The Pond Book News #42 – Stunning Black-Authored Books, MG Fantasies, and #PublishingPaidMe

issue 42

Welcome to Issue #42!

The trees are whispering…

Friends, welcomeSprout the sparrow, doing a curtsy with their eyes closed and a smile on their face. Their cape swooshes in the wind with their arm extended in their curtsy. to another exciting week of The Pond Book News! Every Sunday, The Quiet Pond brings you a fresh issue of book news to catch you up on the week’s lineup of diverse book releases, cover reveals, book news, and sometimes more!

This week, we’re bringing you two whole weeks worth of book news, including the releases and announcements we missed from the previous week as we took a break to stand with the ongoing protests against police brutality and racial injustice in America. We have a post up detailing our solidarity with Black Lives Matter including ways that you (yes, you) can contribute—and if you haven’t read it yet, I highly encourage you do. This revolution, these conversations we’re having cannot stop now even as the timeline “goes back to normal”. The fight goes on. Now, onwards to the news!

Book Releases These Two Weeks [June 1st – June 13th]

A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow

Tavia is already at odds with the world, forced to keep her siren identity under wraps in a society that wants to keep her kind under lock and key. Never mind she’s also stuck in Portland, Oregon, a city with only a handful of black folk and even fewer of those with magical powers. At least she has her bestie Effie by her side as they tackle high school drama, family secrets, and unrequited crushes.

But everything changes in the aftermath of a siren murder trial that rocks the nation; the girls’ favorite Internet fashion icon reveals she’s also a siren, and the news rips through their community. Tensions escalate when Effie starts being haunted by demons from her past, and Tavia accidentally lets out her magical voice during a police stop. No secret seems safe anymore—soon Portland won’t be either.

How freaking brilliant does this book sound, friends? Honestly when I started doing the write-up for this book I had to pause and immediately go find an outlet to purchase it because my god I love mermaids and sirens, and this premise tackled by an author of color?? We absolutely stan.

Released on June 2nd. Add this book on Goodreads!

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson

Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay — Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.

But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down… until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.

The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams… or make them come true?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the cover of this book is adorable. And the premise of a cute YA prom rom-com (heheh triple rhyme) following a Black senior trying to score a scholarship by becoming prom queen sounds like SUCH an adventure, AND with a rival-to-lovers sapphic romance? I absolutely cannot wait to read this!

Released on June 2nd. Add this book on Goodreads!

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown

The first in an fantasy duology inspired by West African folklore in which a grieving crown princess and a desperate refugee find themselves on a collision course to murder each other despite their growing attraction.

For Malik, the Solstasia festival is a chance to escape his war-stricken home and start a new life with his sisters in the prosperous desert city of Ziran. But when a vengeful spirit abducts Malik’s younger sister, Nadia, as payment into the city, Malik strikes a fatal deal—kill Karina, Crown Princess of Ziran, for Nadia’s freedom.

But Karina has deadly aspirations of her own. Her mother, the Sultana, has been assassinated; her court threatens mutiny; and Solstasia looms like a knife over her neck. Grief-stricken, Karina decides to resurrect her mother through ancient magic… requiring the beating heart of a king. And she knows just how to obtain one: by offering her hand in marriage to the victor of the Solstasia competition.

When Malik rigs his way into the contest, they are set on a course to destroy each other. But as attraction flares between them and ancient evils stir, will they be able to see their tasks to the death?

I remember what a huge deal the cover reveal of this book was back when it was announced, and every time I look at it I gain back ten years of my life. The book glitters with so much promise, and I’m glad to see it finally get the attention it deserves as people started promoting Black-authored books in my feed. Go get yourself a copy friends, I have a feeling that this book is set to dazzle.

Released on June 2nd. Add this book on Goodreads!

Where We Go From Here by Lucas Rocha

Ian has just been diagnosed with HIV.

Victor, to his great relief, has tested negative.

Henrique has been living with HIV for the past three years.

When Victor finds himself getting tested for HIV for the first time, he can’t help but question his entire relationship with Henrique, the guy he has-had-been dating. See, Henrique didn’t disclose his positive HIV status to Victor until after they had sex, and even though Henrique insisted on using every possible precaution, Victor is livid.

That’s when Victor meets Ian, a guy who’s also getting tested for HIV. But Ian’s test comes back positive, and his world is about to change forever. Though Victor is loath to think about Henrique, he offers to put the two of them in touch, hoping that perhaps Henrique can help Ian navigate his new life. In the process, the lives of Ian, Victor, and Henrique will become intertwined in a story of friendship, love, and stigma-a story about hitting what you think is rock bottom, but finding the courage and support to keep moving forward.

