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Spotlighting: Las Musas!

Have you heard of Las Musas?

Directly quoting their page, it’s ‘a group of women and non-binary Latinx MG and YA authors to come together in an effort to support and amplify each other’s debut or sophomore novels in US children’s literature.

Our collective includes Hilda Burgos, Jennifer (J.C.) Cervantes, Mary Louise Sanchez, Tami Charles, Ann Davila Cardinal, Natasha Davis, Mia García, Isabel Ibañez, Sara Faring, Tehlor Kay Mejia, Anna Meriano, Nina Moreno, Maika Moulite, Maritza Moulite, Claribel Ortega, Emma Otheguy, Kristina (K.K.) Perez, Laura Pohl, Nonieqa Ramos, Michelle Ruiz Keil, Yamile Saied Méndez, Aida Salazar, and Alexandra Villasante. Our MG or YA books will be released between 2018 – 2020.’

I came upon them when I won two pre-orders on Twitter of Las Musas authors, one from Natasha Díaz, who ran the contest, and the other from Tehlor Kay Mejia. I decided to spotlight them both in this post and also to point out Las Musas, should you be interested in picking up more Diverse Reads and supporting Latinx authors. ❤

Also, I just want to note, ‘YA’ is just a title. A good book is a good book. Don’t limit yourself if you’re not the ‘targeted’ audience. I’m 32. I don’t think I count as a young adult anymore, but the caliber of these books are outstanding. Don’t sell yourself short.

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Color Me In

Who is Nevaeh Levitz?

Growing up in an affluent suburb of New York City, sixteen-year-old Nevaeh Levitz never thought much about her biracial roots. When her Black mom and Jewish dad split up, she relocates to her mom’s family home in Harlem and is forced to confront her identity for the first time.

Nevaeh wants to get to know her extended family, but one of her cousins can’t stand that Nevaeh, who inadvertently passes as white, is too privileged, pampered, and selfish to relate to the injustices they face on a daily basis as African Americans. In the midst of attempting to blend their families, Nevaeh’s dad decides that she should have a belated bat mitzvah instead of a sweet sixteen, which guarantees social humiliation at her posh private school. Even with the push and pull of her two cultures, Nevaeh does what she’s always done when life gets complicated: she stays silent.

It’s only when Nevaeh stumbles upon a secret from her mom’s past, finds herself falling in love, and sees firsthand the prejudice her family faces that she begins to realize she has a voice. And she has choices. Will she continue to let circumstances dictate her path? Or will she find power in herself and decide once and for all who and where she is meant to be?

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Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Indiebound

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Natasha Díaz is a born and raised New Yorker, currently residing in Oakland, Ca with her tall husband. She spends most of her days writing with no pants on and alternating between E.R. and Grey’s Anatomy binges. Formerly a reality TV producer, Natasha is both an author and screenwriter. Her scripts have placed as a quarterfinalist in the Austin Film Festival and a finalist for both the NALIP Diverse Women in Media Fellowship and the Sundance Episodic Story Lab. Her essays can be found in The Establishment and Huffington Post. Raised by a first generation half-Liberian/half-Brazilian mother and a Jewish-American father, Natasha writes stories about people who don’t fit into the boxes society imposes, and instead, create their own as they search for their places in the world. Her first novel, Color Me In, will be published by Delacorte Press/Random House August 2019.

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WE SET THE DARK ON FIRE…

At the Medio School for Girls, distinguished young women are trained for one of two roles in their polarized society. Depending on her specialization, a graduate will one day run her husband’s household or raise his children, but both wives are promised a life of comfort and luxury, far removed from the frequent political uprisings of the lower class.

Daniela Vargas is the school’s top student, but her bright future depends upon no one discovering her darkest secret—that her pedigree is a lie. Her parents sacrificed everything to obtain forged identification papers so Dani could rise above her station. Now that her marriage to an important politico’s son is fast approaching, she must keep the truth hidden or be sent back to the fringes of society, where famine and poverty rule supreme.

On her graduation night, Dani seems to be in the clear, despite the surprises that unfold, but nothing prepares her for the difficult choices she must make, especially when she is asked to spy for a resistance group desperately fighting to bring equality to Medio. Will Dani give up everything she’s strived for in pursuit of a free Medio—and a chance at forbidden love?

The first in a sizzling fantasy duology from debut author Tehlor Kay Mejia, We Set the Dark on Fire is a boldly feminist look at freedom, family, and fighting the power.

