Tag Archives: Diverse Books

Cover Reveal and #1001DiverseBooksCampaign: Rea and the Blood of the Nectar by Payal Doshi

Rea and the Blood of the Nectar Cover Reveal

Cover Reveal and #1001DiverseBooksCampaign

Exciting news! Mango and Marigold Press is launching its eighteenth book and first middle grade novel ever. REA AND THE BLOOD OF THE NECTAR is written by debut #ownvoices author Payal Doshi. It tells the story of Rea Chettri, a 12-year-old girl living a simple, if boring, life on the tea plantations of Darjeeling, India. When her twin brother goes missing, Rea’s life gets turned on its head. Determined to save him, Rea embarks on a secret, thrilling adventure into the enchanted world of Astranthia. There, Rea will make new friends, grapple with dark truths, learn the meaning of family and friendship, and discover her true self.

REA AND THE BLOOD OF THE NECTAR is the first book in the series The Chronicles of Astranthia. It’s expected to release in May 2021.

#1001DiverseBooksCampaign – You Can Help!

I rarely participate in cover reveal posts, but because this one also supports a campaign to help not only bridge the diversity gap, but also the accessibility gap in children’s literature. With each new book launch, Mango and Marigold Press is committed to also raise funds to donate 1001 books to literacy and advocacy nonprofits across the country working to help those in need.

When you pre-order your copy of REA AND THE BLOOD OF THE NECTAR, you can also sponsor a copy for a nonprofit partner for only $10!

For all pre-orders placed between September 15th through September 22nd, 2020 you will receive:

  • an exclusive chapter to read as a sneak peek into Rea’s adventure.
  • Limited edition character buttons.
  • Bookmark.
  • Sticker.
  • Signed bookplate from the author.

Visit Mango & Marigold Press to pre-order a copy of the book. Then click the 1001DiverseBookCampaign link to add a $10 sponsored copy. This copy will be given to a nonprofit literacy and advocacy group.

Ready to see the gorgeous cover?

About Rea and the Blood of the Nectar by Payal Doshi

Pre-Order Link | Goodreads

It all begins on the night Rea turns twelve. After a big fight with her twin brother Rohan on their birthday, Rea’s life in the small village of Darjeeling, India, gets turned on its head. It’s four in the morning and Rohan is nowhere to be found.

It hasn’t even been a day and Amma acts like Rohan’s gone forever. Her grandmother, too, is behaving strangely. Unwilling to give up on her brother, Rea and her friend Leela meet Mishti Daadi, a wrinkly old fortune-teller whose powers of divination set them off on a thrilling and secret quest. In the shade of night, they portal into an otherworldly realm and travel to Astranthia, a land full of magic and whimsy. There with the help of Xeranther, an Astranthian barrow boy, and Flula, a pari, Rea battles serpent-lilies and blood-sucking banshees, encounters a butterfly-faced woman and blue lizard-men, and learns that Rohan has been captured. Rea also discovers that she is a princess with magic. Only she has no idea how to use it.

Struggling with the truth her Amma has kept hidden from her, Rea must solve clues that lead to Rohan, find a way to rescue him and save Astranthia from a potentially deadly fate. But the clock is ticking. Can she rescue Rohan, save Astranthia, and live to see it all?

Expected publication: May 2021

About Author Payal Doshi

Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram

Payal Doshi has a Masters in Creative Writing (Fiction) from The New School, New York. Having lived in the UK and US, she noticed a lack of Indian protagonists in global children’s fiction and one day wrote the opening paragraph to what would become her first children’s novel. She was born and raised in Mumbai, India, and currently resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her husband and two-year-old daughter. When she isn’t writing or spending time with her family, you can find her nose deep in a book with a cup of coffee or daydreaming of fantasy realms to send her characters off into. She loves the smell of old, yellowed books. REA AND THE BLOOD OF THE NECTAR, the first book in The Chronicles of Astranthia series, is her debut middle grade novel.

About Mango & Marigold Press

Mango & Marigold Press is an award-winning independent publishing house that shares the sweet and savory stories of the South Asian experience. Sharing every day and extraordinary stories of the South Asian experience, the company has produced fifteen books across four different product categories with features on The Today Show, The New York Times, The Washington Post, US Weekly, People Magazine and so much more.