Set in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this utterly engrossing debut by Brazilian author Lucas Rocha calls back to Alex Sanchez’s Rainbow Boys series, bringing attention to how far we’ve come with HIV, while shining a harsh light on just how far we have yet to go.

If you’re in the mood for some vulnerable, moving translated YA about three queer Brazilian boys navigating HIV stigma and the messy, messy reality of friendship and romance: this book is right up your alley. I have a soft spot for YA books about emotional coming-of-age journeys, and this one looks to be a fabulous entry to the genre!

Released on June 2nd. Add this book on Goodreads!

Queen of Coin and Whispers by Helen Corcoran

When teenage queen Lia inherits her corrupt uncle’s bankrupt kingdom, she brings a new spymaster into the fold … Xania, who takes the job to avenge her murdered father.

Faced with dangerous plots and hidden enemies, can Lia and Xania learn to rely on each another, as they discover that all is not fair in love and treason?

In a world where the throne means both power and duty, they must decide what to sacrifice for their country – and for each other…

This looks like such a cool YA fantasy, especially since it’s sapphic too! Court intrigue with a queer cast and strong family relationships? Murder girls and flirting through books? This sounds like such a fun and thrilling adventure, and I can’t wait to see how it goes!

Released on June 1st. Add this book on Goodreads!

The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon

 Samiah Brooks never thought she would be “that” girl. But a live tweet of a horrific date just revealed the painful truth: she’s been catfished by a three-timing jerk of a boyfriend. Suddenly Samiah-along with his two other “girlfriends,” London and Taylor-have gone viral online. Now the three new besties are making a pact to spend the next six months investing in themselves. No men, no dating, and no worrying about their relationship status…

For once Samiah is putting herself first, and that includes finally developing the app she’s always dreamed of creating. Which is the exact moment she meets the deliciously sexy, honey-eyed Daniel Collins at work. What are the chances? When it comes to love, there’s no such thing as a coincidence. But is Daniel really boyfriend material or is he maybe just a little too good to be true?

This looks like such an interesting office romance! I think it’s cool how many romance books nowadays are incorporating tech and social media seamlessly into their plotlines, and I’m here for the budding female friendship narrative as well!

Releases on June 9th. Add this book on Goodreads!

The Falling in Love Montage by Ciara Smyth

Saoirse doesn’t believe in love at first sight or happy endings. If they were real, her mother would still be able to remember her name and not in a care home with early onset dementia. A condition that Saoirse may one day turn out to have inherited. So she’s not looking for a relationship. She doesn’t see the point in igniting any romantic sparks if she’s bound to burn out.

But after a chance encounter at an end-of-term house party, Saoirse is about to break her own rules. For a girl with one blue freckle, an irresistible sense of mischief, and a passion for rom-coms.

Unbothered by Saoirse’s no-relationships rulebook, Ruby proposes a loophole: They don’t need true love to have one summer of fun, complete with every cliché, rom-com montage-worthy date they can dream up—and a binding agreement to end their romance come fall. It would be the perfect plan, if they weren’t forgetting one thing about the Falling in Love Montage: when it’s over, the characters actually fall in love… for real.

What’s not to love about a sapphic friends-to-lovers fake-dating contemporary romance? The year 2020 has truly blessed us wlws with all the gay as heck couples, and today we are GRATEFUL. I’m very excited to read this!

Releases on June 9th. Add this book on Goodreads!

Last Tang Standing by Lauren Ho

At thirty-three, Andrea Tang is living the dream: she has a successful career as a lawyer, a posh condo, and a clutch of fun-loving friends who are always in the know about Singapore’s hottest clubs and restaurants. All she has to do is make partner at her law firm and she will have achieved everything she (and her mother) has ever worked for. So what if she’s poised to be the last unmarried member of her generation of the Tang clan? She doesn’t need a man to feel fulfilled, no matter what her meddling relatives have to say about it.

But for a dutiful Chinese-Malaysian daughter, the weight of familial expectations is hard to ignore. And so are the men life keeps throwing in Andrea’s path. Men like Suresh Aditparan, her annoyingly attractive rival for partner and the last man she should be spending time with, and Eric Deng, a wealthy entrepreneur whose vision for their future is more lavish than she could have imagined. With her workplace competition growing ever more intense, her friends bringing dramas of their own to her door, and her family scrutinizing her every romantic prospect, Andrea finds herself stretched to the breaking point. And she can’t help but wonder: In the endless tug-of-war between pleasing others and pleasing herself, is there room for everyone to win?

