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Featured Book Trailer: ZENITH by Sasha Alsberg and Lindsay Cummings

This week’s featured book trailer is ZENITH, new from #1 New York Times bestselling authors Sasha Alsberg and Lindsay Cummings.


An action-packed thrill ride of adventure, intrigue and steamy star-crossed romance! Book one in The Androma Saga, from #1 New York Times bestselling authors Sasha Alsberg and Lindsay Cummings.

Known as the Bloody Baroness, Captain Androma Racella and her motley crew roam the Mirabel galaxy on the starship Marauder taking whatever mercenary work they can find.

But when a routine job goes awry, the Marauder’s all-girl crew find themselves at the mercy of a dangerous bounty hunter from Andi’s past. Coerced into a life-threatening mission, and straight into the path of a shadowy ruler bent on revenge, Andi and her crew will either restore order to the ship—or start a war that will devour worlds.

Iron Fist Comic Insists Iron Fist Show Is Not Racist, Racistly

Last year’s Iron Fist was a dud in Netflix’s otherwise successful Marvel lineup. Aside from the leaden pacing and lackluster acting, the show earned (deserved) criticism for its treatment of race. Before the lead character was even cast, petitions were circulating for its white savior hero to be reimagined as Chinese American, which would have subverted the tired trope of “white guy appropriates Asian-coded powers and iconography to become The Best Asian.” Plus it would have avoided the problematic optics of the comics, which all too frequently are 22 pages of a white guy beating up a bunch of Asian people.

As we all know, the show decided to instead go with “tradition” by casting a Brit as an American, and we got thirteen episodes of, well, a white guy beating up a bunch of Asian people.

Meanwhile, Marvel canceled my beloved Power Man and Iron Fist and rolled out a suite of Defenders-related books to accompany the existing Daredevil and cash in on the Netflix shows: Defenders, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. I’m reading all of them on Marvel Unlimited, because I am Defenders trash, and because I actually like Danny in the comics, although I will forever maintain that there are no good solo Iron Fist stories and he should always be paired with Luke or placed on a team. (No, not even the Brubaker/Fraction/Aja run, which is mostly just a parade of one-note new characters, including the utterly tiresome Orson Randall. Don’t @ me.)

I was interested to see how the new comic series by Ed Brisson and Mike Perkins would reference the show, if at all, considering how different the Danny coming off of Power Man and Iron Fist was from the show version. Surprisingly, the first arc, “The Trial of the Seven Masters,” attempts to engage with not just the show, but the controversy surrounding it. Which, uh, was probably a poor choice.

In brief: K’un-Lun has recently been destroyed, severing Danny’s connection to his chi and thus his Iron Fist powers. So when a stranger in a bar invites him to participate in a kung fu tournament on a mysterious island where the prize is the restoration of his chi, he leaps at the chance. (N.b. 97% of solo Iron Fist stories are about mysterious kung fu tournaments.) (The other 3% is about carnivorous plant people.) (Iron Fist stories are weird.)

The true agenda of Liu-Shi is revealed.

The denizens of the island, Liu-Shi, turn out to be separatists from K’un-Lun who left the heavenly city in protest over the corruption of its leader, Yu-Ti. They were particularly incensed when an outsider (Danny) was chosen as the Iron Fist, especially because, unbeknownst to Danny at the time, he didn’t earn his title fair and square—he earned the right to confront the dragon Shou Lao and thus become the Iron Fist by defeating a fighter called “The One,” who had been replaced by a robot under Yu-Ti’s control. (Comics!) Danny has been lured to Liu-Shi not so its warriors can test themselves against him, but so that they can kill him, take his chi, and retake K’un-Lun. As Danny progresses through the various champions, they grow desperate enough that they kill one of their own and frame Danny for it in order to justify sending multiple champions against him at once.

Naturally, Danny defeats them—he is the hero, after all. He’s also indignant about repeatedly being called “outworlder.” “K’un-Lun was my home,” he insists. “I wasn’t an outworlder. Not to them. I was one of them. K’un-Lun is part of me.”

Danny insisting on his essential K’un-Lunliness.

It’s all kept strictly in the world of fiction, of course. No one refers to Danny as American or—more to the point—white. No one refers to the citizens of Liu-Shi or K’un-Lun as Chinese, or Tibetan, or Asian.

But.

The controversy over the Netflix show revolved largely around the question of whether it is appropriate for a white man to have a central role in this narrative, or if he’s appropriating something that rightfully belongs to others.

Brisson’s Iron Fist seems to answer that question with: of course a white guy deserves a central role in this story, and anyone suggesting otherwise is probably just jealous. That is, if they don’t have another, more sinister agenda.

That is a bad take, Brisson.

It’s not Danny’s fault that he was brought to K’un-Lun as a child, or that the role of Iron Fist was handed to him, at least in part, through political corruption and not his own merit—just like it’s not any privileged person’s fault that they have privilege. And there’s a sensitive, complex story to be told there.

But Danny’s loud refusal to see the Liu-Shi-ers’ point of view on this is his fault. His insistence that he’s from K’un Lun—when he’s, you know, not—is the equivalent of covering his ears and shouting “LA LA LA I’M THE IRON FIST AND I CAN’T HEAR YOU.” The fact that he winds up fighting the original One—the guy who was replaced by the robot—who explains exactly how corrupt Danny’s victory was makes Danny’s response of “I earned this power. I earned this title” completely ludicrous. He’s not a champion. He’s a frat bro complaining about affirmative action while lounging in a student center with his daddy’s name over the door. And positioning that behavior as heroic compounds the offensiveness of a trope that was tired and insulting 40 years ago, let alone in 2018.

And, of course, it’s all told through the mechanism of a white guy beating up a bunch of Asian people.

No lies detected.

(Oh, and just in case all that wasn’t enough, Danny’s told that the chi he’s absorbing from the masters he’s defeated is temporary, weaker chi (and in the case of one master, actively toxic). I don’t pretend to be an expert on chi, but my understanding is that it’s the energy or life force of every living thing. Danny’s Iron Fist comes from his ability to harness it as a weapon, not from having “more” or “better” energy than other people. So a. it’s ludicrous to suggest that he could lose it in the first place and b. are you seriously implying that Asian people have inferior chi to white people??? What!!! Who signed off on this comic?! It’s too early to blame Akira Yoshida.)

The story ends with Danny reconnecting with his chi, apparently via sheer pissiness, and the few noble Liu-Shiers apologizing to Danny for not getting that he totally is The Best Asian after all. “I was chosen. I have no doubts anymore,” thinks a newly confident Danny before sailing off, shirt open and fluttering in the breeze, the frat bro taking his yacht and heading back to the sick Ultimate Frisbee game in the quad. Take that, anyone who questioned this entitled man-child’s right to his title! Put your lesser chi in your pipe and smoke it!

God, I hope Shang Chi punches him in the face a lot next storyline.

Book Fetish: Volume 289

Handmade Women’s Mockingjay Sweater: I wants it, my precious. Katniss would want it too.

Caraval-Inspired Lip Scrub: Cotton candy-flavored, bookish-inspired lippy stuff designed to make my pouter smooth? Yes, please!

Suspense Bookends: I’d actually purge a few paperbacks to make room on my shelves for these bronze beauties.

