Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Let Me Hear A Rhyme by Tiffany Jackson

Rating: ★★★★ | Macmillan | Contemporary | Release Date: 05/21/2019
After Brooklyn teenager and aspiring rapper Steph is shot to death, his two best friends and sister hatch a plan to give Steph the legacy he always dreamed of. They use his recordings to turn him into Brooklyn’s hottest rapper and unexpectedly uncover secrets to solve Steph’s murder.

This book takes place in 1998 and normally I side-eye YA authors writing books that take place in the ’90s because it feels like it’s pandering to adult readers of YA but in this book, it just works. The '90s setting feels essential to the story and not just like a nostalgia trip because it was such a significant time in hip-hop and Black culture.

Gatekeeping in the music industry was different back then and our characters have to hustle to produce and publicize Steph’s music. If this took place in modern time they’d just have a GoFundMe, upload the recording to SoundCloud and be done.

Each of our three protagonists gets their own separate plots along and it felt like there wasn't as much follow through on the individual storylines which was kind of disappointing. particularly with Steph's sister who falls in with militant Black Nationalists. We never fully get into what is going on with her and I feel like it could have been a book on its own.

This is a full-cast audiobook and all of the narrators were new to me. My favorite was Nile Bullock because he actually sounded like a teen. He doesn’t do voices, which was a little confusing, but he easily and naturally navigates the 90’s New York slang. By comparison, Korey Jackson and Adam Lazarre-White sounded significantly older. Our sole female narrator, Adenrele Ojo, has a teen voice that sounded a little whiny and like she was always on the verge of tears. There are a few moments of rapping and singing in this book and I really wish they’d brought in someone... those sections just felt awkward.

In the acknowledgments, Jackson says this is a personal story for her because she was a teenager in Brooklyn during this time and pieces of her are weaved into book. I think her experience brings a refreshing authenticity to this YA about grief, music and what it means to be seen.

This book is also the perfect read-along with 2019’s other hip hop YA On The Come Up by Angie Thomas, they both say interesting things about the legacy of hip-hop and Black youth.

I….I think this book may have taught me how to play Spades….

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Books and Sensibility By The Numbers 2019 !

It's that time of year where we crunch the numbers from the books we've reviewed on this blog in 2019. We keep track using a review tracking spreadsheet in Google Sheets and turn it into an infographic on Canva. This isn't indicative of all our reading because the romance blog has its own stats and there are books we've read that haven't been reviewed.

Genre Breakdown
33.9% YA  Fantasy
28% YA Contemporary
7.5% Adult Fantasy
5.6% YA Mystery

5.6% YA Sci-Fi
3.7% Adult Fiction

3.7% Mystery Adult
1.8% Adult Non-Fiction
1.8% YA Non-Fiction
1.8% Adult Sci-Fi
1.8%YA Anthology
1.8% Horror
1.8% Dystopian

Diversity / Demographics
28% books written by POC authors
~ 45% books narrated by POC narrators
7% books featured characters with disability
46 books written by female authors
7 books written by male authors
1 written by a nonbinary author

Overall the stats are exactly what I expected, although things are a little skewed because I read the first five books in the Grisha Series (just couldn't get to King of Scars)  which is why Macmillian is showing up as a popular publisher. I also think it's interesting that Scribd and Audible are neck and neck because there was a point where I was done with Scribd after having technical issues and a low selection.  I'm glad I gave the app a second chance.

I compared this year to last year and there aren't too many differences. The SFF number is significantly higher than last year's 29% but like Jess, I read the Grisha series and Crooked Kingdom so those got counted twice.Our number of LGBQA protagonists went up 18% and I think as more books are published LGBTQ characters that number will only go up.

*Includes The Bellewether which is Contemporary with Historical elements.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

10th Annual End of Year Book Survey !

I can't believe the Perpetual Page-Turner has been doing this for a decade! You can find the questions on her blog here. For this I'm also including books from this blog and my romance blog, Romance and Sensibility.


Number Of Books You Read: 60, which is a real record for me ! 28 were non-romance and 32 were romance novels/novellas
Number of Re-Reads: Just one. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. I wanted to read the rest of the series and needed a refresher.
Genre You Read The Most From:  Contemporary Adult Romance

1. Best Book You Read In 2019?

I'm going to break it down:

Backlist YA: Jack of Hearts by LC Rosen
Frontlist YA: On The Come Up by Angie Thomas
Backlist Romance: Buns by Alice Clayton
Frontlist Romance: Well Met by Jen Deluca

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

The Whole Package by Marie Harte. Harte wrote two of my favorite romances of all time,but this one disappointed me. I am giving Harte's newest book a change though...

Honorable mention: I listened to the book Fluffy by Julia Kent purely because I heard a snippet of it on the Sound Bites podcast that sounded funny. I ended up hating it.

3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read? 

I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest. I was anticipating this book for a while and I was surprised how much I liked it. I usually have a hard time with YA romances. This is probably the best one I've read in recent years.

4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?

The only person I really push to read books is Jess and I pushed her to read Six of Crows. Our older brother is also (suddenly becoming) a reader and I think I'll rec the series to him too.

5. Best series you started in 2019? Best Sequel of 2019? Best Series Ender of 2019?

Best series started: The Crown of Shard series by Jennifer Estep
Best sequel: I didn't read a sequel that I liked
Best series ender: I didn't read a series ender that I liked

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2019?

Lucy Lennox is a new to me author who wrote King Me, a sexy art heist romance.