This lovely romance book is by a Malaysian-Chinese author, and we stay winning 😎 If this book full of crazy Asian shenanigans piques your interest, check out the interview Joce did with the author Lauren Ho for Asian Heritage Month! I absolutely cannot wait to get my hands on a copy of this once bookstores reopen again.

Releases on June 9th. Add this book on Goodreads!

American as Paneer Pie by Supriya Kelkar

As the only Indian American kid in her small town, Lekha Divekar feels like she has two versions of herself: Home Lekha, who loves watching Bollywood movies and eating Indian food, and School Lekha, who pins her hair over her bindi birthmark and avoids confrontation at all costs, especially when someone teases her for being Indian.

When a girl Lekha’s age moves in across the street, Lekha is excited to hear that her name is Avantika and she’s Desi, too! Finally, there will be someone else around who gets it. But as soon as Avantika speaks, Lekha realizes she has an accent. She’s new to this country, and not at all like Lekha.

To Lekha’s surprise, Avantika does not feel the same way as Lekha about having two separate lives or about the bullying at school. Avantika doesn’t take the bullying quietly. And she proudly displays her culture no matter where she is: at home or at school.

When a racist incident rocks Lekha’s community, Lekha realizes she must make a choice: continue to remain silent or find her voice before it’s too late.

Look at this wonderful desi middle-grade, friends! I love how many children’s books have been tackling hard issues like racism and immigration lately, and I’m delighted to be able to add this one to the collection. And look at the delicious illustrations of paneer pie and pizza on the cover!

Releases on June 9th. Add this book on Goodreads!

Book News

Title Reveal: Reaper of Souls by Rena Barron, sequel to Kingdom of Souls

Kingdom of Souls fans, rejoice! The long-awaited sequel is here, and she’s fiercer than ever! I still have yet to read this glorious, West African-inspired fantasy, and I really do need to get on it, huh. I’ve heard so many good, good things! Add this book to Goodreads!

Title Reveal: The Cost of Knowing by Brittney Morris

This book already sounds brilliant. I really, really recommend reading the author’s entire thread leading up to the announcement, where she talks about how this book emerges from the trauma that Black people face from just existing in America, and how it explores “growing up too fast in a world where [Black men] were born sandwiched between the trauma of our past and the anxiety of our future”. Add this book to Goodreads!

Title  & Cover Reveal: Ravage the Dark by Tara Sim, sequel to Scavenge the Stars

Another anticipated sequel in this week’s lineup! I’ve heard so many good things about Scavenge the Stars: how it’s a glittering YA retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo with impeccable plot and desi representation. I really need to get on reading it! Add this book to Goodreads!

Cover Reveal: Rise of the Red Hand by Olivia Chadha

This is long overdue a spot in our book news lineup, but I’m excited to finally feature this here! South Asian YA sci-fi with a focus on climate issues, cyborgs and hackers sounds like such a wild ride, and I’m so interested to see how the story unfolds! Also, the illustration on that cover is just *chef’s kisses*, man. Add this book to Goodreads!

Cover Reveal: Sugar and Spite by Gail D. Villanueva

Friends, I cannot tell you how dang excited I am for this book: love potions and magic in a Filipino setting? A nuanced exploration of consent and friendship in a middle-grade fantasy? I added this to my TBR so fast, and I hope you will join me! And talk about how cute that cover is too!

Cover Reveal: Skyhunter by Marie Lu

Marie Lu is back and giving the sci-fi nerds what they want! This book has such a cool premise, and it looks like it’s also going to explore refugee and immigration issues as well. I can’t wait to see this on shelves! Add this book to Goodreads!

Cover Reveal: The Comeback by E.L. Shen

This cover! is so beautiful! The composition is simple but works so very well—and I absolutely adore how glittery and sparkly it is! Middle-grade covers truly add more years to my life every time I find a new one to gush about. We also love the tan-skinned East Asian representation here! Add this book to Goodreads!

Cover Reveal: Nubia: Real One by L.L. McKinney

Friends, L.L. McKinney is writing a DC comic with a Black girl protagonist! Who is also Wonder Woman’s twin sister! I better see all y’all superhero comic fans SHOW UP for this release, because the art and the heart behind the project already look AMAZING.

Book Announcement: MG Chinese fantasy and mystical foxes forthcoming from Jesse Q Sutanto!