Black Panther Tee: Are you part of the tribe?

To Travel Is to Live Print: Maybe Hans should’ve been a travel writer too.

 

7 Children’s Bookstores to Follow on Instagram

There is something so magical about children’s bookstores. Every time I visit my favorite local shop, which is quite frequently, I’m amazed by the work they are doing. Their storytimes, book clubs, gifts, and recommendations alone leave me in awe. Even more impressive is their deep, deep knowledge of what’s new and what’s classic for the tiny book lovers.

While scrolling through my Instagram feed the other day I realized that although I followed quite a few bookstores on Instagram, almost none of them were children’s bookstores. It’s pretty surprising that I hadn’t explored the world of children’s bookstores via #bookstagram before given that I physically visit my local, independent, kid-centric shop more often than any other type of book-related store. So I went about rectifying the situation. I looked for independent bookish stores on Instagram that cater to the littlest clients. 

Just dipping my toe into this world for a few hours gave me such incredible joy. Children’s bookshops are wonderfully creative and inspiring spaces. I was seriously missing out! Just look at the beauty that is out there. 

Red Balloon Bookshop in Saint Paul, Minnesota (@redballoonbookshop): This is my local children’s bookshop and I wasn’t at all surprised that their Instagram feed is full of local authors, bright spaces and colorful displays.

❄️🎁📚⭐️ Happy Holidays! * * * #RedBalloon #IndieBookstore #ShopLocal #ReadLocal #KidLit #HarryPotter

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Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston, Texas (@bluewillowbooks): Let’s just take a moment to look at Blue Willow Book’s cute storefront. Sigh, it looks amazingly quaint and peaceful.

Season’s greetings, friends! We will be open today till 6:30 and tomorrow from 9:30-6, but we’ll be closed as usual this Sunday. Don’t forget to come pick up your orders and pick out some last-minute gifts for the book lovers in your life. See you soon! 🎁📚 #merrychristmas Holiday Hours: CLOSED December 24, 25, 26, & 31, and January 1. Regular hours through the rest of the season.

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The Bookies Bookstore in Denver, Colorado (@thebookiesbookstore): Whoever is running The Bookies Bookstore’s social media is channeling exactly what I want out of a bookstore’s Instagram account. Book recommendations, little bits of humor from everyday life, and a cute dog named Zero make up this delightful feed.

A mischievous someone transferred one of our pony club action figures into a world of dinosaurs and ferocious beasts. But it looks to us like she’s holding her own. She would rock a #pussyhat #shesafighter #girlpower #storytelling #bookstore #denverbookstore #bookstorebackstory #therandomthingswefindonourshelves #bookstorelife

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The Children’s Hour in Salt Lake City, Utah (@thechildrenshour): The aesthetic of this gift shop’s photos are a bit different from the rest of this list, which makes their pics stand out even more from the pack. I like The Children’s Hour account because it’s not 100% book-related, but their books posts are still plentiful. Variety is the spice of life, people!

Trade in your Saturday morning cartoons for a few good books and imaginative toys📚✨ #thechildrenshourslc #thechildrenshourbookstore #childrensbooks

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Ollie’s Other Place in Middlebury, Vermont (@olliesotherplace): This bookstore doesn’t seem to post very often, but when they do I immediately want to own everything in the photo.

“I Dissent!” Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark — We recommend! Written by Debbie Levy with exhilarating illustrations by @eabaddeley

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Second Store to the Right in Denver, Colorado (@secondstartotherightbooks): Second Store to the Right’s book displays are chock full of recommendations. Looking for picture books about families, Hanukkah, going to bed? They have you covered.

Everybody’s family is unique and precious! What makes your family special? ❤️

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Stories Bookshop & Storytelling Lab in Brooklyn, NY (@storiesbk): A Storytelling Lab that hosts yogis for littles. Yes, yes, so much yes!

Little yogis in the Storytelling Lab! ✌🏽Winter 2018 classes start in two weeks • sign up by 12/30 to get the Early 🐦 discount. ❤️ . . #kidsclasses #kidsyoga #art #animation #chess #music #minimakers #storytellinglab #stories #storiesbk

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If you have additional recommendations, add them in the comments. I’d love to fill 2018 with creative, bright bookish spaces!

Why I Still Read Junior and Young Adult Fiction

I confess, I am an adult, but I still read Junior and Young Adult novels. When my daughter was around age 12, she suddenly proclaimed that she was old enough that she didn’t need a bedtime story any more. By this time, we were well beyond picture books. However, each night I would read a chapter of a Junior or Young Adult Novel to her. I enjoyed the time we spent snuggling up, reading together. It was a bedtime ritual that we had started when she was very young, as I believed in the importance of reading to your baby.

It was also a great way for me to read novels that I was interested in. Novels that were marketed to younger generations, that is. Together we read J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series, and Kate Forsyth’s Chain of Charms series, along with too many other books to name. So when she said she didn’t need me to read to her anymore, I wondered what excuse I would have to read these books myself.

It turns out I didn’t need an excuse to keep reading Junior and Young Adult books. And it turns out I am in good company. A growing number of adults are reading Young Adult fiction. A study published in 2012 showed that 55% of those purchasing YA fiction are over 18, with 78% of these reporting that the books are being purchased for themselves.

The reason I read Junior and Young Adult fiction is because the plots are punchy and fast paced, keeping me turning page after page, usually well after I intend to put the book down. The characters are engaging and believable; they have to be to keep a younger audience hooked. Additionally, Young Adult books are often smaller than similarly themed adult books, meaning if I am time poor, I am more likely to be able to finish the book. But don’t just believe me, why not try one yourself?

Here are 5 of my favourite Junior and YA books to get you started:

Sister Heart by Sally Morgan

Written in prose poetry, this is a moving account of a young girl from Australia’s stolen generation.

 

 

Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld

A story of an unlikely bunch of heroes. This group of teenagers have to work together and trust each other to save one of their own.

 

 

 

 

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

An impossible heist. A dream team of teenage miscreants. Can they pull it off? This book won’t disappoint.

 

 

 

 

 

The Leaving by Tara Altebrando

A gripping mystery. Six children go missing. Eleven years later, five return. Where is the other teen and why do none of them remember anything about where they have been?

 

 

 

 

Molly and Pim and the Millions of Stars by Martine Murray

A whimsical, magical story about friendship, family and embracing who you are.

 

 

 

 

10 Books That Break Genre Rules

Sponsored by Alfred A. Knopf, publisher of GNOMON by Nick Harkaway.

Acclaimed author Nick Harkaway presents a near-future, high-tech novel that is equal parts dark comedy, detective story, and mind-bending philosophical puzzle.

The System has created the safest society in history by monitoring all citizens’ thoughts and memories. So when a woman dies in government custody—the first person killed during an interrogation—Inspector Mielikki Neith is assigned to find out what went wrong. What she uncovers in the woman’s tangled memories will have staggering consequences that will reverberate throughout the world. A dazzling achievement, Gnomon is profound, captivating, and irreverent—a story of matchless wit infused with a deep humanity.


