Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Mini Reviews : Women To Watch Out For


Not The Girls You're Looking For by Aminah Safi
Not The Girls You're  Looking For is this unfiltered look into a group of suburban teenage girls, though the eyes of Lelia "LuLu". She's that classic "unlikable" female characters that we hear so much about. She is impulsive, fierce, all-encompassing, quick, snappy, sarcastic and even her grandfather who escaped a tyrant is a little bit afraid of her. As a lot of people on Goodreads described her as messy and I'm here for that, but the structure of this book was kind of head-scratching. It's loosely plotted and we sort of dive into LuLu's life and follow her around until the book decides we are done?

 I'm not sure what the story is here.  I think watching part of her friend-group fall away is apart of it and there is a romance with a boy who is just always showing up. This book is so clearly focused on LuLu so why wasn't this called Not The Girl You Are Looking For? Check out the audio review too !





The Woman In Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
I basically put the Woman In Cabin 10 on my TBR after Elyse on SBTB praised this book and all of its female rage. It's one of those female-driven psychological thrillers, except this one is ON A BOAT. Travel writer Lo Blacklock joins the maiden voyage of a private luxury cruise, it should be smooth sailing until she witnesses the murder of a passenger with no record of boarding. It's an engrossing read and you'll find yourself guessing until the end. Admittedly I didn't see all the rage that Elyse talks about and the twist was just okay, but I guess there is a lot in the book about believing women, 'sisterhood' and the stigma of mental illness.  I split my reading between paperback and audio and It's made me realize how much I  enjoy a good paperback. The cover for this book also has a pretty cool optical illusion that looks like the book is wet.  Narrator Imogen is one of those subtle unobtrusive narrators that lets the words speak for themselves. - ★★★

Smoke Thieves by Sally Green





Rating: ★★★+.5 | 400 pages | Viking | YA Fantasy | 05/01/2018

YA fantasy isn't for me

This is something I've thought and said for so long now because when it coms to the big YA fantasies e.g. The Belles, Throne of Glass, The Wrath and The Dawn ... they just didn't 100% work for me.

I guess I felt like a YA Fantasy can easily become predictable;  there are always love triangles, secret crushes,  rebellions, secret gays, captains of the guard . . . FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WHY IS THERE ALWAYS A CAPTAIN OF THE GUARD ???

So, Smoke Thieves.

This YA Fantasy totally worked for me and I shocked. I  think one of the major reasons is because it has an unconventional structure. The book is told from the POV of five different characters in different parts of the world, which I think bolstered the word building and gave depth to the story. There is a fierce princess oppressed by her patriarchal kingdom, a soldier who turns against his crown (okay, so he is a captain of the guard with a secret crush but like...it's different okay)  a young thief who ventures into demon territories to steal demon smoke, a pompous secret heir on a journey home and a young servant taking revenge on the king who sacrificed his people.

Despite being called Smoke Thieves the titular smoke thieves are just a small part of the overall plot of the book, but I guess it's a bada** name? Each character's journey felt carefully crafted and you are on the edge of your seat watching them converge in one place.  Yes,  At times the pacing slowed down, but would quickly pick up with daring sword-fights and escapes. I am totally invested enough to check out book two, which I haven't done for a YA fantasy in YEARS.

Attack on Titan meets Handmaid's Tale meets Games of Thrones in an intriguing fantasy novel with a bit of a twist.

Check out the audiobook review at AudioFile !



Sunday, August 12, 2018

Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Owen King


Rating: ★★★ +.5 | Release Date: 09/26/17 | 25 hours 22 minutes | Simon & Schuster Audio
When a mysterious virus causes sleeping to grow impenetrable cocoons, the entire world goes up in chaos and the final battlefield for humanity will involve a whole cast of characters in the small Appalachia town of Dooling, Maine...oh wait, West Virginia. This one takes place in West Virginia.

