Review: No More Heroes by Michelle Kan #AsianLitBingo

51eLzTxBFLL._AC_US218_

 

The peaceful nights are kept under the clandestine and watchful eye of young, gifted vigilantes the world over. But a sudden rash of vigilante deaths heralds the arrival of a new and unfamiliar enemy – one whose motive is as unclear as their identity. Someone or something seems determined to disturb the peace, and they’re going straight for the watchmen to do it. In a city where those who are gifted make up their own rules, who will step forward when the threat of a swift end is real and there stands so little to gain? (via amazon)

Michelle Kan’s debut novel, No More Heroes, is a fast-paced and exciting superhero tale with a diverse cast of characters. As readers, we follow a young trio of new vigilantes – Clare, Mallory and Linus – who patrol the streets at night on the lookout for criminals and trouble-makers. Interestingly, we learn that what drives them out at night is not simply wanting to do good but that their Abilities come with an extra shot of energy that wants to be used. I’d love to get some of that energy, as well as their gifts such as using reflective surfaces as portals. I mean the possibilities …!

Anyway, one of their earliest outings puts them right into the middle of a mystery (you know I love mysteries) about who is killing off Vigilantes. This also means they run into more experienced Vigilantes and it was great to see how differently the characters were as Vigilantes and also as teams and as loners. Which brings me to one of my favorite aspects, Kan really focuses on friendships and teamwork and I’m always on the look-out for stories that are not all about romance. Fellow aro-spec folx, you’ll enjoy this one.

I also enjoyed the diversity of the characters with Samoan representation and a genderfluid Vigilante. My favorite character was probably Fang, who we learn a bit more about than many others but I do wish that the characters had been more fleshed out and had more backstory on the whole. But other than that, No More Heroes is wonderfully fast-paced and the dialogue is excellent as well. Reading this book really feels like watching a superhero show and I think it would translate well to a visual format.

Going by the way the book ends, it sounds like a sequel might be in the works or at least possible. I really hope so! The vigilante verse has a lot more stories to offer and I’d love to learn more about the characters in a future adventure.

Sinead got me onto this wonderful book, so make sure to check out her review at Huntress of Diverse Books and also her character interview with Faye.

Advertisements

[Review] Spook Lights II: Southern Gothic Horror

spook lights II

Aaand I’m back with a review of an another excellent read. Damn body kept me from doing much gushing on here the last couple weeks, but be prepared for more awesomeness (aka ALL the reviews)! And fittingly, these last 2 weeks of April are Spring into Horror, a themed readathon, and Spook Lights II would be a perfect choice for it. You can find the sign-ups and more info here.

I’ve always loved creepy tales that make for good reading to cozy up with under the blankets. But I only discovered Southern gothic horror a couple of years back when I found Tananarive Due’s works. Those made me fall pretty hard for the stuff, so I jumped at the chance to read Spook Lights II, and I’m glad I did.

Eden Royce’s second collection of Southern gothic horror tells the stories of powerful Black women of the South. For those of you who don’t do well with the brutal stuff, mostly these stories aren’t very gory, but instead the horror comes quietly creeping up on you while you’re reading. And then Royce is excellent at creating tightly packed narratives with endings that pack a punch.

As with any collection, some stories are better than others, but Spook Lights II is a remarkably strong collection overall. Let me try to awkwardly gush about some of my favorite stories without giving anything away.

Spook Lights II opens with “Carolina Blue,” bringing with it a strong sense of place with the crops and wet marshlands and oppressive heat. And it’s not just the rice that’s blue. The uncanny here is quite unexpected but I also loved this story for the atmosphere and tone it set for the rest of the collection.

“To-do list” was pretty epic, I mean I love lists, so that’s a sure way to get me excited. But that story is genius, from the seemingly mundane lists about grocery shopping to couples arguing, read it and tell me what you think!

Meanwhile in “Grandmother’s Bed,” a young woman contemplates her dying grandmother’s powerful role of head of family and her own position of possible successor. The solution to her problem is both ingenious and horribly creepy.

I very much enjoyed how many of these stories focused on women and their relationships with family, especially mothers and grandmothers. There’s a give and take of love but also obligation as well as roles and powers that are passed onto the next generation.

