Review: GuRu by RuPaul

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GURU, RuPaul. Dey Street Books, $25.99 (208p) ISBN: 9780062862990
Publication date: October 23, 2018

If there is anything RuPaul is more passionate about than being unapologetically fierce, it is probably helping others tap into their fierceness—unapologetically, of course. Now, let’s take it further. It’s great to be fierce and fabulous, but how do you treat others? How do you treat yourself? In his new book, GuRu, RuPaul doesn’t just empower readers to live their best life, he understands that this can effectively be accomplished when people are prompted to take an honest look at themselves and reflect on where their thoughts come from and how much of them are influenced by society. When is the last time you watched, let’s say, a YouTube video and formed your own opinion before looking at the comment section?

GuRu has a plethora of dazzling images that showcase the icon’s versatility in supreme drag queen aesthetics and is an asset to your coffee table. However, it is more than a pretty book with colorful quotes; it is a book that is there whenever you need a reminder that you’re not alone (RuPaul does get personal in the pages), or you need a pick-me-up, and/or a boost of motivation to keep moving forward in life with your head, standards, and heels (if you wear them) high.

Previous book by RuPaul: Workin’ It!: RuPaul’s Guide to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Style (It Books, 2010).

Rating: So Cool

Rating Scale:
Cool: Decent
So Cool: Good
Booking Cool: Excellent
So Booking Cool: Masterpiece

Interview With Ben Philippe, Author of “The Field Guide to the North American Teenager”!

ben 2If you are passionate about writing and want to pursue it professionally, you might want to keep certain skills off your resume. Ben Phillippe, author of the forthcoming debut novel, The Field Guide to The North American Teenager (Balzer + Bray, January 9, 2019) is one of many who had jobs that he disliked, but when he removed Microsoft Excel from his resume, he yielded opportunities that were a lot more appealing. “For a while my resume was just a bunch of stuff I knew how to do, but that didn’t make me happy because the only thing that makes me happy is writing,” he explained to So Booking Cool.

“I would get these temp jobs that required a lot of Excel and Microsoft Access because that’s what I was advertising to the world, and then I just started to remove them. They were small jobs–I was living month to month, but I was just doing stuff that was close enough to writing so that I could keep the passion alive.” Phillippe would go on to write for a host of publications including Vanity Fair, Observer, The Guardian, Thrillist, and Playboy, just to name a few. He also has a background in ghostwriting and teaches writing at Barnard College.

FGTNAT - CoverAs for Field Guide, Philippe hopes people will find the book funny. He also feels his character Norris is an underrepresented one in mainstream storytelling.  “Representation is kind of a big thing these days, especially in YA literature, which is great. We see a lot of characters that we wouldn’t normally see, like ten years ago we wouldn’t see characters of color in bestselling books, but I think there’s still the expectation that when you’re reading a story about a black male character, ‘oh no, it’s gonna be sad at the end; oh no, it’s gonna get Precious.”

While Philippe notes that Norris does have stakes and an emotional journey in the book, the story is more about comedy and a young guy’s high school experience. Listen to the interview to learn more about Philippe, The Field Guide to The North American Teenager, creating characters, his insight on ghostwriting, why he loves teaching and how it fuels his writing, who he envisions portraying Norris, his thoughts on the reboot of Netflix’s The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and more! For more information visit his official website.

Interview With Alessandra Balzer, Co-Publisher of Balzer + Bray!

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When Alessandra Balzer was fresh out of Colgate University, where she majored in French Literature and minored in English, she took her first job at HarperCollins as an editorial assistant. Years later she would become co-publisher of her own imprint at the same company. Balzer and Donna Bray, a fellow HarperCollins colleague, were both experienced and eager to become entrepreneurs. In 2008, they launched Balzer + Bray. 

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy, The Hate U Give by Angie ThomasThe Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth, Beyond the Pond, authored and illustrated by Joseph Kuefler, I Am Enough by Grace Byers, illustrated by Keturah Ariel and Leah on The OffBeat by Becky Albertalli are among just the few of the New York Times bestselling, critically-acclaimed and award-winning titles that Balzer + Bray have published.  Many of these titles have also become feature films, including The Hate U Give, which is slated to hit the big screens in October. “We like to do books that are risk-taking, when it’s appropriate, and when it offers a new voice and perspective,” Balzer told So Booking Cool.

Balzer is excited for the forthcoming titles at her company, including Kheryn Callender‘s second book and first YA novel, This Is Kind of An Epic Love Story (due in the fall) and writer and screenwriter Ben Philippe‘s Field Guide to the North American Teenager. “Thank goodness we’re finally seeing more different voices represented in children’s books and we have a long way to go still,” Balzer said. “[Field Guide] is an important book because it’s about a black boy having love stories, friendships, and drama, like anyone else. And I feel like we need a lot more of those.”