Every time a book smashes genre conventions, literature evolves. Authors who fearlessly push against help genres progress rather than stagnate. That doesn’t mean it’s always comfortable to experience, but, indeed, the controversy and dialogue that surrounds these books tear down paradigms of publishing. This list gathers 10 of the most groundbreaking books that break genre rules.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

One reason why Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander has such a huge fanbase is the series appeals to many readers simply because of its unclassifiable genre. Before I picked up the first book, I seldom read historical fiction or romance or science fiction or adventure stories. But the TV show was about to be released and I was curious. Boom! I tore through that huge book in under three days. Outlander appeals to all kinds of readers because this riveting page turner is driven by an addictive mix of adventure, suspense, love and historical intrigue.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Long before there was the controversy behind the not-quite-accurate memoir A Million Little Pieces, Truman Capote blended truth and fiction until they blurred beyond recognition with In Cold Blood. Capote’s initial reporting for The New Yorker magazine on the 1959 massacre of a family in Kansas morphed into a full-length book billed as fact but faced several allegations of fabrication. In Cold Blood significantly bent genre rules for true crime (emphasizing “true”) and literature, setting the precedent for future works of fictionalized reportage.

an extraordinary unionAn Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole

A daring genre bender that combines genres of historical fiction, romance, spy thrillers, and adventure is Alyssa Cole’s An Extraordinary Union, which was named one of Book Riot’s best books of 2017. Cole’s novel centers around the romance that blossoms between two undercover spies during America’s Civil War. Elle Burns, a former slave with a photographic memory, is drafted by the Union to go undercover as a mute slave in a Confederate senator’s home. Malcolm McCall is a Scottish immigrant also sent to the senator’s house to spy for the North and pose as a Confederate soldier. He is immediately drawn to Elle, and when the two try to work together, a heated, forbidden, but aching passion springs up between them. An Extraordinary Union breaks genre rules by refusing to fetishize an interracial relationship or exploit the very real danger in such an attraction purely for plot, especially in a thriller infused with suspense and tension.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child

The release of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Volume 1 in 1961 brought the delicacies of French cuisine into American homes. At the time, many American home cooks (read: mostly wives and mothers) were familiar with a less ambitious canon of staple recipes from magazine and iconic cookbooks like The Joy of Cooking. The publication of Mastering the Art of French Cooking made classic dishes of the French tradition accessible but not dumbed down. Child’s masterpiece broke genre conventions by writing a cookbook for both home cooks and professional chefs alike without compromising the integrity of French techniques or flavor.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Donna Tartt’s The Secret History is often described not as a whodunnit but a whydunnit. It’s a mystery that tells you who committed the crime in the opening pages. After teasing the immediate aftermath of a group of close-knit friends who kill one of their own, Richard, our narrator, circles back to the beginning to explain what could drive a group of fiercely intelligent, precocious students to murder. The Secret History breaks mystery genre rules by solving the crime first and then working backward, creating a psychological thriller where you already know the ending but can’t stop reading to find out how you get there.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

While a great deal of speculative fiction is set in Western Europe, the United Kingdom, or lands that resemble them, Nnedi Okorafor frequently plants her science fiction and fantasy in Western Africa. Okorafor’s books span galaxies and epochs and are often influenced by the culture and traditions of the author’s Nigerian heritage. Binti, the first installment in Okorafor’s Hugo and Nebula winning trilogy, sends a young woman, Binti, traveling through space to train at the elite Oomza University while avoiding intergalactic conflict. In Okorafor’s lavish world-building, people of color and diverse populations are not just secondary characters or ornamentation; they are every bit a part of the future. A subversive takedown of genre conventions, Binti and Okorafor’s prolific fiction challenges the way race and diversity has traditionally functioned in speculative fiction.

In the Woods by Tana French

If you are part of the cult of Tana French (and I definitely am), then you better be comfortable with ambiguity. When Tana French’s debut novel, In the Woods, was released in 2007, the book flew off the shelves. My friend who was working in a library that summer said they were working through a huge hold list. Why? Besides the mounting suspense, a gripping central mystery, and intoxicatingly lyrical prose, the ending was controversial. French boldly denies resolution to some of the central questions in the novel. This is an open rebellion against one of the basic components of police procedurals: cases get solved. You’ll either love this ambiguity or hate it, but you won’t be able to stop talking about In the Woods.

The Shadows by J. R. Ward

When you start a romance novel, there’s one thing you’re always guaranteed: a HEA, or a Happily Ever After. Closing the final pages, you want your love interests to be spending the rest of “after” together, blissfully content. The HEA is practically a guarantee, so when things don’t end, well, happy for the couple, readers can understandably get angry. Legendary author J. R. Ward bucked this iron-clad romance rule in The Shadows, the thirteenth installment in the Black Dagger Brotherhood paranormal suspense series. This steamy page turner ends with a tragic twist rather than a triumphant future. It’s a controversial finale that divides romance readers and threatens a golden rule of the genre.

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

From the inventive mind of Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad swept the literary awards season winning both the Pulitzer and the National Book Award. Trying to classify this highly postmodern work of interconnected short stories is difficult, though, when the stories span decades and Egan plays with inventive formats (the Power Point chapter!). But I loved Goon Squad for this very reason. Amid the different stories (or chapters), unifying themes like fame, failure, and redemption shone through to become a truly epic commentary on celebrity, image, and connection in an increasingly alienated world. By defying classification, Goon Squad pushed the boundaries of literature and brought a welcome kick of experimentation to the mainstream.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

Again and again, you’ll hear readers describe Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao as like nothing you’ve read before. This coming of age novel follows the titular Oscar Wao as he tries to transcend a curse of death that stalks his family. A notable feature of the book is its inclusion of nerd slang and passages in Spanglish, totally immersing the reader in Oscar’s world without translating everything for the reader, a rule many English language literary fiction novels follow. The author also incorporates magical realism, which cleverly blends fiction and reality as you’d expect from one of Oscar’s beloved sci-fi and fantasy novels, and creates a hybrid genre. By doing so, Díaz creates a ballad of mythic proportions for Oscar. He becomes another thread in the tapestry of American folklore, immortal.

The 7 Convoluted Rules I Put In Place to Prevent TBR Overwhelm

I’m juggling five books right now. One, an academic book on research techniques for journalists, sits on top of the toilet tank in my upstairs bathroom, where I flip through it occasionally when I’m brushing my teeth. Another, Rebecca Solnit’s The Mother of All Questions, sits in a magazine rack in the downstairs bathroom. I read it when I’m drying my hair and/or hiding from my toddler. A copy of Dani Shapiro’s Still Writing, pint-sized as it is, fits perfectly in my mini backpack. I take it with me when I run errands, dipping into it when online at the supermarket or post office, sometimes making it through larger chunks when on the preschool pickup line. On my nightstand, meanwhile, is Vanessa Grigoriadis’s Blurred Lines, which I read in the evening. But it’s about sexual assault on college campuses, which is a topic I can’t always stomach, and so I’m also reading an egalley of Julie Murphy’s forthcoming Puddin’ on my Kindle.

I take my #reading time where I can get it (usually while sitting in the car, waiting to pick up Em from preschool). Pictured here: Dani Shapiro’s STILL WRITING.

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I know. It’s too much, right? It’s too much. But there are so many books and my list keeps growing and I want to read them ALL RIGHT NOW.

Which is why, over the past few years, I’ve developed a few rules around reading, which have only become more ridiculous and more convoluted over time.