They just launched their first young adult book, UNTOLD: DEFINING MOMENTS OF THE UPROOTED, in partnership with Brown Girl Magazine. REA AND THE BLOOD OF THE NECTAR is the company’s eighteenth book and first upper middle grade novel. Available for pre-order today!

Review: Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

Cinderella is Dead
Kalynn Bayron
Bloomsbury YA
Published July 7, 2020

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About Cinderella is Dead

It’s 200 years after Cinderella found her prince, but the fairy tale is over. Teen girls are now required to appear at the Annual Ball, where the men of the kingdom select wives based on a girl’s display of finery. If a suitable match is not found, the girls not chosen are never heard from again.

Sixteen-year-old Sophia would much rather marry Erin, her childhood best friend, than parade in front of suitors. At the ball, Sophia makes the desperate decision to flee, and finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s mausoleum. There, she meets Constance, the last known descendant of Cinderella and her step sisters. Together they vow to bring down the king once and for all–and in the process, they learn that there’s more to Cinderella’s story than they ever knew . . .

This fresh take on a classic story will make readers question the tales they’ve been told, and root for girls to break down the constructs of the world around them.

My Review

I think the thing that drew me to this story most was this idea that a culture could twist a fairy tale, particularly Cinderella’s story, until it actually became a reason to oppress women and remove their personhood.

Our relationships with fairy tales can be a bit complicated as it is. I know women who’ve rushed toward a wedding, thinking of it as this happily-ever-after moment without a lot of thought for what comes next. That seems to me like a model we’ve adopted from fairy tales, so I kind of liked reading this dystopian take on how a wedding ISN’T always a happily ever after.

All that aside, CINDERELLA IS DEAD was a super quick read. It’s a bit dark, between the twisted fairy tale story and some dark magic and violence. Sophie is brave and angry and incapable of giving up on the people she loves, and I love those things about her. She’s headstrong, kind of an “attack now, plan as I go” kind of girl.

I love Sophie, but there were times I wanted to see more emotional range from her. She stays super intense through so much of the story. Honestly, though, that intensity might have been what drove me through the book so quickly.

Something about the writing style and the setting reminded me a little bit of THE SELECTION series. It’s kind of the opposite in terms of the plot, but I think readers who liked the series for its strong-willed heroine and the marriage of romance and rebellion will definitely enjoy CINDERELLA IS DEAD.

Content Notes for Cinderella is Dead

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Sophie and two other characters are lesbians. Sophie meets a boy who’s gay. Sophie’s Black.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Strong profanity used around a dozen times.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between two girls.

Spiritual Content
A sorceress uses necromancy to raise the dead. Another character uses the lives of others to fuel their own power.

Violent Content – TRIGGER WARNING
Under King Manford, women have no rights and are treated like property. Their husbands have total authority over them, and can bring them to the castle as “forfeit” if they displease their husband or father. (This is pretty much a death sentence.)

Several scenes show bruised and injured women with the implication that their husband has harmed them. Some scenes show brief violence, and Sophie overhears a man attacking his wife in another room.

Sophie also consistently fears unwanted touches and advances, reacting angrily and sometimes violently if any man gets too close to her. It’s unclear whether this is the result of personal trauma or growing up in a culture which allows men to abuse women.

One woman is executed in a public square after being accused of a crime she did not commit.

Two women stab enemies.

Drug Content

Note: I received a free copy of CINDERELLA IS DEAD in exchange for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support the costs of running this blog.

August 2018 Monthly Wrap-Up and Bookish Conversations

Did you notice my new blog header?

This summer brought a lot of changes. Gabrielle is no longer blogging with me, but I wish her all the best with her own projects, and I really enjoyed having her as a part of The Story Sanctuary. Also, you may have noticed the new header and web icon images on the site. Yay for a fresh new look!

New tag line: Helping you find the right book for your reader.

Another big change is perhaps more subtle. Since I started writing reviews, the tag line of my blog was, “Young adult book reviews from a Christian world-view.” My goal has always been to write reviews of a broad range of books and include information that I, as a Christian parent, would want to know before passing the book on to young readers in my life.

I think, though, that the tag line leads people to assume that I’ll have certain views or only review certain books. It’s never been my desire to tell people what books they shouldn’t read. I’ve hoped to help inform readers about content and allow them to decide for themselves what’s appropriate or interesting.

