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 backgroundsSilver Stars by Michael Grant. Narrators: Frangie, Rainey and Rio
Books with Asian American Narrator: Always and Forever, Lara Jeanby 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.
I keep waiting for Rick Riordan to write a bad book. The Dark Prophecy is not that book. He just keep coming up with fresh and different ideas of making these old stories relevant and fun. Whoever is the God or Goddess of story telling, Rick Riordan is their son. When we last left Apollo, he’s reeling from the betrayal of Meg, a new prophecy sending him to Indianapolis and the reappearance of Leo and Calypso. That’s a lot for a former God turned mortal teenage boy to handle but handle he must. When Apollo, Leo and Calypso arrive they are greeted by some very polite monsters because of course the monsters that inhabit the Midwest would be polite. they are rescued by two former Hunters of Artemis Emmie and Josephine who tells them that their daughter is missing. She had gone to the dark oracle for help from the second Emperor who has made Indianapolis his home. Of course this Emperor Apollo has personal history with making everything more awkward. As the crew tries to figure out how to defeat Emperor Commodus and get the next prophecy without going crazy they experience the same mythic hi-jinks of the other books. Yes, these book can at times feel be formulaic but it never feel feels like that. They are just fun, witty and refreshing. Rick doesn’t shy away for the more uncomfortable stories from Greek and Roman mythology or tries to wash them out either. Many of these stories are not happy or fun but then again neither is life and yet Rick never lets it get to dark. He is always able to find the absurdity in them. Bring on the next one.
The month of May has a lot of great new books coming out and of course I’m already behind in my to-read list. Sigh. Anyway, here’s a list a few books that I’m definitely going to try to get to in May. Let’s see how I’ll do.
Last year Rick Riordan announced that he was starting a new imprint to highlight diverse authors and diverse stories. His mythology based stories have made him famous. So far he has tackled Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Norse mythology but he often gets asked about exploring other culture’s mythologies as well. Being a while male, he has wisely said that he was not the right person the write about Mayan or Indian mythology however it did spark him to start his own imprint so marginalized authors can write about their own cultures. It was just announced the first three titles under Rick’s new imprint. Yoon Ha Lee, Roshani Chokshi and Jennifer Cervantes will author the first books. Yoon Ha Lee’s book Dragon Pearl will take on stories from Korean Mythology. Roshani Chokshi’s series, Aru Shah and the End of Time, is based off of Indian Mythology and Jennifer Cervantes’s book Storm Runner will have inspiration from Mayan Mythology. All three sound interesting and will be published in 2018. Adding all three to my to-read list.
EDIT: Rick went to his Tumblr page to give more details on his Imprint, his role and involvement with the books and more information on the authors and more indepth synopsis of Dragon Pearl, Aru Shar and the End of Time, and Storm Runner. I highly recommend checking out if nothing else for a tiny glimpse into the publishing world.
I will say this about 2016, I read a lot of good books this year. It was hard to narrow it down to just 10. So without further ado and in no particular order.
Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan – So it was hard to pick between this one and his other book Riordan wrote, The Hidden Oracle, but I choose this one because of the characters. I love that Rick has added diverse characters to his worlds. Not to mention his characters get sassier with every book.
A Torch Against the Nightby Sabaa Tahir – A cross between historical fiction and dystopian novel. It’s quite a thrill ride and it left a real cliffhanger as to how the series is going to end.
A Court of Mist and Furyby Sarah J. Maas – After a so-so first book this one was a real game changer for the series as a hole. It delved into matters trauma and emotional abuse but still keep the story flowing.
The Raven Kingby Maggie Stiefvater – It’s Maggie and It’s Gansey, Blue, Ronan, Adam and Noah. It’s the perfect ending to a perfect story.
Half Lostby Sally Green – It was as beautiful as it was heartbreaking. Nate didn’t have an easy life and nothing about this book was easy too. It was very true to life. It doesn’t always turn out the way you expect and in war there are always painful loses.
Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard – Now this is a fun series. It’s a dystopian fantasy with X-Men qualities. Mare is not perfect. She’s complicated and conflicting but she means well and the writing only gets better with each book.
Pyromanticby Lish McBride – This book doesn’t actually come out until next year so I’ll wait to tell you about it but let’s just say you are going to love it.
Crooked Kingdomby Leigh Bardugo – It’s a crime caper and a fantasy. You root for the the thieves and the con men to win. It’s wonderful.
Ms. Marvel No Normal by G. Willow Wilson – likable and charming, Kamala Khan is worthy addition to the Avengers. She proves that it doesn’t matter where you come from and what you believe, you can still be a superhero.
The Midnight Starby Marie Lu – Another great ending to well thought out series. I may have qualms about who the real villain was but I think it was heartbreaking as it was beautiful.
I’m a fan of both Holly Black and Cassandra Clare’s work so I was pretty stoked about their collaboration. I just wish it was better. It’s fine but not great. Someone pointed out to me that it’s a book meant for middle schoolers so I’m not the targeted audience but Rick Riordan writes for the middle schoolers and those are fantastic. Holly Black’s Spindlewick Series are also great. So I don’t think it’s the genre, I think maybe it’s the story itself. We are now in the third book and Call, Aaron and Tamara are now being honored for killing the Enemy of Death, even though they know the Enemy of Death’s soul is in Call’s body. Things get complicated when someone tries to kill Call and successfully kill a fellow student. There’s all the typical kid lit traits. The adults are clueless. True, they don’t know Call’s secret but pretty much every time they tell Call he’s going to be safe, he’s attacked. They allready have had one student and one teacher end up in cahoots with the big bad and they didn’t know it. Is it any surprise that there would be someone else also in cahoots living right under their noses? No, of course not. Typically, the kids feel they have do things on their own and typically it gets them in more trouble and typically when the real culprit is revealed the adults aren’t there so they get blamed for everything. At moments I really enjoy this book but at most times I think “is something going to happen soon?” I felt like there was a lot going on of nothing really happening until you get to the ending and then there’s yet another big cliffhanger. I will say this about this series in general, the cliffhangers have been first class. Too bad the rest of the book don’t live up to them.
