

Pointe

Pointe by Brandy Colbert

Summary

Ever since her best friend went missing four years ago, Theo has been trying to have a normal life. She spends nearly all of her free time in the dance studio, competing with the other elite dancers  for lead roles and  spots in summer intensive programs. She knows if she trains just hard enough (and eats just little enough), she can obtain her dream of joining a professional ballet company.

But suddenly Donovon reappears from his captivity.. and he’s not talking. But as details of his case start to unfold, Theo realizes that she may have a connection to his abduction. And as she starts to relive the months around his disappearance, her life story starts to unravel.

 

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heartRomance Score: Between You’re Trying and Good Effort 

While I didn’t find the romance itself particularly swoon-worthy,  Theo’s (current) love story seems very true to high school: unstable, uncertain, and lacking communication. I appreciated how realistic it seemed, even if it wasn’t exactly what she wanted!

Feminist Score:  A+  Rosie

Theo kicks ass. Without spoiling anything, I loved the way this book ended. Theo spends a lot of time working through her own history, but ultimately makes important decisions to help herself (and her friend) in a very tough situation.

diversity people circle iconDiversity Score:  Good Effort 

One of the things I loved about Pointe was that it seamlessly integrated thoughts on race and diversity without seeming formulaic or preachy. Theo’s a black dancer in a nearly all-white dance school (and, it seems, public school). Like Misty Copeland and other athletes and artists of color, she faces immense barriers in her professional goals. She acknowledges the challenges, but continues to work hard to overcome them. I particularly like the scene in her middle school, where a teacher asks for her opinion on segregation because of her race.

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Awesome Factor: Good Effort  

This book really surprised me. I picked up Pointe expecting a narrative of a ballet dancer trying to accomplish her dreams. The story was all of this, and so much more. Pointe is beautiful, tragic, funny, and dark…you won’t be able to put it down.

Favorite Character

Theo – Everything about her devotion to dance, her confusing past, and her friendship with Donovan is beautiful, and sad.

Favorite Line

I’m a sucker for well-written passages about dance, and Pointe is full of them:

“I spin around on one foot, the room swirling by me in blurs of color and light. My leg extends from my hip in a straight line before it whips around to meet my body, over and over again. Spotting saves me from a serious case of dizziness; I train my eyes on a specific point around the room and never look away, not until the last possible second when I have to turn my head to keep up with my body. Air speeds by me so fast that it clicks in my ears, strong and steady like a metronome.”

Is this worth a book hangover?

Yes. Pointe surprised me, and exceeded my expectations in so many ways. It’s completely worth the read. 

Fun Author(s) Fact

Brandy Colbert has a Tumblr (link here) with smart, on-point, and beautiful posts. Check it out!

Read This Next

Oh, man. This is hard – I still have a Pointe hangover!  If you’re looking for another dance-related book, try Pretty Tiny Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton. This book is hyper-focused on competitive dance and filled with a diverse cast of cut-throat ballerinas.

Post Author: Anisha

Anisha

Anisha loves books, Gilmore Girls, and her Kuerig. She’s been reading mainstream YA since she was actually a young adult, and Jess is helping her expand her horizons with more diverse, interesting books from newer authors.

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Book Chat: Under the Lights

Under the Lights!

Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler

Summary

Vanessa Park knows that she’s a role model.

As one of the only Asian-American actresses on a teenage drama, her image has to be perfect to pave the way for other minority actors. And while she loves acting, there are also a lot of pressures – the drinking, the drama, and her disapproving parents. And when her best friend leaves for college on the East Coast, Vanessa is suddenly alone.

Well.. not quite alone. She has Josh Chester, her co-star on Daylight Falls, a Hollywood bad boy who she loathes. She also has Brianna, the daughter of her publicist and current PR intern. And as Vanessa, Josh and Brianna start to spend more time together, Vanessa realizes that she may be developing feelings for someone she never expected to fall for.

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Favorite Character

Brianna – I love Bri’s confidence, and her honestly and directness is refreshing in a teen-drama novel.

 

Fun Author Fact

Dahlia Adler wrote a draft of Under the Lights for NaNoWriMo. In the original draft, the novel was written from three character’s points of view: Liam, Vanessa, and Josh. Needless to say, Liam’s POV was scrapped from the book before the final publication.

Is this worth a book hangover?

Under the Lights is a fun, refreshing read about Hollywood. This is definitely a book that can be finished during a day on the beach, a long car ride, or a rainy afternoon. It’s note quite hangover worthy to me, but definitely fun!

Read These Next

Behind the Scenes is on my list! This is the companion novel for Under the Lights – and tells a story about a teen superstar and an assistant falling in love under the drama of Hollywood.

Post Author: Anisha

Anisha

Anisha loves books, Gilmore Girls, and her Kuerig. She’s been reading mainstream YA since she was actually a young adult, and Jess is helping her expand her horizons with more diverse, interesting books from newer authors.

