In this month’s Between the Bookends, Sophie, Sarah, and Anika share eight books they have been reading this summer covering everything from indie video game development to faerie tales to summer romance. We hope you find something to take a relaxing break with.
Indie Games by Bounthavy Suvilay
Sophie’s first book this month was Indie Games by Bounthavy Suvilay. This beautiful book features over 300 images taken from a huge variety of indie video games, including screenshots from the finished games, concept art, and design sketches. This is more than a book of pretty pictures, however. It is an in-depth look at the entire indie game industry and scattered throughout are quotations taken from more than 50 interviews with people in the business.
Section one looks at the history of indie game development from the lone creators of the 1980s through the development of game hacking in the 2000s to the indie games boom that began in 2008 and onward into the future. Section two is more concerned with the business side of indie game development: financing, finding the right team, handling deadlines and release schedules, and how indie game development differs from that of blockbuster games at large companies. These sections were generally less interesting for Sophie but will be invaluable to anyone looking to break into game development.
The later sections focus on how games are designed and created. Section three explores the different types of indie games available, roughly categorizing them as Mechanics Focused, Narrative Focused, or Art Focused—although naturally there is always a lot of crossover between the three. This is something Sophie had never before considered and she found herself mentally cataloging her own favorite games to see where they fell! Section four looks at Visual Art Direction, and finally, section five covers Music and Sound Design.
Sophie wouldn’t consider herself a dedicated gamer—she had never heard of 98% of the games mentioned in this book—but she found Indie Games utterly fascinating and totally eye-opening. In fact, the biggest problem Sophie had with this book is that she kept learning about new games she wanted to try, and by the time she had finished it, she had a list of games to pick up that will take her years to play through!
Sophie would highly recommend Indie Games to anyone with an interest in video game development, but also to anyone who simply enjoys game art because the pictures here are stunning too.
Black Panther: Rise Together by Vita Ayala
Needing a break from all the books she was plowing through for Mars Month, Sophie picked up Black Panther: Rise Together by Vita Ayala. This book collects issues #4-6 from IDW’s Black Panther middle-grade series.
In each of these three stories, the nation of Wakanda is preparing to host an international scientific summit for the first time. In the first story, T’Challa experiences Exchange Day, a once a decade occasion where the king goes to work as an ordinary citizen, while a citizen stands in for him, allowing the two to see their nation from one another’s perspective. T’Challa expects the day to be easy, after all, Wakanda is “the most advanced nation in the world,” what difficulties could he possibly witness? However, when he discovers corruption in the Vibranium refinery, the Black Panther has to act.
The second story was Sophie’s favorite as it focused on Shuri who is dismayed when T’Challa’s advisor Zuri prefers traditional healing methods to her scientific ones. Soon after insulting the healer and with just days before the summit, Shuri becomes convinced that she has been cursed and is sent on a quest to gather ingredients to create a cure, however, that cure is not what she expects.
The final story covers the final hours before the summit. A group is discovered that wants to disrupt the summit and close Wakanda’s borders to keep the country safe. After an attack, T’Challa and Shuri explain to them, and later the whole summit, that the world is better when knowledge is freely exchanged.
All three of these short stories captured the spirit of Black Panther and also shared powerful and positive messages for kids to learn from without coming across as overly preachy. Sophie will definitely be picking up more of these Black Panther collections in the future.
You’re Next by Kylie Schachte
Next up for Sophie was a YA novel she had been meaning to get to for some time: You’re Next by Kylie Schachte.
When 16-year-old Flora Calhoun gets a late-night call from her ex-girlfriend, she races to meet her, only to find Ava shot and bleeding to death in a deserted alleyway. The police quickly decide that Ava’s death was simply a mugging gone wrong, but Flora, who has spent years setting herself up as a young detective, knows it was murder. Investigating the crime herself, along with her best friend Cass and her former-CIA grandfather, Flora soon uncovers an entire hidden world that had existed right under her nose—and everything seems to lead back to an underground teenage fight club and a local politician.
However, Ava wasn’t the first murdered girl Flora has discovered on a deserted path and the police are becoming suspicious, so when Flora starts to receive threatening notes and photos, she’s not sure who to turn to. Can she trust VT, the teenage fighter she met at the club, or does he have his own motives for wanting to help?
You’re Next was a fun but flawed read. Flora is a deeply troubled character who can be difficult to like. She ignores good advice, pushes away her friends, and fights against those who clearly have her best interests at heart. It’s hard to begrudge her that though, as the book gradually reveals her history and explores the layers of trauma she has built up over her short life.
The biggest issue in this book is accepting that Flora is only 16. Sophie found it hard to suspend her disbelief as Flora and VT went off solving mysteries together when she should be in PE class. Sophie felt that if the characters were university-aged instead, the whole thing would have felt so much more believable. As it was, this was a fast and easy read filled with interesting characters that will keep you turning the pages long after you should have turned out the light.
Love on the Main Stage by S.A. Domingo
Next up for Sophie was the light-hearted YA romance Love on the Main Stage by S. A. Domingo, set across one summer at the British music festival scene.
16-year-old Nova Clarke has just finished her GCSEs and is looking forward to summer. Having just broken up with her boyfriend, she wants nothing to do with boys this year and would rather spend her time exploring the many festivals she attends thanks to her parents’ food truck business. However, when she literally bumps into the gorgeous, American Sam Rodriguez at the first festival of the season, the mutual attraction is instant.