Jesse Q Sutanto truly has some stellar book announcements, and I’m so glad that we’re getting to read the stories that she’s giving us! Mystical foxes and magic spells in a middle-grade fantasy sound like exactly what I need, thank you very much.

Book Announcement: A Muslim girl joins a boy band in in MG contemporary by Maleeha Siddiqui!

OHH I love this! Boy bands and explorations of Muslim faith in a fun middle-grade adventure? Hell yes! This is such a potent and creative combination of elements, and I’m excited to see how it’ll all play out!

Book Announcement: A group of queer YA seniors get an unforgettable summer in romcom duology by Phil Stamper!

This looks so cool! Phil Stamper is really out here giving us queer coming-of-age contemporaries with wonderful premises, and we’re here for it. Keeping this one on the radar for more news to arrive!

Book Community Spotlight

#PublishingPaidMe: The Cold Hard Numbers of Being a Black Author in a Discriminatory Industry

If you’ve been paying attention to authors’ Twitter feeds this weekend, you’ve probably come across the tag #PublishingPaidMe, along with the varying figures of advances they were offered for the books they wrote. (If you’re a little confused: “advances” are upfront payments that a publisher pays an author at acquisitions, based on the amount of royalties that they think the author’s book will earn. Patrice Caldwell has a more comprehensive thread on how these numbers break down.)

This tag was started by LL McKinney and Tochi Onyebuchi on the heels of discourse surrounding anti-Black bias in publishing, and… we all vaguely know, of course, how much harder it is for non-white authors to make it in the industry, but to see the actual numbers laid bare in the open is a different kind of reckoning. If you have a moment: go check out the tag on Twitter, and bear witness to the concrete disparity between the kind of numbers that authors are offered based on their race. Look out for intersectional identities too. Do the math.

It’s important to recognise that this issue has gone on for ages below the surface, simmering, boiling—locked behind closed doors as a “taboo topic”. The transparency that is being offered now, especially by BIPOC authors, comes from a place of courage. It’s all crucial.

These numbers are obviously a problem primarily from the editor-level at the acquisition stage of a book, but make no mistake, friends: racism permeates every part of the industry. Many diverse books never find their audiences because publishers simply refuse to market and promote them with the same intensity as they do for their white-authored releases. For every figure you’re outraged at from a Black author you love, I can guarantee you that there’s another Black-authored book out there that you simply don’t know about because no one talks about it.

So, okay. Not all of us are publishing professionals. What can we do to help this?

One of the most immediate ways to support Black authors of course, is to read, review and boost their books!!! The Quiet Pond was founded on the very basis of promoting diverse books that don’t get nearly enough attention in the reading community. As diverse book bloggers, this is one of the biggest issues that we personally grapple with as well, as we try to boost #ownvoices books that do the hard work of representation, only to have publishing publicly push the same, “safe” white authors again and again anyway.

Don’t just read them too: get your friends to read them. Put these titles in front of people in your personal life who wouldn’t otherwise pick them up. There are hundreds of reading lists out there with brilliant, moving Black-authored books to pick up if you have an Internet connection and, you know, Google. For starters, you can find all of LL McKinney’s books on Goodreads and Bookshop, and here are the links for Tochi Onyebuchi’s books (Goodreads + Bookshop) as well.

And also important: advocate for Black communities and diversity in your own lives too! In your neighbourhood, especially your workplaces. Publishing is ultimately only one industry in the society we live in that’s subject to racist, discriminatory policies and practices. There is work here to be done by all of us—publishing or not, reading or not. Black lives, Black livelihoods, and Black voices always matter.

4 thoughts on “The Pond Book News #42 – Stunning Black-Authored Books, MG Fantasies, and #PublishingPaidMe

  1. You are a gem. Thank you so much for actively supporting the BLM movement. You are one of the bloggers I look up to the most, and who inspire me a lot, so seeing your efforts just gives me all the more drive to help make a change even in my own ways. I’m an Asian teen born into a racist/impassive family, so I’m doing the best I can in whatever way possible for me. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love these posts! The publishing paid me tag was so hard to read. I also saw one author share an advance a queer white author got for a sapphic fantasy and the advance was so low compared to another white but straight fantasy author. It was still a little bit higher than some black authors but the difference was so telling that a white straight author got triple the advance for a similar book than a sapphic author. I hope these conversations bring a change to publishing. A similar book should get about the same advance not less because of sexuality, race or other marginalizations.

    Liked by 1 person

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