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HarperCollins | Amazon | B&N | IndieBound | Books-A-Million

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Tehlor Kay Mejia is an author and Oregon native in love with the alpine meadows and evergreen forests of her home state, where she lives with her daughter. When she’s not writing, you can find her plucking at her guitar, stealing rosemary sprigs from overgrown gardens, or trying to make the perfect vegan tamale. She is active in the Latinx lit community, and passionate about representation for marginalized teens in media.

Her short fiction appears in the All Out and Toil & Trouble anthologies from Inkyard Press, and her debut YA fantasy novel, We Set the Dark on Fire, is out February 26, 2019, from Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins with a sequel to follow in 2020. Her middle-grade fantasy debut, Paola Santiago and the Drowned Palace, is forthcoming from Rick Riordan Presents/Disney Hyperion.

You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @tehlorkay.

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The Resolutions: A Spotlight.

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I won this on Twitter and I’m over the moon to share with you guys. This looks like a book I am absolutely going to be in love with. Thank you so much, Mia, for the amazing Swag–this is my first time getting real book swag! ❤ Untitled-a1a
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  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
  • Pub Date: November 13, 2018

A heart-expanding novel about four Latinx teens who make New Year’s resolutions for one another—and the whirlwind of a year that follows. Fans of Erika L. Sánchez and Emery Lord will fall for this story of friendship, identity, and the struggle of finding yourself when all you want is to start over.

From hiking trips to four-person birthday parties to never-ending group texts, Jess, Lee, Ryan, and Nora have always been inseparable. But now with senior year on the horizon, they’ve been growing apart. And so, as always, Jess makes a plan.

Reinstating their usual tradition of making resolutions together on New Year’s Eve, Jess adds a new twist: instead of making their own resolutions, the four friends assign them to one another—dares like kiss someone you know is wrong for you, find your calling outside your mom’s Puerto Rican restaurant, finally learn Spanish, and say yes to everything.

But as the year unfolds, Jess, Lee, Ryan, and Nora each test the bonds that hold them together. And amid first loves, heartbreaks, and life-changing decisions, beginning again is never as simple as it seems.Untitled-1b
“In a novel full of heart, Mia García has captured the tenuous lives of young people with a beautiful examination of friendships. Emotional and honest, The Resolutionsconfirms García’s spot as contemporary YA’s exciting new talent.” (Lilliam Rivera, author of The Education of Margot Sanchez)

★ “Riveting and heartrending. This celebration of Latinx culture and the power of a community to create healing and growth is recommended as a first purchase.” (School Library Journal (starred review))

“[This story] explores heartbreak, family commitments, dreams, friendship, and other familiar adolescent challenges with authentic sensitivity.” (Publishers Weekly)

“A warm, comforting story of identity and self-discovery.” (ALA Booklist)Untitled-1

INDIEBOUND || AMAZON|| B&N ||BOOKS A MILLION

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M. García was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She moved to New York where she studied creative writing at The New School, worked in publishing, and lived under a pile of to-be-read books. She is the author of Even If the Sky Falls and The Resolutions from Katherine Tegen books (an imprint of HarperCollins). You can find her at http://www.mgarciawrites.com.

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Double Spotlight!

unnamedIn the summer of 1942, Danny Hardy bails out of his fighter plane into a remote region of western China. With multiple injuries, malaria, and Japanese troops searching for him, the American pilot’s odds of survival are slim.

Jasmine Bai, an art student who has been saved by Americans during the notorious Nanking Massacre, seems an unlikely heroine to rescue the wounded Flying Tiger. Daisy Bai, Jasmine’s younger cousin, also falls in love with the courageous American.

With the help of Daisy’s brother, an entire village opens its arms to heal a Flying Tiger with injured wings, but as a result of their charity, the serenity of their community is forever shattered.

Love, sacrifice, kindness, and bravery all play a part in this heroic tale that takes place during one of the darkest hours of Chinese history.

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Amazon  || Open Books

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unnamed (1)In 1942, Birch Bai, a Chinese pilot, and Danny Hardy, a downed American pilot, become sworn brothers and best friends.

In the summer of 1945, both airmen’s planes go down in Yunnan Province of China during one of many daring missions. They are captured, imprisoned, and tortured by the Japanese for information about the atomic bomb. Just days before the end of WWII, Danny makes an irrevocable decision to save Birch’s life.

For Birch, surviving the war is only the beginning of the battle. He must deal with the dreadful reality in China—the civil war, the separation of the country, the death of one friend in the Communist-controlled Mainland and another under the Nationalist government, and his wrongful imprisonment in Taiwan.

From Chungking to Yunnan, and from Taiwan to San Francisco, the sequel to Wings of a Flying Tiger takes readers along on an epic journey.

