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.
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.”
If your Valentine’s Day was more of a Valentine’s Disaster, there are plenty of healthy ways to cope with the emotional fallout. There are also plenty of unhealthy ways, but we’re sure you already have those figured out. Whether you’re sick of being single, heartbroken over a relationship (this includes relationships that never happened), or just ruminating on your own limitless potential for destruction, why not take a break with a book? A book, at the very least, will never mooch off your rent money or lie about working late. These 7 books will help you on your journey to healing… or they’ll offer a pleasant distraction.
Juliet Takes a Breath
The most infuriating pieces of wisdom are often the most accurate. For instance, as we get older, we’ve realized the advice to get some sleep is actually pretty valid (even if we still don’t listen). An even more annoying piece of truth is this one: before you love someone else, you have to love yourself. Does that mean you’re completely un-depressed and think your body is flawless? No. It just means understanding your own needs before adding someone else’s into the mix. Juliet Takes a Breathby Gabby Rivera is the perfect novel for high hopes and heartbreak, focusing on a character’s self-development and personal growth after the end of a relationship.
Juliet Milagros Palante is leaving the Bronx and headed to Portland, Oregon. She just came out to her family and isn’t sure if her mom will ever speak to her again. But Juliet has a plan, sort of, one that’s going to help her figure out this whole “Puerto Rican lesbian” thing. She’s interning with the author of her favorite book: Harlowe Brisbane, the ultimate authority on feminism, women’s bodies, and other gay-sounding stuff.
Will Juliet be able to figure out her life over the course of one magical summer? Is that even possible? Or is she running away from all the problems that seem too big to handle?
With more questions than answers, Juliet takes on Portland, Harlowe, and most importantly, herself.
Look! It’s that Guillermo del Toro movie about the sexy fish man, now in book form. Just kidding. While this book is also extremely weird, it’s weird in a different way. Strange, smart, and erotic, Melissa Broder‘s The Pisceswill offer a fun distractions—while also commenting on the nature of why we seek out such distractions (a.k.a. calling us out).
Lucy has been writing her dissertation about Sappho for thirteen years when she and Jamie break up. After she hits rock bottom in Phoenix, her Los Angeles-based sister insists Lucy housesit for the summer—her only tasks caring for a beloved diabetic dog and trying to learn to care for herself. Annika’s home is a gorgeous glass cube atop Venice Beach, but Lucy can find no peace from her misery and anxiety—not in her love addiction group therapy meetings, not in frequent Tinder meetups, not in Dominic the foxhound’s easy affection, not in ruminating on the ancient Greeks. Yet everything changes when Lucy becomes entranced by an eerily attractive swimmer one night while sitting alone on the beach rocks.
Whip-smart, neurotically funny, sexy, and above all, fearless, The Pisces is built on a premise both sirenic and incredibly real—what happens when you think love will save you but are afraid it might also kill you.
The Lovers’ Dictionary
Told entirely through dictionary entries, this boldly creative novel tells the story of an ill-fated relationship. (That’s not a spoiler, but isn’t it more reassuring when you know something’s going to end?) Concise, blunt, and honest, David Levithan‘s The Lover’s Dictionary Since Levithan never reveals the gender of the protagonist’s partner, it’ll be even easier for you to find catharsis in seeing fragments of what might have been your own love story. Bonus: there are some particularly spicy passages condemning infidelity if that’s, uh, relevant to your current predicament.
There has to be a moment at the beginning when you wonder whether you’re in love with the person or in love with the feeling of love itself.
If the moment doesn’t pass, that’s it―you’re done. And if the moment does pass, it never goes that far. It stands in the distance, ready for whenever you want it back. Sometimes it’s even there when you thought you were searching for something else, like an escape route, or your lover’s face.
How does one talk about love? Do we even have the right words to describe something that can be both utterly mundane and completely transcendent, pulling us out of our everyday lives and making us feel a part of something greater than ourselves? Taking a unique approach to this problem, the nameless narrator of David Levithan’s The Lover’s Dictionary has constructed the story of his relationship as a dictionary. Through these short entries, he provides an intimate window into the great events and quotidian trifles of being within a couple, giving us an indelible and deeply moving portrait of love in our time.
Tiny, Beautiful Things
It’s hard to imagine tiny, beautiful things when you can only think of enormous, terrible ones instead. Though not explicitly about romantic love, Cheryl Strayed‘s Tiny Beautiful Things is certainly about personal growth and using your own strength to overcome whatever struggles you’re going through (in this case, heartbreak). Topics range from coming out, to sexual fetishes, to topics that have nothing to do with falling in love and everything to do with loving yourself. The two are more connected than you may think.
Life can be hard: your lover cheats on you; you lose a family member; you can’t pay the bills—and it can be great: you’ve had the hottest sex of your life; you get that plum job; you muster the courage to write your novel. Sugar—the once-anonymous online columnist at The Rumpus, now revealed as Cheryl Strayed, author of the bestselling memoir Wild—is the person thousands turn to for advice.