Balzer, whose publishing career spans 24 years (including a tenure at Disney Hyperion), worked under the tutelage of Katherine Tegen (Katherine Tegen Books, HarperCollins) and Nancy Siscoe (Knopf Books for Young Readers, Penguin Random House). She went on to edit titles that became National Book Award Finalists (Sold by Patricia McCormick, The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich; Clementine by Sara Pennypacker and Marla Frazee)  Caldecott Honors (Mo Willems),and Newbery Medal-winner Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi, to name a few.

Listen to the full interview to learn more about publishing, Balzer’s advice for aspiring book editors, such as the pros and cons of specializing in one genre and being involved in multiple genres, the inspiration behind of I Am Not Enough, her favorite projects, and more! For more information, follow the co-publisher on Twitter.

Interview With Carrie Thornton, Editorial Director of Dey Street Books!

carriethorntonEven before amassing a 20-year career in book publishing, Carrie Thornton, editorial director at Dey Street Books (HarperCollins) had a fondness for editing. The English Language and Literature graduate was a literary magazine, newspaper, and peer editor at school. “I realized I was probably a better editor than writer,” Thornton says. A part of her job, she tells So Booking Cool, is paying attention to what is going on in the world. “We [editors] have to be real students of culture and what the reading public responds to.”

While Thornton works on a variety of titles, she specializes in high profile nonfiction, many of which have been bestsellers and critically-acclaimed including We’re Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union; Kate Hudson‘s Pretty Happy and Pretty Fun; Amy Poehler‘s Yes Please; A New Model by Ashley Graham;  Every Little Step by Bobby Brown; Meet Me in the Bathroom by Lizzy Goodman and the upcoming (and second) memoir-inspiration by Bobby BonesFail Until You Don’t: Fight Grind Repeat.

“I’m not interested when it comes to people who want to do books just because they’re famous,” Thornton says. “…The person has to have something to say or they have a story that needs to be told, and they have a great way of telling it. I respond to heart and soul, truth, and authenticity.”

Check out the full interview to learn more about editing, such as the different types of editing, how to effectively pitch as a publisher at book auctions, the art of self-generating projects, the importance of paying attention to the marketplace, and so much more!

A Review: Unsuccessful Thug by Mike Epps

MIKEeppsUNSUCCESSFUL THUG: One Comedian’s Journey From Naptown to Tinsletown, Mike Epps. Harper, $26.99 (288p) ISBN: 9780062684899

Publication date: March 27, 2018

For fans of Charlamagne Tha God’s Black Privilege, Kevin Hart’s I Can’t Make This Up, and Tiffany Haddish’s, The Last Black Unicorn, comes the must-read memoir from Mike Epps, Unsuccessful Thug. In addition to learning there will be a Meet the Blacks sequel, that he made Richard Pryor (who he will portray in a biopic directed by Lee Daniels and produced by and starring Oprah) laugh for the first time in years, and the nerves he overcame when replacing Chris Tucker in Next Friday, Epps divulges about his extreme humble beginnings, engaging in criminal activity because he was starving, his lacking of self-worth, etc., in a manner that is often humorous and always thoughtful.

Like any quality memoir, Epps is very candid in a way that is unapologetic and heartfelt. He isn’t afraid to express vulnerability, and he is sincere about struggling youth from “Naptown,” Indianapolis, beating the odds like he did.

Here are the reasons I’ve cited the aforementioned comparative titles for Unsuccessful Thug: In Black Privilege, Charlamagne, like Epps, had an on-and-off-again history with drug dealing and going to jail despite knowing it was a destructive cycle. They also adopted tough personalities, knowing they were acting just the opposite of their true identities in order to fit in. With I Can’t Make This Up, Epps conquering the standard comedic boot-camp in New York City, as well as relocating to Los Angeles in pursuit of an acting career will remind you of Hart’s, the journey of a comedian. Finally, like Haddish’s The Last Black Unicorn, there is such a raw yet funny journey readers experience when reading Unsuccessful Thug. Haddish and Epps both used laughter as a way to avoid trouble and make others smile, even when they were at some of their lowest points. Unsuccessful Thug is definitely among the most personal and riveting autobiographies.

Unsuccessful Thug is available Tuesday, March 27, 2018.

“The Hate U Give” Author Angie Thomas Unveils “On the Come Up” Book Cover!

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Angie Thomas, debut author of the bestselling young adult novel, The Hate U Give, is gearing up for her next release, On the Come Up. The hotly anticipated novel is about 16-year-old Bri, an aspiring rapper (it runs in her family, as her father was an underground rapper on the brink of major success until his death) whose passion for conquering the rap world intensifies once her remaining family struggles to avoid homelessness.

Thomas has teamed up with Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins) again for On the Come Up, which will be available June 5.

In addition to Thomas’s second book, fans can look forward to the film adaptation of The Hate U Give, which stars Amandla Stenberg (who also portrayed the protagonist in the bestselling YA novel-turned-film, Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon).