MulticulturalJunkie

While I enjoy books of all kinds, I prefer books that promote diversity and or multiculturalism.
The Mark of Noba (The Sterling Wayfairer Series) (Volume 1) - G.L. Tomas

Love this cover!

 

Love it even more cuz I wrote it ^_^

Awesome YA Contemporary!

The Boy in the Black Suit - Jason Reynolds

Okay, so Im coming dangerously close to neglecting the fact I haven't written this post in like 2-3 months, which is funny, because I read the book in less than a week. I knew if I sat down and wrote the review, I'd have so much to say, and I tend to be very wordy in reviews to begin with.

The Boy in The Black Suit follows the exploits of a 17 year old teenage boy who's mother recently lost her battle with cancer(correct me if Im not remembering correctly folks, I read it in January). With time, he ends up taking a job working in a funeral home, hence becoming "The Boy in The Black Suit."

I normally wait until I've actually started describing my pros and cons before I make a declaration this bold, but I think this book will be the best book I've read all year. Diversity in books is interpreted differently by nearly everyone I know, so when it comes to needing diverse books, what fits for one person, might not fit for the next.

When people say we need diverse books, Im almost positive they're talking about a book like this. The Boy in the Black Suit's leading character Matthew Miller(Matt for short) was a character I really rooted for. I hate the word "relatable" because it suggests "relatable" has to be something specific, or a one-size-fits-all answer. But I related to him more than most characters I've read since I dedicated myself to reading diverse titles.

I know the author's been around longer than I've been reading his work, but he reminds me a bit of author Zetta Elliot. I liked his use of language, mainly because the way I speak is very much like Matthew and his best friend. In fact, I'd always laugh to myself when reading, because the way they spoke to one another reminded of my sister and myself, and we're not even from New York.

One of the strongest parts about the book was Matthew himself. He was a male character, who actually seemed like a real person. A lot of depictions of boys and men tend to read as a fantasy to me, which I get. Readers like to have a fantasy of what is a perfect guy to them, but it just seems overdone a lot of the times.

He was written in a way our media would never depict a black boy, full of vulnerability, rejecting gender roles, and someone not afraid to cry. The kid could throw down in the kitchen, a trait he learned from his late mother. 

I know in Black/Latino homes of the past, boys and men were forced to be what society saw as being men. But this creates so many future issues for men not allowed to express their vulnerability or enjoy things society hasnt deemed "conventionally " masculine.

Let's not forget to mention he's African-American. I wasn't sure if I'd get a character who just reminded me of a default character who just happened to be Black, or a main character who reads too hard to remind me that he's Black, but I got neither. I got Matt. A character that you'd automatically know is a black teen, but in a positive light, that doesn't shy away from being born and raised in Brooklyn, NY.

I live in an oh-so small state called Connecticut, that happens to border NY, but I went to college in Brooklyn, and Im sure the writer is from NY. I mean, anyone can "do" NY, but not everyone can "do" Brooklyn. Reading this book, I was in Brooklyn, and not only that, I loved all the other settings(all the places that brought familiarity, like the Cluck Bucket, lol).

Matthew wasn't a scatterbrain like a few teenage protagonists I read. He had intelligent thoughts, and a big love for Tupac, so I know I would've been friends with a kid like this growing up. I think the only real complaint I had was with a detail in the past, feeling the need to tie it's loose end in the present. But I looked past it for all the other amazing details it had!

Matthew reminded me a bit of my 21 year old cousin. My cousin is religious, so he loves wearing fancy suits all the time. I loved how Matt wore a suit for his job at first as a requirement, but with time, he couldn't imagine himself without one. Not to say all kids should be wearing suits all of a sudden, but it was just interesting how the title wrung it's way in more ways than one throughout the entire book.

It's hard to comment on editing on traditionally published books, especially one like this, because it seems as though editors put a lot of time into making this effort perfect. It's easier to comment when there are mistakes =)

Diversity-wise, Im assuming nearly every character except one, was Black. Could be American, of Caribbean descent, or even of African, but most of the characters were Black. Only one character wasn't Black, and he was a bodega owner from Pakistan. He was cool, I wish I would've seen more of him, or other cultures, but I liked how it didn't feel the need to insert-white-character-here, just to make it "relatable"(there's that word again).

Matt also had a girl he was feeling named "Lovey." They had awesome chemistry, and it's really nice to read a book that focuses on the strength of Black Love, because as a Black women, and an Afro-Latina, everything tries to steer me away from Black Love. No one really says it, but it's true, and I do tend to read more books depicting interracial relationships than the latter.

Also liked how it incorporated texting, in a texting generation. And the way Lovey and Matt flirted is very reminiscent of how it was in neighborhoods I grew up in. If I could, I'd buy this book for everyone I know, because it's just that amazing.

The cover is intriguing, and the title is very catchy. It makes you wonder who is "The Boy in The Black Suit" and what does that mean to him. Character names? I'll say they're uncommonly common. They suit the characters, even though I meet a lot of people with names like theirs, outside of Lovey of course!

Sometimes I wish I would've gotten a better description of the characters who made the most appearances in the book though. Matt mentioned being the color of dark wood, but not much else. I couldn't tell if he was tall or short, and only the characters who walked on with little or no dialogue, were described in the most detail.

But overall, it was an amazing read. Im really looking forward to reading some of Jason Reynold's other books =)

Middle Grade & Action-packed. Three sisters gain superpowers!

Sins Of The Father (The Ascension Trilogy) (Volume 1) - Mr Thelonious Legend

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review, but like a bunch of books, if I like what I saw by page 50, I'll buy it. 

There were some things I both liked and disliked about the book, but I did overall enjoy the read.

Sins of The Father, followed the exploits of three siblings ages 12-14, and what life is like for them when they realize they've received super human abilities.

There was Eve, the eldest, who had super speed. Gwen, who was the middle child and gained super strength, and Anastasia, aka Ana, who developed super intelligence.

Even though the oldest main character Eve is 14, I do feel as though the book is more middle grade. Middle grade tends to have different dialogue/narrative for the way the characters speak, so even though it could be borderline YA, I feel it's more appropriately Middle Grade.

As far as pacing goes, I'd say it worked. I think the only really issue I had with the plot, was that for me, it seemed to have a strong beginning and ending, but it's second act wasn't as strong as it's Act I and III.

It introduced well and ended sweet, but I struggled more with the Act II. Sometimes I wasn't sure what was going on. Because of this, I paid more attention to the way the characters responded to what they were doing, more than what they were doing.

As far as world-building, I feel like everything has a picture that can be painted. Whether that's a kid from NYC, or a fairy from *I don't know where the hell fairies live* all stories have a picture to paint, that the reader might not know or have experience with.

The book paints a picture of three affluent black girls nicely. I honestly don't know what it's like to be a person of color and affluent(maybe check me when Im 50 ;p)but with their affluence came privilege.

It's important to highlight that for me, because not everyone is aware of the financial struggles of the 99%, when they're the 1%. Eve, Gwen and Ana are definitely the 1%, and it was specifically highlighted with Eve's crush, considering he was a scholarship student.

When discussing the girls, you should know a little more about them. Eve is the eldest, but going through the most in terms of self acceptance. She's shaped differently, and significantly darker than her siblings and mother, and naturally competitive.

Gwen is the middle child, which in some ways would explain her prankster nature(possibly looking for attention as a middle child?) whilst Ana is the youngest, perhaps the least motivated in school, despite her intelligence.

But they're pretty close, which is cool. I liked that they got along but still remind me of real siblings.




For the most part, I believe they all have natural hair. I found it refreshing to see characters who didn't have to resemble the default standard of beauty for a black girl, to be considered attractive.

Im probably going to sound biased, but Gwen was my favorite. There was a situation in the lunchroom, where many of her friends talked a certain way, based on her name being Gwen. I laughed out loud literally, because people totally do that with me, since I was a kid, until this day.

But they're all cute. I think Eve is a little standoffish, but teenagers usually are. Ana kind of reminded me of Temperance Brennan, which is a total compliment, because I friggin love Bones(especially Temperance). Ana spoke very collected, emotion-less and drab, which was weird for a 12 year old, but it worked for her character.

The only thing I didn't connect with amongst them was their height. All of them are under 15 years old, but the shortest is 5'7" and the tallest is 5'11".

To be that young, they looked like women in my heads. Im just afraid someone might over-sexualize them, because amongst women of color, that's really common, and because they're enormous in terms of their height, sometimes I didn't picture them young. 

A study showed children of color tend to get viewed as older(link here)and that tends to justify the crimes against them. Women and girls experience this differently, and not in a good way.

I think if they'd been a year or two older, I would've totally bought it. 

But every other character is also tall. All their friends, the adults in their lives, everyone. Im between 5'2" and 5'3". Its been a long time since I was a kid XD But being very tall was usually and exception, not a rule. Everyone seemed like college students. Not a deal breaker, just something that jumped at me.

I thought that the back story on how they received their abilities could've been fleshed out more, but maybe it'll be explained better in future books?

There was a bunch of conflict, but the most life threatening was their "loss." I don't mean someone died. I mean their False Victory. Every book should have something that makes the character/s feel as though nothing will change, only to have everything change.

They lost things really important to them, and sometimes, that loss is a part of the journey of being different.

The writing style isn't a weak point, but sometimes the dialogue seemed a little appropriating. People of color have the ability to appropriate too, so sometimes, I sometimes I felt the story tried too hard to make the characters sound 12-14 years old. Granted, I don't have kids, and haven't been 14 for 10(add 5) years, so I don't know how preteens talk outside of family members. But sometimes their white friends talked like them as well, and I wasn't always comfortable with that. Mainly because I wasn't sure if they were making fun of people who weren't like them(rich).

There was also a lot of dialogue. Since the POV is 3rd person, I would've liked more internal thought. 3rd person works best for multiple protagonists, so I can't complain, but there are times where there's a lot of talking with no distinction. 

When Im looking at a full page of dialogue with no beats and breaks, I assume the characters are arguing, even when they're not, or it's hard to tell which voice is speaking when they have similar voices.

Again, not a deal breaker, but noticeable.

The editing and formatting work. Just some conversations are very word-y.

I do think racially, there is a ton of diversity, even if they're not main characters. If you count the Parker Sisters' family, there are a lot of African American characters. The sisters have a friend named Kang, who's American of Korean descent, and I liked that he was one of the cool kids and an athlete.

Most of their friends are white, but perhaps that's intentional because of the fact they're all wealthy?

I wanted to talk about socioeconomic diversity, because Im rarely able to. Not every book addresses it, and unless your eyes are open, you might not even notice.