1. Always Be Reading Multiple Books in Order to Accommodate Any Possible Mood

I write on topics like female sexuality and sexual violence and sex education for a living. So I often read heavily researched pieces of narrative nonfiction and deeply troubling feminist calls to arms and things that are just dry and/or…upsetting. And sometimes I need a break from that. So whenever I’m reading a more serious book, I always make sure to have something more easy-breezy on-hand, like a YA novel with a kick-ass female protagonist or a comic with a kick-ass female protagonist or a dark and creepy horror novel that scars me psychologically, but in a fun way.

2. Preview Each Book Before Making a Commitment

I DNF books a lot more than I used to. It used to make me squeamish to give up on a book once I’d already started it. Especially if I’d spent money on it. But then I realized that life is short. And there are too many books. And oh my god, if I keep adding books to my list of books that must be read, how will I ever finish all the books? Now, if at all possible, I read the free preview on Amazon before deciding whether to buy, borrow, or not bother.

3. Determine the best format/source for your book-reading

Sometimes I buy books. Sometimes I borrow. Sometimes I borrow a book and then realize it’s so damn good, I have to own it. And as for owning? Digital or print? Whither shall I turn? When it comes down to buy vs. borrow, I try to honestly answer the question: Will I read or refer to this again in the future? And because I am a re-reader, I do end up with a lot of print books sitting on the bookcase in my home office, a healthy mix of reference manuals, research-heavy books, and other books that have simply rocked my world. Print vs. digital? I use my Kindle primarily for Amazon previews, egalleys, and digital library copies, though I do also purchase ebooks when they’re unavailable in my library system. I also have a Kindle Fire that I purchased solely for reading comics. I buy single issues on it when it’s a comic I don’t love enough to own, and I also borrow comics on it using Hoopla.

4. Make It Through Every Book You Own By Establishing Order

The books on my main bookcase are those I have already read, and they are shelved in alphabetical order by author’s last name. I also have a tiny built-in bookshelf in my bedroom containing my TBR, which is also shelved in alphabetical order by author’s last name. This is the order in which I read the books I own, unless I have to write a review or read something for book club. I don’t know that I’d describe this as compulsive behavior as much as I’d describe it as a complete inability to make decisions. When I’m equally excited about five different books, how else am I supposed to choose which it’ll be?

This is the TBR shelf in my bedroom, with all the comic trades turned onto their sides because they’re too tall. Next up: VIBRATOR NATION, on how feminist sex shops changed the conversation around female pleasure. #amreading #shelfie #riotgrams

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5. Be Willing to Make Exceptions

If I have some single issue comics from my pull list come in at my local comic shop, that is the exception. They immediately jump the entire line and I read them that very night, all in one gulp.

6. Have A Place For Everything And Everything in Its Place

I keep the books I’m reading in either my handbag, in one of my bathrooms, or at my bedside. How do I decide which goes where? Well. I don’t like to carry around heavy hardcovers, so they’re usually relegated to the bathroom or to my nightstand. If I’m reading a book I know I’ll be taking lots of notes in, it automatically gets placed on my nightstand, where I keep various writing implements. And if a book is extra racy and I don’t feel like offending someone or fielding questions, it also ends up staying home. On the other hand, if I’m reading a book I want to tell everyone about (most recently Morgan Jerkins’s This Will Be My Undoing, Myriam Gurba’s Mean, or Elizabeth Acevedo’s The Poet X), it is so coming to the yoga studio with me.

7. Share the Wealth

If I do end up in possession of books I decide I don’t need to keep, I place them in a box in the corner of my bedroom and, when it’s completely full, donate them to the Vietnam Veterans of America. You can find more ideas on where to donate books here, or you can even consider selling your used books. Once those are out of your house, then you can BUY MOAR BOOKS!

Sometimes, I look at all of these systems I’ve put into place and wonder if I’m being ridiculous. Usually, I conclude that…yes. Yes, I am. But do I care?

What are your systems for powering through your TBR?

When Your Favorite Fantasy Book Series Comes to an End

This post on fantasy book series discusses N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Earth Trilogy and Myke Cole’s The Reawakening Trilogy/Shadow Ops Series. It contains spoilers.

“When the music’s over
Turn out the light.”
—The Doors

Two of my favorite fantasy book series have come to an end—N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Earth Trilogy and Myke Cole’s The Reawakening Trilogy.

It is a little bit ironic that both of these series ended at the same time, because I found Jemisin and Cole at the same time. A year and a half ago, I had reached a point where I felt unchallenged by what I’d been reading lately, so I went searching for new writers to discover. Through a combination of the serendipity that is the daily life of a Book Riot contributor and the chaos that is twitter, two names caught my attention.

N.K. Jemisin and Myke Cole.

A couple of sure-why-not-induced mouse clicks later, and their books were on their way to me in the mail.

The first book—or should I say books—by N.K. Jemisin I ever read was The Inheritance Trilogy omnibus edition. I read the three novels and the bonus novella as one consecutive story. They all blew my mind. So I went searching for more and found The Fifth Season, part one of The Broken Earth Trilogy.

Fantasy Series Comes to an End | The Fifth Season N.K. JemisinIf The Inheritance Trilogy was a mind-opening experience, The Fifth Season bent my mind out of shape and it hasn’t straightened out yet. After finishing The Fifth Season, I wrote the following in my reading journal:

“Ingeniously written by a master of character and voice.”

I still stand by that statement. The Fifth Season is brilliantly written. I can’t say it enough. It is brilliant.

By now I have read The Fifth Season three times, and every time I ask myself, How does Jemisin do it? How is it possible to tell the story of three people, and at the exact right moment reveal that they are in fact one and the same individual?

Perhaps that was why, when I read The Obelisk Gate, part two of The Broken Earth Trilogy, I felt a tinge of disappointment. The crafting of the story is on the level of The Fifth Season, but the structure of the narrative is more conventional. Parallel stories are told, and this time, the characters are, indeed, separate individuals. Still, I found myself returning to The Obelisk Gate, just like I returned to The Fifth Season, and I enjoyed it so much more the second time around.

Fantasy Series Comes to an End | The Stone Sky N.K. JemisinAnd then, on August 15, 2017, it all came to an end with the publication of The Stone Sky, the third and final part of The Broken Earth Trilogy. So far, I have only read The Stone Sky once, but I already know that I will return. If only to be able to speak the title of this novel.

The Stone Sky.

Stone. Sky. Solid. Ethereal.

Modifier and noun at odds, and still making sense, bound together by alliteration.

The imagery and emotion evoked by the inherent dynamics of this book title is beyond any other book title I have come across.

Myke Cole, too, knows how to give a novel an intriguing title.

The three parts of The Reawakening Trilogy are titled Gemini Cell, Javelin Rain, and Siege Line.

The three parts of Cole’s Shadow Ops series, to which Reawakening serves as a triple prequel, are titled Control Point, Fortress Frontier, and Breach Zone.

Just from reading those titles, there is no doubt that we are dealing with powerful stories fueled by powerful narratives.

Fantasy Series Comes to an End | Gemini Cell Myke Cole

The firsFantasy Series Comes to an End | Lagoon Nnedi Okorafort book I ever picked up by Cole was Control Point, his debut novel and the first part of the Shadow Ops series. I was hooked from the first page and raced through the other two parts of the series. I then turned my attention to Gemini Cell, part one of The Reawakening Trilogy. Gemini Cell is an excellent read which, together with Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon, competes for first place for the coolest book cover.