Still a Believer

My faith is very much an important part of my life, and it will remain so. But I think I’ve been alienating readers who are looking for a more overtly Christian review as well as readers who have negative associations with the term “Christian world-view” and assume it means discrimination and judgement.

So, with all that in mind, I made a really difficult decision to change the tag line. I will still continue reviewing with the same focus: helping you find the right book for you or your reader.

What’s staying the same

My reviews will still include a content breakdown and cultural information about characters in the story. Specifically, the cultural breakdown is NOT meant to steer readers away from books because certain types of characters are represented. Rather, it’s meant to help readers from underrepresented groups find books whose characters represent them and to help readers looking for diverse literature to find it.

Diversity is super important to me. I believe literature helps us cultivate empathy for others by allowing us to imagine ourselves in someone else’s shoes, looking out through their eyes, experiencing their emotions. It’s certainly not a perfect education, but I do believe it helps. I know in my own life, reading diverse books has helped expose prejudices I’ve had often without ever thinking about them. It forces us to examine what we think in a way that our real day to day lives may insulate us from.

I’ll still continue to review Christian books as I always have, and I imagine my faith will come up here and there, because it’s part of me. I’m not looking to bury who I am. Rather, I’m hoping to be more transparent and less confusing.

At any rate, I’m hoping that going forward, The Story Sanctuary remains a welcoming space where we can share thoughts about books. I hope this blog helps you find books you had never heard of, and authors you come to love. That’s the greatest gift a book review blogger can get: knowing someone discovered a favorite book through your review of it.

August 2018 Monthly Wrap-Up

I’m going to do the wrap-up a little differently this time, too. Normally here’s where I’d list the reviews I’ve posted this month, but you can scroll through those on the home page, so rather than repeat them here, I’m going to do something different.

Bookish Conversations I Wish I Was Having: August 2018

Book I read in August 2018 that I’m most likely to reread: The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill. If you asked me before I read this book whether an author could make me love a swamp monster, I would have seriously doubted it. Kelly Barnhill proved me wrong.

Plus, I absolutely loved the theme about foster mothering. I straight-out bawled when Luna says about her relationship with her mothers that her love is not divided, it is multiplied. I really need somebody in my life to read this book so I can talk about it more!

Book I read in August 2018 that surprised me the most: Behind These Hands by Linda Vigen Phillips. I feel like reading a book from a publisher I’ve never worked with before and am not familiar with is often a gamble. I had no idea what to expect from this humbly packaged novel-in-verse. And wow.

The story and the power of the lines pretty much blew me away. You’ll probably keep hearing me talk about this one, because I just don’t think it’s getting the praise it deserves.

What book did you read this month that surprised you most?

Leave a comment and tell me about a book you read lately that surprised you.

Review: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

The Belles
Dhonielle Clayton
Published on February 6th, 2018

Amazon | Barnes & Noble Goodreads

About The Belles

Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.

But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orléans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.

With the future of Orléans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.

Gabrielle’s Review

I had heard so much hype about this book, that I decided I had to read it and see for myself. I would describe this book as a cupcake. Fairly bland fluff, with too-sweet, artificial-tasting frosting. I wanted this book to be as amazing as I’d heard, but unfortunately, it just didn’t live up to its hype.

The characters felt like puppets, and there was many interactions that felt forced. A lot of the conversations went like this:
“Hello, how are you?”
“I’m doing great. Just got some beauty work done.”
“Oh. Looks nice.”
“Why don’t you love it?!?”
“Because I don’t!!”
“I hate you!!”
“Me too!!”

And I’d be left wondering what in the world just happened. (Yes, this is highly exaggerated, but a lot of the dialogue felt just like this.) I really didn’t understand or connect to any of the characters because of the odd dialogue and how quickly things escalated. It just felt fake.

The plot wasn’t much better—things happened because they were supposed to, not because it was inevitable. I think part of what caused this was that the book seemed so agenda-driven. The story should come first, not the theme. It was very heavy-handed.

The one redeeming quality about this book was the world-building. It was gorgeous, and lush, and everything a magical setting should be. I loved learning about how it worked, and the society as a whole. The teacup animals were definitely my favorite part. I’m really hoping that the sequel(s) will give us a bigger picture of the what’s going on in their world.