By the way, both Spook Lights and Spook Lights II are <3€ on Amazon Kindle at the moment! Naturally, I had to get the first Spook Lights collection, too. Those warm nights spent bundled up alone on the terrace late at night are coming up, and I want to be ready heh. (that’s how I do horror in summer 😀 )

add-to-goodreads

Disclaimer: I received a free e-version of this book from the author, in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Posada-Offerings of Witness and Refuge by Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo

posada

In the four sections of her first poetry collection, Posada- Offerings of Witness and Refuge, Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo takes us with her through the multiple, imaginative and too real border spaces of migration, language and belonging. In the first part, she goes on a journey of remembering, collecting and reconstructing her family’s history. Starting with the stolen metate they brought from  Teocaltiche, Bermejo connects the memories and stories of her family, from Uncle Manny’s recollections of his tía Susana and her remedies to Bermejo’s mother who was “never gifted the story of her birth,” presenting in her work the “Pieces I’ve Gathered so Far.”

Part 2 demonstrates the way in which Bermejo draws inspiration from Georgia O’Keeffe, Frida Kahlo and others and appropriately explores gender roles and the relationships of the women in her family, from mothers and daughters in “Frida’s Monkey Nurse:”

I tie her to this world never knowing

where the other will spit her out, never knowing

 when it will finally swallow her whole

to her relationship with her grandmother, to whom this collection is dedicated, in “This Poem is for Nopales:”

Grandma, in the hospital room, when I kissed the fade of your cheek

to say goodbye, crisscrossing chin hairs caught my attention.

Now, when I look in the mirror and And hairs have bloomed overnight,

I think of roots. I think of you. I hope I can be a nopal woman too.

In part 3, “Things to Know for Compañer@s. A No More Deaths Volunteer Guide,” Bermejo draws on her work with the humanitarian organization No More Deaths, which gives medical aid and support along the border. Her poems bear witness to life and death on the migrant trail peppered with resilient cacti.

 Did you know?
 When barrel cacti become tombstones and their
 yellow starburst blooms offerings for the dead, you won’t be too cool to 
 belt Katy Perry songs.
Did you know?
Migrants are hurried over trails at night and without light. 
Their blisters are caused by continuous friction, muscle cramping by 
dehydration, vomiting by drinking bacteria ridden cow pond water, 
and those who move too slow are left behind.

In the last part, Bermejo pays witness to other/s’ stories of refuge and migration, connecting and piecing together similar and interrelated struggles from Arizona to Chavez Ravine to Gaza. She bears witness to tales of desperation, of refuge and migration and gives names and faces to those who too often remain just numbers to us. Posada is a fantastic, visceral debut collection of social justice poetry, not only exploring the different meanings of borders, but also providing safe spaces and comfort for those straddling them.

Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo is a first generation Chicana. She is a 2016-2017 Steinbeck fellow and has received residencies with Hedgebrook, the Ragdale Foundation, and is a proud member of the Macondo Writers’ Workshop. In Los Angeles, she is a cofounder of Women Who Submit, a literary organization using social media and community events to empower women authors to submit work for publication, and curates the quarterly reading series HITCHED.

Posada: Offerings of Witness and Refuge is out today! Go get it here.

6pic-addtogoodreads

Disclaimer: I was given an e-copy of this book by the publisher, Sundress Publications, but never fear I remain my opinionated self!

Thoughts: Gabi, A Girl in Pieces #HHM

gabi-girl-in-pieces

Gabi has a lot on her plate. It’s her last year of high school but apart from classes and college applications, she also has to deal with a father who is fighting a losing battle with meth addiction, her friend Cindy getting pregnant (as a result of date rape, we learn later), her other best friend Sebastian coming out, as well as exploring her own sexuality and first relationships.

Isabel Quintero’s first novel Gabi, A Girl in Pieces, published by CincoPuntoPress, is a tour-de-force. The good thing about being blissfully ignorant about new releases and a lot of hype before joining twitter is that I mostly missed all the excitement and picked up this book only now because I vaguely remembered someone saying it was good and it being LatinX Heritage Month. So I got to skirt the overblown expectations trap, yay, but am totally doing this to you now with this review. #sorrynotsorry

If you’re into intersectional feminism (you better be!), then this book will make you want to get out your highlighters. Let me quote this section, which everyone else is apparently also quoting (google told me, but still thanks for the easy c&p)):

My mother named me Gabriella, after my grandmother who, coincidentally, didn’t want to meet me when I was born because my mother was unmarried, and therefore living in sin. My mom has told me the story many, many, MANY, times of how, when she confessed to my grandmother that she was pregnant with me, her mother beat her. BEAT HER! She was twenty-five. That story is the basis of my sexual education and has reiterated why it’s important to wait until you’re married to give it up. So now, every time I go out with a guy, my mom says, “Ojos abiertos, piernas cerradas.” Eyes open, legs closed. That’s as far as the birds and the bees talk has gone. And I don’t mind it. I don’t necessarily agree with that whole wait until you’re married crap, though. I mean, this is America and the 21st century; not Mexico one hundred years ago. But, of course, I can’t tell my mom that because she will think I’m bad. Or worse: trying to be White.

