Review | Color Outside the Lines

This modern, groundbreaking YA anthology explores the complexity and beauty of interracial and LGBTQ+ relationships where differences are front and center.

When people ask me what this anthology is about, I’m often tempted to give them the complicated answer: it’s about race, and about how being different from the person you love can matter but how it can also not matter, and it’s about Chinese pirate ghosts, black girl vigilantes, colonial India, a flower festival, a garden of poisons, and so, so much else. Honestly, though? I think the answer’s much simpler than that. Color outside the Lines is a collection of stories about young, fierce, brilliantly hopeful people in love. —Sangu Mandanna, editor of Color outside the Lines

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I was so excited when I saw this anthology because as someone in an interracial relationship it’s sometimes hard to find representations or normalizing of it. It was far more than I expected because so many of the stories contained important conversations not just about interracial or LGTBQ+ relationships, but also conversations about the issues that are current when discussing those relationships, race and culture in general. I certainly enjoyed some stories more than others, but there weren’t any stories that I disliked.

Turn the Sky to Petals by Anna-Marie McLemore – 4 stars
Prom by Danielle Paige – 3 stars
What We Love by Lauren Gibaldi – 4 stars
Giving Up the Ghost by Tarun Shanker & Kelly Zekas – 4 stars
Your Life Matters by L.L. McKinney – 4 stars
Starlight and Moondust by Lori M. Lee – 5 stars
Five Times Shiva Met Harry by Sangu Mandanna – 3 stars
The Agony of a Heart’s Wish by Samira Ahmed – 3 stars
The Coward’s Guide to Falling in Love by Caroline Tung Richmond – 3 stars
Death & the Maiden by Tara Sim – 3 stars
Faithfull by Karuna Riazi – 3 stars
Gilman Street by Michelle Ruiz Keil – 3 stars
“The Boy Is” by Elsie Chapman – 4 stars
Sandwiched in Between by Eric Smith – 5 stars
Yuna & the Wall by Lydia Kang – 3 stars
Something Gay & Magical by Adam Silvera – 4 stars

Happy reading!

Review | Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean

Be transported into dystopian cities and other-worldly societies. Be amazed and beguiled by a nursery story with a reverse twist, a futuristic take on TV cooking shows, a playscript with tentacles – and more, much more. Plunge in and enjoy!

A collection of sci-fi and fantasy writing, including six graphic stories, showcasing twenty stellar writers and artists from India and Australia: Isobelle Carmody, Penni Russon, Justine Larbalestier, Margo Lanagan, Lily Mae Martin, Kuzhali Manickavel, Prabha Mallya, Annie Zaidi, Kate Constable, Vandana Singh, Mandy Ord, Priya Kuriyan, Manjula Padmanabhan, Samhita Arni, Alyssa Brugman, Nicki Greenberg and Amruta Patil. 

Rating: 3 out of 5.

After reading the concept of this anthology and some of the things that contributed towards it I was really excited to pick it up. Many of the stories did tackle important issues such as how girls/women are treated and viewed, climate change and what it could do to our planet, death and more. While there were no stories in this anthology that I disliked, there weren’t any that blew me away either. Many of them were impactful and fun, with clear purpose. I did also really enjoy the stories told in graphic form that were sprinkled into the collection as it was nice to have a bit of a mixed media feel to it.

Cat Calls – 4 stars
Swallow the Moon – 3 stars
Little Red Suit – 3 stars
Cooking Time – 4 stars
Anarkali – 3 stars
Cast Out – 4 stars
Weft – 4 stars
The Wednesday Room – 3 stars
Cool – 3 stars
Appetite – 3 stars
Mirror Perfect – 4 stars
Arctic Light – 4 stars
The Runners – 3 stars
The Blooming – 2 stars
What a Stone Can’t Feel – 4 stars
Memory Lace – 3 stars
Back Stage Pass – 4 stars

Happy reading!

Review | Come On In

This exceptional and powerful anthology explores the joys, heartbreaks and triumphs of immigration, with stories by bestselling and beloved YA authors who are themselves immigrants and the children of immigrants.

WELCOME

From some of the most exciting bestselling and up-and-coming YA authors writing today…journey from Ecuador to New York City and Argentina to Utah, from Australia to Harlem and India to New Jersey, from Fiji, America, Mexico and more… Come On In.

