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A Fun, Sometimes Over-the-Top Madcap Bollywood Romance
(Full disclosure: I received a free book for review through Goodreads’s First Reads program. Also, there are clearly marked spoilers towards the end of this review. Trigger warning for rape and child abuse.)
Like tens of millions of her peers, Malvika “Mili” Rathod is a child bride.* In a bargain struck by her grandmother and the groom’s grandfather, Mili was married off at the age of four; she has spent the past twenty years waiting for her husband to return to Balpur and claim her.
Unfortunately, hers was not a meeting of the minds, in even the loosest sense of the term: a year after the marriage, her betrothed’s mother packed up Virat and his younger brother Samir and moved the family to Nagpur, away from the clutches of their abusive and controlling grandfather. Not long after, Lata sent notice to the Balpur village council to have the marriage annulled; unbeknownst to the Rathods, grandfather retracted the paperwork. For the next two decades, he led Mili and her naani on, milking them for her dowry in exchange for empty promises that this would be the year that Virat – now a Squad Leader in the Indian Air Force – would send for her. Grandfather passed away several years ago, and naani is starting to panic: when she’s gone, who will care for her granddaughter?
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Poetry in Motion
(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Blogging for Books. Trigger warning for rape.)
Now we make you ugly, my mother said. She whistled. Her mouth was so close she sprayed my neck with her whistle-spit. I could smell beer. In the mirror I watched her move that piece of charcoal across my face. It’s a nasty life, she whispered.
It’s my first memory. She held an old cracked mirror to my face. I must have been about five years old. The crack made my face look as if it had been broken into two pieces. The best thing you can be in Mexico is an ugly girl.
Ladydi Garcia Martínez lives on a remote mountain in Guerrero, Mexico. Her neighbors are the lizards, the snakes, the scorpions, the narco-traffickers – and women. Many women, though fewer than in years past. Women who dress their daughters in boy’s clothing; color their teeth yellow to mimic rot; wash the grime off their bodies only to get dirty again; and dig child-sized holes in the corn fields to hide their daughters from human traffickers.
Life wasn’t always life this. Once an entire community – men and women, young and old – lived on Ladydi’s mountainside. Long before she was born, the Sun Highway connecting Mexico City and nearby Acapulco was built, cleaving the village in half. Soon the men left in search of work, both in Mexico and across the border in the United States. Some returned for the occasional visit; many did not. Ladydi’s father falls into the second category. His philandering and eventual abandonment only compounded her mother’s bitterness and reliance on alcohol – a fact to which the beer bottle graveyard in their shed can attest.
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A Futuristic, Sometimes-Sinister Retelling of Snow White
(Full disclosure: I received a free audiobook for review through Library Thing’s Early Reviewers program. This review contains spoilers. Also, trigger warning for rape.)
It took me seventeen seconds to decide Jarom Thacker’s reputation as the sharpest fighter on Thanda had been exaggerated. At twice my size — and age — he was quick, forcing me to move or risk getting pinned against the cage, but he made a rookie mistake. Like everyone else who came through Mining Settlement Forty-Two, he aimed for my gut. So predictable.
Wouldn’t want to botch the pretty girl’s face, right? Idiot.
I blocked him on the left, but sweat stinging my eyes blinded me to his fist slamming into my right side. Pain flared through my ribs. The fire spurred me on, and I slipped Thacker’s grip when he grabbed at my arm.
Unlike him, I had no qualms about uglifying him further.
Princess Snow is missing. Or at least that’s what her father, the cruel and manipulative King Matthias, believes.
After a botched assassination attempt by her stepmother, Queen Olivia, “Snowflake” fled her home planet of Windsong, settling on the remote and icy Thanda. Here, Essie – as she’s now known – makes herself useful by “stitching” code to improve the mine’s conditions; she can often be found in the cage, beating miners twice her size to a bloody pulp for extra cash monies to fund her tinkering. It’s not much of a living, but at least she’s alive. Nearly ten years pass before her relative isolation is shattered by the crash-landing of a rogue, treasure-hunting Garamite boy in her backyard.