Gemini Cell did not disappoint, and neither did Javelin Rain, which avoided the trap of becoming a second-book slump. By the time Siege Line was announced, I was looking forward to it so much that I named it my most anticipated book of 2017 in the annual Book Riot round-up. Only to find out soon after that the publication date had been pushed forward six months.

Fantasy Series Comes to an End | Siege Line Myke ColeOn October 31, 2017, Siege Line finally hit the virtual and physical bookshelves. It was well worth the wait. Wilma “Mankiller” Plante is a protagonist to be reckoned with, just as Cole kept saying when he was asked to explain the change of publication date. Also, while I was reading, I truly enjoyed the argument between two undead brothers as to which one of them has the correct interpretation of the achievements and legacy of Alexander the Great.

But if Control Point is the debut novel and Gemini Cell is the first part of the prequel, where should you start reading? Well, because Cole pulled a George Lucas on us, there are two answers to that question. And to be able to provide those two answers, another question needs to be asked first.

Are you interested in the development of the story? Or in the development of a writer’s craft?

If you are interested in the story, start with Gemini Cell. This is where it all begins, and by the time you reach Siege Line, the stage is set for what is to come in Control Point.

If you want to follow the artistic development of an author from his first novel to his latest, start with Control Point. When you read Control Point, you can tell that it is a debut novel. By the time you get to Siege Line, Cole’s story telling and writing style have merged into a solid unit.

It is always with a tinge of sadness that I put down a book I have enjoyed, even more so with the final part of a series. But N.K. Jemisin and Myke Cole have more to offer. For the latter, The Armored Saint sets a new path. By the former, I have The Dreamblood Duology yet to discover.

Fantasy Series Comes to an End | The Armored Saint Myke Cole

Fantasy Series Comes to an End | Dreamblood Duology N.K. Jemisin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more in fantasy book series, check out “50 Of The Best Epic Fantasy Series.” 

Peek Over Our Shoulders: What Rioters Are Reading January 18, 2018

In this regular feature, we give you a glimpse of what we are reading this very moment.

Here is what the Rioters are reading today (as in literally today). This is what’s on their bedside table (or the floor, work bag, desk, whatevskis). Your TBR list is about to get some new additions.

We’ve shown you ours, now show us yours; let us know what you’re reading (right this very moment) in the comment section below!

 

Patricia Elzie-Tuttle

How to be a Bawse by Lilly Singh: I’m reading a bunch of self-help books this year for a project I am working on and this book was high on my list. I’m not actually familiar with the author; I learned through the book that she’s popular on YouTube. I’m only about three chapters in and she has a very distinct voice, a voice one may appreciate more if they were actually familiar with her work. I’ll keep reading, because it’s fresh and fun so far. (ebook)

 

Liberty Hardy

The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border by Francisco Cantú (Riverhead Books, February 6): An account of immigration, family, and law: Cantú, the grandson of Mexican immigrants, worked as a border patrol agent. This is his memoir detailing how his job upholding the law began to clash with his ideas of compassion and humanity. (hardcover)  

Jamie Canaves

A Dangerous Crossing  (Rachel Getty & Esa Khattak #4) by Ausma Zehanat Khan: I love this detective mystery series so much and can’t wait to continue following Detective Rachel Getty and Esa Khattak. While set in Canada, where the detectives work for the Community Policing Section which deals with minority-sensitive cases, the series also travels around the world exploring political and social issues. Khan is a fantastic writer and already the opening of this novel has me fully invested. (egalley)

Elizabeth Allen

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff: I have no shame, I had to read this book. And I had to read it immediately. I know there’s some question about the veracity of the revelations, but this book was a juicy, page-turny blast that was both highly concerning and thoroughly entertaining. Wolff might like the word “incredulity” a bit too much but his stories were pretty believable given what information this administration has voluntarily shared with us in their messy Twitter moments and their sloppy fights with the media. (audiobook)

Abby Hargreaves

the_cooking_gene

The Cooking Gene: A Journey through African American Culinary History in the Old South  by Michael. W. Twitty: It was probably a mistake to start this just after diving back into a low carb lifestyle, but I was eager to jump into a world I really know very little about. As a born-and-raised New Englander who transplanted to the southwestern part of Virginia for college, I wanted to know more about the culture around food in the South. Published in 2017, this nonfiction narrative seemed like the perfect place to start. (ebook)

Ashley Holstrom

Get Your Sh*t Together: How to Stop Worrying About What You Should Do So You Can Finish What You Need to Do and Start Doing What You Want to Do (A No F*cks Given Guide) by Sarah Knight: I just really need to get my shit together. Sarah Knight’s helping. My favorite tip so far: Make your to-do list, then make a list of those items in order of importance, then make a must-do list for the day. Why didn’t I think of that? (ebook)

Emily Polson

Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama: My best friend and I just decided to form a two-person book club to recapture the fun of discussing books together during our days as English majors. This was her pick for our first read. I’m only a chapter in, but I love Obama’s narrative approach to the memoir: he’s telling family anecdotes while thoughtfully considering the role retrospect and nostalgia play in our recollection. (hardcover)

Sarah Nicolas

Busted by Gina Ciocca: I just listened to a very, very long nonfiction book about DNA, which was good, but I really needed something a bit more fun, so I picked this up. It’s about a high school girl who’s made an accidental career out of catching girls’ boyfriends cheating. (audiobook, courtesy of publisher)

Kate Krug

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt: I bought this book months ago and it’s just been sitting on my To-Read shelf judging me. I recently started a new job and have a lovely longer commute, so after investing in Audible, I used one of my credits for the audiobook. I’m not that far in, but I’m loving this book so far and I’m sensing that once I’m done listening, this will be a book I’ll want to actually go back and read a physical copy. (audiobook)

Erin McCoy

A Devil in Scotland by Suzanne Enoch: Enoch’s historical romances are always a delight. Third in the No Ordinary Hero series, this book is extremely hero-centric. Callum takes center stage every time he’s on the page and, luckily, he’s smart, funny, and so desperately in love with the heroine that I don’t mind his scene-stealing ways. Enoch’s books always venture in directions I don’t anticipate, so I’m anxious to delve deeper into the mystery and scandal of this one. (galley)

 

Elisa Shoenberger

My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris: This giant graphic novel is about 10 year old Karen Reyes living in Chicago in the 1960s. She narrates her life through her obsession of monsters. The book is a family epic, a murder mystery, and a character study. It’s beautifully drawn with many nods to the monster movies of the 1960s. I had heard about it from a newspaper article in the Chicago Tribune because the author lives in Chicago. Her images of the city are astonishing.  I’m loving it so far. (softcover)

Amy Diegelman

Mrs. Sherlock Holmes by Brad Ricca: A friend recently included this in her roundup of favorite true crime books she read in 2017. Mrs. Sherlock Holmes was the nickname newspapers gave to the real life lawyer and investigator who was America’s first female District Attorney. This book follows Grace Humiston as she attempts to find a missing girl everyone else has given up on. When a friend and I decided to revive our two-person, long distance book club to take on the 2018 Read Harder Challenge, I knew this would be a great fit for the true crime challenge. (hardcover & ebook)