Overall, I’m just relieved to be done with this one so I can move on to something more interesting. 2 stars out of 5.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 16 and up

Cultural Elements
Wide variety of skin tones and body shapes in this book, and nearly all are portrayed as being beautiful (overweight villain characters the main exception). The main character is described as having brown skin. Includes the normalization of homosexual and transgender characters as follows: a handful of mentions of homosexual relationships, a headline mentioning a transgender character, one courtier is in love with her lady’s maid, the queen has a mistress, and another character is hinted at being transgender. 

Profanity/Crude Language Content
None that I can recall.

Romance/Sexual Content
One attempted rape. Characters kiss (with and without tongue), semi-described, including homosexual characters. Characters are unclothed for beauty work. Breast sizes and shapes are discussed.

Spiritual Content
The goddess of beauty is frequently mentioned and referred to. The Belles’ power is attributed to her. There is also a god of the sky mentioned.

Violent Content
Characters are poisoned, and symptoms are described in detail. One graphic death. Disturbing descriptions of cruelty. Injuries and attacks. The Belles use leeches to reset their talents.

Drug Content
Graphic poisonings. Bei powder is sprinkled on characters undergoing beauty work. They also drink a Belle-rose tea, an anesthetic.

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Top Ten Diverse Reads

Top Ten Tuesday is a Weekly Meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s theme is top ten books which are outside the normal scope of what we read. I am pretty territorial about my reading time, so I pretty much stick to young adult and middle grade fiction with a few nonfiction books thrown in for sanity sake. This made the topic was a little tough for me. One of the things I’ve realized over the last year or so is that sometimes I need to be purposeful about choosing books with narrators who are different than me. Whether that means different in terms of race, gender, identity, or experience. Here are ten books that I really enjoyed in which the narrator and I, though we share many other qualities, have some obvious differences.

Top Ten Diverse Reads

  1. Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson – This novel in poetry captured me immediately. I loved the lyrical feel of the lines and Lonnie gripped my heart right away. My full review here.
  2. Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt – I loved the way Marquardt made me see the life of an immigrant family from the inside. The story challenged some ideas I’d had and made me reevaluate them. Definitely the mark of a good book, in my opinion. My full review here.
  3. Because You’ll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas – Moritz, a blind boy with supernatural ability to hear his surroundings, pretty much had me at hello. I couldn’t help being drawn into his tragic story and hoping for him to find his way through it. My full review here.
  4. This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp – This one was a tough read for me. It’s about a school shooting and revolves through the point-of-view of several characters connected to the shooter. Nijkamp fills the pages with a large, diverse cast of characters and manages to make each seem real and authentic. This is a must-read for anyone looking for stories with that kind of diversity. Read my full review.
  5. On a Clear Day by Walter Dean Myers – This is another story with a diverse cast of characters. Myers is an author I’ve been really wanting to read more. I read several reviews claiming this isn’t his best work, but I enjoyed the story. My review.
  6. Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman – If you follow Children’s Literature at all, you don’t need me to tell you how amazing this book is. I was blown away by how cleverly the story is put together and how heartbreaking it is to watch it unfold. If you haven’t read it, seriously, grab a copy now. It’s incredible. Read my review.
  7. Sold by Patricia McCormick – This was another tough read. It’s about a young girl raised in an impoverished town in Nepal whose family sells her into prostitution. Though the horrors of her life are not much described in the story, it’s easy to imagine what it’s like for girls who truly do live this life.  My review here.
  8. Wonder by R. J. Palacio – If you’ve been around The Story Sanctuary long, you’ve probably heard me talk about how much I love this book. It was so good that when I finished, I immediately bought copies for other people. Every character leaped right into my heart, Auggie not least of all. So good. My review.
  9. Blue Gold by Elizabeth Stewart – This is a recent read. I loved the way Stewart humanized the plight of so many nameless refugees and factory workers overseas. I never felt preached at. Instead, it was like opening a window and looking into lives so different than my own. Read my review here.
  10. Li Jun and the Iron Road by Anne Tait – I suppose in more ways than one, this book was outside my usual go-to read. It’s a historical tale, which I’m not in any way opposed to, I’m just more often drawn to contemporary or fantasy stories. I liked that it gave me a window into history that I really didn’t know much about before picking up the book. It’s about the construction of the railroad in Canada. My husband and I visited Vancouver as part of our honeymoon trip, and I would love to go back to that area and learn more about it. This book only helped fuel that fire. My review.