Angie Thomas knows how to write a story. On the Come Up is the follow-up to her debut novel, The Hate U Give and while it doesn’t pack the same emotional punch it also doesn’t hold back either. Taking place in Garden Heights about a year after the events of The Hate U Give . It’s not a sequel but you really should read The Hate U Give anyway because it is truly powerful. Bri lives in the Garden and has dreams of being a rapper like her late father who was an underground rapper that died just as he was about to make it big. Bri is your typical teen. She’s stressing about ACT prep and teen romance. Like many families in the Garden, hers is struggling. Her mother is a recovering drug addict that is struggling to pay rent and the bills. Things only get worse when she loses her job and Bri will do anything to make it as a rapper because she thinks it the only way to save her family and get out of the Garden. After an incident at school, inspires her latest rap song goes viral for all the wrong reasons, she is caught up in Gang battles and arguments of social justice. In her desperation to make it Bri almost loses who she is. I like that Bri is a flawed heroine because we are all flawed individuals. Bri is hard-headed, stubborn and is not easy to trust. She is also very loyal and will do anything to help her family. When her song goes viral for the wrong reasons, Bri finds herself torn with wanted to make it to save her family and playing a role that is not herself. She’s tired of people assuming that she is a threat because the color of her skin and that she is poor but that might be her ticket to success. Angie Thomas gets every nuance in this novel. Everything is not black and white. We all make decisions based on thousands of life experience. Bri’s desperation to save her family makes her make a lot of mistakes. Some of those you can chalk up to her being so young but others it being vulnerable to others. She is constantly fighting people’s own thoughts of who she is before she even really gets to decide who she is. Throughout it all, Bri is resilient and while we don’t know what her future will take her, she is knows hat she has the support of the family and friends and the strength to get her Come Up.
It’s the first day of November so a good day to start reading one of Kate’s and mine’s favorite book by Maggie Stiefvater. Trust us you won’t be disappointed.
Another awesome book from my local library!
This book had a lot of hype before its release and it was right up both our aisles. So, we both got it on publication day. We decided we would do something different. Instead of only one of us reviewing it or doing two reviews, we’re doing a joint review. We’ve come up with five questions.
What are your overall impressions of the book?
Kate: the writing was tight and the story sucked me in. The characters were great; I loved that they had obvious flaws and strengths. And the premise of the novel, zombies rising during the Civil War was so interesting.
Beth: I agree with you about the writing and being sucked in. I was invested in the story from the first page. The characters felt like real people and allowed to be imperfect and unapologetic about their undesirable traits. And who doesn’t like a good zombie novel? I think what I liked the most about it that is that we are seeing the aftermath of the Civil War from the perspective of a Black girl instead of a white person. How many books are from that point of view?
Kate: Not enough.
What did you think of the historical context?
Kate: I like what-if historical novels but I was a little worried about this one. Abraham Lincoln Vampire Slayer already did the paranormal set during the Civil War and it was meh. But, this was so much better. Where Buffy Lincoln changed the context of the Civil War (the South have to be defeated! they’re evil vampires!) this novel leaves the context intact and to it adds zombies. So, we can’t just write off the uncomfortable Civil War context of the bible being used to justify slavery or the ideology that there is a racial hierarchy because oh no! supernatural beings! And, that made it so much more thought provoking and interesting.
Beth: This could have gone bad very quickly but I think she handled the time period well. I kinda like the fact that the Civil War never really ended, it sort of was put on hold when the zombies started to come from the dead leaving this uneasiness to every day life. Sure, slavery ended and they passed laws to educate former slaves and Native Americans but as for the racial hierarchy it was never really addressed. Much like it is today. Justina Ireland doesn’t shy away from the the injustices against African Americans and Native Americans pre-and post-Civil War and even though Jane and Katherine are educated and can kill any shambler, they will always be reminded of their place.
Kate: Agreed. She definitely didn’t shy away. I also liked the follow up at the end of the book which included readings about residential schools.
Who was your favorite character?
Kate: Jane McKeene. Obviously. She’s a hero. and a role model. I can’t wait to see what Jane gets up to next.
Beth: Agreed Jane McKeene is my hero. I want to be her friend. Not only is she smart, sarcastic, likes to read but she can also kill zombies. That’s so badass!
Kate: I know this is a little early but, Jane McKeene for best character of 2018!
Beth: Indeed. She’s going to be hard to top.
What was your favorite part?