Dana Lee

Every Other Weekend by Zulema Renee Summerfield: Being from a family of divorce, the blurb for this book spoke to me. It’s set in 1988 southern California about a nervous 8-year old girl dealing with her parents’ divorce and her new living arrangements. The intro page alone was already so poetic so I’m excited. (egalley)

Claire Handscombe

The Perfect Nanny by Leïla Slimani: People won’t stop talking about this book either here or in the UK (where it has the much better title of Lullaby). So I decided to get my “read more in French” resolution underway when I found the original on Amazon U.S. (ebook)

Adiba Jaigirdar

From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon: After the adorable romcom that was When Dimple Met Rishi, I knew that I had to read her second novel. From Twinkle, With Love is proving to be just as sweet and funny, with a charmingly dorky protagonist who is so into film that the book is written in letter formats to female directors! (egalley)

 

 

Heather Bottoms

The Social Justice Advocate’s Handbook: A Guide to Gender by Sam Killermann: This a very accessible, entertaining book, with great resources, discussion prompts, and practical graphics to help people better understand the complexities of gender. I lead an LGBT-themed book club for my local PFLAG group and this is our January selection. (paperback)

E.H. Kern

The Genius of Judaism by Bernard-Henri Lévy: How can you not pick up a book with a title like this one? This is Lévy addressing anti-Semitism in the 21st century and, using anti-Semitism in its modern guise as a backdrop, how he sees the future of Judaism. So far, this book is a great read. (paperback)

Dana Staves

Summer Hours at the Robbers Library by Sue Halpern: Summer Hours is a book about the cast of characters working at the local library in a town that doesn’t have much else going for it. Included in this cast is Sunny, a local “no-schooler” who has been sentenced to volunteering at the library after attempting to steal a dictionary. I’m only a couple chapters in, but the writing is snappy and funny, tempered with just the right amount of bittersweetness. (egalley)

Cecilia Lyra

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin: Predicting the future. Superstition. The occult. Magic. This book has all of this wrapped up in a sweeping family saga that spans fifty years and follows four siblings who, as children, were told the exact date each of them would die. I can’t put it down!

Priya Sridhar

Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days by Chris Guillebeau: The webcomic Zen Pencils has endorsed this book, as well as the author. Guillebeau believes that a side hustle—an independent project that earns a modicum of income—can provide means for people to gain more freedom in their life, and extra money for necessities. He illustrates simple steps for readers to learn how to find their side hustle, and implement it. (Kindle ebook)

 

Alison Doherty

Warcross by Marie Lu: I didn’t read very much Science Fiction or Fantasy last year, so I decided to start the year off with Marie Lu’s new YA novel about a near future obsessed with a virtual reality game: Warcross. Teenage hacker Emika Chen is broke, desperate, and alone when she illegally hacks herself into Warcross. Expecting arrest, instead the game’s creator asks Emika to join Warcross as a spy. I feel like this type of book often goes way over my head, but I’m about halfway through the book and so far the complex character dynamics have me transfixed! (ebook)

Tracy Shapley

American War by Omar El Akkad: Talk about mind blowing! This is the story of the second American Civil War and it is mesmerizing and terrifying and heartbreaking. If you’re a part of the oil lobby, I wouldn’t recommend reading it. Otherwise, I’d suggest you sit down with this book to discover why it was nominated for so many g.d. awards last year. (egalley)

Jessica Yang

Shadow Girl by Liana Liu: I’m always down to read YA books by Asian American authors! But the gorgeous cover and haunting premise were pretty darn appealing too. Just getting started on it! (hardback)

Tiffani Willis

Abaddon’s Gate by James S. A. Corey: After watching the first two seasons of The Expanse on the SyFy channel I decided to check out the source material. The television series is based on a series of books by a writing duo that goes by the name James S.A. Corey. The first book, Leviathan Wakes, is a mash up science fiction and mystery set against the back drop of space. I loved it! I tore through the 500+ page book in less than week. Since then I’ve been steadily working my way through the series. Now I’m up to book 3, Abaddon’s Gate. Although set in space, it isn’t all space aliens (though there is something alien brewing). There’s political intrigue and mysteries to unravel. And now a character thought to be dead has reappeared. I can’t wait to see where the story leads to next!

Brandi Bailey

Self-Inflicted Wounds: Heartwarming Tales of Epic Humiliation by Aisha Tyler: This is my pick for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge category “celebrity memoir.” Because Aisha Tyler is my favorite in everything she does. LOVE HER! (library hardcover)

 

 

 

Daisy Johnson

Battling for News: The Rise of the Woman Reporter by Anne Sebba: I’d found Les Parisiennes a fascinating read, and when I finished that, I headed straight for Sebba’s back catalogue. Battling For News traces the history of women reporters, and delivers some spectacular stories of struggle, growth and bravery in a system determined to deny all of that. It’s taken me a while to get into it, but now that I am, I can’t put it down.

Matt Grant

Red Clocks by Leni Zumas: I came across this title from an NPR interview about new releases to look out for in 2018. With a publication date in January, this was one of the earliest. The premise (an America in which every embryo is granted personhood and property rights) seemed particularly intriguing in our current political context. I’m only a few pages in, but it’s beautifully written and I’m very much look forward to settling in and going along for the ride.

Danielle Bourgon

China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan: When I finished the first in this series I immediately pushed it into the hands of my husband and as many friends as possible. Now I’m desperately trying to catch up since they’ve all already finished the series. The good news is that the second one is just as good as the first. Maybe even better. Because, let’s face it, more Kitty Pong makes everything so much better. (hardcover)

Christina Vortia

When They Call You A Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele: An emotional and insightful memoir about Khan-Cullors early life in Van Nuys, CA, experiencing everyday racial and systemic injustices that led her to become one of three creators of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. The writing is poetic in its simplicity—accessible and profound. I received the ARC on Netgalley and will definitely purchase for my personal collection. (egalley)

Sam Burt

The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing: Lessing is an author I’ve admired from afar; always problematic, as it makes it hard to read objectively. But serendipitously picked this up again at the same time as my book club! A multi-layered old-fashioned novel of Big Ideas whose protagonist—just like Lessing, or indeed any author—is searching for unity in the fragments of life. (paperback)

 

Rebecca Hussey

Himself by Jess Kidd: This is the latest choice for my mystery book group. I’m 30 pages in and loving it, partly because it’s set in Ireland where I’ve recently done some traveling and also because it’s an intriguing story so far. (paperback)

Ilana Masad

This Will Be My Undoing by Morgan Jerkins: I met Morgan a few months ago after a long time following her work online and watching her opine on Twitter. She was as wonderful in person as I’d imagined her to be. She read the first essay from this collection aloud and I felt my heart constrict. Now reading her book for a review, and I’m continuing to find both what she shares from her personal life and her thoughts and opinions about the wider culture and time we live in to be absolutely incredible. Incredible not because it’s easy or magical but because she’s so incredibly smart and has put so much thought into both herself and the world at large. She’s a truly incredible writer and commentator. (ARC)