This excerpt really concisely introduces all the issues Quintero adresses in the novel and also drives home the point that Gabi lives at a very specific intersection of gender, race and ethnicity. So the novel explores one culture’s version of the double-standard, that of patriarchal machismo Mexican-American dichotomy of the virgen/puta. And Gabi has to realize that many women in her community have internalized this toxicity and police other women’s behavior and expression of sexuality (as they tend to, don’t get me started on this issue), her mother among them:

“for my mother, a woman’s whole value is what’s between her legs. And once a man has access to that, she has no more value.”

Part of this patriarchal view is also the refusal to accept homosexuality and Gabi’s friend Sebastian is thrown out by his parents when he comes out. On the other side of the coin we have the boys will be boys mentality, about which Gabi writes a scathing poem.

Gabi is furthermore not marked Mexican-American by her skin color, instead she is so light-skinned she can pass as white but as a result has to deal with feeling alienated at times. Since I basically have the opposite problem, this was an interesting change in perspective.

The book also shows Gabi’s acceptance when it comes to her body and she moves from regarding herself as a “fatgirl” to acceptance. There’s a terrible lack of “fativism” in books and hopefully this will change in coming years, but it’s another reason why I hope Gabi will be read and taught widely, so these young women will see themselves represented too.

I also loved was watching Gabi coming into her own as a poet, apart from the diary style of the novel, we also get to read Gabi’s poetry and her attempts at spoken word. Poetry is how Gabi finds a way to express and empower herself. Her words are sharp and to the point and you’ll want to pick up a poetry collection immediately after finishing this book (I’ll be gushing about one particular, exciting collection later this week, stay tuned!).

The language use is wonderfully done as well, I’m glad there’s no glossary and hardly any translations. Quintero makes me work for it and I gladly got out my rusty Spanish for beginners knowledge, and between knowing other romance language and guessing from context…no excuses people! I’m sure LatinX will love this book and the intermingling of English and Spanish…Spanglish? And us other readers do well to remember to work on our privilege.

It’s amazing that this is a first novel. It’s a book that will be taught in high schools and colleges everywhere!

Other thoughts:

Reading the End

Twinja Book Reviews

Life of a Female Bibliophile

Have you reviewed this book? Let me know and I’ll add a link!

Review: What Sunny Saw in the Flames

sunny ic for review

What Sunny Saw In The Flames, previously published in the US as Akata Witch, is one of the books by one of my favorite writers that I hadn’t read yet. Published by Cassava Republic, the book is out in the UK now! So run to the nearest bookstore!

What Sunny Saw is a wonderful tale of magic and growing into yourself set in Nigeria. Our protagonist Sunny Nwazue is 12 years old with albinism, she is also American-born, like the author, only having moved to Nigeria when she was 9. The US-title Akata Witch, a slur for American-born Africans further drives home this facet of Sunny’s identity. Living in the town of Aba with her parents and younger brothers, Sunny is furthermore Igbo, one ethnicity in Nigeria. I love this representation of complex identities that also mirror my own experience. We are rarely ever just A or B and this novel also shows the Nigerian perspective, people emigrating, people returning, and people visiting. This goes against most Western tales around movement and immigration which usually only present us with that infamous single story.

We first get an inkling of what is to come, when Sunny, as the title promises, sees something in the flame of a candle. Her vision is of a terrible future and shakes her to the core. She begins the get some answers, when she befriends Orlu and Chichi, who introduce her to the world of the Leopard People. Together with Sasha, they form a quartet of magical students, learning about their juju abilities and spirit selves. But Sunny has the most to learn as she is what is called a free agent, a Leopard person whose parents are Lambs (non-magical). However, her vision looms over her newly-discovered identity and soon the group must face the evil Black Hat.

Inevitably comparisons with Harry Potter come up, but as Brendon importantly points out, “We must stop comparing literature and stories in this way because it gives all the credit to the stories of privilege (White, western, straight, male/man, able).” And so, what annoys me with these comparisons is that Harry Potter and other white, Western works are irretrievably set up as originator of certain plots or the origin from which all else strays. However, as we know, Rowling as well as many other Western writers before her have and continue to “borrow” from other works, mythologies and cultures.