Due to the Parker Sisters' elite background, they didn't quite understand their privilege. Their grandmother's wealth granted them a ton of privileges, black children normally don't have. 

Eve displayed her privilege first hand, with her love interest. He wasn't from the same socioeconomic background as her, and while I was uncomfortable, Im glad that it did address it. She reminded me a bit of the character Sephy in Malorie Blackman's "Noughts and Crosses"(Which is a brilliant read. I highly recommend).

Privilege comes in many different forms, be it gender, sexual orientation, race, class, size. Being of the same race doesn't mean you automatically experience the same things.

Racial and Socioeconomic diversity were the only things I noticed about the book though, in terms of diversity.

I think the cover is cute. I wonder how it would've looked if I got to see the girls in the flesh, versus their silhouettes, but it does capture what each sister is good at. The title is ok. It does describe the plot, and how they got their abilities, so I wouldn't take off for that. It's just ok.

I think Im totally biased when it comes to the character names section. Even though Im a Guin with a different spelling, it is pronounced the same as Gwen. Another black Guin. The world aint ready.

Anastasia is a really pretty name. They referred to her as Ana, but I love her full name. Eve is cute. Not as pretty as the other two, but it is cute. There were a bunch of names I saw that were pretty or eye catching, but you know how I get with names. The more unique the better.

They're the main character though. So I think it was a win.

The book described the characters enough for me. I think I got a clear enough picture of them in my head.

Paranormal elements and a strong female heroine in book one of this Supernatural Trilogy!

The Girl - Madhuri Blaylock

So, Im finally getting to review this title, after receiving it for free for an honest review. I felt a lot of things during reading this book. Some good, some bad, some gray. There were cool things about this read, as well as things I didn’t connect with, that may have just been lost on me.

 

But I think if you’re an urban fantasy fan, you’d enjoy it nonetheless. Which I did. I can't say that I wasn’t entertained throughout the course of the story of “The Girl”, book one, of the Sanctum Trilogy.

 

The Girl follows the exploits of a half demon, half angel hybrid named Dev, and a body of authority known as “The Sanctum”, a vast group of individuals(which I assumed were all human. Im not sure if they have angel or god blood or something, that grants them this authority) who create peace  amongst themselves and Magicals(An umbrella term for anyone supernatural) whilst making sure the rest of humanity knows anything about them.

 

The really gets it’s momentum going when Dev, meets Wyatt Clayworth, a Class A Warrior of the Sanctum. They fall hard for each other, even though his mission is to kill her, which you can see the conflict from there.

 

I like the set up and environment. I like that it’s set in NYC(but I will have some things that would’ve made it better for me in the diversity section of the review) as being a state away(in a state New Yorkers consider country in comparison) it’s a good place to set something. NYC is so busy, it’s really easy not to notice the small stuff. 

 

It reminds me a teeny weeny bit of The Mortal Instruments series for that reason. I can definitely see why someone might compare the two. I do think they’re two completely different stories, and their comparisons stop there, but it’s interesting to see such a big place, with so many people, see so little in front of them.

 

Sometimes I got lost in things being repeated too many times to count. I’ll probably bring that argument up better in the diversity section, but I heard Ryker and Wyatt be described as “Class A Warriors” in almost every chapter they were in. I think most people will assume by the 3rd time the phrase makes an appearance, that they are indeed “Class A Warriors.” Each time Im told that this, instead of shown, it made me wonder, “Well what does it take to be Class A?” 

 

“What is Class B?”

 

“What type of education is a prerequisite, and how long must you train to earn your rank?”

 

“Where are the other classes to counter or compare the significance to Class Types?”

 

There was a lot of telling me what their rank was, but very little showing me what it took to get there. There was even a situation, which Wyatt took on 7 of his Sanctum members, to protect Dev, but it didn’t show the battle, just the aftermath.

 

If I’d seen how strategic, or clever he was to take down 7 people, it would’ve shut me up. I would’ve been like “OK, that’s what a Class A rank does.” But how he felt about the fight, wasn’t the same to me as seeing how he did it. I kept thinking, was it like that scene in the awesome movie Hanna, where Eric Bana, totally wiped the floor with several opponents, without a weapon of his own(which totally changed how I looked at Eric Bana, XD click here to see).

 

If I’d just got a glimpse of what Wyatt could do, I wouldn’t be so confused. But the story is supposed to be about Dev, so I’ll talk more about her.

 

I liked Dev. I didn’t necessarily love her, despite wanting to, but I did like her. She was a tough as nails demon/angel hybrid, and unapologetic. I think a lot of people attempt to make a protagonist likable. I don’t think Dev is a typically “likable” heroine, but I think that’s what I like about her. Women have to strive to be appropriate, “likable.” I don’t connect to most “likable” heroines, so I did like that she didn’t care what people thought of her.

 

But describing her character with both her looks and talent, were a bit repetitive. Like Wyatt and Ryker, every appearance she makes(whether it’s being talked about, or she’s actually in the scene) mentioned how vicious, deadly, or beautiful she was.

 

By the third time, I kinda got that people found her attractive. There wasn’t as much situations that showed this, as much as it told. And for such a deadly character, sometimes her dialogue was a little “cheerlead-y.”

 

Im 100% sure that “cheerlead-y” is not a word. But with the way her character is written, certain dialogue seemed lower than her age group(which to be honest,being immortal, Im not sure what her true age was). Sometimes the book’s dialogue wasn’t reminiscent of teenagers(too mature or not mature enough).

 

One line in particular seemed a little off. It was by Wyatt, and just so I have an example, I’ll quote it.

 

In reference to a scene where Ryker challenged Max Breslin in a battle of words, Wyatt then gave him props. “Thank you Ryker Morrison for being your bad self.”

 

Maybe it’s because Ive been with a white boy for 4 years, but I can’t ever think of a situation, where a white boy would sound anything but uber corny for even trying to speak in my vernacular XD

 

It’s not a deal breaker. And Im only bringing attention to things that just seem off to me, and at times, dialogue was one of them.

 

I do however like the story’s backstory. The Circle of Ten, Im curious to learn more about that, and more about the other families involved. I’d love to know where else in the world other stations are, and how their settings, situations and techniques(weapons and battle tactics) compare and differ from NYC.

 

The story is 3rd person. I like 3rd person, but I am a 1st person snob. I think with all the characters involved, it works better to be 3rd person. So I can’t argue much about that. But I already mentioned how I felt about the dialogue and language of the book, so i’d simply be repeating myself if I mentioned it again ;p

 

I don’t think the editing is bad. It’s not perfect, but then again, there are very few books that are. Maybe it was the copy I had, as I read it as an ePub. The words seemed very close together, so while the editing works, perhaps I would’ve liked more interesting formatting.

 

As far as diversity went. Hmm…There was a lot of female representation. I don’t know how I feel about it. There wasn’t a woman in the book who’s worth wasn’t valued in how she looked. Each time, any girl is mentioned, she had to be “smoking hot.” There wasn’t a ton of room for any awkwardness. You were either petite or model-tall. 

 

I loved the troll Coco. She was my favorite character in the book, but so far had the least screen time, and wasn’t human. But even her looks had to be mentioned several times. While I was told many times how dangerous and powerful characters were, it was difficult to take many of the characters, especially the women, seriously.

 

Mainly because the men didn’t always seem to take them seriously. Or at least that’s how I interpreted it. I have a grandmother, who every time I visit her, the only thing she will comment on is my looks. So much of a women’s worth was put into her looks in her time, and while I cringe to hear it, I know she’s from a much different time.

 

Im glad there are so many women in this book with self confidence. I do get really bored of the “girls who are hot, but don’t know they are.” But when Wyatt first found Dev, her body was completely distorted, and each limb basically had a mind of it’s own XD Why were they saying how hot her body was?

 

Everyone was very perfect, at the way they looked, the way they were shaped, their height, their intelligence, their skill. I would’ve liked to see someone struggle just a little bit. 

 

For the most part, I can live with it. Hearing how hot all the characters were sometimes made me put the book down, but I always wanted to pick it back up, so it’s not a deal breaker.

 

As far as female representation, there weren’t as many women of color. I wasn’t sure why there weren’t more people of color, considering they lived in NYC. Do vampires not bite Latin@s? Were there no Asian Magicals? Dev and Ryker are definitely people of color, and Im glad they’re there. But in NY, I would’ve liked to see more color. That’s kind of the best place for it.

 

I think the title fits. A part of me feels as though this is more New Adult, than Young Adult, and by that, Dev is more a woman than a teenager, but she is a girl. She’s referred to as “The Girl” a lot in the book, and being a girl doesn’t mean she isn’t a woman. 

 

The cover is ok. I think I would’ve liked to see Dev(and or Wyatt with her) on the cover in comparison, but its not bad. Maybe it wouldn’t catch me in a book store, but the use of color, font, and arrangement is nice. I do think it doesn’t fully capture the genre of the book, so paranormal novel loving fans may not know it’s a book they’d normally read.

 

Character names. You know how I get with names. I feel like, the more ethnic the better XD Most of the characters that had big parts were white, so they’re names were a little plain, but suited them. I liked Dev and Ryker’s names the best. I don’t think I’ve ever met an average looking Ryker, and my boo Dev Patel, has convinced me, that Dev is also a hottie name as well.

 

I don’t dislike plain names, they’re just harder to remember for me. 

 

Character descriptions, were clear, but only because each character was described all the time by how hot their body and appearance were.

 

Overall, I liked it. Maybe if I go further into the trilogy, I’ll find more of what I look for in books in the future books(more diversity, more men of color). It’s definitely for paranormal romance fans!

 

An awesome sequel to this diverse steampunk story!

The Tinker King - Tiffany Trent

Let me just start out by saying, I hate spiders! This book was FILLED with them! Ugh, knowing they're oversized, can talk, will bite or eat at any given will, ugh, there were many times it was hard to get to sleep at night!

With that being said, The Tinker King didn't disappoint in terms of plot, antagonist and storyline! If you liked what you saw in the first book, you may also fall in love with this one. I still think the first book is better in terms of goals, but I loved the my boo Syrus was the leading man, and had a hell of a great antagonist!

If you haven't read the first book, I'll fill you in on some details(hopefully spoiler free of course). The Tinker King is the sequel to The Unnaturalists, a steampunk alternative universe that mirrors 18th-19th century London(I don't know, it's hard to say how long this new world has existed) as Charles Darwin opened a portal that created a parallel universe, in which dwellers of this world know of the Old London, but rarely speak of it, in favor of the New London.