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Open Books (pre-order)

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Iris Yang (Qing Yang) was born and raised in China. She’s loved reading and writing since she was a child, but in China, creative writing was a dangerous career. As famous writers and translators, her grandmother and her aunt were wrongfully accused as Counter-Revolutiounnamednary Rightists, so Iris had to choose a safer path—studying science. After graduating from Wuhan University and passing a series of exams, she was accepted by the prestigious CUSBEA (China-United States Biochemistry Examination and Application program). At age 23, with poor English, little knowledge of the country, and 500 borrowed dollars, she came to the United States as a graduate student at the University of Rochester.

Later, she received a Ph.D. in molecular biology and worked at the University of North Carolina. Although she’s published a number of scientific papers, she has a passion for creative writing, and her short stories have won contests and have been published in anthologies. Currently, Iris is working on a story based on her grandmother, who was the first Chinese woman to receive a master’s degree in Edinburgh in the UK. Besides writing, Iris loves hiking, dancing, photography, travel, and she had a private pilot license.

Author website: https://www.irisyang-author.com/
Twitter: @IrisYang86351
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Ching27517

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Guest Post: Iris Yang

unnamedWings of a Flying Tiger is a heroic tale in which ordinary Chinese risked their lives to rescue and safeguard a downed American pilot in WWII in China. It is a work of fiction. But to me, a Chinese-American, it is also personal.

My mother and grandma had lived in Nanking and escaped from the city just days before the Nanking Massacre when the Japanese soldiers slaughtered 300,000 innocent Chinese and raped 20,000 women in six weeks. Both my mother’s and father’s families fled to Chungking, where Japanese frequently bombed the wartime capital. My father told me the repulsive smell of burning flesh, and as a young child, he had nightmares about the raids for several years. A good friend’s father drowned when the Japanese attacked his boat; even unable to swim, he jumped into the Yangtze River to avoid being blasted. A Japanese friend sincerely apologized for the atrocities her fellow countrymen had committed. She knew a former soldier who forced naked Chinese women to march with them to bring up their morale.

China was an isolated country while I was growing up. We were told that the American soldiers were crude and coward. I didn’t read anything about the Flying Tigers, a group of American volunteer pilots who helped China fight Japan in WWII until I came to the States. I was touched once I learned the truth. And the more I read, the more I was touched. I wanted to thank the Flying Tigers. What is a better way to show my gratitude than writing a book about them?

As a Chinese, I’m thankful for the Flying Tigers’ bravery and sacrifice; without their help, the course of the Chinese history might have been changed, my family might not have survived, and I might not have existed. As a U.S. citizen, I’m honored to write a book about the American heroes. It’s a privilege. A duty.

But writing historical fiction in English wasn’t easy for me.

Born and raised in China, I learned English as a foreign language in school. The learning was limited and sometimes even wrong. I came to the U.S. in my early twenties as a graduate student for a career in science.

My first English “teacher” in the U.S. was TV. I didn’t even know the concept of the commercial. I thought accidentally I touched the remote control or there was something wrong with the TV when a program suddenly jumped to unrelated subjects. In

China, at the time, there were two stations, broadcasting from 6pm to 10pm. There was no commercial. It took me a while to figure out what was going on.

Growing up in a family of professors, I’ve always loved reading. Even before I was born, my parents and grandparents had bought tons of books for me. During the Cultural Revolution, however, Red Guards took most of them away. I read the very few books left behind over and over and traded books with friends. There weren’t many books available—libraries were closed, bookstores had nothing except political works.

My hometown, Wuhan, is one of the “Three Furnaces” in China. We had no air conditioning or electric fans. In the summer evenings, we sat outside. Surround by neighboring kids, my father told us lots of stories—Chinese and Western classics. Romance of the Three Kingdom, The Monkey King, The Great General Yue Fei, Sherlock Holmes, Spartacus, Robinson Crusoe… His words took me all around the world, and I fell in love with literatures.

But creative writing was a dangerous career in China. As famous writers, my grandmother and aunt were wrongfully accused as Counter-Revolutionary Rightists. I had to choose science—a safer path. Fiction writing was only a faraway dream; writing it in English was beyond my wildest dream.

I started “writing,” not because I wanted to write any books, but because I desperately needed help. I was a very negative person in an unhappy marriage, and I tried hard to change the situation. One book I read said that if you keep writing down five positive things a day, in twenty-one days you can change your negative thoughts.

So I jotted down five positive things a day. It started with words or simple phrases. In time, words became sentences; sentences turned into paragraphs; paragraphs grew into pages. All positive. I didn’t change in twenty-one days. It took me two years. But the end result is remarkable. I’m no longer a negative person.