With characters who face random traffic stops, TSA detention, customs anxiety, and the daunting and inspiring journey to new lands, who camp with their extended families, dance at weddings, keep diaries, teach ESL, give up their rooms for displaced family, decide their own answer to the question “where are you from?” and so much more, Come On In illuminates fifteen of the myriad facets of the immigrant experience.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I was really excited when I saw this one pop up and felt that the subject matter was very timely – especially with certain political issues in the US. This collection contains perspectives from a wide range of cultures and races regarding what immigration looks and feels like for them. It really explores what people are forced to consider, the risks they are forced to take and more when attempting to enter a new country, or when living as an immigrant. Some stories also tackled some race issues which add further layers to the conversation.

I found this collection very poignant, even if I didn’t “love” every story. Each one had something important to say and that really was the impact of the collection. My personal ratings of the stories is below – but I want to emphasize that even though each story may not have been for me, I felt all of them were important.

All the Colors of Goodbye by Nafiza Azad – 4 stars
The Wedding by Sara Farizan – 5 stars
Where I’m From by Misa Sugiura – 4 stars
Salvation & the Sea by Lilliam Rivera – 3 stars
Volviemdome by Alaya Dawn Johnson – 3 stars
The Trip by Sona Charaipotra – 4 stars
The Curandera & the Alchemist by Maria E. Andreu – 4 stars
A Bigger Tent by Maurene Goo – 4 stars
First Words by Varsha Bajaj – 4 stars
Family Everything by Yamile Saied Mendez – 5 stars
When I was White by Justine Larbalestier – 3 stars
From Golden State by Isabel Quintero – 2 stars
Hard to Say by Sharon Morse – 5 stars
Confessions of an Ecuadorkian by Zoraida Cordova – 4 stars
Fleeing, Leaving, Moving by Adi Alsaid – 4 stars

Happy reading!

Review | Rejected Princesses: Tales of History’s Boldest Heroines, Hellions & Heretics by Jason Porath

An entertaining mix of biography, imagery, and humor written in a fresh, young, and riotous voice, this thoroughly researched exploration salutes these awesome women drawn from both historical and fantastical realms, including real life, literature, mythology, and folklore. Each profile features an eye-catching image of both heroic and villainous women in command from across history and around the world, from a princess-cum-pirate in fifth century Denmark, to a rebel preacher in 1630s Boston, to a bloodthirsty Hungarian countess, and a former prostitute who commanded a fleet of more than 70,000 men on China’s seas.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I really enjoy the trend of books coming out that specifically calls out extraordinary women, or women who took charge of their lives in a time that they were not expected to. This was the first of those books I had seen, so I was excited when I received it as a gift. It’s the perfect type of book to pick up and read a story here or there, which is how I read most of it.

I really appreciate the fact that each story comes with content warnings which are explained at the beginning of the book. Not only specific warnings of types of content, but each story has a maturity level. This is great if you might be sharing some of the stories with children.

Also of note are the footnotes, some of which are serious and a good info dump and some of which are hilarious. I really felt this collection was a great introduction to some rebellious women in the past and the author’s writing style perfectly fit the stories he was telling.

Happy reading!

Highly Anticipated Releases | Anthologies

Anyone who knows me knows that one of my favorite things to read are short story collections/anthologies. Now, I already have a pile on my TBR that I need to read, but that doesn’t stop me from hearing about upcoming ones and immediately wanting them – so I thought I would share a few of the ones I’m really excited about.

Come On In: 15 Stories about Immigration and Finding Home – From some of the most exciting bestselling and up-and-coming YA authors writing today…journey from Ecuador to New York City and Argentina to Utah…from Australia to Harlem and India to New Jersey…from Fiji, America, Mexico and more… Come On In.

With characters who face random traffic stops, TSA detention, customs anxiety, and the daunting and inspiring journey to new lands…who camp with their extended families, dance at weddings, keep diaries, teach ESL…who give up their rooms for displaced family, decide their own answer to the question “where are you from?” and so much more… Come On In illuminates fifteen of the myriad facets of the immigrant experience, from authors who have been shaped by the journeys they and their families have taken from home—and to find home.

Vampires Never Get Old: Tales with Fresh Bite – In this delicious new collection, you’ll find stories about lurking vampires of social media, rebellious vampires hungry for more than just blood, eager vampires coming out―and going out for their first kill―and other bold, breathtaking, dangerous, dreamy, eerie, iconic, powerful creatures of the night.