Supernatural creatures are somewhat normalized, and magic is both forbidden and selfishly used by those who ban it. Chinese culture is the biggest non-European cultural influence, as an ethnic group known as Tinkers(those with spiritual ties to the Unnaturals, and also oppressed people who are known for being extremely handy).

I still enjoyed the world building, it doesn't fall any less short from the original when it comes to painting the world, and how it's different from ours. I liked the pacing for the most part, but I will say, I preferred Syrus' chapters to Vespa's. His chapters always seemed more exciting than hers for some reason, though Im not sure why.

I liked the back story of the Tinker King, and how it meshes with the current mission of the characters. I did think the ending could've been a little tighter. I liked it, but it ended pretty soon, the ending battle seemed a little rushed.

I love both Syrus and Vespa. I think what I liked about them most, is that they were just friends. Colleagues. Nothing less or more. I liked that it didn't feel the need to cause an unnecessary love triangle between them. It's nice to see two main characters who aren't each other's goals in terms of love. Both characters of color no less.

I think they're both strong, well-written characters, but much like the original, their POV is slightly different. While the first book featured Vespa in 1st person, and Syrus in 3rd, the Tinker King does the opposite. Syrus takes the lead as the 1st person narrator, while Vespa hops in the back seat and narrates in 3rd person.

For me, 1st person makes me feel closer to the character. I like both, but I feel as if I could easily be in the party of the group, where Im actually there, vs. 3rd person, where Im being told everything. Syrus was a great leading man. He was selfless, but selfish. Brave, yet afraid. Intelligent, but humble enough to know when he didn't have the answer. He was becoming a man, and I liked to see his growth from a pickpocketing thief, to a full-fledged main protagonist.

This book also had the best antagonist in the friggin world. Ximu, an Unnatural(The malevolent kind) an enemy to the Tinkers, and not for nothing, an enormous, disgusting, manipulative were-spider.

That's right, you read that right. Were-Spider. They got were-spiders out here y'all...

Ximu wasn't just some mission-less antagonist who wanted nothing but destruction(even though she did kinda want that too). She wanted her home, the home the original Tinker King had taken from her, and was ready to seek vengeance after being trapped in isolation for so long.

That provided plenty of conflict, but the best conflict in the book, you really have to read to find out!

I didn't have any major issues with the editing. The formatting was industry standard, and I tend to say this with every steampunk title I read, but while the language can be confusing, it suits the book.

Again, with the POV, I preferred Syrus to Vespa's narration, but they were both understood.

I think as far as diversity goes, if Im being honest, Vespa and Syrus are the only real characters of color who are main characters. If you want interesting female representation, the Empress, Olivia was still a great character. But like the first book, the Tinkers were lesser characters than the white folk.

I loved that Vespa and Olivia were really good friends without having to result to disliking each other because that's how mainstream expects two girls in a book to act. Like their common enemies.

There is a bunch of interracial pairings that I liked. Syrus and Olivia reminded me a bit of a couple I have that are in a WIP I have, so maybe that's why I liked their pairing. Vespa and Bayne seemed to be taken with each other, so while I thought they weren't as interesting together in comparison, they were still cute.

But as far as representation with, the ones who showed up were good, but there weren't many invitations.

The cover and the title are the main reasons I bought the book. They tease diversies like me, who love and melt over a gorgeous man of color on a book.

Character names...Eh. I think outside of the main characters, they were hard to remember, because they were so plain. I get the times they lived in, but then again, since they were New London, a place of magic and sh*t, I can't think of any reason not to have eye catching names, so I took off a quarter point.

I think with the character descriptions, they're done descriptive enough for me, but Bayne? They mentioned his eye color too much for me. It seems as though every book has a black haired, blue eyed love interest, and nearly every book boyfriend looks the same. In fact, because Bayne looks like so many heroes I've read, much like the first book, I pictured him East Asian(because obviously he'd be way hotter) unless it took me out of the fantasy and reminded me his eyes were blue again(which was a lot).

Nothing major, just, brown eyes still work too ya know!

Indian mythology that was a true win in this fantasy title!

The City of Death - Sarwat Chadda

I really dont know where to start with this book. I was completely turnt* out by Sarwat Chadda after reading the first book in this series "The Savage Fortress."

 

This book is a sequel, and with that it could've been a hit or miss, as sequel's often never live up to their predecessors.

 

I proudly admit, it was one of the few books I read this year that was a perfect 5 star for me. I look for 20 small details. All details that coincide with our review policy. They're broken down into quarter points, and it's very rare for a book to earn all of those for me!

 

"The City of Death" is a sequel in the Ash Mistry series, following a British teen who finds out he's an avatar of an ultimate warrior. The one thing I tend to appreciate about sequels, is that they don't slow down, since many readers tend to have a basic grasp of the world already.

 

This book still introduced it's world, but not too long for old fans to get bored. I couldn't find a single detail out of place. The world building, especially when they went to Lanka, the legendary home of Ravana(the demon king) was amazing. The picture was painted so vividly, I had no problem picturing it, or the part of India, Ash was forced to stay in.

 

The ending was...I didn't see it coming, and you have to read to understand how awesome it was!

 

One of the strongest elements of the book was the character development, and not just for the main character Ash. His friend John, we got to see in a much stronger light, to prove he wasn't just a thief, but just a misunderstood kid.

 

Parvati's back story was also touched on, and it makes her future very unclear, but I pray there's still hope for her, because her intentions are good, even if she was created to be the "killer of men."

 

Now to Ash. He was a kid with all this power, but with so little knowledge on how to use it. He had to make so many life changing decisions, that I cant imagine what it was like to be in the position of saving the world, while costing your own humanity to do so.

 

Sometimes I cant tell if Ash is a hero, or an anti-hero. As an avatar, many of his past lives were cruel, dictators, or people of power, who did anything to gain it. To listen to them, he had to lose parts of his self. Even with a struggle between good and evil, I'm so glad that there is a fantasy book that shows, that sometimes the biggest battle is with yourself.

 

There aren't any qualms about the editing of the book. Being traditionally published doesn't ensure a properly edited book, but this book is as high quality as one can get.

 

It's still 3rd person, which I'm not 100% crazy about. But I don't dislike 3rd person, I just prefer 1st person. But do 3rd person right, and you've got a fan for life!

 

The diversity is about the same as the first. Most of the cast is of South Asian descent, but Ash is UK-born ,which brings a ton of other things his way, having to explain his love for two cultures.

 

His friend John is Indian born, so they have completely different mannerisms and appearances. Where John is from, it's a reality for children to be underfed, poor, and do what they must to survive. This is not to say that this is ALL children born in India. But for John, this was his reality.

 

Parvati looks Indian. But she's also half demon. As the years grow by, she resembles a snake more and more, but I like how she's trying to fight her nature.

 

Romantically there's nothing there(yet) but I like that Parvati and Ash can be there for each other, as a tag team, and not expect anything more than friendship from each other. There's a lot of tension between them, but I guess we'll see what happens.

 

And obviously the baddie Savage is still alive. He's a white British guy, who's the villain of the entire series. I like Savage. He's what a true villain should be. Too many villains in books remind me of the guy twirling his mustache at some train tracks. He has goals, whether they be good or bad, that benefit him.

 

He doesn't necessarily see himself as the bad guy, and through a short period in the book, Ash is forced to work with.

 

Keep your friends close, but enemies closer right?

 

If the title is in reference to Lanka, well done. I love the title. The cover is really eye catching and pretty. I wish Ash's face would've been shown, but Im glad at least Parvati's is. That's basically how I saw her.

 

Since this is a sequel, the names and character descriptions are already clear, as they've already been introduced to me in the first!

Diverse Read for Sci-fi/Tron fans.

Dragon's Mind - Vered Ehsani

Falling a bit behind on my reviews, Im finally getting to Dragon's Mind! I highly enjoyed this light science fiction read ^_^

 

It wasn't perfect, but at the very least, it was edited well, and interesting enough to buy it as a paperback after seeing it for free via Amazon Prime.

 

Dragon's Mind was a confusing story at times, but it was entertaining. A fictional upscale resort/man-made island was the setting for this tale about an artificial mind, who learned he was actually real, and the teenager who helped created his program.

 

I'd rather break down some of the things I did and didn't connect with. Most people will be able to live with what I didn't connect with, so it is a read I'd highly recommend.

 

What I liked:

 

I had pros and cons about this fictional man-made island, created to be a type of upscale Atlantic City/Las Vegas. The entire island was run by an artificial brain named "MindsOPS" or aka "Dragon." The entire set up made it appear to be a Sin City type place for rich people, or visitors to run from their problems or normal lives, if only for a moment.

 

Dragon was a computer program/artificial brain that were the resort's eyes, ears, or all senses. The technology behind the program was to prove that scientists could create artificial intelligence that envied man, which many assumed they succeeded at, UNTIL Dragon began to remember he wasn't always an artificial brain.

 

I really liked the three main characters. Dragon, aka "MindOps" was the artificial intelligence teenager/budding scientist and prodigy Myranda Thalia aka "Myth" worked with while creating her revolutionary program. Myth was a biracial girl(half white and half black)and had a strong relationship with her mother(who was also a scientist). There was another main character of Chinese descent named Darren Cho. I liked him, but I do have a complain once I get to the diversity section.

 

All three main characters were really cool. It was nice to see a story that didn't shy away from a group of diverse kids coming together to stop a corrupt city system.

 

Most of the conflict came from Dragon, upon creating a family friendly holographic image to display, starts remembering the origins of that image. That it was who he used to be, before he became a brain. This secret has the power to bring a lot of people in high places down, so of course the baddies want nothing more but to destroy anyone involved. That included Myth, the person he worked the closest with.

 

It has a Tron feel to it, if anyone is into Computer Program-Reality type plots. I think that's what I liked about it the most.

 

I think the developmental editing is pretty good. It's not life changing, but the plot made sense throughout the book. There weren't any major issue with formatting or grammar, but I can't give it all the editing points.

 

I absolutely love the cover, and the title fits the book. I would probably pick this up in a bookstore based on the cover alone. I liked every name but I did have a complaint about a surname,but I'll explain later. I think I got a pretty clear picture of the characters, or at least the characters that had speaking lines(expect for The Boss).

 

What I didn't connect to:

 

The major detail I connected with the least, the detail that drove me absolutely insane, was the character Darren Cho. From first glance, before anything is known about him, I assumed he'd be Korean American. After all, Cho is a Korean surname.

