This book was stressful from the beginning. I mean that in a good way. From the prologue to the epilogue it is none stop from beginning to end. The setting is a sort of old style wild west world. The girls of this world don’t have autonomy. It’s a rough world and for many families the best thing they can do for their daughters is sell them to the Welcome Houses where they will be feed and sheltered and that is why they are called Good Luck Girls because for many it seen as good luck to work in one of these houses and to be taken care of. In reality though they are being sold into sex slavery. It’s billed as a cross between West World and The Handmaid’s tale. I haven’t seen the former but I know the latter and yeah I can see some similarities. Clementine’s first night as a Sundown girl doesn’t go as planned when she kills her first brag. Her sister Aster leads her and her friends Tansy, Mallow and Violet on an escape but that is just as dangerous as the life they left. With the help from rangeman, Zee they fight their way through the wild terrain. They take some of the power back by robbing the kind of men that used to visit the Welcome Houses to get enough money to remove the favors from their bodies. It’s a powerful statement on how they work together. I thought this was a standalone book but it’s at least a duology as there is a planned sequel. To say I enjoyed it is probably the wrong thing to say because it’s not a pleasant read. What these women go through and have been through is horrifying but also gratifying to see them fight back. I look forward to see what happens next to these ladies as they continue to fight for their freedom and the freedom of others like them.
I’m going to do a double review for these two books because they are both published under Rick Riordan Presents publishing tent and I read them back to back. Like Rick Riordan’s work, they both are children’s books that are based in Mythology. So why didn’t Rick write them? Well, I think he learned from his Kane Chronicles that you can do all the research you can on culture and mythology you are not a part of or familiar with it’s going to come out a bit messy. Not to say that the Kane Chronicles was a bad series. I think for many of his readers, it was their first introduction into Egyptian mythology so they were not aware of any errors but I could tell that Rick was comfortable and the flow of his writing wasn’t as crisp. So Rick decided he was going to use his platform and start his own imprint and publish Authors of color tell their own stories and mythologies. This is how you ally. Use your resources to uplift marginalize voices and give them a platform to speak.
Both Aru Shah and the End of Times and The Storm Runner follow the same formula that Rick uses in his Greek stories. Introduces the Demigod, send them on a world saving quest that requires them to complete smaller quests along the way to help them be successful, while interacting with other mythological characters or using the myths they grew up hearing to help them get out of trouble. Here I was taken through various Indian and Mayan myths and it was enjoyable. I do admit I enjoyed Aru Shah a lot better then The Storm Runner. Aru lives in Atlanta with her Mom and goes to a elite prep school. Aru is a liar. Well, she has a huge imagination. She often tells her fell kids at schools lies about her life to make her life seem more exciting and things start to go south when a few them catch her in her lies. Technically, Aru isn’t a demigod but the reincarnation of one of Indian mythologies greatest heroes. With the help of Mini, who is also a reincarnation of Aru’s brother hero, are able to save the day. What I liked about this book is that Aru is not the perfect girl. She’s a liar and definitely a troublemaker. She doesn’t have a lot of friends because she feels like an outsider and bullied. Both girls have had trouble making friends and opening up to each other isn’t easy but they do and it’s what allows them to succeed. I love who it really plays up their friendship and the importance of female friendships. Not to mention, Aru is a hoot. I laughed all the way through this book.
Maybe one of the reasons I liked Aru better is that I have some familiarity with Indian Mythology. I know nothing about Mayan. So I was going into this book fresh and learned quite a lot. Did you know the Mayan’s have a Goddess for Chocolate? That is awesome. The Storm Runner follows Zane who lives in New Mexico with his Mother and Uncle, next to a volcano. Who knew there were volcanoes in New Mexico? One night, a plane crashes into his volcano and then Zane meets Brooks, who he calls the most beautiful girl he has ever meant and boom we are off and running. Zane releases Ah-Puch, the God of the Death among of other things and well now he’s in trouble. Only he can kill him and do it before the other Mayan Gods find him and well kill him too because Gods are not supposed to have children because they see this as an imbalance in the world. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy this book. I did but I found Zane to be frustrating. He really doesn’t listen to what people tell him. He is given good advice throughout the book and he either ignores it or doesn’t want to listen because “who are they to tell him what to do”. Things kinda go from bad to worst when he does this until the end when faced with his own death does he actually listen to what people are telling him and it turns out okay. There were moments in the book that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to finish. I’m glad I did because it turned out to be alright but it wasn’t easy to get through. Again this could be because I don’t know anything about Mayan mythology. With Rick’s Greek and Roman and even a little with Aru’s Indian, I knew enough Myths to figure out what was going ton and how they might be able escape. I didn’t have that here and maybe that made it harder. I also found Aru to be more likeable then Zane but I also identified more with Aru. I should mention that Zane has a disability. One of his legs is shorter then the other and he has to walk with a cane. It seems like his weakness but it turn out it s his strength. I think that is an important message for kids to read and allow them to be seen. I would recommend both books for anyone who loves Percy Jackson and are looking for stories outside Greek and Roman mythologies. They both are good in their own right and I look forward to reading the next books in both series..
And now new myths to explore.
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.
This novel had a lot of hype around it and I’m glad to say it was justified. From the very beginning I was hooked. With the exception of one section, it was fast paced and gripping. I immediately liked Zelie and was rooting for her to succeed. I was drawn to Amari and struggle to right the wrongs of her family and battling her own fears. Both of these women are strong and brave. They have their own flaws but when it came to helping those in need they didn’t hesitate to step in. It’s beautifully written and full of lush imagery that I felt I was taken to an Orisha just as I was taken to Wakanda in Black Panther. There is so much potential in how this series will unfold that I really can not wait to read the next book. Like I want it right now!