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Book Discussion: Truthwitch

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Truthwitch (Witchlands #1) by Susan Dennard

Summary

Safiya and Iseult are a team. And they do ok for themselves until they plan one heist too many and are put on the run. They try to escape, but get pulled into bigger and bigger plans – Safi is a Truthwitch and a domna with rights to an earldom and people want to use that to stop the return of global war. Iseult is a Threadwitch but she can’t do what every other Threadwitch can. And they have a Bloodwitch, a king, a queen, and a prince trailing after them.truthwitch

heartRomance Score: Good Effort

I was actually pretty excited in the beginning because it seemed like maybe there wouldn’t be a romance. When it did show up, parts really sparked, but as a whole it felt like a convenience rather than a true build up. I also find the “I hate you…oh, now actually I think I love you” thing pretty difficult to believe unless there’s a lot of strong character development. I didn’t feel it here.

RosieFeminist Score: Good Effort

Safi and Iseult are best friends and I really liked that they worked together to protect one another and to reach their goals. I thought together they exhibited a good range of being women – and neither was the “better” character. A few things rankled – Safi being used as a political pawn without her full knowledge and the situation of women in all of the kingdoms was implied to be less than the men. There was one odd scene – at one point Safi’s clothes have been destroyed and a man she is with (her captor/protector) thinks to himself that he shouldn’t see her legs or something of that nature. It was really random and seemed to be added in just to give him something to complain about and to shame Safi since there was no prior context or mention of clothing taboos or keeping things covered.

The score here probably could have gone lower just because women get treated like crap and are victims in a lot of situations, but Safi and Iseult do manage to work their way out of most of the terrible situations and stand up for themselves, so I’m leaving it here.

diversity people circle iconDiversity Score: You’re Trying

The book gets mega points for featuring a large cast of characters that are people of color – they’re described as tan or golden or brown in many cases. Iseult is very pale and that marks her as part of a group that everyone hates. I give negative points because it honestly just felt like “oh, let me switch their skin colors!” The ruling families/kingdoms felt like all other (Euro-analogue) kingdoms just with POC. There was no explanation for why Iseult’s people were disliked – because they were nomadic? because they were poor? because…I’m just not sure and the reasons that I could find made it just seem like a skin color-switcheroo without much else behind it.

In a fantasy world, you have a giant opportunity to create new cultures and to really subvert things. I didn’t see that. Also, there weren’t many (any?) other forms of diversity that I can recall. I suppose you could say economic diversity, but…it doesn’t get called out in the story much at all. I suppose you could maybe say it discusses privilege and the responsibility that comes with having it, but…that’s a stretch.

wow iconAwesome Factor: Good Effort

Overall, the story had an interesting premise and I really liked that this was about two lady friends that are on an adventure and pulled into bigger and bigger things. There is, however, a lot to be desired in the world building and explanation department. I wanted to know more about where the powers come from, why the wells dried up, and more explanation of the side effects of the powers. (Like – why did Iseult always need to maintain her emotional balance? There are tiny, tiny, vague hints, but not enough for how often she talks about staying in stasis.) A lot of things are left out or only sketched for us. I will assume that this is because it’s a series and the intention is to leave lots of questions for explanation later, but it made the story feel like it was only a surface exploration of the world.


Favorite Character

Iseult – She has a level head and balances Safi’s impetuous, stubborn, and haphazard actions.

Favorite Line

The writing just wasn’t there for me. I liked the idea of this story, but I’m not sure I liked this book.

Is this worth a book hangover?

I’m not sure – if you don’t mind a more shallow dip into a fantasy world, this could be for you. If you prefer deep world building with lots of background information, then probably not.

Fun Author Fact

Dennard was a marine biologist before becoming a full time writer.

Read These Next

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo for a fantasy world with more depth and a ton of diversity in the characters or The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi or The Impostor Queen by Sarah Fine for more diversity and adventure

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, Science Fiction & Fantasy

Book Discussion: The Royal We

the royal we

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

Summary

Rebecca Porter did not dream of being a princess.

When Rebecca (Bex) leaves Cornell to study abroad at Oxford for a semester, she did not expect to be placed in the same dorm as Prince Nicholas, Great Britain’s future king and the most eligible bachelor. Nor did she expect to be part of his social circle, have similar interests, and eventually, fall in love with him.

But life as a royal’s girlfriend is not all glamour. Bex finds herself in the middle of complex royal family relations, untrustworthy colleagues and friends, and the ruthless paparazzi, who will stop at nothing to get the scoop on her. Nick and Bex have to maneuver their relationship, and decide on their future (together or apart) in the public eye.

The Royal We tells the Will-and-Kate story from Kate’s point of view. If, of course, Kate was American.