 

Darren turned up being of Chinese descent, and that bugged the hell out of me, because it made me wonder how much research went into making his ethnicity clear. I know, I know, there are a few names, first and last, that have some relations or similarities in East Asia. 

 

But perhaps Chow, Cao or Tso would have been better choices. They would have been recognizably Chinese, and wouldn't be mistaken for Korean at all.

 

Also, as far as diversity went, it was good, but not great. The representation that is shown is good. But there were a lot of colorist ideologies in the book, be they intentional or not.

 

One character, who was saving Myth's life by the way, was described in such an unflattering light, just because he was dark skinned, physically strong and had dreadlocks. All I kept thinking was, give this dude my number XD It made me feel as though he was being judged in the same light a lot of brothers get judged right before they die by a cop's hand.

 

I didn't connect to that. Myth and Dragon were to me the strongest written characters. But even Myth's dialogue seemed a bit off, or childish, considering her high intelligence level.

 

I also didn't like the multiple narratives. Myth and Dragon I understood, because they're actually on the cover. But there were several villains (The Albino and The Boss for starters) where I thought their narrative didn't exactly help the story run smoother.

 

Albinism is lack of melanin defect(a disability of sorts) but The Albino wasn't a strong written character. I didn't think it painted her in a flattering light, and making her the villain, considering what she'd gone through didn't seem fair.

 

The Boss? Even though I pictured him South Asian, it was never really clear what he looked like. I assumed since chapters were told from his perspective, the least that could be done is have a clear picture of him. He wore "Indian" style clothing, which I interpreted at the very least as a Sherwani and slacks. But I'd be really disappointed to see some random white guy in such dignified clothes XD

 

Overall all, this book had strong points, but had some very weak points as well.

We need more main characters in Paranormal/SFF with disabilities!

Farsighted (Farsighted 1) - Emlyn Chand

It's taken me some serious time and thought to write this review. When addressing main characters with disabilities, I make sure to research the disability in question, just to make sure Im not praising problematic tropes when it comes to characters with disabilities.

 

"Farsighted" followed the exploits of Alex Kosmitoras, a teenage boy with a disability(he's blind) who finds out he is "Gifted" or a human being with a supernatural ability.

 

There was so few wrong with this book, that you won't hear a lot of faults with my review, but there were a few things I didn't connect with, but they were fairly minor.

 

I found that the pacing was good for the novel's length and narrator. There was a good amount of action vs interaction, and revealing info at appropriate times. One of the interesting things about the world building for me, was that the story painted Alex's disability well.

 

Throughout much of the book, I felt what it was like to be Alex, and what it was like to be physically blind. I assume not all individuals with disabilities have the same ways they enter the world everyday, especially with people who have abled privilege, but there wasn't a chapter with Alex in it, that didn't paint how he saw the world without his eyes.

 

Alex is one of my new book boyfriends ^_^ Book boys tend to be a bit "extra" for me, but Alex is painted as realistic as a 17 year old boy can be. He likes girls, anticipates his first kiss, doesn't always get along with his dad, and feels it when his parents struggle financially.

 

This is how teenage boys should be in books. I think the thought of a hopeless romantic is nice, but I think in real life, even your dream guy can get on your nerves and have flaws. It was nice to see he isn't drawn to be anything but Alex.

 

Alex had an amazing backstory which has a lot to do with the problems he's going through with his father, behind closed doors. You have to read to believe, I try to be as spoiler free as possible, but it all makes sense when the golden egg is revealed ^_^

 

Alex also struggled with his ability, which was premonition. Sometimes he would see things that happened, but wasn't sure when they'd happen, of even if they'd happen, which made it difficult for him understand what the foresight meant.

 

I liked that, but I think it was my main issue with the book, which I'll touch further on during the diversity section.

 

I wish I could talk about the editing in the book, but because it's so top notch, there isn't really anything to say about it. The formatting is done well, the graphics are amazing, the POV is clear most of the time(with exceptions for when he's deciphering premonitions) and the developmental editing is superb.

 

My hat tips to the editor of this book.

 

Now the diversity. The diversity is both amazing, and somewhat problematic. The major thing I liked about the diversity is, where a sea full of trios often consist of two boys and one girl(e.i. Harry Potter)the three-legged tag team consisted of Alex a teenage boy with a disability, Shapri and Simmi, who were both women of color.

 

Each character is written with a type of depth that they deserve, but what I will say about Alex, is that his ability centers around his disability.

 

He's blind so he can see with a different set of eyes? I think that's cool, but for fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender, Toph was rather similar. She's extremely well written, and doesn't see her disability as a disadvantage, and perhaps even with her faults, is the best representation of a character with a disability, she's still a character who's ability is centered on her disability.

 

But I find that outside of that, many of these characters being represented, and well at that, would raise the self esteem of anyone reading it. Simmi was originally from India, and plus sized. Alex based people based on their smells, and he loved the way Simmi smelled, which is a breath of fresh air.

 

Too many books focus on looks and nothing else, and it seemed so genuine, especially because Alex saw her, even though he couldn't see her.

 

Shapri, wasn't as big a character as Simmi, but I predict bigger things for Shapri in the future, especially with all the tension between Alex and her.

 

Cover: Love it!

 

Title: Love it!

 

Character names, I liked them. They're unique enough for me, or at the very least fit the characters, Descriptions of characters are difficult. I imagined how each character looked(especially because I peaked at future covers) but take in mind Alex is blind. He described people by their smells, and not their physical appearances.

 

But I think Alex did a great job at painting their smells, because many things mad it very obvious that his best friends were women of color =)

Interesting Fantasy-Comedy story with a Villain as a hero

Cannon Fodder - Margaret R Taylor, Kelsey King

I received this book a while back for an honest review. I've tried to read it a few times on different occasions, but only recently finished.

 

Cannon Fodder follows the exploits of Alec Nightshade, a 15 year old boy who is an evil overlord in the making, with hopes to stop heroes from killing everyone he knows!

 

I definitely think the idea of the book itself has an interesting premise. I think there were points that I didn't connect with as much as I liked, but I think the book itself is an interesting story.

 

I'd rather break the plot down with things I could, and didn't connect with, as it would be easier to tell whether this is a story is or isn't for you.

 

What I liked:

 

The plot itself. I think you have to actually read the book to come to this conclusion, and while it isn't down to a science or anything, it reminds me of "Despicable Me" , maybe even a little bit like "Sky High" just not as kiddish.

 

I think I'd like to read more villain-kind-of-hero stories more often, mainly because I think the best villains are three dimensional characters, who should have goals and strong character development as much as the hero of the story, otherwise they come off as rather campy.

 

I suppose Alec isn't a true evil overlord in the making. To quote Rocky from my favorite show "Some Girls"

 

"Tryin' to be bad but, not very good at being bad"(Imagine in a hot Cockney accent XD )

 

Being raised in the Norgolian Society of Evil Overlords(or NSEO) environment, he has a lot of street smarts(knowing to trust no one, even your own kind, because, who can really trust an evil overlord right?) but I think there was too much good in him to truly be evil.

 

Alec was a hero that was flawed and made mistakes(really questionable ones, those types you can't go back from, good or evil) which is what I found relatable about him. I think that I liked his character so much, I kinda thought most of the other characters kind of paled in comparison. I'd rather talk about that a bit later though.

 

The story has it's own world, which seemed interesting. Villains and Heroes seemed to have their own networks, ways of communicating with one another, transits they used, and many other things that matched the world.

 

While the character names were pretty out there, I'd rather give an A for effort, because they were different, and I always go for different versus common. The only thing I'll say about them, is I'd have no idea how to pronounce a name like "Ionantha!" 

 

The humor! It was funny. I thought that was very cute, especially because most books in the YA category aren't very funny. Sometimes it was most funny, when the characters were trying to be taken seriously, and after a few books that were really serious(no breather moments) it was a breath of fresh air to read something that didn't give me a night terror or two.

 

What I didn't connect with:

 

The language. Not the writing style itself, but much of the terminology that was specific to the story never slowed down enough for me to understand what it meant. Much of the time, I'd have to read further into the book to understand something, that took me chapters to understand, well I'd read and forgotten the detail. 

 

I know books only have a certain amount of pages to grab you, but I think if it's intended for children or young adults, with their short attention spans, they may not continue a book that doesn't gain their attention long.

 

I didn't always find the POV clear, but it could've been because it was 3rd person, and I just assumed the story would be told from Alec's POV, even if it was a bird's eye view. Whenever it wasn't told from the POV of Alec's I was a little bored, and couldn't wait to get back to him.

 

Race didn't seem like a huge issue in this book, but because of the world, outside of someone being dark skinned, I couldn't always tell if there was a ton of diversity. There are a bunch of cool female characters, and as far as I know Alec is definitely a man of color(possibly something else too XD lips are sealed) but I just think I would've like to see more.

 

The title. I think it suits the plot(or at least to me, considering the clash between hero and evil overlord) but I don't think the intended audience would automatically get the reference unless they read it. The title wouldn't normally provoke anything from me, even though it's not a bad one. I just don't connect to it.

 

I think the cover is ok. Im not saying it could've been better, because it is a cool picture, Im just saying I wouldn't pick it up in a bookstore. I like that Alec is front and center, but maybe I would've liked it better if it'd just featured him on the cover.

 

Scrolling up, Im realizing this review is longer than I intended it to be XD I just really want a reader to make up their own mind, as these are just words. What I didn't connect with, might the fews things another reader loves.

 

I definitely think anyone who likes reading a non-conventional hero would really like "Cannon Fodder!"

Dystopian Thriller for lovers of diversity

Niko - Kayti Nika Raet

I'd recently finished this book after a long stint of not finishing any books. Niko follows the exploits of "Niko" , the titular heroine. "Niko's" universe is a dystopian one, in which the world's conditions have become extremely harsh, and the world also has a dangerous threat known as a "Slither." Slithers are humanoid cannibalistic creatures, and only people of a certain grade can kill them.

 

I liked Niko. I definitely think it has a lot of potential. There were some things that I thought would've made it a stronger book, but I did enjoy the outcome.

 

What I liked:

 

I did like the world building. I think most dystopian books make clear depictions of the conditions and how they differ from how many of us live today. In "Niko's" universe, it rained acid, which was sometimes worse than being killed by a Slither. Much, much slower....

 

It made food and water that much scarcer, and often made me believe there was very little hope for the "Outsiders", or those who didn't live in a big city. Which was nearly everyone.

 

I did really like Niko. I thought she was a cool heroine, who didn't need to seek anyone else's validation, could take care of herself, and had an unyielding determination to find her lost younger brother. But I did think she was my favorite character until Norm and Lo were introduced.