That being said, there were a few things that I didn’t particularly like and leave that under the cut. Continue reading
Rick Riordan has made a career of making Greek, Roman, Norse and Egyptian mythology more accessible to kids and adults. Now he is launching his own imprint to bring a more diverse set of mythology written by authors of that culture. The covers for the first three books released under his imprints are amazing. If I wasn’t excited about reading them before, I am now. Take a look.
Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi.
Twelve-year-old Aru Shah has a tendency to stretch the truth in order to fit in at school. While her classmates are jetting off to family vacations in exotic locales, she’ll be spending her autumn break at home, in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, waiting for her mom to return from their latest archeological trip. Is it any wonder that Aru makes up stories about being royalty, traveling to Paris, and having a chauffeur?
One day, three schoolmates show up at Aru’s doorstep to catch her in a lie. They don’t believe her claim that the museum’s Lamp of Bharata is cursed, and they dare Aru to prove it. Just a quick light, Aru thinks. Then she can get herself out of this mess and never ever fib again.
But lighting the lamp has dire consequences. She unwittingly frees the Sleeper, an ancient demon whose duty it is to awaken the God of Destruction. Her classmates and beloved mother are frozen in time, and it’s up to Aru to save them.
The only way to stop the demon is to find the reincarnations of the five legendary Pandava brothers, protagonists of the Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharata, and journey through the Kingdom of Death. But how is one girl in Spider-Man pajamas supposed to do all that?
The Storm Runner by J.C. Cervantes
A 13-year-old boy must save the world by unraveling an ancient Mayan prophecy
Zane must not only grapple with a family history that connects him to the Mayan gods, but with newly acquired knowledge that his ancestry may have something to do with a leg deformity that requires he use a cane — not the greatest reality for a middle schooler.
Feisty heroes, tricky gods, murderous demons, and spirited giants are just some of the pleasures that await in this fresh and funny take on Mayan mythology, as rich and delicious as a mug of authentic hot chocolate
Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee
Space opera based on Korean mythology.
A standalone middle grade novel starring Min, a teenage fox spirit whose brother is missing and thought to have deserted the Thousand Worlds Space Forces in order to find the pearl of the title, an artifact that may have the power to save their struggling space colony.
So how did I do with this year’s challenge. Pretty good, I think. I read a few books that I normally wouldn’t have read and other books I would have because I love the authors. I didn’t complete the challenge though and I’m sad about that. Will have to do better in 2018.
- A Book with a Trans Narrator: Eddie Izzard in Believe Me by Eddie Izzard
- Queer Narrator: Apollo in The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan
- African American Narrator: John Lewis in March Vols. 1-3 by John Lewis
- African Narrator: Did not complete
- Narrators from various socio-economic backgrounds: Rainey, Rio and Frangie from Silver Stars by Michael Grant
- Asian-American Narrator: Lara Jean in Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han and Daniel in The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
- Disabled Narrator: Call from The Silver Mask by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
- Narrator that survived Abuse: Feyre, Rhysand, and pretty much every character in A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
- Asian Narrator: Sunja in Pachinko by Mi Jin Lee
- Native American Narrator: Did not complete
- Mexican Narrator: Cristina in Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare
- Indigenous Mexican Narrator: Did not complete
- Muslim Narrator: Kamala in Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson
- Jewish Narrator: Rainey in Silver Stars by Michael Grant
- Atheist Narrator: Magnus Chase in Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan
So I competed 12 out of 15, which isn’t bad but I was really hoping to do all 15. How well did you do this year?
As of yesterday, I had finished my Goodreads.com reading challenge by finishing my 50th book this year. I decided to look at my own challenge to read more Diverse Narrators and see where I am in it and sadly, I’m not any further along then my last update. I have books picked out for some categories but I still haven’t read them and I still don’t know about the others. So dear friends of the internet, help me out with some book recommendations. What should I read to for the following.
A Book with a Trans Narrator I thought about using Alex Fierro from Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Ship of the Dead but the story is only from Magnus point of view so that’s out. I’ve read good reviews for If I was your Girl by Meredith Russo. So I’ll think I’ll try that one but do you know of any other good book with a Trans Narrator?
A Book with an African Narrator I’ve settled on Born a Crime by Trevor Noah because everyone I know who has read it has loved it and I do love him on the Daily Show. Of course, Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor I’m also interested in too.
A Book with an Asian Narrator I thought about using Warcross by Marie Lu but Emika Chen is Asian American and I already have two books for that one and Hideo Tanaka who is British Japanese is not the narrator of the story, only Emika. A friend recommended Pachinko by Mi Jin Lee but I’m not sure.
A Book with a Native American Narrator Sadly, I’m not sure. Sherman Alexie’s books? Has anyone read Alyson Noel’s Soul Seekers series?
A Book with an Indigenous Mexican Narrator I’m even more loss on this one. I thought for a second about All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater but by the beginning of the story, the Soria’s have lived in Colorado for over a century and the story is more about the family now then their pasts. So any suggestions?
I’m open to anything. Fiction, Non-fiction, fantasy, contemporary, romance. Whatever you got I’m up for it. Leave your suggestions in the comments below or hit me up on our Twitter @StacksXLiveX and Facebook
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.