Welcome to the evolution of the vampire―and a revolution on the page.

Vampires Never Get Old includes stories by authors both bestselling and acclaimed, including Samira Ahmed, Dhonielle Clayton, Zoraida Córdova and Natalie C. Parker, Tessa Gratton, Heidi Heilig, Julie Murphy, Mark Oshiro, Rebecca Roanhorse, Laura Ruby, Victoria “V. E.” Schwab, and Kayla Whaley.

A Universe of Wishes: A We Need Diverse Books Anthology – In the fourth collaboration with We Need Diverse Books, fifteen award-winning and celebrated diverse authors deliver stories about a princess without need of a prince, a monster long misunderstood, memories that vanish with a spell, and voices that refuse to stay silent in the face of injustice. This powerful and inclusive collection contains a universe of wishes for a braver and more beautiful world.

AUTHORS INCLUDE: Samira Ahmed, Jenni Balch, Libba Bray, Dhonielle Clayton, Zoraida Córdova, Tessa Gratton, Kwame Mbalia, Anna-Marie McLemore, Tochi Onyebuchi, Mark Oshiro, Natalie C. Parker, Rebecca Roanhorse, V. E. Schwab, Tara Sim and Nic Stone.

Are any of these on your radar? What are you looking forward to?

Happy reading!

Review | Robots Vs. Fairies

A unique anthology of all-new stories that challenges authors to throw down the gauntlet in an epic genre battle and demands an answer to the age-old question: Who is more awesome—robots or fairies?

Rampaging robots! Tricksy fairies! Facing off for the first time in an epic genre death match!

People love pitting two awesome things against each other. Robots vs. Fairies is an anthology that pitches genre against genre, science fiction against fantasy, through an epic battle of two icons.

On one side, robots continue to be the classic sci-fi phenomenon in literature and media, from Asimov to WALL-E, from Philip K. Dick to Terminator. On the other, fairies are the beloved icons and unquestionable rulers of fantastic fiction, from Tinkerbell to Tam Lin, from True Blood to Once Upon a Time. Both have proven to be infinitely fun, flexible, and challenging. But when you pit them against each other, which side will triumph as the greatest genre symbol of all time?

There can only be one…or can there?

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Anthologies are one of my favorite things to read and this one has been on my ‘currently reading’ stack for quite a while, so I’m super happy to have finished. While there wasn’t really any stories that I didn’t enjoy, there were a lot that were just ok. Entertaining and enjoyable, but didn’t blow me away. I did enjoy the back and forth, plus the letters from each author about their stance and a little more about their stories, but I just found myself really wanting more, and there were a few stories that took me way too long to read. All in all, it was definitely a fun read and there were a few stories that were stand outs for me.

Here’s a full breakdown of how I felt about each story-

Build Me a Wonderland by Seanan McGuire – 4 stars
Quality Time by Ken Liu – 3 stars
Murmured Under the Moon by Tim Pratt – 4 stars
The Blue Fairy’s Manifesto by Annalee Newitz – 3 stars
Bread & Milk by Sarah Gailey – 2.5 stars
Ironheart by Jonathon Maberry – 3 stars
Just Another Love Song by Kat Howard – 4 stars
Sound & Fury by Mary Robinette – 3 stars
The Bookcase Expedition by Jeffrey Ford – 3 stars
Work Shadow/Shadow Work by Madeline Ashby – 3 stars
Second to the Left & Straight On by Jim C. Hines – 3 stars
The Buried Giant by Lavie Tidhar – 3 stars
Three Robots Experience Objects by John Scalzi – 4 stars
Ostentation of Peacocks by Lila Bowen – 4 stars
All the Time We’ve Left to Spend by Alyssa Wong – 4 stars
Adriftica by Maria Dahvana Headley – 2 stars
To a Cloven Pine by Max Gladstone – 3 stars
A Fall Counts Anywhere by Catherynne M. Valente – 3 stars

Happy reading!

Blog Tour | Out Now | Review

A follow-up to the critically acclaimed All Out anthology, Out Now features seventeen new short stories from amazing queer YA authors. Vampires crash prom…aliens run from the government…a president’s daughter comes into her own…a true romantic tries to soften the heart of a cynical social media influencer…a selkie and the sea call out to a lost soul. Teapots and barbershops…skateboards and VW vans…Street Fighter and Ares’s sword: Out Now has a story for every reader and surprises with each turn of the page!