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During Black History Month, the National Council of Teachers of English hosts an annual African American Read-In (#aari15), with events scheduled around the country. Luckily, for those of us who can’t attend, Meghann at Becoming Books is holding an online version from February 19th through the 23rd. You can sign up (as late as 2/23!) here.
There’s no minimum on the number of books you can read, and any genre counts. The only stipulation is that the books must be authored by people of African (but not necessarily American) descent:
Up for reading are any books authored by people of African heritage/decent. This includes African American authors and other who may identify as being Black without being American. All genres count! YA, MG, Adult, Fiction, Nonfiction, etc. For a list of book suggestions check out the NCTE website and Goodreads listopias.
I’m hoping to use the opportunity to tackle a few more books in my Octavia Butler collection: so far I’ve yet to read Kindred, Fledgling, and Seed to Harvest. Ditto: her short story anthologies – namely, Bloodchild and Other Stories and Unexpected Stories. Not that I can tackle them all in just five days, but it leaves me with plenty of choices.
And if I fancy more, there’s always Sherri L. Smith’s Orleans or Nalo Hopkinson’s Brown Girl in the Ring, both of which are on my Dive Into Diversity reading list.
If you want to participate – or just learn more – go check out the sign-up post. There will be mini-challenges, prizes, and twitter chats. And hopefully lots of diverse book pushing.
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A Dark & Dangerous Reimagining of The Nutcracker
(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Goodreads’s First Reads program. Please note that there are clearly marked spoilers near the end of this review. Also, trigger warning for rape.)
Our stories say that when the human world was first made, not all of it fit.
Pieces fell off the whole, like too much dough being stuffed into a small pan, and those bits dropped into cracks and were forgotten. Our stories, the oldest ones, the ones most people no longer remember, say that my country, Cane, is one of those forgotten places, hidden away in some cosmic pocket of existence, for the most part separated from the human world, but not entirely. Tenuous links connect the two worlds – like certain traveling songs, and hidden doorways, and magic, if you’re able to use it.
New York City, 1899.
Though more privileged than most, seventeen-year-old Clara Stole’s family suffers under the rule of Concordia, a powerful gang of thugs, politicians, and businessmen (well, mostly men) whose corruption and thirst for power threatens to suck the city dry. Her mother Hope fell victim to the violence that plagues the streets, poor and wealthy alike; nearly a year ago, her bloated, mutilated remains were found by the river, her body marred by strange symbols. In his grief, father John hit the bottle hard, leaving Clara to run the household and care for her younger sister Felicity.
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Book Review: A Murder of Crows: Seventeen Tales of Monsters and the Macabre, DeAnna Knippling (2014)January 19th, 2015 3:44 pm by Kelly Garbato
Stories within Stories
(Full disclosure: I received a free e-copy of this book for review though Library Thing’s Member Giveaways program. Also, trigger warning for rape.)
It was we crows who took your daughter, in case you were wondering. She didn’t run away. We had–I had–been watching her for some time, listening to her tell stories in the grass behind the house. She would sit near the chicken coop and watch the white chickens pick at the dirt, pulling up fat worms and clipping grasshoppers out of the air as they jumped toward the fields.
Some of them were good stories. Some of them were bad. But that’s what decided it, even more than any issue of mercy or salvation or anything else. Crows are, for one, possessive of stories. And also by then I had pecked almost all the elders into coming to listen to her at least once, except Facunde, who was then mad and responded to nobody’s pecking, not that I had had the courage to exactly take my beak to her. “She is like a daughter to me,” I had pled with the others. “She listens.” They laughed at me, they rattled their beaks, they came and heard her and were convinced, or at least bullied into pretending they were convinced.
We took her on the same cold winter day that you traded your son to the fairies, the wind blowing in cold gray threads, ruffling our feathers. It had snowed a few days before that, a storm that had killed your husband, or so it was said. The wind had snatched the snow out onto the prairie, hiding it in crevices. It had been a dry year, and even though it was still too cold to melt the snow, the thirsty dirt still found places to tuck it away in case of a thaw.