 

Maybe I just don't think f/f relationships are depicted enough in fiction, especially speculative fiction. But the minute they were introduced, Niko kinda got demoted XD

 

Niko did give some awesome copy that made her a Han Solo for real XD But aint nothing like a powerhouse lesbian couple to shake shit up.

 

There was plenty of conflict. Perhaps too much conflict for just 200 pages though. Sometimes I think conflict was thrown in just to add action, perhaps even when it wasn't always necessary. But I'd rather discuss that later.

 

Not every dystopian book has given me this much diversity in one book. It was unique for that, but I'll bring that up later when I talk up the diversity.

 

I think the stronger element of the editing side of the book was the formatting. It was formatted well enough not to take a point away for that.

 

The book's strongest element is the diversity. I will most likely offend someone for this, but it was nice to see a book where people of color received more copy, and lines than the white characters. I can only think of two white characters in a sea of characters of color, and to be honest, this is where most dystopian books fail.

 

How are we supposed to believe only white people survive the apocalypse? Statistically, Blacks, Latinos and South East Asian folk tend to be more likely to suffer from poverty. Yes many overcome these setbacks, but if the world went to shit, I'd say we'd be the most likely to survive. 

 

I can't speak for all people of color, but my childhood under poverty levels taught me how to survive with very little. While I've managed to live above the poverty line since becoming an adult, I know damn well I'd more prepared than my middle class uppity white boyfriend.

 

Race was never mentioned, but there were a few characters of South East Asian descent(because their names? Clearly Vietnamese.) several East Asian characters, I think a character of South Asian descent(To be honest I though the character was Black, until I saw the author's fan cast) and four Black characters. All main characters!

 

And because my two boos were lesbians?

 

People of color-Check 

Queer-Check

Disability-Check

 

A character introduced later is partially blind, with the possibility of a character with a limp. I'd say yea, that got me.

 

There was so much that wasn't left out, that many dystopian books neglect. Guess what? We do make it to the end of the world!

 

I think the title and cover suit the book, but one thing about the cover I didn't connect with. I didn't get the impression that Niko was big breasted or dangerously curvy. Niko wasnt sexualized too much in the book. I just wonder why she was on the cover.

 

I think the character names were cool. Some names stood out more than others, but Im just like that when it comes to ethnic names. I like them better. When you have to think about their pronunciation , they command something from you, that a common name just can not. But I'd say for the most part they suited the characters well.

 

Not every character was described in the detail that Duc was. Duc was my favorite boy in the book, and I know ALOT of Vietnamese dudes, just because I really like dancers, who look like him in my head. Ari, I thought was Black, but I think she was meant to be South Asian. Ben I actually thought was white, until I saw a fan cast, so I immediately discarded my initial thought of him.

 

They were described well enough where I could make up my own mind of them, but maybe I would've liked more.

 

Things I didn't connect with:

 

I think the editing could've been stronger. The editing effects more than grammar and misspelled words. Some of the developmental editing could've afforded to be stronger as well. 

 

Many of the conflicts in the book seemed misplaced, or could have went different directions to capture the reader more. Sometimes certain situations told more than showed, so if they were meant to be super climatic, they didn't capture me in the way they were meant to.

 

I'd rather give an example, though I won't go super nitpick crazy.

 

Example: A antagonist named Phin was introduced toward the end of the book to create conflict. He was the leader of a gang that exploited people for protection. More time was given telling me he was a dangerous guy, that showing me.

 

So when he and Niko were forced with a confrontation, it made me think Niko taking care of him was unnecessary.

 

Mind you, if I'd seen some of his terror, I would've thought that was ok. But just because Niko knows he was dangerous on the outside, doesn't mean the reader will automatically get that vibe just by being told.

 

Some of the backstory on the birth of the world, and the slithers could've taken a paragraph or two more to describe. While I did like the world building, I felt as though several times, the story would unfold itself more, only to be more confused about certain aspects of it.

 

I didn't think the editing was perfect. If that doesn't bother you, I'd still highly suggest the book. You're not going to get a dystopian book that is this diverse in the traditional publishing world. 

Afro Latina heroine leads this paranormal zombie book/hit show!

Dia of the Dead - Brit Brinson

I found out about this book via Diverse Book Tours. Im actually surprised the author had never contacted Twinja Book Reviews directly, considering we're always on the lookout for Afro-Latina main characters in Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Paranormal or Speculative Fiction books.

 

I'd seen the cover on the blogosphere once, but it wasn't until DBT, that it fell into my lap. I really liked it. It featured a young Black-Latina actress named Dia Summers, who finds herself on a studio set filled with zombies. 

 

No, I'm not kidding.

 

There were somethings I loved about the book, and some things I didn't connect with, but but despite them being personal feelings, I tried to be objective. 

 

So here's the scoop!

 

What I loved:

 

The plot. I'll admit, I've never worked on a major studio before, but I have experience working in tv networks. It seemed dangerously accurate what goes on behind closed doors on sets and studios. That's world building in itself. Most of us aren't accustom to that celebrity lifestyle,so it does take a bunch of research to write about it, without it coming off as campy. I haven't read many books about actresses in YA categories, or in anything paranormal or SFF, so I thought the uniqueness of that kept my attention at all times.

 

It revealed action and information well, but I think it's setting up for a sequel? Because there were some questions left unanswered.

 

It wasn't predictable in one aspect of the book. That mirrors also what I didn't connect with, but I liked that the ending wasn't what I predicted, despite it's outcome.

 

I LOOOOVVVEDDD Dia. She so reminded me of me. Both my parents are Black-Latinos(Whilst she had one Latino parent and one African-American one) but I rarely read any books with Afro-Latino main characters.

 

When I do, they're done dangerously wrong, inaccurate, without knowledge of the experience, or mostly...JUST DONT EXIST.

 

I liked how the book addressed many of the micro aggressions Afro-Latinas face in, really any situation.

 

"Are You Black/Are You Latina?" As if there is little room to be both. I hate it when Afro-Latinas are depicted in a way where they neglect everything about having African ancestry, equating dark skin to "staying in the sun too long." Sounds ridiculous, but many of the afro-latinos I know still have these mindsets.

 

I also liked that even in this crazy situation, where zombies were infecting everyone, there was still room for humor in the story. Many times I stopped and chuckled, thinking "Yo, that's how I would've handled it" because you just know if a black chick was allowed to be the leading character in a horror themed ANYTHING, we'd have a totally different way of dealing with shit.

 

Just a thought, any time you want to write/pen a book featuring the sea of white folk, falling with sneakers on, breathing hard enough to wake the neighbors and then wonder why the hell the killer found them, or just waiting aimlessly for the killer to find you. 

 

Conflict? How the heck can you consider fooling around with zombies not conflicting?

 

As far as the editing goes, I think I saw a few mistakes, but no more than a traditionally published book might make. If it's self published, you sure as hell can't tell. It's hard to talk about editing when it's done well. It's only a conversation when it's not.

 

I think the diversity is good. I think it could've been better. There were many people of color that were supporting characters, but I think because of the environment it was in, perhaps it was appropriate? 

 

People of color tend to get our It girl's few and far between. I can name at least one It girl a year who's Caucasian, but with Asian, Latina, Black, or just women of color in general, we get one. But it sure as heck aint every year, and for the most part, there can usually only be one.

 

So I think Dia's representation is appropriate, as long as you know she works in a field with little diversity.

 

The title seems cool. It suggests that perhaps Dia's Latino heritage could possible be Mexican origins? At first I thought she was a non-Black Latina, which I would've been ok with(based of the title, and the fact Day of The Dead is mainly a Mexican holiday) but the zombies kinda seemed like they looked like the masks you typically wear in celebration of the Day of The Dead. Not down to a science, but similar.

 

The cover is cute. I always favor people in comparison to symbols on covers, but I think if I saw the cover, with that title, in a book store, I'd pick it up.

 

What I didn't connect with:

 

I think the ending. I liked that it wasn't what I expected, but I kept thinking everyone was going to jump out and scream "PUNK'D" and they'd have a laugh about it, as a publicity stunt to promote the show.

 

The zombies were real. The threat was real. Anytime you're dealing with a threat like this, it's hard to say whether it'll end well. There was so much loss for major characters, and Im not going lie. I was sad.

 

I wonder how the future of this series will end. Zombies don't usually give happily ever after outcomes.

 

I think I also would've liked more incite on why certain zombies had different behaviors. Perhaps it'll be explained with the future of the series, but I just had many unanswered questions.

 

My one complaint about the diversity, is that a few people of color died quickly off. Dia ended up being one of the few people of color who survived, and I couldn't help thinking with all the white folk(which were way more characters) why did the PoC die off first?

 

Also, Mason...He was a bit too conceited for my taste. He seemed super hot,but he was often too vain to "get" him. Dia's love interest Brandon was also, kind of eh for me. Maybe I just don't go crazy for blue eyed brunettes much. Totally biased though, because if he'd had brown eyes, I would've thought he was gorgeous XD Seems like all guys look the same in books.

 

Also, one aspect of Dia's development I wasn't crazy about. Her never having kissed a guy or anything. Granted, Im a hypocrite. I didn't get my first kiss until 18, and she's only 16. But I think with the changing culture of the youth these days, it's harder to find teenagers who haven't at least kissed a guy.

 

As Im getting older, Im just not crazy about the "virginal" heroine archetype. Just seems to rob girls of being in control of their sexuality, but that's just the feminist in me.

 

Also wasn't crazy about the character names, but I think it's because only Dia's was the one I remembered best. I always remember long, uncommon or ethnic names best, because they force you to pronounce or consider how to pronounce them correctly. They command something different that I don't think common/popular names do.

 

Overall I loved this book. I look really forward to the future of this series(if there will be) and anything that comes from this author!

 

There were a lot of characters, so I'll only dreamcast who I saw as the four central characters!

 

Dia may not have looked like this, but Joan Smalls was how I pictured her. They have a similar racial makeup, and Joan is really popular in the modeling world right now!

The conclusion to all this crazy. Thrillers for #WeNeedDiverseBooks lovers

Blood of My Blood  (Jasper Dent  - I Hunt Killers Trilogy, Book 3) - Barry Lyga

This book is the conclusion to the "I Hunt Killers" trilogy, and I should first warn readers, that this book reveals some pretty offscreen sexually explicit themes, including sexual abuse. If that is something that makes you dry heave, this isnt the book for you.

