Tag Archives: book reviews

The Awkward Path to Getting Lucky

The Awkward Path to Getting Lucky.I’m always thrilled to see other writers succeed, and am even more excited when that writer is part of what I consider my “writing family.” On Friday I had the privilege of going to my friend Summer Heacock’s book launch. I’ve seen Summer go through being on submission with multiple projects, breaking up with one agent, signing with her current agents, and finally reading from her debut book at a real, live bookstore!

I’m really busy with both writing stuff and library stuff this week, so I’ll leave you with my review of Summer’s book, The Awkward Path to Getting Lucky​. If you want to laugh your pants off while you’re feeling all the feels, pick up Summer’s book!

Fantastic book! The voice is so strong and unique. I laughed out loud on every page — often multiple times per page! I loved the dynamic between the four women at the bakery, and how open they were talking with one another about everything. If you like baking, feels, and uncensored talk about lady parts, do yourself a favor and get your hands on this book! The coarse language isn’t for every reader, but if you don’t mind a liberal amount of (non-gratuitous) swearing, I highly recommend this book.

Reflections on reviews, reviewers, and privilege

Let’s get this out of the way. Hi, I’m Liz, and I have a lot of privilege. I’m a white, cisgendered, heterosexual woman from a middle-class family. I’ve never had to worry about where I’ll sleep tonight or where my next meal will come from. Neither I nor my siblings have ever had “the talk” with our parents — the one about how to act if we’re stopped by the police. I’ve never been targeted by TSA agents because of my looks or my faith. I can never fully understand the experiences of those who have dealt with these things.

That said, I do my best to relate to and learn from those whose experiences are different from my own. I listen. I am fascinated by others’ stories — I want to know more about those who live in different communities or have different customs that those I grew up with. I care deeply about representation — in books, movies, media, workplaces … basically everywhere. Representation matters.

When We Was Fierce.So, when I first heard about e. E. Charlton-Trujillo’s When We Was Fierce, I was excited about a book written from the perspective of an African-American teen in an African-American community. After reading starred reviews of the book in KirkusPublisher’s Weekly, and Booklist, I eagerly pre-ordered it for my library and added it to my to-read list.

It’s a reflection of my privilege that, despite everything I’ve heard about the lack of diversity in the publishing industry, despite my involvement in conversations surrounding the We Need Diverse Books movement and calls for #ownvoices representation, I didn’t consider who was writing these reviews. I trusted the word of reviewers who are not black and have never been a part of a community like the one When We Was Fierce is meant to represent, because they are professional reviewers. Because the reviews they’ve written, and the publications they’ve written for, have guided my reading and collection development well in the past.

Then my Twitter feed, which is filled with thought-provoking conversations by people like Justina IrelandEdi Campbell, and Zetta Elliot, exploded with concerns about this book. I read reviews by POC readers pointing out that Charlton-Trujillo’s “new vernacular” (in the author’s words) was broken and insulting, that the characters felt like stereotypes, that the book is an inaccurate and damaging representation of black communities. I haven’t read When We Was Fierce yet, but reading the excerpts in these reviews (which I realize were chosen as the most offensive examples), I was deeply concerned. Is this how the readers who gave this book starred reviews really see black communities? The language in those excerpts has no linguistic foundation, and presents black vernacular as broken and uneducated speech. I’m horrified by the thought of handing a book with this language to a black teen, as though saying, “this is how I see you.”

This is not how I see you.

I know my views are impacted by my own experiences and my own privilege, which is why it’s so important to have diverse reviewers evaluating diverse books. We need more #ownvoices books, but at the very least we need #ownvoices writers and readers consulted about books that are meant to reflect their experiences. If you haven’t read Zetta Elliott’s post, “Black Voices Matter,” or KT Horning’s post about “When Whiteness Dominates Reviews,” I highly recommend doing so. We need diverse books, yes, but we also need diverse critics who can speak to the authenticity of these books.

Review: Jennifer Nielsen’s The False Prince

The False Prince. I had the pleasure of getting completely sucked into a book when I picked up Jennifer Nielsen’s The False Prince. I read a lot, but it’d been a long time since I started something I couldn’t put down. By the end of the first paragraph, I actually said to myself, “This is what I’m doing with the rest of the night.”

The summary (from Goodreads):

In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king’s long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner’s motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword’s point — he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage’s rivals have their own agendas as well.

As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner’s sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together.

What makes this book work? Besides the obvious great writing, there’s the combination of an interesting premise, a vivid setting, and a protagonist whose greatest strengths may also be his greatest flaws (or vice versa). Sage’s way of looking at the world is so engaging that I’d probably read even if the plot started to drag (which it never did). Nielsen has also created a vibrant world in turmoil, with the setting itself adding tension to the plot.

I devoured the sequel, The Runaway King, just as quickly. Nielsen does a great job providing enough backstory for this book to stand on its own without bogging readers down with too much detail. And it has one of my favorite first lines ever: “I had arrived early for my own assassination.”

If you write middle grade or young adult fantasy, or if you’re just looking for a great story, I highly recommend The False Prince and the rest of the Ascendance trilogy.

What books have you come across lately that you couldn’t put down?