Aubrey

heartRomance Score: Good Efforts 

Despite the somewhat silly premise, the romance between Nick and Bex is well-built. Bex first earns the trust of Nick and then falls in love in the best way possible: while binge-watching awesome television together. Their relationship is complicated – Nick has concerns about marrying young and of course, the press want to know everything about their relationship. I liked how real it seemed, despite all the craziness of princes and royalty.

Feminist Score:  Good Effort   Rosie

Bex works hard to remain her own person despite all the restrictions of being the girlfriend of the heir to the British throne. She’s a supportive partner to be sure – but she also works to make a life for herself outside Nick. She has a harder time standing up to her sister (her best friend), but their relationship perfectly explained the tension between your love of your closest sibling and your significant other.

diversity people circle iconDiversity Score:  Not A Bit

I was pretty disappointed with the lack of diversity in this book. It pretty closely follows the Kate-Will story, but all the characters are rich and white. Even Bex, the “outsider,” is from a rich, well-educated family. This is a story about the British royals, who are … rich and white, but I wish we could have seen a peek into something else. There’s a bit of discussion about mental illness, but the topic isn’t discussed deeply enough to warrant a higher score.

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Awesome Factor: Between You’re Trying and Good Effort  

I really enjoyed this book – it was a quick, fun read with a deeper message about relationships, sacrifice, and balance. But despite enjoying it, I couldn’t rate it any higher with the blatant lack of diversity.


Favorite Character

Nick. He’s a swoon-worthy prince in many respects. He wants what’s best for Bex, and works hard to make sure she fully understands what it means to be attached to him.

Favorite Line

“Long ago, I reminded Nick that he had the power to turn a life of being in-waiting into a life he wanted to live – that he could still be in charge of himself. So could I , and so could Freddie, and running away was not taking charge; it was just running. Besides, if I’d ever really wanted to leave, I wouldn’t have needed Freddie to open the door. I would have saved myself.”

Is this worth a book hangover?

Yes, especially for those of us with an interest (cough obsession) with the royal family. If you also refreshed CNN nine times an hour when Princess Charlotte was born, or woke up at 5 a.m. and Skyped with your mom during the royal wedding, you will love this book. 

Fun Author(s) Fact

Jessica Morgan and Heather Cocks are die-hard royalists, and run a blog called Go Fug Yourself , which covers celebrity gossip and, of course, the royals.

Read This Next

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfield. American Wife is based on the life of Laura Bush, told from the point of view of Laura from childhood through her time in the White House. And while this book is purely fiction, it is a very interesting take on a First Lady.

Post Author: Anisha

Anisha

Anisha loves books, Gilmore Girls, and her Kuerig. She’s been reading mainstream YA since she was actually a young adult, and Jess is helping her expand her horizons with more diverse, interesting books from newer authors.

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Filed under Adventure, Contemporary, Romance

Book Chat: All American Boys


25657130All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brenden Kiely

Summary

Rashad stops into the corner store to buy some potato chips and another shopper trips over him, sparking the store cop’s attention and leading to a brutal beating on the sidewalk outside the store. Quinn was heading to the store to ask someone to buy alcohol for him and his friends and, instead, ends up witnessing the horrible violence commited by the policeman. The story unfolds over the week that follows the beating – both boys trying to come to terms with what it means and trying to understand what they must do in the aftermath. The community and school reacts and Rashad and Quinn must decide what part they will play. all american boys.png


Favorite Character

Spoony – He’s the best kind of big brother. He watches out for Rashad – he gives him a couple extra dollars for snacks when he needs it and makes sure the media have a “respectable” picture of his little brother when the situation calls for it.

Favorite Line

This book has so much we need to hear.

“Look, if there are people who are scared of the police every day of their lives,” Jill said, determined, “I’m going to live in fear of them for at least one day to say that I don’t think that’s right.”

“Nobody says the words anymore, but somehow the violence still remains. If I didn’t want the violence to remain, I had to do a hell of a lot more than just say the right things and not say the wrong things.”

Fun Author Fact

Reynolds and Kiely were put on a tour together and didn’t know each other. It was right after the Martin-Zimmerman court decision and Reynolds was concerned he wouldn’t be able to keep his cool if Kiely said something insensitive on tour…but an ongoing conversation and friendship happened instead and this book is the result.

Is this worth a book hangover?

Absolutely. All the time. Please read it. Then share it. Then make that person share it. It’s a well written story but it’s much more than that.

Read These Next

This Side of Home by Renee Watson deals with gentrification of a neighborhood and dealing with the collision of communities or anything by Jason Reynolds, like When I Was the Greatest or Boy in the Black Suit.

