Friday, April 17, 2020

AudioFile Magazine’s Picks of the Best YA Audiobooks for Spring Listening

Spring is finally here and you can always count on an audiobook as a great little getaway,  and AudioFile Magazine is here to help with their Best YA Audiobooks for Spring Listening. For more audiobook reviews, recommendations and blog posts and check out AudioFile or follow @AudioFileMag

STAMPED Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds, Ibram X. Kendi

Read by Jason Reynolds, Ibram X. Kendi [Intro.] | Earphones Award Winner
Jason Reynolds wrote and narrates this vital and compelling young adult remix of Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped From The Beginning. Even with such an intense subject, Reynolds writes and speaks directly to younger listeners in an engaging and open style. His rich voice and strong pacing make him especially good at emphasizing key points and carrying listeners through difficult concepts. Reynolds compels listeners to be critical thinkers and to take action. 

FURIOUS THING by Jenny Downham 
Read by Jenny Downham | Earphones Award Winner

Some authors excel at narrating their own work. Jenny Downham can be counted among them. Her latest teen novel features Lexi, a 15-year-old whose anger issues are coming to a head as she struggles for perfection, hoping to be accepted by her mother's demanding fiancé. In this haunting story, Lexi's frustrations with her shortcomings are realistically portrayed, both by the words on the page and by Downham's performance. Beautifully performed, this audiobook is certain to evoke deep emotions.

NIGHT SPINNER by Addie Thorley

Read by Natalie Naudus | Earphones Award Winner
Narrator Natalie Naudus delivers an emotionally engrossing performance in this Hunchback retelling with a magical twist. After losing control of her night-spinning powers and murdering an entire caravan, Enebish, maimed, with her powers blocked, and overwhelmed by guilt, eagerly agrees to an opportunity to capture a war criminal and to be reinstated as a warrior. Naudus's precise pacing escalates the intensity, and listeners will be captivated from start to finish. 

SHADOWSHAPER LEGACY Shadowshaper Cypher, Book 3 by Daniel José Older 

Read by Anika Noni Rose | Earphones Award Winner
Anika Noni Rose narrates the glorious conclusion to the epic Shadowshaper Cypher trilogy. Sierra and her Shadowshaper crew face danger from all sides now that the existing and emerging Houses know that the Deck of Worlds is in play. Rose imbues all of the evils that Sierra and her crew face—whether supernatural or banally human—with menace and just the touch of scorn they deserve.

A PHOENIX FIRST MUST BURN Sixteen Stories of Black Girl Magic, Resistance, and Hope by Patrice Caldwell [Ed.]

Read by York Whitaker | Earphones Award Winner
Here, one of the foremost #ownvoices authors creates strong black heroines in tales of "black culture, strength, beauty, bravery, resistance, magic, and hope." York Whitaker's fluid narrations showcase the versatility of stories with settings that range from contemporary America to the Caribbean and that feature diverse characters. This magnificent collection embraces a range of racial, gender, and cultural issues.


Read by Kirsten Potter |Earphones Award Winner
From its opening, which features a chilling description of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh's speech at an America First rally, Kirsten Potter expertly narrates this nonfiction. Following Lindbergh's life from his birth in Detroit and his childhood in Minnesota and Washington, DC, through his travels and the controversies surrounding him in adulthood, Potter delivers a strong, lively performance. An engaging story, both in content and in production, this work will keep both young and adult listeners thoroughly engaged.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Rating: ★★★ | 9 hours 58 min. | G.P. Putnam's Son | Adult Fiction  | Release Date: 12/31/19
2020 has been kind of a meh reading year for me so I decided to switch it up with some upmarket book club-y fiction.

This is one of those books where it’s better to go in with as little information as possible. Such a Fun Age starts with 25-year-old Emira, a Black girl living in Philadelphia, being racially profiled while babysitting a white child. The book then follows Emira as she tries to figure out how to become a “real adult” and her boss, Alix Chamberlain, who starts noticing Emira in a new way after the incident.

This book started off kind of slow but it steadily builds into this addictive, complicated narrative about privilege, race and class with a few plot twists and turns along the way. Reid’s writing is so carefully observed and veers into the humorous and even absurd.