I’d been eyeing this book for a while because the premise sounded intriguing and let me tell you, the King men know how to weave together a tale with a vast cast of characters. One of my complaints with the few King books I’ve read is how poorly many of the female characters were written and I was curious about how female characters would fare in a book about women. I mean look, do I think a story about toxic masculinity told through the lens of horror tropes should be written by a middle-aged white dude and his Dad? Maybe not, but they do an okay job. I would in no way call this a feminist book because despite all the feminist epigraphs this book opens with, most of the book comes down to a schlubby middle-aged white dude savin' the day. I mean, you could actually take most of the women’s POV out of this and still leave the story intact.

Also, yes this book is problematic for the way it leans hard into the gender binary.

Now let me talk about the audiobook narrator, Marin Ireland. She absolutely brings this 25-hour audiobook to life. Yes, I said 25 hours and I'm glad I've started moving into 1.5 speed on audiobooks or I ever would have never finished this behemoth. This is one of those thick King (...and King) novels that has a cast list at the beginning and she managed to create a unique voice for each one of the Dooling townsfolk. I feel like this book could have easily gone array because of the West Virginia accents but she does it well. Although I kind of side-eye how only the lower class characters get the accents.

Also bonus, the audiobook has an interview with the King men at the end that was fun to listen to!

-mild spoilers-

This book is dedicated to Sandra Bland which feels a little tone deaf after reading this book because it has a scene at the very end where an innocent black female character is killed by a cop by mistake and we’re supposed to sympathize with the cop.


Saturday, August 11, 2018

Tiffany Sly Live Here by Dana L Davis


Rating: unrated | 334 pages | Harlequin Teen Inknyard Press ?  | Contemporary | 05/01/2018

I was really excited to read this book after hearing about it on the  Hey, YA podcast.  I firmly remember actress Dana L. Davis in the 2000s for being "that black lady" who showed up on TV shows in the early 2000s.  I was also interested in a book that deals with respectability politics and all the shades of black experiences

Tiffany Sly has had it rough. After losing her mother to cancer, this music-loving rocker girl is headed from Chicago to the mansions and privates school of Simi Valley, California to live with the wealthy and successful father she's never met. Anthony Stone (get it ? Sly...Stone ? Get it ?)

What Tiffany didn't expect was to meet her father's four biracial daughters and white wife. She struggles under her father's strict rules and religious pressure. In addition to coping with anxiety, she faces bullying in her new school and begins to make friends with the Mckinney family and their son Marcus, the only other black family in their neighborhood.

As a character, Tiffany Sly tries her best to be resilient. Marcus is like a character who should have his own book/fell out of a John Green book. He has a fatal heart condition that means he could die at any second, he has a book deal for a book about death plus harnesses and reads energies around him.

Tiffany's father is outstanding strict with his daughters. They have to wear their hair a certain way, dress a certain way,  play sports and have their phones heavily monitored. With four daughters ranging from ages 2 to 16, he is already pressuring his non-confrontational wife for more. He was the  Jerk!Dad to end all Jerk!Dads

I think at the last minute Davis tried to humanize and create empathy for him because he is a man who left a rough inner city neighborhood to begin again, but I felt, in the end, his slow turnaround came a little too easy.

An emotional and hard look at what it means to be a family and how to start over without losing who you are.

Check out the Audiobook Review on AudioFile !




Thursday, August 9, 2018

Mini Reviews: YA Summer Reading

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Just like it's namesake,When Dimple Met Rishi has all the hallmarks of a 90’s rom-com and so much more. Taking place entirely during a web developer summer program, the plot felt a little claustrophobic at times, but the relationship was developed wonderfully. Both narrators on the audiobook give great performance, though Vikas Adams' voice for Dimple had a tendency to sound shrill. This book is everything you've heard and I want this movie. I want it now. - ★★★★






Dear Martin by Nic Stone
After experiencing a violent encounter with the police, high school senior Justyce McAllister begins writing letters to Martin Luther King, Jr. to unpack his newly developed complex feelings about race and policing.  Dear Martin is definitely an important book because so few YA novels are explicitly written and marketed for black teen boys the way this book has been but the story left me wanting more. I was annoyed that the white love interest got to explain the complexities of race in America, the MLK portrayal felt sanitized and Justyce reads as younger and more naive than a 17-year-old from the hood at an elite boarding school about to study policy at Yale. Author Zetta Elliot has made some criticisms of this books portrayal of black women and I agree with a lot of what she says. I think Dear Martin would have made a great middle-grade book, but as a YA it felt like a missed opportunity for a more nuanced discussion. - ★★★ + .5

