In an interview with The Guardian, James discussed his “frustratingly middle class” upbringing as the son of police detectives in Jamaica. Despite being kept relatively safe from the turbulent social climate in Jamaica at the time, James did not fare too well in school, called names by the other students, and spending much time alone.
“My teenage years before college, I spent pretty much all of my time in my bedroom. I spent so much time there that my neighbours thought I did high school in America. I’d go to class, then I’d disappear. I’d just basically come home to eat dinner, sleep, draw comics.”
Image via Amazon.
His lack of success socially made certain comics, like X-Men, resonate with him. “They’re outcasts,” he says, “they’re outsiders, they’re disliked by a world that they’re still a part of. Even other heroes didn’t trust the X-Men. And that connected with me in a really, really major way.”
He goes on to explain that he “never read any of the foundational fantasy novels” as a child. “Those fantasy novels that you might have thought would be everywhere, like Dune and Lord of the Rings, really weren’t [in Jamaica]. I read whatever cheap crap got dumped on the third world. I didn’t have a community telling me, ‘Read this, read that.’ A lot of what I write about in terms of the fantastic I picked up from comics, particularly Marvel comics. And even that idea of a group of people banded together, which people think I got from Fellowship of the Ring, it’s more like X-Men or one of those anti-teams like Doom Patrol or Suicide Squad. Because comics were easier to get hold of than books.” `
It may be reassuring for any aspiring writers out there who feel like they don’t fit in, to know that even Man Booker prize winner and author of an incredible book, comparable to Game of Throne spent his teen years in his bedroom, in his own fantasy world!
Shockingly, it’s nearly March—by this point, we hope your 2019 isn’t turning out to be a 20-whine-teen. The good news is that if the real world’s been getting you down, a book can always offer the pleasant escape you might be looking for. (Embarking on a 20-wine-teen might accomplish the same, but you won’t be smarter by the end of it.) Some of these reads timeless picks; some are out-of-this-world, and others may take you on a journey to find your better self. Whether your preference is historical fiction, YA fantasy, or lighthearted literary fiction, these books may not improve your whole year… but they’ll improve your day every minute you’re reading them. Let’s take a look.
Our Hot Pick:
In the aftermath of war, the hunter becomes the hunted…
Bold, reckless Nina Markova grows up on the icy edge of Soviet Russia, dreaming of flight and fearing nothing. When the tide of war sweeps over her homeland, she gambles everything to join the infamous Night Witches, an all-female night bomber regiment wreaking havoc on Hitler’s eastern front. But when she is downed behind enemy lines and thrown across the path of a lethal Nazi murderess known as the Huntress, Nina must use all her wits to survive.
British war correspondent Ian Graham has witnessed the horrors of war from Omaha Beach to the Nuremberg Trials. He abandons journalism after the war to become a Nazi hunter, yet one target eludes him: the Huntress. Fierce, disciplined Ian must join forces with brazen, cocksure Nina, the only witness to escape the Huntress alive. But a shared secret could derail their mission, unless Ian and Nina force themselves to confront it.
Seventeen-year-old Jordan McBride grows up in post WWII Boston, determined despite family opposition to become a photographer. At first delighted when her long-widowed father brings home a fiancée, Jordan grows increasingly disquieted by the soft-spoken German widow who seems to be hiding something. Armed only with her camera and her wits, Jordan delves into her new stepmother’s past and slowly realizes there are mysteries buried deep in her family. But Jordan’s search for the truth may threaten all she holds dear.
Kate Quinn is a New York Times and USA Today bestseller on a mission: to make history seem more engaging and personal, giving it the same life and humanity as the present we inhabit. Her renowned historical novel The Alice Network was a smash hit among readers, telling the entangled stories of a foreign female spy and an American socialite. We’re always thrilled to read about badass female war heroes, who are often underrepresented in historical fiction. Quinn delivers in hot new release The Huntress, giving us a full cast of dynamic women and their very real places in history. As a bonus, Quinn herself includes a lengthy author’s note explaining her creative choices and how the novel fits into historical context! No suspension of disbelief necessary—Quinn’s already done all the work for you. This brand-new release is sure to fly off shelves… so make sure you get it into straight onto your bookshelves.
Our Coffee Shop Read:
Sarai has lived and breathed nightmares since she was six years old. She believed she knew every horror and was beyond surprise. She was wrong.
In the wake of tragedy, neither Lazlo nor Sarai are who they were before. One a god, the other a ghost, they struggle to grasp the new boundaries of their selves as dark-minded Minya holds them hostage, intent on vengeance against Weep.
Lazlo faces an unthinkable choice—save the woman he loves, or everyone else?—while Sarai feels more helpless than ever. But is she? Sometimes, only the direst need can teach us our own depths, and Sarai, the Muse of Nightmares, has not yet discovered what she’s capable of.
As humans and godspawn reel in the aftermath of the citadel’s near fall, a new foe shatters their fragile hopes, and the mysteries of the Mesarthim are resurrected: Where did the gods come from, and why? What was done with thousands of children born in the citadel nursery? And most important of all, as forgotten doors are opened and new worlds revealed: Must heroes always slay monsters, or is it possible to save them instead?
Fans know Laini Taylor for her trademark pink hair… and her strikingly unique fantasy worlds. Best known for her Daughter of Smoke and Bonetrilogy, Taylor’s name is as big as her bibliography: she’s served as a panelist for NYC’s own BookCon and has recently hosted a well-attended public talk with fellow YA superstar Angie Thomas. Muse of Nightmaresis the second book in Taylor’s Strange the Dreamerseries, which acquaints us with a war-orphan-slash-librarian, a legendary lost city, and the descendants of murdered gods. Despite preferring more ‘literary’ works throughout her adolescence, Taylor rediscovered her love of fantasy when she read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, making her both awesome and relatable. You may regret any personal misfortunes of 2019, but you won’t regret giving this one a try.
oUR dARK hORSE:
Professor Chandra is an expert at complex problems. There’s just one he can’t crack: the secret of happiness
In the moments after the bicycle accident, Professor Chandra doesn’t see his life flash before his eyes, but his life’s work.
He’s just narrowly missed out on the Nobel Prize (again) and even though he knows he should get straight back to his pie charts, his doctor has other ideas.
All this work. All this success. All this stress. It’s killing him. He needs to take a break, start enjoying himself. In short, says his doctor (who is from California), Professor Chandra should just follow his bliss.
He doesn’t know it yet, but Professor Chandra is about to embark on the trip of a lifetime.
Rajeev Balasubramanyam‘s Professor Chandra Follows His Blissis a heartwarming and insightful tale of self-improvement. While the book may seem lighthearted and charming, it’s deeper than you may think—and that’s exactly why you should give it a try. Professor Chandra needs to realize what we could all stand to learn: that professional accomplishments can’t replace love, not the love we need from other people and not the love we need from ourselves. Being killed by a bike would be a pretty sad way to go, but it’s about time our egotistical and arrogant professor learns doing it alone is a far worse fate. According to Kirkus Reviews, “his journey to self-realization feels like the real thing,” and so we can learn by example.
The Nebula Awards may honor the most out-of-this-world science fiction and fantasy, but its finalists are highly representative of the diverse world we’re living in. White men may still dominate high school reading lists (and the government, depending on your country of origin), but women and nonbinary authors of color are filling the rosters for one of genre fiction’s most prestigious awards. Chances are, you’ve read some of these. And chances are even higher you’ll love all the ones you haven’t.
Image Via The Wild Detectives
Categories for winners include Best Novel, Novella, Novelette, and Short Story. There’s also a specific prize for YA sci-fi and fantasy: The Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Fiction. Since there are fifty nominations in total across each category, let’s focus on the ten nominees for Best Novel and The Andre Norton Award, two categories in which some real some real magic is happening. First, let’s take a minute to reflect on exactly how big a deal these awards are: YA superstars J.K. Rowling (who you know) and Holly Black (who you really should) have both been Nebula Award-winners.
Now that we’ve established the prestige level of this award (to clarify: massively high), let’s consider that, in these two categories, female and nonbinary authors of color comprise fully half of the nominees. In case this actually needs establishing, that’s a massive deal.
Though the other categories don’t boast such incredible statistics, they’re still strikingly diverse. The Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation has two particularly high-profile works among its nominees: Janelle Monae‘s album Dirty Computer;Boots Riley‘s film Sorry to Bother You, and Ryan Coogler‘s international sensation Black Panther. (This list seems to indicate that including Tessa Thompson will statistically increase your chances of a nomination. Is this true? True enough.)
Image Via Glamour
YA has always been a particularly diverse genre, quick to shirk the confines of more traditional literary fiction. As the YA craze reaches a wider audience, it has more people to represent. Let’s just say the genre has risen to the challenge. For example, let’s look at underrated YA romance release Let’s Talk About Loveby Claire Kann, depicting the experiences of an asexual and biromantic black teenage girl with a nuanced and thoughtful touch. Many feel that the publishing world’s interest in YA reflects an alarming cultural trend: a departure from the classics and other works of value. But literary fiction is a genre like any other—it’s not a synonym for good. Publishers aren’t the only ones all over YA fiction; readers gravitate towards the books that represent their own experiences.
Image Via Goodreads
Diverse YA releases like Tomi Adeyemi‘s Children of Blood andBone, a fantasy debut inspired by Nigerian mythology, have gotten massive attention—from media coverage to a reported seven-figure book deal. And everybody’s talking about Samira Ahmed‘s upcoming Internment, a dystopian novel in which American Muslims are detained in camps. While many are quick to complain about the market’s saturation with YA genre fiction, readers shouldn’t be so eager to decry its literary value—some of these dystopian worlds no longer come with all the logic of an Internet personality quiz. Instead, these groundbreaking authors are using technology and magic as metaphors to comment upon reality.
Image Via Samira Ahmed Twitter
YA is growing increasingly diverse from the top down—even lesser-known releases are incorporating richer cultural contexts into their works. An underrated December release, The Disastersby queer author M.K. England, features a world in which space exploration has been driven by African and Middle-Eastern science and technology. It’s all space ships, shenanigans, Muslim calls to prayer, and seriously making sure you’re not wearing a bright turquoise hijab when avoiding interplanetary mercenaries in a crowd! (Looking at you, character-who-will-not-be-named.)
Though many are quick to associate sci-fi in particular with white teen boys thirsting after Princess Leia, these skeptics should maybe slow down with the assumptions.
As we get closer and closer to the arrival of Game of Thrones‘s final season, there is increasing speculation as to what will happen! Most recently, rumors of Sansa Stark wearing armour have been spreading, hinting that battle may come a little too close to the Lady of Winterfell.
Image via Time Magazine.
These rumors originate from actress Sophie Turner, who plays as Sansa Stark, in the hit adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Turner expresses her excitement about wearing armour for the first time.
“We [like] the idea of it being very protective and she buttons herself up…I wanted her to have a bit of armor and be a bit more warrior like. She’s like the warrior of Winterfell.”
Photograph of Sophie Turner. | Image via The Independent.
Everyone is buzzing over the internet about seeing Sansa in armour now that this semi-spoiler is out! We can’t wait to see if she’ll be running into an all-out battle or if the battle is going to come to her. They really enjoy tormenting us fans don’t they?!
For now, we’ll just have to settle with this teaser photo of our Lady.
This year has been a wild one in terms of publishing scandals… and, of course, February isn’t even over yet. So far, we’ve got the Jill Abramson plagiarism scandal; the cancellation of a YA debut due to accusations of racist themes; and the cancer lies, urine cups, and possible plagiarism nightmare in the whirlwind of Dan Mallory’s well-documented B.S. Just before the month comes to an end, we’ve got another scandal for you—plagiarism allegations against bestselling romance novelist Christiane Serruya. Fans might’ve fallen in love with her books, but they’re not head-over-heels for her behavior.
Image Via Goodreads
Christiane Serruya may have written the Trust trilogy, but she doesn’t exactly seem to be trustworthy. Fans of Courtney Milan‘s The Duchess Waralerted the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author to similarities between her novel and Serruya’s newest release. Sorry, did I say similarities? I meant that these passages are so similar they look like a children’s spot-the-difference game—is it the comma hiding in the background? Is it the slightly different word order? Take a look at the plagiarized passages and see for yourself why Milan’s next war won’t be fictional:
Milan: “Her nostrils flared; he almost thought she might stamp her foot and paw the ground, like an angry bull.”
Serruya: “Her nostrils flared; he almost thought she might stamp her foot and paw the ground, like the bull that had attacked Siobhan.”
Milan: “‘If you’re any good in bed, I might fall in love with you. If that is going to be anathema …’ ‘No,’ he said swiftly. He looked away from her, and when he spoke again, there was a slight rasp to his words. ‘No. That would be perfectly … unobjectionable.”
Serruya: “She stared back, both fascinated and appalled. ‘And if I fall in love with you? Is it going to be anathema?’ ‘No,’ he said swiftly, and looked away from her. There was a slight rasp to his words, when he faced her again. ‘No. That would be perfectly … unobjectionable.’”
Image Via San Diego Tribune
Milan has made her official statement on the situation—and it’s mostly (and understandably) an expression of anger:
I have not listed all of the similarities because, quite frankly, it is stomach-churning to read what someone else has done to butcher a story that I wrote with my whole heart … I wrote The Duchess War in the midst of a massive depressive spell and I bled for every word that I put on the page. But you know what? Cristiane Serruya has to be the biggest idiot out there. I’ve sold several hundred thousand copies of this book. I’ve given away several hundred thousand copies on top of that. Does she think that readers are never going to notice her blatant plagiarism?
As for Serruya’s own, original work, Milan dug deep: “no wonder you’re copying other authors, girl.” Yikes!
Serruya might have been a royal pain for Milan, but at least her response has been more appropriate than her actions. Immediately after the allegations went viral, Serruya pulled Royal Love from sale. Though she offered an apology, she also gave an excuse: according to Serruya, the ghostwriter she hired is responsible for the plagiarism.
Image Via Writers and Authors
Ghostwriters are legal and somewhat commonplace, particularly when it comes to bestsellers. World’s wealthiest author James Patterson has a whole team of ghostwriters (so, a team of Christmas elves who only talk about murder) to maintain his prolific output. Many celebrities use ghostwriters for their own memoirs as, let’s get real, it’s rare to be famous and a talented writer at the same time. While famous writers don’t need to be talented (which we can all agree on unless your Fifty Shades of Greyopinions are particularly intense) we can assume the combination is an unlikely one. Some fans may not be pleased with this explanation: ‘don’t worry that I didn’t write the book; it’s just that I didn’t write the book.’ But the explanation is logical, if not entirely satisfying.
Serruya called the allegations “distressing,” resolving to pull the book “until [she has] made certain this is solved.”