World-building is something that I find Okorafor just excels at. I really enjoyed the culture of the Leopard People and also the book inside the book: Fast Facts for Free Agents by Isong Abong Effiong Isong. I’d love to read more from it. Leopard culture is steeped in Igbo and other West African culture and after my last read taught me about Yoruba culture, it was great to revisit and learn more about the Igbo. Some of these days I need to pick up some more non-Western mythology works! It’s a wonderfully diverse world in What Sunny Saw, and the Leopard community too is made up of various ethnic groups and the African diaspora and globalization have led to secret communities all over the world!

I also appreciated the depiction of everyday struggles of girls in how Sunny has to deal with an abusive father and housework is of course made her chore. Sunny is clever and fierce though and uses some of these expectations to keep her juju abilities and Leopard identity secret from her family.

I would complain about the ending seeming a tad abrupt, but really I enjoy the learning about other worlds parts of books more than violent showdowns so I don’t care, I just had the best time reading this one! Cannot wait for the sequel!!

Other thoughts:

Gaming for Justice

what the log had to say

Spirit blog

Zezee with Books

Have you reviewed this book? Let me know and I’ll link!

Disclaimer: I received a free e-book from the publisher, but never fear I remain my opinionated self!

Review: Yetunde + Author Interview

yetunde

Remember that I wanted to try to read some works of self-published writers and make sure these writers knew they would get the same chance at reviews here as traditionally published authors? Well, here we are! 🙂 Also, make sure to scroll down to the author’s interview after the review!

Yetunde by Segilola Salami is a story about caring and family, that will make you want to hug your mother (figure) and/or your daughters. Unconventionally, Yetunde is told through the eyes of a 9 month old baby, the titular Yetunde. The narrative voice is more complex than that of course, but it presents readers with an interesting new angle from which to explore mother-daughter relationships and Yoruba folktales. Yetunde is also a lovely character, she is fierce, curious and loves freely. With just under 30 pages, this is a short story that also functions as a piece of Yoruba praise poetry, in which Yetunde’s mother tells an ode for her mother who died recently.

We learn a bit about the Yoruba language and the first part of the story translates terms into English so readers should have no trouble following the story. And during the folktale part, sentences are presented in both English and Yoruba. I found this quite accommodating but I think this approach should manage to draw in readers willing to actually learn from context or look up words and those that expect to be catered to. But this is not a story for people who cannot deal with bilingualism, but it will provide those of you who grew up bilingual with points of recognition. Identity, here Yetunde’s Yoruba Nigerian-British identity, is intrinsically linked with language. If you’re interested in Yoruba language, check out the author’s book about learning to count, it’s for children but might help you get started or connect if you’re Yoruba and have children.

The story’s main part consists of Yoruba folktales and through the focus of motherhood, these tales explore the role and importance of women in Yoruba culture. From water benders to Orishas, I especially loved these sheroes who summon deities and save their daughters. These folktales are a tad darker than the charming first section focusing on Yetunde, but they provide depth.

What I enjoyed most about this story was the centrality of women’s close relationships and positive representation of women of color, especially Black women, as loving mothers. Yetunde is about three generations of women: Yetunde, her mother and her grandmother. It’s also about working through your grief and teaching the next generation, about passing on your history and culture.

I found this a lovely story even if I am not a mother, however I am close with mine. You’ll probably enjoy this story if you value close relationships between women and are interested in learning about Yoruba culture. I love that between this story and Nnedi Okorafor’s fiction I am learning more about the different people and culture of Nigeria.

The story shines when it presents Yoruba folktales and depicts the loving relationship between Yetunde and her mother. I found the final section a bit confusing, but overall recommend this story. I’m glad to hear there will be more Yetunde stories and will be following Yetunde’s as well as the author’s development.

Make sure to enter the goodreads giveaway to win a paper copy of Yetunde! The giveaway ends August 31st!

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book by the author, but never fear I remain my opinionated self!

***************

Author Interview Segilola

Segilola Salami is a “Mom first, author, host of The Segilola Salami Show and Self Publishing strategist (helping aspiring authors navigate the minefield that is self publishing).”

Bina: What made you start writing and who do you write for?

Segilola: I think of myself as an accidental writer. Writing just sort of fell into my laps. I write the types of books I would like my little girl to read.

Bina: Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Segilola: My little girl . . . being a mom changes or should I say helps you refocus.