What I must get out the way...I was extremely reluctant to read this series at first. While it'd been suggested to us by Stacy Whitman, and then to my braggart sister Libertad, I just wasnt sure I could get into a story about a teenage white boy, who was the son of a notorious, the MOST notorious serial killer to ever live. Libby bragged about it so much, after suggesting it to our book soul mate Fountain Pen Diva, so I caved in when I'd seen they'd both responded so highly despite the subject matter.

I think this series will be one of those series' I talk about for years, when mentioning my favorite series'. It had so many things that I now look for in books, that is so needed in books, that I wish anyone who hasn't read it, would consider it immediately.

Blood of My Blood is the last story in the I Hunt Killers trilogy, and starts where the second book left off. Jasper, or "Jazz" bleeding to death with a gun wound to the leg, in a storage unit and two dead bodies.

The pacing in this story is friggin' amazing. I think because every time you'd get far with one narrative, they'd snatch you back to another person's narrative, leaving you in a fit of suspense. It always revealed just enough information, where you thought you knew what the hell was going on, so much, that at times even Jasper was dumbfounded like the reader.

The story purposely tried to make the reader keep their eye off the prize, and I was guilty of falling victim to that, because my mind just doesn't work like Billy Dent, Jasper's father, or the scariest white man on the planet.

I just couldn't imagine waking up to seeing Billy's face in front of mine, evil and twisted, and enjoying my fear no less. But even with his big balls of crazy, a sick part of me was glad he gave many moments to breath from his evil. Im a little ashamed to admit, and come on? You have to admit, the notorious Billy Dent mastering the Ipad is pretty damn hilarious.

But back to subject, the world building aspect, is still pretty cool, if you consider it to be what it's like to be in the mind of a serial killer. I always enjoyed the references to famous serial killers, because truth be told, I'd never heard of them or bothered to research them before hand. It's crazy how many thing sickos have gotten away with, and for as long as they did. A subject matter to address? You will never look at social networking the same as with this book.

I so wanted to predict the outcome so BAD, but I couldn't have predicted the ending until the last minute, and I was very afraid for the main character.

This was the first book out of the series, where I found Jasper humanly relatable. In the first two books, I had a love hate relationship with Jazz, because of his capabilities to manipulate, but resisting the power to always use it. This book gave some info to his backstory. I wont spoil it for readers, but sadly, I think Jazz was doomed before he was even born.

He never stood a chance to be 100 % normal, and for that, I don't know how to hate him completely. He nearly lost himself several times in this book, and a part of me was glad that he didn't, but another part was disappointed on what that outcome gave.

As a Supernatural fan, and the constant use of the phrase "The Family Business?" This book took that to a whole other level. Jazz took the "Aang" from The Last Avatar route(fans of the series will have a better idea what that means) but it wasn't without consequence.

There was just so much going on with this book. My only complaint is how long it took for it to come out!

The writing style is signature Barry Lyga. Clear and organized. I have no complaints about the style of it. The book is third person, but it actually had multiple POVs, that included bigger roles for Connie, Howie, Weathers, G.William, Hughes, and sadly, even Billy himself.

But they were all amazingly clear, and I wasn't lost for one second. The editing fits an industry standard, and blended dialogue and beats well enough for me to want more. And more. And more.

This is why the I Hunt Killers trilogy will stay with me. It's diversity. Barry Lyga even stated, that he will miss this series, because it's his most successful, and that should trump any bums claiming that including marginalized groups make the sales of a book go down.

True lovers of diversity in books, are parts of the reason this book was so successful. People want to see themselves in books, and not just to help an aid the "default" main character.

Jazz and his long term girlfriend Conscience aka "Connie" were what made me purchase the book, seeing how interracial couples in books, rarely get to just "be" a couple. They're often an "interracial" one. I loved Connie. I think the predicament she put herself in was a bit naive, and she paid for it, but doesn't every teenager make mistakes for people they care about? I only hope that their story isn't over.

I've said this before in my reviews, but the authors HAD to have dated a black girl some time in his life. I chuckle just a little bit, every time I saw the words "hair bonnet" when it come to Connie, mainly because, since I often read this book at night, I was ironically always wearing one. I want to know this dude's in. Why the hell is Lyga being so progressive? How dare he research my experience and actually get it right, instead of make me a stereotype. How dare he!

Howie, that dude is my homie for life. I loved Howie, because he was just such a good freaking friend. He put his life in danger, but did so for the love of friends, and had gotten himself tangled in this craziness, and had a snarky remark to go along with it. So little time or effort is given to make strong, well thought out characters with disabilities. 

Hemophilia isnt exactly the best genetic disorder to have when you're chasing serial killers. At 6'6"- 6'7", is freakishly huge height should have made him a threat, but he was still a boy, trying to fit in, and keep his friends alive. If it hadn't been for him, making Jazz human, who knows where Jazz would've ended up. I especially loved his relationship with Connie. I nearly cried when he and Connie saw each other after weeks, and cried together. It was so emotional, and I was glad to see boys crying, in a society that labels men as weak for showing such emotion.

The title is what creeps me out the most. I thought it was plain and obvious, but when it was referenced, I swear, chills were sent down my spine, and I sat for a good 30 seconds, like WOW. There goes my sanity. Before reading this book, I figured I wouldn't give on the title, but now that Im free, free to wander aimlessly with no real purpose, but to think about this book, I cant do Lyga like that.

The cover also suits to book 100%, I hate crows. Never looking at them the same again(even though, my superstitions made me never like them in the first place. You see one at your window, someone's totally dying in your house. Just saying).

The character names and descriptions are all repeats, if you dont know them already. This is the third and final book, so it gets it by default, because by now you already know what they look like.

My hat tips to Lyga. Im so messed up, and happy to be finally free. I LOVED this series. I dont know how many times I have to say it, but I LOVED this series. This is the first book in a really long time, if ever, that I've given a full five stars to.

 

Now To my dreamcast!

 

Nolan Funk as Jasper Dent

Keke Palmer as Conscience Hall

Nicholas Braun as Howie Gersten

 

Lovers of mythology in middle grade fantasy. Who knew? People of color as main characters, guess they're not extinct

Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress - Sarwat Chadda

So Libby is immersing herself in the world that is "Percy Jackson." Have to say Im a little jealous, because she knows Im a big fantasy buff, especially with the YA category. While Im attracted to the series, what steers me from it for the time being, is that it takes until the "Heroes of Olympus" for characters of color to be a main focus.

 

I was looking for a book series that gave me people of color of my heroes now!

 

It just so happened, as my sister was reading it, she fell upon this after researching whether there were books with fantastic elements with non-Western settings, and she suggested it to me, seeing how I typically connect with with South Asian characters(Being Afro-Cuban, we typically face and understand colorism, and my aunt's husband is originally from Northern India, so Im typically invested) I thought I'd give it a go.

 

I rarely say this, but this book is an AVATAR STATUS book. I don't easily distribute this term to any book. My favorite show of all time is "Avatar: The Last Airbender", and naturally I've fallen in love with "The Legend of Korra" as well. Many things have to be present for a book to even be in the same sentence as Avatar. A main character who is a person of color. A main character who gains amazing abilities, and a villain who is a worthy antagonist.

 

The Savage Fortress has all three!

 

The Savage Fortress follows the exploits of Ashoka Mistry, a British 13 year old, of Indian descent, visit. He's visiting his aunt and uncle in India, and hating every minute of it. Until his uncle receives a job offer that changes his life, and everyone around him, forever.

 

I found the pacing worked well with the story. It's told in third person, but I was surprised that it doesnt take the humor away from the characters. I typically prefer first person, especially with a main character as funny as Ash, but it works well with the story. I think I really only struggled with the chapters that weren't present day. There are chapters told from a past life of Ash, and while they're obvious(written in italics)and short, I preferred the present time to the past, even though towards the end, the chapters with the past life cleared up many things for me.

 

The world-building is absolutely amazing. I already have an interest in Hinduism, mainly because there are many shared ideals in Buddhism(shout out to all the Buddhists)but I recognized many things I've learned about Hinduism in this book. I admit, I really cant say I know a whole lot, as there are many(I mean SOOOO many)gods in Hinduism, but I was so glad when it highlighted my favorite goddess Kali. I've read a series in the past/present whom had a different incarnation of Kali, but this book did her much better justice!

 

I was sitting at the edge of my seat what would happen with Ash, and how his story would conclude in the end!

 

I loved Ash. Im not British, a boy, 14 or of Indian descent, but Im basically Ash Mistry XD It should also be stated that he often gets referred to as the Indian "Percy Jackson." That couldn't be more wrong. He is just uniquely Ash Mistry, and he in his own league.

 

There was great character development with Ash, and I related to him well, especially because he was so close to his sister, Lucky. I think what I loved about Ash most, was that he had to work at being a better hero, and even when he wasn't ready, he was still willing to risk himself to save his sister. One thing I was glad his character didn't overlook, was how he was seen, versus how he saw himself. As a person of color, you're almost never just "British." For my case, "American." You have to be Cuban-American, British-Indian, etc. You're British-ness can never be seen as the same thing in comparison to a white person's.

 

I was glad Ash didn't ignore he was seen as not quite one or the other, as in India, he was seen as very Western as well. He was too Indian to be English, and too English to be Indian, and that's feeling a lot of non-white, or first-second generation citizens feel, even when they born and raised in*insert country here.*

 

His backstory is awesome. While Ash is only 13 years old, he discovers *gasp* he is "The Eternal Warrior." Thus he has lived many lives over and over again(much like Avatar/LOK). So he's the human avatar sharing the one soul of many warriors, so essentially anyone we get a glimpse from the past with, is Ash, just from another life. The hero Rama, from the Hindu epic Ramayana, is the life The Savage Fortress focuses on, but in time, Ash will discover just how many others he's been.

 

Ash also gets points for being a martial artist! He ends up studying an ancient Indian martial art(commonly known now as Kalaripayattu)which is said to be one of the first martial art forms. Even though Ash starts a little chubby, he doesn't lose weight easily, he loses it through hard work. That may or may not please parents, but I find that fitness is one of the safer ways to lose weight, and martial arts I think is the best way for children to break out of their shells, and promote healthier lifestyles.

 

Lord Alexander Savage is the villain, and let me tell you, he provides the perfect amount of conflict. Even when I like a book, particularly in fantasy, my one complaint is always the villain. I like a villain to have goals, even if those goals make sense to them. It's one thing to take over the world. But what will you do with it once you have it? Lord Savage was a wealthy, self righteous, immortal sorcerer, whom lived his existence in agony. While he has immortality, he has yet to perfect it, so he ages with his immortality. Many of us couldn't imagine living past 120. Imagine living past 200! It's as if he's a corpse, barely holding on.