The pair keeps meeting as the festivals come and go, and between her shifts at the food truck, Sam helps Nova build up the courage to work on her goal to become a singer-songwriter. Nova is torn between her desire to spend time with Sam, and her promise not to get involved in a relationship—especially not with someone who will be returning to Miami in just a few weeks’ time. Sam, however, clearly has something to hide. Why won’t he introduce Nova to his dad, and how does he have the money to keep splashing out on expensive merch and food? When the truth is finally revealed, Nova feels betrayed, but is there enough of a spark between them to keep going?
Love on the Main Stage is an easy read that might help ease the pain of not getting to attend any festivals this year. Nova is a likable character, although Sophie spent most of the book wanting to shake her because Sam’s “secret” is so blindingly obvious from pretty much their first meeting, which made the “betrayal” at the end feel utterly ridiculous. On the plus side, Sophie really loved the close, drama-free friendship between Nova and her BFF Gemma, something she doesn’t see enough of.
Love on the Main Stage is far from ground-breaking but will be a great summer read.
Hilda’s Sparrow Scout Badge Guide by Emily Hibbs
Sophie’s final book this month was Hilda’s Sparrow Scout Badge Guide by Emily Hibbs, a guide book that covers many of the badges that the fictional Sparrow Scouts of Trollberg can earn with information on all the steps they will need to fulfill, along with safety tips, interesting history, and fascinating facts about the creatures that live in and around the city. Because this is Hilda’s copy of the guide, the book is also filled with her doodles, corrections, and annotations. In some instances, she has gone so far as to paste in whole new pages to cover up the official information. Who wants to earn a boring horse-riding badge when you could ride a woff instead?
All these notes from Hilda relate to events that occurred during season one of the TV show and in the first few books (both the prose and graphic novel versions), so this is definitely a book you’ll want to read after watching or reading the rest of the Hilda universe so far as spoilers abound throughout. Existing Hilda fans will enjoy spotting references to their favorite Hilda moments so far like her discovery of the truth about the Black Hound or how to help a lonely, heartbroken giant.
This book doesn’t add much to the Hilda-verse overall, but young fans will almost certainly enjoy reading it and can pretend they are now a Sparrow Scout, like Hilda herself. There are plenty of fun activities included that you can have a go at yourself such as making a Great Raven kite, sending messages in code, and making elderflower ice pops. Parents could also use this as an activity planner, letting kids earn their own homemade Sparrow Scout badges. Most of the badge requirements are easy enough to do at home, although prepare to figure out how to alter a few trickier ones such as the “how to identify the difference between a weather spirit and an ordinary cloud” requirement for the weather badge!
Be the Bridge by Latasha Morrison
Like many of us in recent months, GeekMom Sarah has found herself forced to confront her own privilege and her complicity in the current state of our union. In order to understand how to be anti-racist, instead of simply not being racist, many of us are reaching to favorite authors and speakers for guidance. For GeekMom Sarah that comes this month in the form of Latasha Morrison.
Be the Bridge is told from the perspective of Latasha’s own journey with race and colorism, alongside her spiritual journey. She does not mince words when it comes to historical moments that most people have not heard of. She does not mince words when it comes to the directions we need to move in to reconcile our society. The book is not political, the only side it takes is that of addressing the hostile climate we find ourselves in.
Latasha provides examples of racial dialogue, how to have hard conversations, and how to listen within those conversations. Latasha is committed to educating people, all people, on cultural intelligence and racial literacy. Her book is a great place to start if you aren’t sure what to do with everything that is going on around you.
The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
Taking a deep dive into the world of Faerie as imagined by Holly Black, this month GeekMom Sarah devoured The Darkest Part of the Forest, the fourth book set in the world created in The Modern Faerie Tales. In this book, we have an elvish boy trapped in a glass coffin a la Snow White. No kiss will awaken him, however, and the local teenagers frequently have their parties around him, while some lean into the glass and whisper their secrets.
Hazel and Ben are two such youths, living in the town of Fairfold, where humans and fae live side by side in an ever uneasy peace. While Hazel and Ben play at being Knights, the worlds around them continue to collide until one day the boy wakes up, and they are drawn even further into the world of the Fae. How much of them will survive, and what deals will they have to make along the way?
This world is enchanting. Black does not lean towards the Tinkerbell fairy but relies heavily upon the darkness of true fairies. This tale has an air of familiarity about it after reading The Modern Faerie Tales, and it is nice to have a new world to play in. The way the stories carefully jut up against each other is delightful and keeps you wanting more. Thankfully, Black is not yet done writing about this world, and more adventures are waiting.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Anika doesn’t remember how Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel ended up in her house. It might have been a holiday or birthday gift to her daughter or herself… but it’s just as possible she found it browsing a bookstore a year or two ago. In any case, she found it when she started reorganizing her house during the lockdown and it seemed like kismet.
Station Eleven is about the aftermath of a global pandemic, so she does not recommend it for anyone looking for escapism! But if you, like Anika, find comfort in stories about survival—of both people and culture—this is a beautifully constructed novel that is easy to get lost in. Anika finished it within two days.
The main plot is centered on a traveling theater troupe and symphony that winds its way through what is left of humanity in the Great Lakes region. The story unfolds by way of flashbacks to the years before and after the disaster that add dimension and context to the characters and their relationships. The characters are complex and their stories are interconnected, weaving together to create a whole that includes many horrors but is ultimately hopeful.