Rabeea Saleem

The Job of the Wasp by Colin Winnette: I was sent an advance copy of this by Soft Skull Press and the cover and premise sounded intriguing so I decided to give it a go. It’s like if Shirley Jackson wrote Lord of the Flies. It’s a gothic thriller which will by turn intrigue and revolt you. A  bizarre ghost story and whodunit set in a boarding school for orphan boys. (ARC)

Kathleen Keenan

The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore by Kim Fu: Over the Christmas season I worked a few shifts at my local indie bookstore, and I picked up an advance copy of this novel by Canadian author Kim Fu. The story of a group of girls at a sleep-away camp who experience a shocking and traumatic event on a kayaking trip, this novel is not to be missed. It’s an evocative, haunting, sharp look at how tragedy shapes lives. Available February 13. (ARC)

Jess Carbert

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight: After a spate of “meh” mysteries and tepid thrillers, I’m now hellbent on reading a good one. This was recommended to me years ago, and I finally stopped procrastinating and picked it up. Kate Baron is a high-powered single mother working at a prestigious law firm in Brooklyn. She’s proud of her work, but more so of her relationship with her daughter, 15-year-old Amelia. Kate’s life is shattered when Amelia commits suicide by jumping off the roof of her school, but it’s absolutely rocked when she receives a host of anonymous messages telling her it was murder, not suicide, that ended her beloved daughter’s life. Kate throws herself into an investigation of what really happened, desperate for one last chance to vindicate the daughter she feels she failed. (hardcover).

Rachel Brittain

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo: I mean, the title pretty much says it all. In a series of essays, Oluo breaks down how—and why—we should discuss issues of race, from privilege to intersectionality and everything else you could possibly think of. I’m only a few chapters in and already I can tell this book is going to stay with me for the rest of my life. Everyone needs to read this. Everyone. (egalley)

Kate Scott

God: A Human History by Reza Aslan: I’ve been meaning to read Zealot for a couple years and then I recently spotted this newer addition to Aslan’s bibliography so decided to start with it instead. So often, books on the history and origins of religious thought are a muddied by the author’s own bias (either for or against religion), but not so with this one. Aslan’s goal is not to validate or invalidate belief in God, but to probe history and the human psyche to reveal how and when such spiritual impulses may have developed. So far, the narrative is tightly woven and Aslan is an engaging narrator. (audiobook)

Mary Kay McBrayer

Carrie by Stephen King: I’m fascinated with how terrified men are by menses, and how the women-are-witches-and-chaos trope keeps going. Carrie gets control over her telekinesis when she gets her period, but she still can’t control her emotions. (Okay, so that analysis is only part of the truth…I’ve always been a little jealous of how Carrie gets to exact her revenge on people who done her wrong. How awesome would it be to make your seventh-grade crush who asked you out because he lost a bet LOSE HIS GRAVITATIONAL PULL? Pretty awesome. So, no, it’s not canon, but it’s REAL entertaining.)

Katisha Smith

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi: I received this book as a gift, and it’s been sitting on my bookshelf since then. This year, I am on a mission to read the books on my bookshelf, and this book was my first choice. I am only two chapters in, but Esi’s experiences in the dungeon made me sad and angry about the trauma my ancestors endured during the Atlantic slave trade. There will be many more similar emotions while reading the novel, but I know the book will be an amazing and powerful read. (hardback)

Tasha Brandstatter

How Not to Die by Michael Greger, MD: My doctor would not shut up about this book during my last appointment. And if it’s good enough for him… (library hardcover)

Steph Auteri

Puddin’ by Julie Murphy: Dumplin’ was one of my favorite reads last year. How could I not read this sorta-sequel/companion novel? (egalley)

Margaret Kingsbury

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir: I recently decided to turn a writing-in-progress from an adult to a young adult novel, so one of my resolutions this year is to read more YA—specifically SFF YA—so I have a better idea of writing in that field. I’m starting with An Ember in the Ashes after hearing so many good things about it. And I see why! I’m only 10% in but I’m already hooked! It’s immediately suspenseful and engaging. (library ebook)

Jaime Herndon

Don’t Call Me Princess: Essays on Girls, Women, Sex, and Life by Peggy Orenstein: I’ve loved Orenstein since her seminal work Schoolgirls, and have read almost everything she’s written since. Her essays are smart, insightful, witty, and just so darn readable, and I’m really loving this book. She writes about various activists, motherhood, miscarriage, cancer, relationships, and more. Cultural commentary and critique, personal essay, politics—no one blends these so seamlessly as Orenstein. I’d say this is a must-read. (ARC)

Natalya Muncuff

The Bittersweet Bride by Vanessa Riley: A reading goal of mine this year is to read historical romance. The Bittersweet Bride is my second historical romance of 2018 and my first novel by Vanessa Riley. So far this second chance romance is quite engaging as I try to determine if the hero, Ewan, will win me over by the end of the book. (eARC)

 

 

Yaika Sabat

The Little Book of Life Hacks: How to Make Your Life Happier, Healthier, and More Beautiful by Yumi Sakugawa: The colorful, completely adorable design and illustrations (and cover) are what first caught my attention when I saw this book in the “New Nonfiction” section of my local library. The content is what made me check it out. It covers everything from beauty and fashion, decor and cooking, to positive affirmations and self love. I have not finished my first read through yet, but I’ve picked up a few handy tricks already, and have seriously loved looking through this book.

Laura Sackton

A State of Freedom by Neel Mukherjee: Anytime I see anything along the lines of “several interconnected storylines” or “told through four varying points of view” in a book blurb, I have to pick the book up. This book is a series of interconnected novella-like sections, each one following the story of a different character in contemporary India. The writing is beautiful, and the unusual form has me dying to know how it all ends. (library hardcover)

S.W. Sondheimer

Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson: I’m not a huge biography reader—not because I don’t enjoy learning about individual histories but because years in academia conditioned me to think of non-fiction as exam prep and that, in turn, stresses me out even though I know intellectually I’m no longer being tested. Isaacson’s book is far, far too delightful for me to be concerned about anything other than reading more. Personal and honest, Isaacson obviously admires this template of the Renaissance man but doesn’t shy away from painting the complete picture (as it were). I’ll actually be a little sad when I’m done with this one and already have Isaacson’s biography of Einstein on hold the library.

Beth O’Brien

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones: I’m currently on a fae-like binge it seems! I read The Cruel Prince by Holly Black and An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson and I was craving more! A fellow Rioter recommended Wintersong and I decided to pick it up. This one is about goblins, not faeries, but I’m enjoying it all the same! I knew when there was a Christina Rossetti quote at the beginning that I was in for a treat. Jae-Jones’s writing and world-building is beautiful and so far I’m completely taken by the main character Liesl!