Tiny Beautiful Things brings the best of Dear Sugar in one place and includes never-before-published columns and a new introduction by Steve Almond. Rich with humor, insight, compassion—and absolute honesty—this bookis a balm for everything life throws our way.
The Post-Birthday World
We’re all inclined towards our own ‘What-Ifs,’ the unanswerable questions that we stubbornly attempt to answer with a million different—and, more importantly, fictional—mental scenarios. What if I had tried harder? What if they had lived closer? What if we were both two completely different people from the people we actually are, falling head over heels into a love we never actually shared? Lionel Shriver‘s The Post-Birthday World will help you consider these questions in a healthy way or, at least, in a way that’s probably healthier than whatever you’re currently doing.
Children’s book illustrator Irina McGovern enjoys a quiet and settled life in London with her partner, fellow American expatriate Lawrence Trainer, a smart, loyal, disciplined intellectual at a prestigious think tank. To their small circle of friends, their relationship is rock solid. Until the night Irina unaccountably finds herself dying to kiss another man: their old friend from South London, the stylish, extravagant, passionate top-ranking snooker player Ramsey Acton. The decision to give in to temptation will have consequences for her career, her relationships with family and friends, and perhaps most importantly the texture of her daily life.
Hinging on a single kiss, this enchanting work of fiction depicts Irina’s alternating futures with two men temperamentally worlds apart yet equally honorable. With which true love Irina is better off is neither obvious nor easy to determine, but Shriver’s exploration of the two destinies is memorable and gripping. Poignant and deeply honest, written with the subtlety and wit that are the hallmarks of Shriver’s work, The Post-Birthday World appeals to the what-if in us all.
Listen, we know that your breakup was all your ex’s fault—but on the off chance that you had anything to do with it, maybe it’s time to consider the reason why. Mandy Stadtmiller‘s Unwifeable is an unflinchingly honest memoir of self-destruction that will encourage you to really look at yourself (or possibly your messed-up hungover reflection) and face the truths you might want to deny.
Provocative, fearless, and dizzyingly uncensored, Mandy spills every secret she knows about dating, networking, comedy, celebrity, media, psychology, relationships, addiction, and the quest to find one’s true nature. She takes readers behind the scenes (and name names) as she relays her utterly addictive journey.
Starting in 2005, Mandy picks up everything to move across the country to Manhattan, looking for a fresh start. She is newly divorced, thirty-years-old, with a dream job at the New York Post. She is ready to conquer the city, the industry, the world. But underneath the glitz and glamour, there is a darker side threatening to surface. The drug-fueled, never-ending party starts off as thrilling…but grows ever-terrifying. Too many blackout nights and scary decisions begin to add up. As she searches for the truth behind the façade, Mandy realizes that falling in love won’t fix her—until she learns to accept herself first.
I am not myself these days
Some relationships are toxic from the start. (Of course, we mean all relationships are toxic, and love is a lie, and Valentine’s Day is a sham. Whatever consolation your broken heart needs.) But, to quote Bojack Horseman, “when you look at someone through rose-colored glasses, all the red flags just look like flags.” I Am Not Myself These Days: A Memoir chronicles Kilmer-Purcell‘s time in a relationship that should have come with a warning label… though it basically already did. Perhaps this read will help you take a look at your relationships with a more critical, discerning eye.
The New York Times bestselling, darkly funny memoir of a young New Yorker’s daring dual life—advertising art director by day, glitter-dripping drag queen and nightclub beauty-pageant hopeful by night—was a smash literary debut for Josh Kilmer-Purcell, now known for his popular Planet Green television series The Fabulous Beekman Boys. His story begins here—before the homemade goat milk soaps and hand-gathered honeys, before his memoir of the city mouse’s move to the country, The Bucolic Plague—in I Am Not Myself These Days, with “plenty of dishy anecdotes and moments of tragi-camp delight” (WashingtonPost).
It’s Valentine’s Day—now more than ever, we need a book to fall madly in love with. This week, we’ve got three reads that are sure to show you a good time. (If you’re in the middle of a less satisfying novel, consider a dalliance with one of these. We won’t tell.) Our picks this week are fun yet honest, ideal qualities for any date! While some of these are romance-oriented, let’s not forget that self-love and personal development counts for more than we sometimes remember. So, honestly, love yourself and give one of these a read. Without further ado, here are Bookstr’s Three to Read: the three books we’ve picked for you to read this week. Time to find your perfect match!
OUR HOT PICK
Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least make it out of her neighborhood one day. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died before he hit big, Bri’s got big shoes to fill. But now that her mom has unexpectedly lost her job, food banks and shutoff notices are as much a part of Bri’s life as beats and rhymes. With bills piling up and homelessness staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it—she has to make it.
On the Come Up is Angie Thomas’s homage to hip-hop, the art that sparked her passion for storytelling and continues to inspire her to this day. It is the story of fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you; of the struggle to become who you are and not who everyone expects you to be; and of the desperate realities of poor and working-class black families.