 

His goal is to rise the demon king Ravana, in exchange for his youth, and more power, but many of these goals are at the cost of Ash, his family, and many bystanders in India. But I liked Savage because he not only brought fear out of me, but also humanity. This is the right way to write a villain. If the dude is just twirling his mustache, cackling at the train tracks, what are his other goals? Their goals should mean something to them, and that is what I found refreshing about Lord Savage.

 

There really aren't any complaints with editing. It's an industry standard, and because it's short, it gets to the point without dragging on too much, but manages to still keep all the light, dark, and hilarious moments, so I have no issue with writing style. It's third person, and while I don't prefer it over first, it works well for the story.

 

I dont think I need to tell anyone that the diversity is on point. Ash is British of Indian descent, and since he is spending the summer in India, most likely every character expect for Lord Savage and a few of his goons are Indian. Ash and his sister Lucky are British, so their mannerism is much different than the Indian children they encounter(He even earns the nickname "English" for his Western mannerisms) and many of the characters they encounter let them know it.

 

The characters that should out the most were Parvati, the daughter of the demon king Ravana, Rishi, a sage whom became allied with Ash and Parvati, and John, a little Indian boy Ash and Lucky befriended living in a safe haven/hell. They were all different ages and different kinds of personalities.

 

Rishi was an old,yet buff XD powerful sage, who'd saved Ash too many times to count. Without giving too much plot away, he is able to give Ash the power he needs to make it to the end of the book. Parvati. There's a lot you can say about her. For one, she's the demon-human hybrid princess of Lanka. Much of her goals or intentions are unreadable, as she is a demon after all. But She and Ash share a common goal. To kill her father. For that she makes one of the most powerful ally for Ash, because she's likely to know his weaknesses. She's such a collected character, I was glad there was a balance of different kinds of femininity in The Savage Fortress.



Where Lucky was helpless(she's 11, give her a break)Parvati is strong, and is able to reach her goals on her own. Many of her choices are questionable, but there is a reason she remains to be a good ally to Ash.

 

John was a boy living in a safe house(amongst other children)that was technically the headquarters of a dangerous kingpin named Ujba. He was their only friend, and sacrificed a lot to help them. He didn't remember his real name, so was called John(for a reason I don't remember).

 

Since there are many different ages, personalities, and backgrounds of different characters, I found it was diverse in more terms than just race.

 

As far as the title of the book, it fits the story. It doesn't take long to discover why it is titled "The Savage Fortress." It's definitely eye catching! The cover is gorgeous, but I will say this. I would have preferred they show the faces of Ash and Lucky. Okay, so they're British-Indian? Okay....The white boy never has to hide his face for a cover. And while I know why they're faces are covered, it should be noted, that if I walked by this book, even in it's beauty, I may have thought the children were white. I wouldn't have given it a second look because of that.

 

Perhaps that makes it more marketable? But seeing people of color on the cover draws a reader like me in. I will instantly buy a book that has people of color on the cover, even if they aren't my race. Children of color are invisible everywhere else, they shouldn't have to be on books too.

 

The names are cool. I've seen Ashoka before in a book I read a few weeks back in an Indian-Steampunk setting. Im beginning to think it must be a common name, because my boss has a really similar name(He's Indian as well). I preferred the Indian names to the names like Jackie(a character on the antagonist side) but I did like Lord Alexander Savage. Seems fancy.

 

The character descriptions and place descriptions are clear. I think I got a good sense of how everyone looked, even if their appearance seemed odd to me. Many characters are rakshasas. Or demons in Indian/Hindu myth. But I think I pretty much got the picture.

 

So, what a ride right? I loved this book, and found a new favorite author out of it. I cant wait to get the third book, as I am reading the second and loving that even more!

Guinevere's Rating: Actual Score 4.75

People of color in Greek Mythology? Did the world end?

Promise of Shadows - Justina Ireland

I found out about this book through a blog post on Diversity in YA. I was intrigued on how a book about Greek mythology would incorporate diversity, when many associate the Greeks with "white." In some ways I agree with this, but on the other hand, my sister's recent obsession with "The Percy Jackson" series has left me at a stand still. Fictional white gods shouldn't be a viable excuse for the lack of diversity, and "Promise of Shadows" is definitely proof that characters being different races doesn't take away from these "fictional" myths.

Promise of Shadows follows the exploits of Zephyr Mourning, a harpy, who was sentenced to an eternity in Tartarus, due to her finding out the means to kill a god. I should mention it was a minor god, but being a vaettir(I take this as anything supernatural that is not a god), she shouldn't have this strong power, but there were many events that lead up to this moment.

I think where this book struggled for me was points of world building. Mind you, if you are familiar with Greek mythology, it may not be an issue. But I believe you have to also be a teeny familiar Norse mythology as well, as many of the terms they uses are in fact from Norse mythology. I just happen to be a Norse myth buff, so I instantly recognized words that looked Scandinavian to me. But there were two things that bothered me, because they're not explicitly explained. It doesnt hold the story back at all, so this is not an insult or jab of any kind.

But terms "Aethereal" and "Exaulted" were thrown around a bunch, and for the most part, many gods mentioned were both, but it doesnt explain exactly what makes an Aethereal "Exaulted." My knowledge of Greek mythology leads me to believe Aethereal is a term meant only for gods. I took the "Exaulted" as the big guys on campus. You know? Hermes, Zeus, Hades, Hera, etc. But it doesnt explain, but it could just be because the author is attempting allow the audience the intelligence to come up with these ideals on their own?

Some of the pacing was a little off, but only because there were many times Zephyr would speak off focus. Her love interest Tallon? I don't mind a main character having the hots for a guy, but many times, there seemed to be too much time spent on telling me how hot he was, and how much she was attracted to him. I think I would've complained less if more time would've been spent on their relationship. Physical attraction is only one part of attraction. So if there had been more moments that proved why she liked him so much, outside of seeing and imagining his washboard abs, you coulda sold me :D

Now with that out the way, I think this is the first book in the fantasy genre that I literally just loved. Books can have their faults but you still feel connected to them. Zephyr was totally relatable. I mean, as relatable as one can be when she's a harpy and wanted by the gods for murdering a god. She wasnt perfect, and I liked her through her unsureness and flaws. I could totally see myself in her situation if I were a mythological creature many of the gods already hated. She was so human by the relationship she shared with her sister. I cant say that I would have done anything different if someone had killed my sister.

Zephyr had untapped abilities that wanted to manifest, but just never had the right time to, and she wasnt allowed to use this power, because it was of the "shadows" and a prophecy states a warrior of darkness will come and save everyone from the tyranny of the gods. I think this could be a metaphor for just knowing you have talent, but being afraid to use it, in fear you'll be judged. Or accused of showing off, or any other reason you might find not to tap into the things that make you special and different.

And lets not ignore this fact. Zephyr a sista ;p She had what I interpreted as blue dreads, that were later a fro(explained in the book). She even specifically mentions (when encountering a shapeshifter) seeing a black girl with blue hair. It only dawns on her that she's looking at herself(as the shapeshifter turned into her).

But many times, women of color are always left out of the conversation of whether people of color are in science fiction and fantasy. I found her character refreshing, and making her a person of color doesn't take away from the story, so it makes absolutely no sense NOT to make her a person of color.

Her backstory is fleshed out well enough where I find out much of her history and why she is even able to wield dark magic. One of her parent's is a big dog, and while it should be obvious, it was still interesting to see how all that worked it's way into her present.

The conflict was definitely a highlight. She was prophesied to be the next "Nyx" a genderless term to describe a vaettir who could wield the dark power like a god, who would be the vaettir's hope at gaining freedom from the god's reign.

And I LOVED that Hera was the villain. I know because she's the god of marriage and the like, she gets this rap of being innocent and docile. But many forget she's a god. Who has a lousy husband. I mean, you don't get more vengeful than being married to the biggest gigaloo in Mount Olympus. I didnt see all the gods in this book, but Im interested to see where the story leads, as Aphrodite was depicted in a way I'd never seen her before(red head and total warrior princess). There were many elements that set it aside from other interpretations, but then again, I've yet to read Percy Jackson(my sister is currently reading it).

Eh, I dont really have any complaints Grammar and Writing Style wise. I dont want to waste paragraphs talking about it being an industry standard. Just know it blends dialogue with beats well, 90% of the time the POV is clear, and it's edited well. I mean, it's traditionally published.

Diversity. It has diversity. Much of it just isn't as explicit, since every character in the book aren't human. She had a surrogate mother named Nanda, who lead me to believe many harpies were in fact black. They all had coarse dreaded hair, and dark skin. So when someone didn't have dark skin, it was like a rabbit spoke or something. Nanda had a daughter named Alora. She wasn't a harpy, because her father's blood wasn't strong enough. So she seemed mixed race. And Tallon, her love interest(and Nanda's nephew) seemed to be mixed race/man of color. And his brother was obviously white.

There was a a lot of hidden diversity if you have an eye for how races are often described. I wish it were more explicit, but maybe it's just to give the audience the intelligence to think outside their "default" thinking.

I think it reminds me of a neighborhood in NY, where all you friends could be different races, and it doesn't bother you much. Multiculturalism shouldn't just be one thing, but how people of different backgrounds interact with each other.

I think the title is eye catching. It makes me wonder why it's called "Promise of Shadows." You dont really get it at first, but I think the title suits the book. The cover. I think it's pretty. Im just a little on the fence with books not being brave enough to highlight a woman of color protagonist. The cover is very alluring and pretty, but I think it could've also been pretty with a unique woman of the cover as well. :)

The character names. There wasnt a common name in the book! It's been a few weeks since I finished it, so I cant remember every name, but each time a new character was introduced, I felt like I was playing Final Fantasy XD

Character descriptions. This was a little shakey. I can interpret that much of the book is diverse. Tallon,his aunt and his cousin seemed like people of color. But since they're vaettir, they're not explicitly so. And it becomes difficult to tell because they were vaettir, so they may not uphold the way we see race as human beings. It took a while for Zephyr to be described in full, which I found appropriate. But sometimes readers dont interpret characters black when they see terms like "brown skin." As if it isnt obvious. XD

The actual score dips back and forth from a 3.5-3.75

Great for lovers of interracial romance, and first loves

Portrait of Us (Flirt) - A. Destiny, Rhonda Helms

Let me first say despite my sister and I having similar taste in books, Im much more drawn to fantasy than her. It takes a big push to get me to read romance novels, and despite having a thing for interracial themes, I dont always find myself connecting well to the heroine as much as much as a sword swinging warrior from Zadaa.