I can see why Reese Witherspoon picked this for her book club because it is so discussion-worthy. I’ve found myself thinking about character motives and intentions long after I'd finished it. It has a satisfying ending but leaves you with some interesting questions.

I highly recommend this on audiobook. Narrator Nicole Lewis’ has this remarkable ability to code-switch between the Black and white characters. Literally, every voice she did sounded like a different character. This is her only audiobook and I have no idea how she's not doing all the books.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Protect The Prince by Jennifer Estep (Crown of Shards #2)

Rating: ★★.5 |  12 hrs. 40 min. | Adult Fantasy | Harper Voyage | Release Date: 07/2/2019

*Kill the Queen Spoilers*
Last year, I had some nitpicks with Kill The Queen but overall I enjoyed watching Princess Everleigh Blair's journey from a low ranking royal to a fierce gladiator. But I found this sequel completely lackluster and kind of dull. It didn’t work for me at all and I know this opinion makes me a total black sheep.

In Protect The Prince, Everleigh is now queen of Bellona. She travels to Andvari to work out a peace treaty as Mortans, the people behind her family’s assassination, keep popping out of the woodwork to kill her. That’s it. That’s the entire plot. People keep trying to kill her.

I was just bored with it. There was no tension or interesting stakes. The tension between the characters turns on Everleigh lying to her close friends and allies Because Of Reasons--which is my least favorite thing.

I’m also not feeling the relationship between Everleigh and Lucas Sullivan, a bastard prince of Andvari. This man does next to nothing most of the book except brood. Everleigh's emotional relationship with every other character except Sullivan is so specific and well done. The way Everleigh talks and thinks about Paloma, her gladiator rival turned captain of her guard, reads like a more authentic romance...I’m just sayin'.

The author  constantly describes rage as smelling like “hot jalapeno.” The phrase "hot jalapeno rage" is used multiple times, it took me out of the book and I just could not take it seriously.

While I would still rec the first book, I think I'm out on this series.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta

Rating: ★★★ | 9 hours 44 min. | Viking | YA Fantasy | Release Date: 10/30/18

In this Italian inspired fantasy, we travel to the mountains of Vinalia and meet Teodora “Teo” Di Sangro, the second daughter of a high ranking family. Teo has a secret. She's a strega who uses her magic to turn the men who have wronged her family into objects. You a straight-up serial killer.

Stregas are supposed to be things of the past but when tragedy strikes her family, Teo joins up with Cielo-- a mysterious orphaned strega who can change genders-- to teach her how to become a boy and take over as the Di Sangro family son.

Capetta is clearly doing some interesting work with Italian mythos and gender identity but overall I never connected with the stakes of the book. This story moves pretty fast and I wish we’d lingered a little bit to develop the relationships between the characters. There were so many people towards the end and I had no idea who most of them were or what their purpose was supposed to be.

The audiobook is narrated by Carlotta Brentan. She has a great voice for YA and her accent work was spot on. I demo-d a few other European inspired fantasy audiobooks and so many of the accents came off cartoonish. I was not all surprised to discover Brentan is from Italy Italian, it added a real authenticity to the narration. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Five Black Children’s Books For Young Bookworms

Jess and I bought our nephew his first book at two months old because you’re never too young to excited about books! We have a list of children books by Black authors that will make perfect additions to a burgeoning bookshelf.

King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
A kindergartener takes on his first day of school

Rocket Says Looks Up by Nathan Bryon, Illustrated by Dapo Adeola
A little astronaut-in-training just wants everyone to look up!

Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History by Vashti Harrison
Illustrator Vashti Harrison’s newest book about Black men in history!

Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry Illustrated by Vashti Harrison
Based on the touching Academy Award-winning short film about a father doing his daughter’s natural hair for the first time.