I stamped my feet on a sleeping branch while the others argued. Some argued that we should wait for spring. So many things are different, in the spring. But old Loyolo insisted: no, if we were to take the child, we would have to take her then and there: there had been at least one death already, and no one had heard the babe’s cry for hours.
We covered the oak trees, thousands of us, so many that the branches creaked and swayed under our weight. I don’t know if you noticed us, before it was too late. You were, it is to be admitted, busy.
The girl played on the swings, rocking herself back and forth in long, mournful creaks. She wore a too-small padded jacket and a dress decorated in small flowers. She was so clean that she still smelled of soap. Her feet were bare under their shoes, the skin scabbed and dry, almost scaly. Her wrists were pricked with gooseflesh, and her hair whipped in thin, colorless threads across her face as the wind caught it. The house had the smell of fresh death, under the peeling paint and the dusty windows, and seemed to murmur with forgotten languages, none of which were languages of love or tenderness. Afternoon was sinking into evening. The girl’s breath smelled like hunger.
“Now!” called old Loyolo, at some signal that not even I could have told you. And thousands of birds swept out of the trees toward her. From the middle of it, I can tell you, it seemed a kind of nightmare. Wings in my face, claws in my feathers. The sun was temporarily snuffed out, it was a myriad of bright slices reflected off black wings…
DeAnna Knippling’s A Murder of Crows is, at its heart, a love letter to the art of storytelling. A collection of short stories which forms the backbone of a larger narrative, the sixteen tales here – macabre, horrific, sometimes surreal – are shared with a grieving young girl by the murder (flock) of crows who rescued her from her wicked, murderous mother. (Crows being both connoisseurs and collectors of the oral tradition, natch.) Their story, told between the lines and in the margins of the other sixteen tales, is the seventeenth piece in this delightfully dark anthology.
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— BookOutlet (@BookOutletcom) December 26, 2014
Boxing Day was many, many weeks ago (okay, three – but time drags when you’re waiting for book mail!), but as everyone who placed an order with Book Outlet knows, turnaround was painfully slow for their epic Boxing Day sale. The last part of my order just arrived this week; and, if twitter is any indication, a few poor souls are still waiting on their packages. (Thoughts and prayers.)
So this was my first time shopping at Book Outlet. I was lucky enough to see the 50% off discount code bouncing around twitter the week beforehand. Since I’m pressed for space and trying to buy e-books whenever possible, I was a little skeptical: 50% sounds like a sweet deal, but is it sweet enough to justify buying more “real” books? With a skeptical little huff, I hopped on over to their website to investigate. Within minutes I’d created an account and filled my shopping cart. Yeah. The prices really were that good.
I spent the week leading up to Christmas going through my Amazon and Goodreads wishlists, purging them of no-longer-wanted items and searching for the more expensive titles on Book Outlet. Between Book Outlet and ruthless culling, I managed to make a sizable dent in each. By the time 10:59PM rolled around on Christmas night (11:59 Eastern), I was ready to go. It’s a good thing, too: the sale proved so popular that would-be customers quickly overloaded Book Outlet’s servers. After much swearing, hand-wringing, and page refreshing, I was lucky enough to get my order in. Before the start of Boxing Day official, even!
I’ll be the first to admit it: I went a little overboard. Just a bit. (Even though I managed to “lose” four or five books in the mad rush to submit my order before the stock ran out.) The first time around, I dropped a cool $200.65. But that includes shipping (which I’d mentally factored into the price per book as I shopped), and got me 71 books! That works out to about $2.82 per book, which is still less than the price of a used hardcover book at the twice annual library book sale. So it would have been silly of me not to buy all these books, is what I’m saying!
I noticed some people complaining about the price of shipping, but I thought it was pretty reasonable: $38.49 for nearly 60 pounds of books. Of course this was for domestic shipping; I’m sure that overseas postage all but negates any savings.
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