Sarah Ullery

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi: I read Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo and The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin last year, and they were two of my favorite books of 2017. Both books take place in Nigeria, and deal with topics of feminism and gender roles in Nigerian families. This book also takes place in Nigeria, but instead of dealing exclusively with family and a woman’s place within her family, Freshwater deals with identity, and where a woman exists within herself. It also deals with mental health, and I’m just coming down from reading The Vegetarian, so I think I’m in the right state of mind to take on this book. I’ve been told it’s sublime. (eARC)

Rachel Wagner

Weird in a World That’s Not by Jennifer Romolini: I never thought I’d enjoy a career book as much as I’m enjoying Romolini’s. Her writing is clear and concise. She makes real suggestions throughout the book (I’m almost done with it), not just motivational tips. I don’t remember how I came across this book last week, but it came right when I needed it. (library book)

Derek Attig

Witchmark by C.L. Polk: Witchmark isn’t out until June, but I couldn’t help picking it up as soon as I got a copy. So far my intemperance is paying off: Witchmark is an utter delight. It’s gripping from the first page, with a compelling story that unfolds in an intriguing, well-imagined magical world. (egalley)

Annika Barranti Klein

Fast-Draft Your Memoir by Rachael Herron: This is a great, fun book full of exercises that Rachael admonishes the reader to actually do, and of course I am not. But! I am not writing a memoir! I am, however, working on a story that’s based on something from my life, and I’m getting ideas from this guide. (egalley)

Tonya and Nancy: The History, The Legacy, and The Ways We Pit Women Against Each Other

With the Winter Olympics coming and the recent release of the film I, Tonya, the Tonya Harding–Nancy Kerrigan story has been in the spotlight again. And like every time this story reemerges, opinions about victimhood abound: in this year’s conversation, there’s been much discussion about how Harding was “never a victim.” But this is a falsehood.

Being a victim takes more than one shape and look, and in the case of Harding, she was a victim of abuse from both her mother and her ex-husband, as well as a victim of a ratings-hungry media storm which pitted her story against Kerrigan’s. It made both of them victims of misogyny, stripping them of their complex stories and experiences and instead creating a mythology about who they were and how their single intertwined experience was the whole of who either of them were as individuals. Many choose to believe Harding isn’t a victim because she isn’t the “right” kind of woman, harder and tougher and more vulgar than the sorts of women lauded in the media and in the world of competitive skating.

 

 

To hear Kerrigan talk about it now is to hear someone who isn’t paying attention to the media. And though I, Tonya is a fictionalized take on the real Harding story, it, too, doesn’t spend a whole lot of time focusing on Kerrigan or the incident that tied the two women together. Kerrigan has left this part of her life behind her.

“But Harding attacked Kerrigan” is a claim in the court of public opinion which is unfounded. It’s one which was not proven in court proceedings. Harding was convicted of hindering an investigation, and in the court of law, she’s innocent of all else. While many would suggest it’s time for her to move on in the same way Kerrigan has, the fact of the matter is she continues to speak because of the court of public opinion. Because she is a survivor of abuse.

In light of the attention being brought back to Harding, Kerrigan, and the Olympics, a reading list. Some of these books are older, published in the mid-’90s when the story first began. Others are newer. In the case of all these books, there are few, if any, written from authors of color; it would, of course, have been an entirely different story had either or both of these women been women of color. These books offer insight into the incident, into media responses to it, and they allow both women to speak their own stories within and beyond the incident that brought them to the center of a media spectacle.

Note that descriptions come from Amazon, and also note that some of these  titles might take some work to track down because of their publication age. A number have been republished with the release of the movie and may only be available digitally.

 

Fire on Ice: The Exclusive Inside Story of Tonya Harding by Abby Haight and J. E. Vader

Championship figure skating, despite its surface appearance of pristine elegance, is a ferociously competitive sport, full of bitter rivalry and personal antagonism. Olympic glory means everything: fame, money, and the admiration of millions.

Every skater who goes for the gold has drive and tremendous competitive spirit, but few more than Tonya Harding. In Fire on Ice, you will learn about Harding’s hardscrabble childhood—a childhood wracked by abuse, money problems, and unceasing pressure and belittlement by her mother. And you will learn how Tonya Harding made herself into one of America’s best skaters.

Here is a young woman whose fierce ambition was, in the end, her downfall. Her story is a tale of sacrifice and overcoming obstacles, of the strength of competition and the blindness of ambition. In the thin ice over which Tonya Harding always glided, we could not help but see an American story, and all of America was watching.

 

Inside Edge: A Revealing Journey Into The Secret World of Figure Skating by Christine Brennan

Figure skating is the most beautiful and mysterious of all sports. When the skaters are on the ice, every twitch of a muscle and every slip of a skate blade is visible for the world to see. In Inside Edge, Christine Brennan chronicles—for the first time—a season on the skating circuit, intimately portraying the lives, on and off the ice, of the sport’s current and upcoming stars. Woven into the narrative are stories of figure skating luminaries past, present, and future—including Peggy Fleming, Katarina Witt, Brian Boitano, Scott Hamilton, Kristi Yamaguchi, Nancy Kerrigan, Oksana Baiul, Michelle Kwan, Rudy Galindo, and Tara Lipinski. Revealing the backstage conflicts high-profile figure skaters face, and the ambition that drives them, Brennan also tells the stories of their families, of improbable rises to the top, and of wasted talents.

If skaters are perfect, they can become international heroes. But if they fall, if they miss a three-revolution jump on a quarter-inch blade of steel, the despair is theirs alone. This is their life on the edge, where decades of training culminate in little more than four crucial minutes on the ice. There is no other sport like it. There is no other story like theirs.

The figure skaters gathered slowly in the mahogany-paneled lobby of the majestic Mirror Lake Inn in Lake Placid, New York, flashing no smiles, barely saying a word. The collection of gregarious entertainers had been reduced to silent, wide-eyed stares. The crackling wood in the fireplace made the room’s only noise.

They had met in hotel lobbies in fancy street clothes hundreds of times in the past, but never for an event as devastating as this. On a cold night in late November 1995, they were to travel through snowswept Adirondack mountain roads to a nearby funeral home for a private wake for Sergei Grinkov, their colleague and friend who died of a massive heart attack during a skating practice the day before.

 

Little Girls in Pretty Boxes: The Making and Breaking of Elite Gymnasts and Figure Skaters by Joan Ryan

In this disturbing book, sports columnist Ryan exposes the tarnish beneath Olympic gold as she reveals heartbreaking stories of the physical and psychological abuse suffered by countless young girls driven to achieve Olympic medals. In harrowing detail, Ryan documents the preponderance of abuse, eating disorders, weakened bones, and damaged psyches that are often the result of intensive training.

 

Nancy Kerrigan: In My Own Words by Nancy Kerrigan

From frozen pond to Olympic rink, Nancy Kerrigan started skating when she was six years old. Nineteen years later she won the Olympic silver medal. This is the story of what happened in between: the hard work, the fun and friends, the nerve-racking competitions, the disappointing losses and, of course, the thrilling victories. Here is Nancy’s story about a little girl from Massachusetts who grew up to be an Olympic champion.

 

The Tonya Tapes by Lynda Prouse and Tonya Harding

Based on the candid and sometimes startling conversations that you were never meant to hear, THE TONYA TAPES, written by award-winning author, Lynda D. Prouse, chronicles the life of the world’s most infamous female athlete—TONYA HARDING—revealing for the first time the whole truth of her difficult and sometimes amazing life on and off the ice. Based on actual, extensive interviews with Tonya Harding, and written with her collaboration, this is her story!

 

Women on Ice: Feminist Responses to the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan Spectacle by Cynthia Baughman

The attack on Nancy Kerrigan at the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships set the stage for a Winter Olympics spectacle: Tonya versus Nancy. Women on Ice collects the writings of a diverse group of feminists who address and question our national obsession with Tonya and Nancy and what this tells us about perceptions of women in twentieth century America.