Rick Riordan has written another winner here. I think I liked this more then the first book, The Sword of Summer. It was flowed a little bit better and Magnus’ sassiness really went up a notch in this one and I loved it! He wouldn’t let the fact that he was dead and will be spending eternity preparing for Ragnarok get him down. Nope. But really what I loved about this book more then anything else is the positive representation of diverse characters. I have praised Riordan in the past for his diversity and willingness to tackle difficult situations in his books. True, his main characters have been mainly white boys but his willingness to include characters of color and other sexuality is admirable for a kids author. So far his books have featured a Latino and Latina, Chinese Canadian, Gay teenagers, Biracial siblings, Native American girl, Black boy and girl, and Muslim girl and made them all well rounded full characters without ever falling into old stereotypes. In The Hammer of Thor he introduces us to Alex a gender fluid teen. As queer rights is becoming more and more a discussion point in our society, characters like Alex are even more important. She (I’m going to refer to her as She as Alex says that she mostly identifies as a She and spends most of a book as a female but at times Alex also identifies as Male too) is a person has been marginalized and misunderstood her whole life but has a strong conviction of who she is. Gender fluid people are not often depicted in pop-culture and not with the sensitivity and strength that Riordan writes her. But not only that, Riordan draws on the fact that Gender fluid people or argr as they were referred to by the vikings had a place in ancient Norse society. I think there are many people today who sort of think that LGBTQ community are the result of recent sins of the last hundred years or so. Not true. Just like how he wrote about Nico coming out and relating it to Cupid story he does it here. So props to you Mr. Riordan.
So let’s get back to the book. In the last book, we know that Thor has lost his famed hammer and now we know that some Earth Giants have it. They must get the Hammer back and thwart Loki’s plan to marry off Sam to the Giant, which is problematic since 1. Sam is still a teenager and 2. Sam has already been promised to marry Amir. They must traverse the seven realms to find another famed weapon and look for clues as to what Loki’s real objective is. Let’s just say, it’s not just to make sure his daughter is taken care of in a good marriage. Along the way, they meet democratic zombies, abusive father elves and giants who love to bowl. It all makes sense when you read the book. Riordan has always been good balancing the humor with the action. The book never waves or drags It was just keeps going and going and I can’t wait for the next one where they finally get act like vikings and hit the seas and PERCY!
With Halloween just a few days away, I thought I would revisit some of the more scarier and spookier books I’ve read. For all the books that I read that have vampires, witches and werewolves in them, not many fall under the horror genre. So some of my picks don’t really fall into the typical Halloween fare but they are scary nonetheless.
Scowler does fall in the horror category as it was super suspenseful and scary. I picked this book up because I knew that Daniel Kraus was working with Guillermo Del Toro on Trollhunters. The fact it takes place in Iowa an added bonus. Ry and his mother and sister are barely scraping by on their farm and Ry is doing everything to distract him from the pain of the physical and emotional abuse of his imprisoned father. Everything starts to fall apart when a meteorite falls and his father returns to the farm. Ry must defeat his father with the help of his imaginary childhood friends, including Scowler. This book is super super creepy. With a scene at the end that still sort of haunts me when I thing about it. It’s not just a great scary read but also delves into the effects of abuse has on it’s victims. The fear of facing is ones abuser maybe as terrifying as taking on a monster but being able to face that fear takes real strength.
I admit that I still have nightmares from this series. Particularly since I live in New York City and ride the subway through many of the same stations that they talk about in this book and I can’t help but wonder if they are vampires down there. You may have seen the show. I haven’t so I don’t know how it compares but I can’t imagine it as scary or creepy as the book because I’m pretty sure most of the book is not cable ready material. New York because the epicenter of a virus that turns people into vampires. Instead of the traditional being bite on the neck by a vampire to be turned, people are turned by little worm like things. Gross. Eph and his team at the CDC investigate several mysterious illnesses only to find themselves in the middle of a epidemic that deals with ancient vampires. As they try to stay alive and figure out what’s going on and how to stay alive and not to mention dealing with family drama. It’s the perfect scary series to read for Halloween. The ending of the series is truly heartbreaking.
Holly Black is one of my favorite authors. She’s never boring. Her books are never the same and truly original. In the The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, whole cities have been quarantined off because of vampires. Vampires have let’s say got out of control and in these Coldtowns vampires and humans leave together. Some humans more willing then others as some had the misfortune of getting stuck inside when the walls went up. Tana’s mother was bitten by a vampire and later died. After a wild party, Tana wakes to find that only she, her ex-boyfriend and a tied up vampire are alive. The vampire virus takes a couple of days before it takes hold and Tana is determined to save herself and her companions by going to one of the Coldtowns away from her family. It’s not your typical vampire story. It was truly refreshing read and Gavriel is a vampire worth crushing on.
Ok, so this is scary or spooky as the others but the make no mistake the story of the Baudelaire siblings is truly terrifying. When their parents tragically die and they are sent to live with Count Olaf. Things get worse from there. A Series of Unfortunate Events is truly an understatement as the unfortunate events are usually the faults of the adults they are put in the care of. Violet, Klaus and Sunny are put in one bad situation after another from the very first book when Count Olaf tries to marry 13 year old to get a hold of their fortune. Is there really anything more horrifying then that? The first couple of books are a little formulaic but once you get to book five things really start to pick up and things get really scary.
What are your favorite Scary or Spooky books to read?