Bina: What is your process with regard to feedback and editing as a self-published author?

Segilola: I ask as many people that I see online that show an interest in reviewing books. I take every critical and complimentary comment on board. It helps me know what I need to do more of and what I need to improve on. After every feedback I receive for my unpublished manuscript, I go back to the drawing board and see how the feedback best fits in with the story. I don’t always use all feedback, especially if they don’t fit in well with the story.

Bina: Yoruba culture is a central aspect of Yetunde. Can you tell us a bit about your own background and your stance on representation in (children’s) literature?

Segilola: I am a Yoruba woman, Nigerian-Brit. I spent my early years in Nigeria, so was exposed to the diverse cultures in Nigeria. As a mom bringing up a little girl in London, I want my daughter to identify with her roots. There’s this saying “you don’t know where you are going, if you don’t know where you are coming from.”

Also importantly for me, there are hidden snippets of wisdom in my books (well I think so). I hope when my daughter is old enough to read them herself, she can learn something. Rather than me just telling her everything.

Bina: Do you feel that self-publishing gives you more leeway with regard to diversity?

Segilola: Absolutely . . . I write the way I feel is best . . . I think I would not have a single book published now if I was waiting for a trade publisher.

Bina: Lastly, are you currently working on a new project and will there be more Yetunde stories?

Segilola: Oh my gosh yes . . . so I have taken a short break from writing children’s books. I wanted to do something for myself. So I wrote an adult book (that no one under 18 should read). It’s called Abiku: A Battle Of Gods, you can read about it here http://www.segilolasalami.co.uk/abiku-a-battle-of-gods/

Once this book is released, I hope to start writing the next Yetunde book. So watch out next year.

Bina: Thanks for answering my questions!

-> You can connect with Segilola Salami on twitter @iyayetunde1 or visit her website.

 

Thoughts: Malice in Ovenland Vol.1

Thoughts: Malice in Ovenland Vol.1

Malice

In middle school, I was one of those kids going through all the adventure books the library had to offer. From the The Famous Five to kid detectives to opening that wardrobe, I loved it all and then had fun with my friends digging holes, running away from imaginary bad guys and hidden doorways. After that, a lot of “grown-up” books were a disappointment to me at first until I learned to embrace speculative fiction and started to consider other topics exciting as well. But this is a very long-winded way of saying that I still am that kid looking for adventure stories and when I heard about Malice in Ovenland, I knew I had to give it a go. And yes, middle-grade books still deliver the same fun and no, I did not try to explore behind my kitchen oven, cause that would be weird. (it was very dusty!)

Malice in Ovenland is a middle-grade comic by Micheline Hess and published by Rosarium. The first volume introduces fierce young, Black Lilly Brown, who does not get to spend her summer at camp like her friends but instead has to take care of her mother’s organic garden and a list of other chores. Already, and with adult eyes, I find this positioning important: Lilly lives with her mom and loves fast food but her mother has chosen to grow organic food to take care of her daughter and herself and Lilly also has responsibilities that she might not enjoy but takes care of nonetheless. This is not your spoiled middle-class kid and I love this glimpse of Lilly’s mother. And then, when Lilly attempts to clean the oven she tumbles into Ovenland, like Alice once fell into Wonderland.

malice1

How fantastic are those colors and especially that last panel!?  I love all the details like the cracked glasses and the horribly-green Bleh! Now in Ovenland, Lilly is locked into the dungeon, meets a queen and finds a kingdom in crisis over the lack of incoming grease. Yup people, if you’re going organic, make sure you’re not cutting off the kingdom behind your oven!

Lilly is everything I’ve always wanted from a heroine in an adventure story and I was in turns delighted and grossed out with her. There is a lot of monologuing going on initially but keep on reading it’ll get better and I did not find the message overly preachy, so hopefully middle-graders won’t either. I think there is a lot of potential in this story and I look forward to future volumes and Micheline Hess’ next project. I wish I’d had more female characters of color to look up to when I was younger, especially ones so visually present as in comics, and Malice in Ovenland totally delivers. It makes me want to get some kids from somewhere just to push this comic on them. And since I don’t have and don’t want kids, this is high praise indeed.

Malice in Ovenland Vol.1 will be out August 31, get it for your kids and your inner child! Also make sure to check out Rosarium Publishing here, they specialize in multicultural speculative fiction, comics, and a touch of crime fiction.

Disclaimer: I received an egalley of this book from the publisher. But never fear, I remain my opinionated self!