Kate: Any time Jane and her friend Katherine fight zombies.
Beth: I loved the zombie fights but I think I loved the most the bickering between Jane and Katherine. The chemistry between those two was amazing and you can see how the relationship developed over the course of the novel.
Kate: their relationship is so good. I really liked that the most developed relationship was their friendship and not a romantic connection.
Beth: exactly! More of female friendships in YA please!
What are you looking forward to in the next book? (possible spoilers)
Beth: I’m really looking forward to seeing what’s in California and finding out who Jane’s Momma married that betrayed her. I feel like whoever he is, he’s going to be play a bigger part in Jane’s story. I also hope we get more of Katherine’s backstory beyond being raised in a brothel.
Kate: Yes! More of Katherine’s backstory! Please! Especially with the role that brothels played in Western expansion in the US! And, maybe some gold rushing in Cali? I also hope we meet Jane’s mom and her Aunties. Oh, and I hope we meet Daniel Redfern again.
Beth: Me too! I think we will meet Jane’s Mom and Aunties again and I want to know more about Daniel Redfern. I feel we only have cracked the surface of his character.
“By relegating the things we fear and don’t understand to religion, and the things we understand and control to science, we rob science of its artistry and religion of its mutability.”
I’m starting with this quote because I really love it and wanted to share. Maggie Stiefvater has a relationship with the English language that I can only marvel at. How she is to spin, twirl her words to create her worlds is truly magical and is why I look forward to reading all of her books. It’s hard to describe her books because they are unique. I mean, who would think about rich white boys looking for a dead Welsh King with the help of psychics would be be so good? And yet, The Raven Cycle is a gift of a series. All the Crooked Saints has many of the Stiefvater hallmarks we have grown to love but this time taking us to a new time a place. The Soria’s grant miracles to all those who seek them but like everything worth having you have work for it. Cousins Daniel, Beatriz and Joaquin are as close as you can get. They are the youngest of the Soria clan. Joaquin, 16 wants to be a DJ and wants more then just being a Soria. Beatriz, 18 is logical and pragmatic. Known to others as “the girl without feelings” she is more interested in figuring out puzzles then her families miracles. Daniel, 19 is the current “Saint of Bicho Raro”. When pilgrims come to Bicho Raro, Daniel helps them to their first miracle but he has a secret. When pilgrims come to Bicho Raro they come looking for miracles and rid themselves of their darkness. Those coming for an easy solution will be disappointed. The Saint provides the first miracle that makes their darkness into flesh and it manifest in many forms. It is then up to the pilgrim to figure out what they need to do rid themselves of their darkness and perform the second miracle. The Soria’s are not allowed to help the pilgrims after the first miracle because if they do it will bring on their own darkness that is far more dark then anything the pilgrims have. The story begins with the three cousins sitting in their truck listening to their pirated radio show they started. Joaquin is the host and Beatriz the engineer and Daniel, just a listener. They are interrupted by new arriving pilgrims, Tony and Pete. Well Pete isn’t a pilgrim. He is just there to work for the truck that is currently their radio station. The next day, it’s discovered that Daniel has gone out into the desert because he helped a pilgrim named Marisita, who’s darkness manifested in her walking in a constant rain storm wearing a wedding dress covered in butterflies. Beatriz and Joaquin try to figure out a way to help Daniel without bringing the darkness on themselves. The central question to this novel is what are you willing to do for a miracle because really what is more frightening than facing yourself? There is nothing harder then looking at yourself and seeing what is actually there and then doing something to change it. We all have this idealized versions of ourselves that makes it herd for us to hear the truth. I’ve been going through this lately. I was recently up for a promotion at work that I didn’t get. I felt I was ready for it but when I was told it was going to go to someone outside of the company and the reasons why it hurt but also was truthful. The reasons why I wasn’t promoted were all things about myself that I needed to work on but to have someone else voice them out loud was kind of painful to hear. I have been grappling with this knowledge for a couple weeks know and what to do with it because in truth I didn’t really want to the job. I’m looking to change careers but the promotion would have looked better on my resume if I stayed for another year. Now that I didn’t get it, how do I go about improving myself so the next time there is no doubt then I’m the one for the job. As for the novel, the Soria’s are all forced to face their own darkness in a way when Daniel leaves because just because they perform the miracles doesn’t mean they don’t need miracles too. It’s not easy but then again anything truly worth having shouldn’t be easy and the struggles they go through it proof of that. So readers, implore you to read this book and ask yourself what do you want and what are you most of afraid. I’ll go first. What do I want. I want to make a difference. What I am most afraid of. That I have reached as far as I’ll ever go and this is the best I’ll ever achieve. What about you?