Everyone We’ve Been by Sarah Everett
I’m finally getting around to my bookish goal of reading more midlist YA that didn’t get a lot of hype. This 2016 debut is the twisty but quiet story of 17-year-old violinist Addison Sullivan, who starts to see a boy that no one else can see. I went into this book knowing absolutely nothing about it and that’s how I recommend reading it. Like, don’t even read the copy. I would have loved this book in high school, it’s about black girl but is in no way about the struggle. While the ending felt a little anticlimactic Everett weaves an engrossing story that is equal parts romance, coming of age and mystery. Also her 2019 book about a girl who creates a digital version of her crush after he dies sounds intriguing. It reminds me of the Be Right Back episode of Black Mirror. -★★★ +.5

Monday, July 23, 2018

Around The Way Girl by Taraji P. Henson


Rating: ★★★+.5  | 7 hours and 27 minutes  Simon & Schuster Audio | Memoir | 10/11/2016
I’ve been a fan of Taraji P. Henson since she played Raina Washington on Lifetime’s The Division when I was younger, it was one of the first “adult” shows I watched. The show was ahead of its time and  I sometimes think about how Henson was playing a Black female police officer with lesbian moms in the early 2000’s. I can only imagine if they put that on TV nowadays it might be called “too diverse.”

Anyway, this memoir begins with Henson’s childhood in Southeast DC during the crack epidemic and the years of hustle and hard work that lead to her  Hollywood success in her mid-thirties. Henson is a trained actress who worked with some of the best at Howard University and there is a lot of craft talk in this book. Henson really digs into the minds of the character she plays. The title of the book comes from her concern of always being typecast as the around the way girl from the hood and her hesitation to take the role of Cookie Lyon--the role that has brought her the most notoriety.

This book shares a lot of DNA with the two other memoirs of black women in Hollywood I’ve read, Last Black Unicorn and We’re Going to Need More Wine. They all touch on the importance of having a support system and other black women helping them navigate the Hollywood scene.

I especially liked what Hensen had to say about the stigma of a single black motherhood and how these mothers aren’t afforded the same considerations and respect as married mothers.

 Around The Way Girl is an inspiring and insightful look into the making of an actress and some of Henson’s most memorable moments.


Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Relative Strangers by Paula Garner



Unrated | 368 pages | Candlewick Press | Contemporary | 04/10/2018 

I am all for quiet YAs that have interesting premises and haven't been put through the giant hype machine. Relative Strangers is about Jules, a teen girl, who has always felt like there was something missing from the humdrum life she leads with her emotionally distant mother. Jules has a vintage adventurer's sensibility and wants more than what her small town can offer.

When she discovers she was in foster care she goes off to reconnect with the foster family that raised her for the first year of her life. She forms a relationship with her former foster-brother,  now a handsome pianist who gives her the confidence she's been looking for.

Now, I was a little frustrated with the protagonist in this book in a way I've never been before.  She admits she is envious of her two best friends' big close families and she knows she shouldn't be because they have issues too, but she just never lets it go. Even when she knows she should.  Also, she is so distraught and angry and feels like she was lied to over the fact that her mother never told her she was in foster care for ONE YEAR ?! I mean I guess you could argue the first year is pretty formative but she acts like it was forever and. There are a lot of things for her to be frustrated with her mom about and this isn't a big one.

Jules begins to struggle with the crush she is developing on her foster-brother and tries to be just a sister as he copes with the impending death of one of his parents,  and you kind of want to yell at her to get her life right because other people are going through it. But despite the rough start with  I think Jules grows as a character toward the end in a way that is satisfying and worth the journey.

I feel like this would be a good fit for fans of emotional family dramas

SIDE NOTE

Jules has a gay goth BFF who lost his mom and works in a coffee shop during his gap year while writing a novel, taking care of his pet rats while waiting to get into the Iowa Writer's Workshop who is obsessed with death. He seemed like he needed his own book and/or fell out of a John Green Book.

Check out the audio review at AudioFile Magazine



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