Bookstr’s valentine is On the Come Upbecause we’ve fallen in love with #1 New York Times bestselling Angie Thomas, one of the most powerful voices in YA fiction today. Thomas expertly follows her breakout hit The Hate U Givewith this novel, a raw, insightful, and often funny depiction of coexisting ambition and poverty. Thomas strikes a masterful balance when discussing issues of racism and structural inequality, using her light and playful voice to approach topics few other YA authors have addressed in such detail. Her careful examination of social issues and deeply nuanced characters will appeal to old fans and snag new ones. Warm, earnest, and honest, On the Come Up is your perfect book date this V-day, and it’s sure to be a match.
OUR Coffee Shop Read
Meet Jack Rothman. He’s seventeen and loves partying, makeup and boys – sometimes all at the same time. His sex life makes him the hot topic for the high school gossip machine. But who cares? Like Jack always says, ‘it could be worse’.
He doesn’t actually expect that to come true.
But after Jack starts writing an online sex advice column, the mysterious love letters he’s been getting take a turn for the creepy. Jack’s secret admirer knows everything: where he’s hanging out, who he’s sleeping with, who his mum is dating. They claim they love Jack, but not his unashamedly queer lifestyle. They need him to curb his sexuality, or they’ll force him.
As the pressure mounts, Jack must unmask his stalker before their obsession becomes genuinely dangerous…
Jack of Hearts and Other Partsis as unabashedly queer as its protagonist, including surprisingly frank and open discussions of sex. We’re talking better than sex-ed, complete with descriptions of different types of sex; advice on coming out; and even discussions of asexuality, an often misunderstood sexual orientation. L.C. Rosen is—excuse the pun—ballsy in his open portrayal of sex, drinking, smoking, and partying, boldly addressing facets of some teenagers’ lives that few authors cover in such detail. Readers will love this proud and confident gay protagonist, whose story is refreshingly fun and upbeat. Open, honest, and incredibly fun, this one’s hot enough to be your Valentine’s book date. Don’t drink too much coffee—you’ll want to bring this book to bed.
Our Dark Horse
In this one-of-a-kind retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in modern-day Pakistan, Alys Binat has sworn never to marry—until an encounter with one Mr. Darsee at a wedding makes her reconsider.
A scandal and vicious rumor concerning the Binat family have destroyed their fortune and prospects for desirable marriages, but Alys, the second and most practical of the five Binat daughters, has found happiness teaching English literature to schoolgirls. Knowing that many of her students won’t make it to graduation before dropping out to marry and have children, Alys teaches them about Jane Austen and her other literary heroes and hopes to inspire the girls to dream of more.
When an invitation arrives to the biggest wedding their small town has seen in years, Mrs. Binat, certain that their luck is about to change, excitedly sets to work preparing her daughters to fish for rich, eligible bachelors. On the first night of the festivities, Alys’s lovely older sister, Jena, catches the eye of Fahad “Bungles” Bingla, the wildly successful—and single—entrepreneur. But Bungles’s friend Valentine Darsee is clearly unimpressed by the Binat family. Alys accidentally overhears his unflattering assessment of her and quickly dismisses him and his snobbish ways. As the days of lavish wedding parties unfold, the Binats wait breathlessly to see if Jena will land a proposal—and Alys begins to realize that Darsee’s brusque manner may be hiding a very different man from the one she saw at first glance.
Readers will fall madly in love with this modern update on a timeless classic. While Unmarriageableis delightful and romantic, it also doesn’t hesitate to address the double standards that women face in regards to romance, sex, and courtship. A rich depiction of Muslim culture, Soniah Kamal‘s novel glitters with beautiful language and imagery that would enchant any potential reader. It’s as fun as it is aware, expertly examining social stratification as it takes its readers on an entertaining, colorful romp. Kirkus Reviews called this release “a charming update to the original,” perfect for Austen fans and any reader looking for a perfect match.
Author of hit family saga The Shell Seekers, Rosamund Pilcher, has passed away aged ninety-four.
Her son, author Robin Pilcher confirmed her passing as a result of a stroke on Sunday night.
Rosamund Pilcher was best know for The Shell Seekers, which was her fourteenth novel, written when she was sixty-three, spent no less than forty-nine weeks atop the New York Times bestseller list, and sold over ten million copies. A television adaptation starring Vanessa Redgrave was made, and in 2003, the BBC’s Big Read voted it one of Britain’s favorite novels. Author Katie Fforde, President of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, notes that The Shell Seekers “changed the face of romantic fiction,” saying “Rosamunde Pilcher was groundbreaking as she was the first to bring family sagas to the wider public. Houses full of secrets, families full of lies, beautiful settings, page-turning plots.”
Image Via BBC
And not just a trailblazing author, she was also a beloved mother and grandmother. Her son Robin shared a sweet family anecdote regarding Pilcher’s family nickname with The Guardian:
“When my eldest son was young, my wife would always drop in on my mother on her way to Dundee. He thought that when she said ‘going to Dundee’, it meant seeing his grandmother, so he called her Dondie. She was called that by grandchildren, great-grandchildren and all their friends. She was Universal Dondie.”
The Guardian also notes that Pilcher has a huge following in Germany, and according to her literary agent, the German culture minister pointed to Pilcher as “the person who has managed to do more than any to mend the relationships between the German and British peoples”.