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson Illustrated by Rafael López 
a young girl builds relationships and expands her world

Saturday, February 15, 2020

AudioFile Magazine’s Picks of the Best New YA Audiobooks For Winter Listening

We are teaming up with AudioFile Magazine, the place for audiobook reviews, narrator interviews and audiobookish content, to present AudioFile Magazine's Picks of the Best New YA Audiobooks for winter listening. This Earphones Award-winning list has fantasy, historical fiction, and long-awaited series finales.


by Tomi Adeyemi |  Read by Bahni Turpin

Bahni Turpin exquisitely narrates the second book in this fantasy series, Legacy of Orïsha. Her steady pace and West African accent draw us into the story of Zélie, a Maji warrior, and Princess Amari-- both of whom fight against a monarchy that threatens to destroy the people of Orïsha. The listener is able to connect and sympathize with these two magical beings, even after they have made terrible decisions that produce violent consequences. They are relatable, overwhelmingly passionate, and humanly flawed. A riveting audiobook! Earphones Award Winner


by Mildred D. Taylor | Read by Allyson Johnson

Both author Mildred Taylor and narrator Allyson Johnson fully meet expectations in concluding the Logan family saga, which began in 1975. Johnson warmly welcomes listeners as if inviting them to sit by the fire to hear this family story. The heroine of so many of the Logan books, Cassie, is 19 at the time of the Civil Rights movement. She leaves behind both her beloved land and the hateful prejudice of Mississippi when she moves north and then goes to California. But she discovers that prejudice exists everywhere. The drama of the plot and the depth of the characterizations ensure that this audiobook is unforgettable. Earphones Award Winner


by Rosaria Munda | Read by Christian Coulson, Candice Moll, Steve West

This dragon fantasy rife with political intrigue has three narrators. Christian Coulson portrays Leo, the last living member of the ousted ruling class, who is hiding in plain sight as Lee, a dragon rider who is competing for the coveted Firstrider position. Candice Moll voices Annie, another contender for Firstrider, whose family was murdered by Lee's father. Steve West's voice is stately and resonant as he delivers the flashback sequences that show Lee and Annie's shared childhood in an orphanage. Coulson's Lee and Moll's Annie are both very likable, and the narrators do an exceptional job expressing the characters' complex emotions as they begin to question the new meritocracy's harsh caste system. Earphones Award Winner.


by Justine Ireland | Read by Bahni Turpin, Jordan Cobb 

Two narrators portray the dynamic relationship of the heroines in this compelling sequel to DREAD NATION. In an alternate history, zombies risen from Civil War battlefields are turning folks into undead across the country. Alternating chapters reveal the viewpoints of two African-American characters, both trained assassins who struggle to find their true identities. Themes of human experimentation and prejudice take a back seat to the tense action in this gripping audio. Earphones Award Winner
 by Libba Bray | Read by January LaVoy

Narrator January LaVoy returns for the final installment of Bray's Diviners series. The dead are rising, and only a band of supernaturally gifted people can stop them. There are more than 25 characters in this story, ranging from an African-American boy to an adult woman with a Russian accent, and the choice to leave it all to LaVoy was inspired as she needs no supporting cast. This is an audiobook one wishes would never end. Earphones Award Winner
Which audiobook are you excited for?

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor

15 Hours 54 Minutes | Hachette Audio | YA Fantasy  | 10/02/2018

There is just no way Laini Taylor brain works the way everyone else does. Her vibrant and expansive imagination allows her to dive into fantasy worlds that are beautiful, mystifying and devastating. 

Muse of Nightmares seamlessly continues the story of Strange The Dreamer and unravels the horrifying truth behind the Godspawn and Mezarthum all while Lazlo and the people of Weep come face to face with the children who survived a horrific genocide. In a way, this book is also an origin story that spans worlds and decades.

I think this series worked well as a duology and I'm starting to really get behind wanting more. I mean  there is a point where you could see where a third book could have easily been inserted because we are introduced to a new adversary whose sudden arrival instantly accelerated the story in kind of an awkward way but Taylor eventually evens it out

Like with the first book I  found the references to genocide and rapes hard to read. This series and Daughter of Smoke and Bone exist. in the same universe and it feels like Taylor is still asking the same question about redemption and reconciliation after genocide and war. Also, both books feature mass rape and the commodification of children.

Taylor's story really crosses the divide between Young Adult and Adult fantasy. As a writer, she is invested in the lives and perspectives of her adult and teen characters alike.

Speaking of Smoke & Bone I liked the ending of this one a lot better if fit together and felt more…planned. 

With all of that said I personally enjoyed how Taylor connects her worlds and hinted at future stories to come.  

Where is the next book, please?


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