Meljean Brook

Podcast #20: Diversifying the Shelves (Part 2) with Author Sarah Ockler & Blogger Racquel of The Book Barbies

Podcast #20: Diversifying the Shelves (Part 2) with Author Sarah Ockler & Blogger Racquel of The Book Barbies

We're super-thrilled to publish the second half of our discussion with author Sarah Ockler and Racquel, blogger from The Book Barbies, about diversifying our bookshelves, how writers can work to authentically represent people of color in their fiction and recommendations for books and authors that do this successfully. You can find the first half over here. 

In this half, we get down to the nitty-gritty and recommend some novels that really, in our eyes, get it right, and why. It's important to emphasize that this is most definitely not a comprehensive conversation--if anything, it's framing questions and talking about our personal experiences. We hope to continue to explore this topic in future episodes. If you'd like to be involved in a future podcast discussion on this subject, get in touch and let's talk.

 

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List-O-Rama: Beginner's Guide to Awesome WTFery

List-O-Rama: Beginner's Guide to Awesome WTFery

A couple of weeks ago, I detailed my favorite fictional Awesome WTFery. I love explosions, random ghosts and fake relationships with a possibly unhealthy passion. Much of my love of WTFery manifests itself in my movie and television watching, but it creeps into books too. 

Are you wanting to delve into a big of Awesome WTFery escapism? Here are a few I dare you not to secretly devour.

The Lux Novels by Jennifer L. Armentrout (Entangled Teen)

Why It's Awesome WTFery: Hot aliens live in West Virginia, hijinks ensue. 
Bonus Points: Sex-Positive YA; No Love Triangle

I just blew through the first three Lux novels by Jennifer L. Armentrout, and while I'm not normally ​one to be embarrassed by my reading, I'm not exactly proud of not being able to put these books down. The plot of these (marginally) sci-fi young adult urban fantasy romance series is incredibly absurd and has continuity issues, but damn... the plot just moves along at a swift clip and Armentrout manages to make the reader care about snarky teen book blogger Katy and her good-looking pain-in-the-ass alien neighbor Daemon. 

Amazon | Goodreads

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List-O-Rama: Eight Quickies

List-O-Rama: Eight Quickies

Let’s celebrate National Short Story Week with a few quick reads, shall we?

Admittedly, some of these are novellas, but since I’m pretty sure there’s not a National Novella Week (oh, hell, there probably is—there’s a week or day for everything), I’m defining “short story” liberally. There’s something very satisfying about a shorter read—I know I pick them up a lot in the time between Thanksgiving and New Years, because it’s a nice way to get some reading in in shorter hits. 

Shannon Stacey's Slow Summer Kisses - List-O-Rama: Quickies on Clear Eyes, Full Shelvs

Slow Summer Kisses by Shannon Stacey

This is one of my favorite of Shannon Stacey’s works (her other novellas, Mistletoe and Margaritas and Holiday Sparks are also super-fun), because while it’s short, it reads like a complete novel. It’s light, funny and very current in its themes—plus, it’s only a buck and a half right now. Check out my review here

AmazonGoodreads

Lynburn Legacy Short Stories - List-O-Rama: Quickies on Clear Eyes, Full Shelvs

Lynburn Legacy Short Stories by Sarah Rees Brennan

If you’re like me and freaking out over having to wait for Untold after reading Unspoken this year, these two short stories (free!) will help get you through these difficult times waiting for Untold’s release. I particularly liked The Spring Before I Met you, since it gives you a bit of insight into where Jared’s been. 

Download The Spring Before I Met You / The Summer Before I Met You / Goodreads

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List-O-Rama: Eleven Memorable Settings

List-O-Rama: Eleven Memorable Settings

I read two great blog posts this week about the idea of setting. 

The first was from the ladies at The Readventurer who put together a fantastic post about settings from books they’d most like to visit. There are some awesome ideas—though most of them terrify me because I am not adept at hand-to-hand combat (or any other combat, if I’m going to keep it real). The second great post about setting was from Molly Backes who wrote a guest post on Stacked about the importance of setting in contemporary young adult fiction

Both posts got me thinking about setting in books and what works for me and what doesn’t—and why some books have such memorable settings, sometimes even overshadowing the characters and plot. And my conclusion is that when setting is strong and memorable, the place almost serves as a character itself. Think about Dillon, Texas in the Greatest Television Show Ever aka Friday Night Lights. The characters would not be who they are if they didn’t live in Dillon—and when they leave Dillon, they’re transformed too (i.e., Tyra and Jason). 

Earlier this year, I went up to Seattle for an event featuring Stephanie Perkins, Gayle Forman and Nina LaCour. Stephanie said something that’s stuck with me, that (I’m paraphrasing) she thinks about character first, setting second and plot last. As a reader, that’s the order I think about books too. I can’t buy into a plot if the first two don’t work.

Here are a few books or series with memorable settings.

The Mercyverse - Mercy Thompson; Alpha  & Omega Series
Author: Patricia Briggs
Setting: Pacific Northwest (Tri-Cities, Washington) & Rural Montana

I love the world Patricia Briggs created over seven Mercy Thompson books, numerous graphic novels and three books in the spinoff Alpha & Omega series. What strikes me most is that Briggs has taken a very ordinary place and made it quite extraordinary with an eery underworld. When the books shift to Montana for the Alpha & Omega series, the deep cold woods of the region looms large. 

 

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