Post Author: Jess

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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 Contemporary, Heavy Topics, High School, podcast

Book Discussion: Shadowshaper

22295304Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older

Summary

Sierra is excited to spend the summer with her friends and to finish up the mural she started on an abandoned building on her block. That is…until the murals around her start to move and fade and the people around her start to keep secrets. As she digs into just what is going on, she learns that her family’s heritage involves shadowshaping – using specific talents to harness the powers of the spirits around them. But someone is attacking shadowshapers and instead of enjoying the summer she has to figure out how to stop the killer and save her family.

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Romance Score: A+ Success

The tingles between Robbie and Sierra are a slow burn that doesn’t take over the narrative. Sierra depends on Robbie for information about shadowshaping and respects him for his drawing skills long before she starts to feel anything extra for him. It’s only as the mystery – and danger – build that she starts to accept that he could be anything more. Her feelings for him are only a small part of the story unfolding and I liked that it was more about Sierra rocking her new skills and accepting her family’s heritage with a small side of heart business.

Rosie

Feminist Score: A+ Success

There are several different kinds of ladies in this book, but they all rock it. Sierra fights for what she wants, protecting her friends, family, and her desire to understand her family history. Sierra’s grandmother proves that there’s no way to stop a matriarch when she’s made a decision – even if she has to sacrifice herself. And, even though we may disagree with her decisions, we understand why Sierra’s mother made the decisions she did when faced with difficult choices (and we get to see her change her mind). Plus, there’s no single way to be a woman – we have Sierra that likes to dress in old tee shirts and jeans, Bennie that wants to be a scientist or or biologist or…something intellectualee, T and Izzy, Sierra’s two lesbian friends, and Nydia, a Puerto Rican working at the Colombia library. All of them are doing their best to be their best in a world set against them.

Sierra calls out a lot of things throughout the book. She talks about her natural hair and loving it even if it’s not considered “good hair.” She talks about colorism in the community and rants at her aunt for acting like lighter is better. She gets whistled at, yelled at, and propositioned while walking down the street and points out how messed up it is. If it’s something women (especially women of color) deal with, Sierra hits on it.

diversity people circle iconDiversity Score: A+ Success

This book blows it away. We have Sierra – Puerto Rican-American, Robbie – Haitian (American?), and Sierra’s friends from several backgrounds. Tee and Izzy are lesbians. Her grandfather has recently suffered a stroke and is incapacitated in many ways. The story takes play in Brooklyn, New York, and you get strong sense of place. Conversations about gentrification occur a couple of times without feeling like they were stuck in to “make a point.” And the book revolves around non-European folklore and ancestral memory which we also don’t see often.

The book will be a strong mirror for many readers – there’s Spanish (not italicized), food, dancing, music, and other cultural markers that will mean everything to readers that don’t usually get to see themselves in books. It will also serve as a good window book – though that is a side bonus, not the focus – because Older writes with such a deft hand and Sierra is an engaging character.

wow iconAwesome Factor: A+ Success

The characters and story are engaging. The location and sense of place are on point and the pace does not let go once it gets started. I really enjoyed the story and almost missed my metro stop a couple of times because I couldn’t stop reading. There’s a lot going on in the book peripheral to the story – police brutality, gentrification, misogyny, sexism, racism – they all get attention but it never feels like it’s been shoved in to make an issue. Instead, it always feels like a natural part of Sierra’s (and her friends’) experience.

I really liked Sierra’s voice and the fun cast of characters that she brings with her. I would definitely recommend this to anyone that enjoys paranormal, supernatural, urban, fantasy, or action-packed stories.

Also – THAT COVER.


Favorite Character

Sierra – because she’s spunky, and bright, and doesn’t let other people’s expectations or restrictions hold her back. (But, I want to give a shout out to Bennie for being an awesome friend that reps the nerdy side of things.)

Favorite Line

This is long, but I laughed out loud. Plus, since I studied anthropology in university, I feel a little extra love for this excerpt. I also loved the way this book discussed the ethical (and privilege) issues around anthropology.

“Imma write a book,” Tee announced. “It’s gonna be about white people.”

Izzy scowled. “Seriously, Tee: Shut up. Everyone can hear you.”

“I’m being serious,” Tee said. “If this Wick cat do all this research about Sierra’s grandpa and all his Puerto Rican spirits, I don’t see why I can’t write a book about his people. Imma call it Hipster vs. Yuppie: a Culturalpological Study.

Is this worth a book hangover?

Absolutely. It was fast, fun, and exciting. I enjoyed getting to know Sierra and her family  – and her family’s heritage. I definitely recommend this is you’re looking for something action filled.

Fun Author Fact

Older has one of the most interesting twitter accounts – if you care about young adult books, diversity, representation, inequality, and justice in the US.

Read These Next

This Side of Home by Renée Watson for a story about twins dealing with a neighborhood in change or Black Beauty by Constance Burris for another paranormal story deeply rooted in place and community.

 

 

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Filed under Adventure, Contemporary, Science Fiction & Fantasy