This essential and beautifully written modern-day collection features an intersectional and inclusive slate of authors and stories.

Buy Links | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Books-A-Million | AppleBooks | Google Play

I haven’t yet gotten the chance to read All Out, but after seeing glowing reviews for it, I had to read Out Now when I got the opportunity. While not every story was 5 stars, I enjoyed the anthology so much that I have to give it 5 stars for pure entertainment. It features so much diversity that’s presented as perfectly normal, which is always so refreshing. So many of the stories had elements that made me both laugh and cry and it was obvious that they all came from the heart, even if they happened to be humorous in nature.

Saundra Mitchell has been a phone psychic, a car salesperson, a denture deliverer and a layout waxer. She’s dodged trains, endured basic training and hitchhiked from Montana to California. She teaches herself languages, raises children and makes paper for fun. She is the author of Shadowed Summer and The Vespertine series, the upcoming novelization of The Prom musical, and the editor of Defy the Dark. She always picks truth; dare is too easy. Visit her online at http://www.saundramitchell.com.

Social Links
Author website: wwww.saundramitchell.com  
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Saundra-Mitchell/164136390442617
Twitter: @saundramitchell
Instagram: @smitchellbooks
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/52172088-out-now

Happy reading!

Review: The Red Coat

In these nine heart wrenching stories, Vidhipssa Mohan explores the lives of Indian women and the problems they face and have been facing through the ages. These women are caught between who they really are and what society expects them to be. The stories are poignant, suffused with joy, pain and suffering.

In the title story, “The Red Coat”, a young student understands the price you have to pay for your dreams when you come from poverty. In “Going Home”, a young girl understands what home really is. In “Noises”, the father of a young bride understands what it means to be a woman in the 18th century India.

In this collection the author tells the story of a number of different characters in varying situations, but always illustrating many of the challenges Indian women have faced in the past and continue to face today. It is obvious that some of these subjects are dear to the author as there is real life within some of the stories.

The writing was very simplistic at times and sometimes didn’t flow as well as I would have liked it to, but there were also some passages and paragraphs that were beautifully descriptive and had real emotion woven into them. This was especially evident in the moments when we are getting the internal thoughts of the characters.

Overall the collection was insightful and in some ways a heart wrenching read. It really was a glimpse into some of the struggles that not only Indian women but women in general can face.

Thank you again to the author for reaching out to me and giving me the opportunity to read her book. Happy reading!

Review: Grumpy Old Gods

What happens when gods wane, retire, or just decide they need a change of employment?

13 writers took up the challenge and let their imaginations run wild in this anthology that is nearly-always amusing, somewhat insightful, and completely irreverent as we imagine the gods of yore in retirement.

The premise of this book alone was able to interest me. Anything incorporating mythology will typically pique my interest, so when it was pitched to me as a short story collection with gods who are perhaps…past their prime.

I loved the hijinks that were detailed in the stories. Some stories were based on either one god within one mythology, while others had a lovely mix of different cultures and religions. So many of the stories ended up being hilarious as the gods had to cope with their retirement or advanced ages in worlds that perhaps didn’t worship them anymore.

I can’t think of any particular story that I didn’t enjoy, but there were definitely some that were absolute gems and left me laughing and thinking about them for a while afterwards.

Happy reading!

Review: Scream and Scream Again

Being an 80s/90s kid, I was ecstatic when I heard that a new anthology was being released by none other than R.L. Stine, full of scary stories.  I was determined to pick it up and make it one of my reads during October.  Scream and Scream Again is an anthology of 20 spooky stories that either begin or end with a scream – or both.

scream and scream againI was a little disappointed that none of the stories were truly scary, but I was entertained none the less.  Every story had a unique concept and setting.  These stories are definitely middle grade and are perfect to feed your Goosebumps or Are You Afraid of the Dark? cravings. While it wasn’t exactly what I expected, it was still enjoyable and a fun time.

Some of my favorite stories in the collection were Kamikaze Iguanas by Alison McMahan, Area Code 666 by Carter Wilson and The Unknown Patriot by Chris Grabenstein.

I hope this is just one in a long line of new stories and books from R.L. Stine.  For me this book was more nostalgic than anything else.  It took me back to the times when I read Fear Street and similar books as a teen.  Be sure to check it out if slightly spooky and funny stories are what you are looking for!

Happy reading!