We are now halfway through June so I can accurately say we are halfway through the year. It’s time to check in and see how we are doing with our reading challenges. This year we decided to split up our Diverse Stacks, Diverse Lives Reading challenge into two different. One for authors and one for narrators. I’m doing the Narrators and I have to say, I’m doing pretty well. Now, I think there may be a few arguments over some of my books but who doesn’t love a good debate? Going off my list of the books I’ve read, I discovered that there were a few things we should have discussed before setting the challenge out. For instance, can you use the same book for different categories if they have more then one Narrator? I’m going to go with yes because you are getting different perspectives from different characters. So here we go.
- Book with a Queer Narrator: The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan. Narrator: Apollo. Ok, so this maybe a stretch because as Kate asked me Can we apply modern categories of sexuality to ancient Gods? Well I don’t know, but in The Dark Prophecy, Apollo is currently exiled to Earth as a mortal and while being on Earth has shown equal interest in both Men and Women. So, in the context of the book, I’m counting it.
- Book with a African American Narrator: March Vols. 1-3 by Congressman John Lewis. Narrator: John Lewis
- Book with characters from various socio-economic backgrounds Silver Stars by Michael Grant. Narrators: Frangie, Rainey and Rio
- Books with Asian American Narrator: Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han and The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon. Narrators: Lara Jean and Daniel. I decided to count both since they are both Asian Americans but they have very different perspectives on growing up in America. Lara Jean is definitely your more typical middle class teenage girl who grew up in the suburbs. She’s also mixed because of her Dad is white so she straddles both sides. Daniel grew up in New York City and is the son of two immigrant parents. (I thought about using Natasha from The Sun is also a Star as my African American Narrator but technically speaking she’s not American as her family was living in the US illegally)
- Book with a Narrator who has survived abuse: A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas. Narrator : Feyre. I really could have picked any character in this book but since it’s all from Feyre’s point of view she gets the top billing.
- A Book with a Mexican Narrator: Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare. Narrator: Cristina. I admit I maybe stretching it a little thin with this one. Cristina is one of six narrators in Lord of Shadows and not one of the two main characters but she is an important to the story as a whole so for now I’m counting it but it might change before the year is out.
- A Book with a Muslim Narrator: Ms. Marvel Vols. 2-4 by G. Willow Wilson. Narrator: Kamala
- A Book with a Jewish Narrator: Silver Stars by Michael Grant. Narrator: Rainey I know that I have already used Silver Stars before but Rainey is a fascinating character. I love reading her.
- A Book with an atheist Narrator: Believe Me by Eddie Izzard. Narrator: Eddie Izzard. He doesn’t go too much into his atheism but he does make it very clear he doesn’t believe in any god.
9 out of 15 is pretty good. Even if you take out the few iffy ones, I’m still over halfway done with my challenge. How are you doing?
April 2016 was our most successful month page views wise. We had 589 views, which beat our previous record of 552 in December 2015. It made me wonder what were we writing about a year ago to get so much traffic. Well, The Raven Cycle and Maggie Stiefvater. It’s hard to believe that the The Raven King came out a year ago. That it has been a year since we found out if Gansey, Blue, Ronan and Adam would find the sleeping Welsh King and If Blue and Gansey would kiss and if Gansey would die. Those mysteries have been solved. Thankfully, we know that we haven’t read the last of the Gang as Maggie is working on a trilogy about Ronan. Whee!!!
My editor is going to hate me, but I just outlined three books for a Ronan-centered trilogy.
— Maggie Stiefvater (@mstiefvater) August 7, 2016
And we have another Maggie book coming in October. So we have a lot to look forward to but let’s take a moment, in honor of the 1 year anniversary of the release of The Raven King and the end of the The Raven Cycle, to look at everything we have ever written about the series.
Sarah Rees Brennan is an author I adore. So it saddens me to hear that she has cancer. She has Hodgkins Lymphoma, which is treatable but still cancer. Yesterday, she made a diagnosis known in a very touching and funny post on Tumblr. I do recommend you read it. In attempt to send positive healing vibes out there for Sarah, here a links to some of my past blog posts about her books. I hope she sees the love and that you dear readers, give her books a chance.