The “side effects” of this practice? I started writing short stories, then novels.

Writing changed my life!

I learned fiction writing by reading lots of books. When I wrote my novels, I’m sure I spent more time than most people. I had to check two dictionaries—Chinese to English and English to Chinese. Even so, no matter how hard I tried, I still made grammatical mistakes. That frustrated me. There were plenty of times that I laughed and scolded myself for being so stubborn to embark on this journey that seemed almost impossible to succeed. Nowadays, so many people write; everyone has an advantage over me.

I wish I’d grown up speaking English. I wish I’d had a proper education or training. Since I can’t change the past, I just have to work harder.

Writing this book made me a better person. I learned that I could do the “impossible,” and dreams do come true when one works hard enough.

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We Hunt The Flame. [2019 Release]

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  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
  • Publish Date: May 14, 2019

People lived because she killed.
People died because he lived.

Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the king. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways.

Both are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya—but neither wants to be.

War is brewing in Arawiya, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the king on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds—and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.

Set in a richly detailed world inspired by ancient Arabia, WE HUNT THE FLAME is a gripping story of discovery, conquering fear, and taking identity into your own hands.

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“Hafsah Faizal’s voice is not one that simply speaks, but sings across the page. WE HUNT THE FLAME is a spellbinding tale filled with deception, political intrigue, and atmosphere that lives and breathes—I am obsessed with this story.” – Kerri Maniscalco, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author

“A sparkling debut, full of mystery and magic, vivid characters and rich language.” – Roshani Chokshi, New York Times Bestselling Author

“Beautiful storytelling, mesmerizing settings, and fiery characters—WE HUNT THE FLAME is danger, magic, and hope all wrapped into one, and it is intoxicating.” – Evelyn Skye, New York Times bestselling author of The Crown’s Game series

“In her incredible debut, Hafsah Faizal has crafted a whirlwind Arabian-inspired fantasy, filled with heart-stopping twists; powerful friendships; a steamy well-developed romance; and lyrical prose that left me breathless. Fans of City of Brass or Children of Blood & Bonewill devour this tale that left me with my jaw on the floor, distressed that the story was over.” – Shauna Sinyard, bookseller at Park Road Books

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Amazon || Indie Bound || Books A Million || Barnes & Noble

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Hafsah Faizal
 is an American Muslim and brand designer. She’s the founder of IceyDesigns, where she creates websites for authors and beauteous goodies for everyone else. When she’s not writing, she can be found dreaming up her next design, deciding between Assassin’s Creed and Skyrim, or traversing the world. Born in Florida and raised in California, she now resides in Texas with her family and a library of books waiting to be devoured. WE HUNT THE FLAME is her first novel. hafsahfaizal.com

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The Storyteller’s Secret {Review}

51gc3g1ssxlThis was a very interesting read. I have to say that whilst I couldn’t always relate to Jaya’s struggles, I still liked her as the main character and I found her interesting. I loved how vivid the scenery was written and I liked how the characters seemingly came to life. Whilst not as lively as some books, it did well for this one. Whilst there are occasional moments where it’s emotional, it isn’t very overwhelming. You’ll be able to read through. However, Jaya is on her third miscarriage, so if that is a trigger, you may want to be wary.

The author is stunningly talented. I found that to be very apparent. Yet, I still found myself wanting. You know when something doesn’t quite click for you? That was this. I just couldn’t get into it 100%, I felt like Ms. Badani was holding back. I wish she hadn’t because I wanted that emotional read that was going to leave me reeling. I wanted to get lost entirely. Yet, I did not. But I still enjoyed myself, I enjoyed the story.

We get to see a journey of personal growth for Jaya and as I get older, I feel that way. I did relate there. I wonder who I am? What am I? I think it’s wonderful to be able to search and find oneself, or a portion of oneself.

My biggest complaints would be, I couldn’t really gauge the time frame. Were we in the present day? Because even though Jaya is a blogger, she makes it seem like no one has cell phones. Even in poor countries, people seem to have them. She also makes mentions of scarves that’d sell in the states for hundreds of dollars, selling for 5 or 10 rupees. That doesn’t sound correct to me, but I don’t know. I could be wrong.

Another mention that had me scratching my head was when Jaya’s grandmother brought someone from the ‘untouchable’ caste into her home…and no one freaked out. The castes, from what I understand, are very much respected and you don’t cross them. But again, I could be wrong. I’d welcome being corrected.

The ending of the book was pretty predictable, but if you like that, that is all for you. It disappointed me slightly but I still enjoyed it overall.

  • I’d give it ★★★ stars.
  • I received this in exchange for an honest review.
  • I might recommend this to a friend.