 

This book does where a ton of books where interracial romance fails. Flirt: Portrait of Us is part of what I assume to be a series. But as far as I know it's the only one in the series that has interracial romance, and you dont have to have read the books that precede it to get the story, as they are all stand alone books on young first love.

 

This book in particular follows around Corrine, an African-American teenager, with a strong love for art, and pleasing her parents. When her talent gets chosen to enter a nationwide art contest, there's a catch. She has to partner up with Matthew, a jock who goes to her school, with a contrasting taste of art than herself. They must come up with an art piece that reflects her contemporary style with his abstract modernized style of art.

 

The story is short and sweet, so there were little issues I found fault with. It paced well, and lead me to assume all the events happened during an entire summer, and I was never lost in description. Its pacing allowed me to get to know both Corrine and her love interest Matthew quite well enough to like them, and even more so like them together. I believe these are meant to be the "happily ever after" stories, so I will admit that's a bit predictable, but their teenagers, who knows what will be in store in their future.

 

I really liked Corrine. She reminded me of myself in many ways I don't often get to see women of color portrayed in books. Intelligent yet creative, a scholar, yet an artist. She was deeply burdened with her need to please her parents, specifically her father with her achievements. Much of this is explained through her carefree, bakery owner, lover of cooking of a grandfather, which you have to read to learn more.

 

But both Corrine and Matthew had relatable character development. Matthew was a basketball player Corrine took as a "stereotype" and didnt believe he belonged in the art study program she'd gotten into. But once you dug deeper, there were many layers to him, that made him swoon worthy. And he wasn't a freaking jerk. I was reluctant to like him, because I myself judged him based on him being an athlete. Shame on me. He was the adorable, and Corrine and he had brilliant chemistry together.

 

Their conflict was all based on their contrasting appreciations for art. I really liked that, because too many interracial romance novels focus on race, because it's easy(Lazy) but this gem focused on the differences in interests rather than their races.

 

I'll say it was unique in a way where, of all the romance novels I've read depicting interracial romance, this was one of the rare ones, where race wasn't even a factor. The story let you rely on the chemistry of the characters and not their races. One of the reasons I haven't given up on interracial romance books, because this one in a few are what I like to look out for.

 

Im not a grammar nazi, but this book was well edited as far as POV,beats and dialogue, and writing style. It's a short paragraph on editing, but I found there were too little mistakes to focus on it or even notice.

 

As far as diversity, Im on the fence. There were only white and black characters. Hmmm...There was one character who didn't have a name, whom was Asian. Corrine, Matthew and their family were major characters, which I loved, because they didn't omit family just to show their building attraction.

 

And Teni, their art teacher was Nigerian-American. But I would've liked to see more than white and black characters, queer, or just something that wasn't what I saw.

 

The characters are amazingly written, and well fleshed out, and Im ashamed to say a first love about teenagers is much less stereotypical than some of the adult novels I've read with the same themes. Their attraction appeared so natural that many times I was highly envious that I wasn't going through what they were going through XD

 

Corrine was definitely a breath of fresh air when it comes to the black girls I've read in novels. She wasn't insecure, she wasn't a plain jane, she wasn't even looks obsessed. She was just her, and Im not sure why it's a crime to not see yourself as plain or unattractive. She didn't think Matthew was too good for her, she didn't think this, think that, just that they had many differences that had nothing to do with race. Tipping my hat now...

 

I think the title is appropriate. It's not eye catching, but it fits the story. The cover was what attracted me to it, because I actually saw it at Barnes and Noble. I was surprised they let it show with the cover facing out, something they don't normally do with books with people of color on them. I don't think the characters look like the people on the book, but it was enough to make me purchase it then and there.

 

The character names fit the characters and were unique enough for me not to complain. I've never met an unattractive Matthew, so his name suit him. Corrine, I felt suit her. My last complaint however was character descriptions. I may be stepping on toes here, but one can insinuate it's written by someone white. Many times, Corrine described herself and her little brother as changing color in their face, but mentioning she had dark skin. Her dark skin she brought up more than once. Dark skin doesn't exactly "flush." Or at least you can see it. She would say a few times, "I hope no one can notice" or something in the lines of that. But things like that aren't apparent on darker skin than fairer skin. Perhaps it just came from habit of writing mainly white character? Who knows? But Corrine never 100% described herself, so I wasnt sure how she wore her hair, what texture it was, what her body type was, only her skin color was obvious. But she tended to over describe Matthew, and she mentioned his blue eyes like, 100 times in the book, and it was a light read. Surely by the 2nd or 3rd time I already knew this. It was quite annoying, and it kind of ruined the appeal of them for me.

 

Overall, however, I loved the book. I'll be spoiled when it comes to interracial romance books after reading this! Would suggest it to lovers of men who actually give women respect. 

Just didnt connect to this matriarchal society of a furutistic Brazil

The Summer Prince - Alaya Dawn Johnson

First and foremost, I should mention I did not finish this book. I do not think it is fair to rate a book based on number of stars, when I did not in fact finish it, so unless I am forced to, this review is unrated.

 

I wasnt able to finish the book because I was disappointed in the book. I must admit, I have a bias. I dont admit to know Brazilian culture 100%. But I am learning,through having Brazilian friends, learning more about Brazilian culture through the experiences of Brazilian women, and just through my own personal experiences being Afro-Latina, and wishing to know more about the experiences of being Afro-Latina outside of my own Afro-Cuban heritage.

 

I love the author, I love that she dares to write women of color, when so many things out there dare to silence the voices of women of color in SFF. But I found this story rather problematic in many ways. I dont find that the portrayal of Brazilian culture is accurate, and while it's the author's interpretation, it may offend a person of Brazilian descent for a number of reasons.

 

I did like a few things. But the things that I liked, were often countered with things I did not like.

 

I loved the idea of the world building. I should probably say, I liked that someone thought Latino culture was interesting enough to let it shine through the future, where it is often left out, particularly in SFF. At times Im not sure how non-Latinos view the various cultures of South American, Caribbean, Central American, and various parts of the world that speak Portuguese and Spanish as a first or second language(Macau, Mozambique, Angola, and Equatorial Guinea to name a few). They almost never feature people who are latino, which is insane, considering the growing population. The idea of this matriarchal society of "Aunties" and "Queens" loosely based on the Candomble religion, is definitely an eye catcher. But it is met with a dangerously confusing, and hardly explained culture to why men are choosen as "Summer Kings" to be sacrificed at the end of the year.

 

Apparently men destroyed the world, with it's nuclear weapons and what not. But it never stops the story to explain exactly why young men are sacrificed, or what it's supposed to signify. Is it to show the humility of man? Is it to make sure men know their place? None of these questions get answered throughout the course of the story.

 

I also loved the cover, but it is completely misleading. One would insinuate an Afro-Brazilian with "natural" hair from it's cover. But the main character "June" is actually described as pale skinned. And then she's not. And then she is again. I had no real sense of what June looked like outside of her Afro and fair skin. But she seemed like a "morena", or a mix of "branca" and "morena clara."

 

I would have been okay with June not being Afro-Latina, but their society nearly omitted black people. Apparently you went through specific modifications(which there are also many cosmetic procedures that they dont explain)to prevent having black children. Perhaps had I finished the book, I would've found some reason why and how they benefitted from having a homogenous society, but alas, it was just another way to make Afro-Latinas like myself more invisible to the media. I felt as though this book could have really been an eye opener to let people know Latino is not a homogenous culture. Latino comes, Black, White, Asian, South Asian, Western Asian, nearly all of the above. If everyone looks the same what is the point of mixing the African culture into the mix.

 

Which lead to my next issue. The chosen Summer King Enki. He was a Black Brazilian, with dreadlocks, and exceedingly handsome. But his presence in the book is often exoticized so much, I found him unlikeable. I liked him, and wanted to, but the writing suggested everything interesting about him was due to him being Black, and because there were no other Black people, many felt this was an ok way of thinking. I liked him, and I'll shot this out. He was a Capoeira practitioner, which I loved! But the author spent too much time telling me he was black, and not enough time making him a great character.

 

The pacing and flow of the story are often slowed down due to the prose. I may be wrong, and I admit to making an educated guess here. But having a Brazilian friend, whom I speak with regularly, it seems as though the author wrote the dialogue to match how things would be said or spoken if they were in the Portuguese language. I actually didnt dislike that. I found it confusing, and while it threw off the pacing for me, it made them appear more elegant than mere teenagers.

 

I didn't finish the book, so I cant judge the predictability of the story, or any conflict that I may have missed. I still didn't know who the villain was by page 140, and the book is 288 pages long. I didn't know what the true conflict of the story was either. Overall, if I were judging the prose on how much I understood? I wouldn't have been able to, because it didn't have a great flow to it, and many times you find yourself lost in description.

 

Diversity? I don't know how to judge this. On one hand, by default every single character is Latino. But the story chooses to omit anything that isnt "pardo" a term many Brazilians already identify with. I don't however find the society full of brown people. It was seldom when a character was described as such, and many of the main characters appeared to have lighter features, finer hair, and pretty much everything that's wrong with the current state of Latino culture in the first place.

 

I guess I assumed that the world would be created to improve the current state of colorism many Latinos already face or ignore. What is the point of a Brazil that kind of already exists? Because it's futuristic? Perhaps if I knew nothing about Brazil, I could have enjoyed many of the things I found fault with, but I just could not.

 

They also had a pan-sexual society, which I thought was cool. They didn't explain why they had one, but I didn't really need it explained to me. It's somewhat Queer friendly. Mainly because there aren't any labels to be held to, and you are not judged for dating or marrying the same sex. And while I want to praise the sexuality in the book, I cant, because it insinuates Brazilians to be more casual than they are when it comes to sexuality. Many already view Brazilians as hyper sexual. I did not think it showed sexuality in a positive light, but I like that it was, at the very least attempted.

 

Character names? I found them to be unique. Mainly because in Brazilian culture, many choose to give biblical names. My friend, she and all her sisters are named Maria. But it is customary to go by a middle name. Unique names she claims one would actually get made fun of for, so it is interesting that the author didnt go that route. The Summer Prince's title is also misleading. There are no "Summer Prince's." Only "Moon Princes" and "Summer Kings." Which also wasnt explained . But I only read half the book, so maybe it would've been explained if I hadnt stopped reading.

 

Overall, I would read from this author again. Her views on diversity were what attracted me to her author brand. I just didn't connect with this story.

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