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

This year I read two adult SFF novellas and I think of the two I liked This Is How You Lose The Time War best.

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

Jack of Hearts by LC Rosen, I just wanted to know who the stalker was!

9. Book You Read In 2019 That You Would Be MOST Likely To Re-Read Next Year?
I don't typically re-read but I can see myself re-reading This is How You Lose The Time War because I feel like it's a book that makes more sense the second time around.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2019?
I absolutely hated this book, but it has one of my favorite covers. It just really stands out:

11. Most memorable character of 2019?

Natalie Grayson in Cream of The Crop by Alice Clayton

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2019?

This Is How You Lose The Time War by Max Gladstone and Amal Eh-Mohtar

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2019?
I don't think I had one of those

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2019 to finally read?

The Grisha series. I had no idea how I've gone this long without getting spoiled.

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2019?
I really like this passage from Suddenly One Summer between divorce lawyer Victoria Slade and her hero, journalist Ford Dixon because after the black moment the heroine does a "grovel" instead of the hero which is kind of subversive.

She lifted her chin. “Are you dating that woman who was with you in the elevator?”
Fuck that. All his frustration boiling to the surface, he took a step closer to her. She had no right to ask him that, not anymore. She had kicked him out of her life. “Would it make any difference if I was?” he asked sharply.
Victoria held her ground, peering up at him and taking a moment before answering. “No.”
His shoulders slumped.
Well. He’d asked.
“That’s what I thought,” he said tersely. He spun around and started walking toward his car.
“Because I’d fight for you anyway.”
He stopped.
His heart pounding, he turned around to face her.
She stepped toward him, speaking determinedly. “This was not supposed to happen. My whole adult life I have avoided exactly this happening. I had things all mapped out, I knew what I wanted, and I was set. But then you came along, and you messed up all of that, with your little quips, and your jaw that twitches when you get protective, and the way you somehow manage to always be so infuriatingly unfazed no matter what I throw at you. And now I’m stuck. I can’t get back to my old life and, even crazier, I don’t want my old life anymore.” She held his gaze. “Because that life doesn’t have you in it.”

16. Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2019?

Shortest: A Tale of Two Cities by Alexandra Warren at 60 pages

Longest:  It was a tie. Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardguo and Mixtape: A Love Song anthology were both 536 pages.

17. Book That Shocked You The Most
I'm going to say Ruin and Rising. Because I read Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom first I  was sure I knew what was going to happen at the end of the books and I was wrong.

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)

Dirk Falcon and King Wilde (I know, the names are peak romance hero names) in King Me by Lucy Lennox

Bonus: This is not canon but I totally ship Nena and Inej from Six of Crows

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year
The friendship between all the couples in Alice Clayton's Hudson Valley series. I loved the scene when they were all running a marathon together.

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2019 From An Author You’ve Read Previously
Hmm... I read a lot of new to me authors this year. I did like both Alexandra Warren Tale of Two Cities novellas I read.

21. Best Book You Read In 2019 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure/Bookstagram, Etc.:

Timekeeper by Tara Sim...I pretty much only read it because Eric Smith kept bringing it up on the  Hey, YA. Podcast

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2019?
Zavier Demons from Syncopation by Anna Zabo

23. Best 2019 debut you read?

Well Met by Jen Deluca

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?
All of the timelines and worlds in This is How You Lose The Time War

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?
The Hudson Valley series by Alice Clayton

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2019?
I didn't have one this year

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?
I wouldn't necessarily call her a hidden gem but Alexandra Warren's Tale of Two Cities series is great for quick romance reads.

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?
I didn't really have one

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2019?
This is How You Lose The Time War

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?
Queen of Nothing by Holly Black--mostly because it didn't go the way I wanted it to go.

1. New favorite book blog/Bookstagram/Youtube channel you discovered in 2019?

I got more into Booktube more this year. I just kind of leave it running in the background when I'm doing something. Some of my go to channels are:

Alexa Loves Books
Bookish Realm
Bree Hill

2. Favorite post you wrote in 2019?
My post about reading The Grisha series out of order

3. Favorite bookish related photo you took in 2019:
I didn't really take too many photos

4. Best bookish event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, etc.)?
ApollyCon ! It was kind of overwhelming but I'm glad I went.

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2019?
I don't have one, blogging has kind of taken a backseat for me so I'm just glad I can still do it.

6. Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year?
I think just the usual...feeling some burn out and going weeks without publishing anything.

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?
According to Blogger it is my Broken Things review ?

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?
I don't have one.

9. Best bookish discover (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?
I've been using Libro.FM and it's a great way to support local indies and it has pretty much all the same features as Audible

10. Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?
I always try to read more of the books I already have....I think I only got to two.
1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2019 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2020?
Midnight Beasties by Megan Shepherd...I wanted that book so badly last year and I never got to it!

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2020 (non-debut)?
Now That I've Found You by Kristina Forest

3. 2020 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?
A Sweet Mess by Jayci Lee

4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2020?
The Bride Bet by Tessa Dare

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2020?
I....I may try a booktube video or two

6. A 2020 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone (if applicable):
I haven't read any 2020 books

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Our Top Five Books of The Year

Polaris Rising by Jessie Mihalik

An action-packed space opera that follows a fugitive princess and an outlaw as they make daring escapes and planet hop while trying to end a dangerous trade war before it can begin.

Long Shot by Kennedy Ryan

A heartbreaking romance that follows college grads Iris and August as they begin a journey that finds August shooting for his hoop dreams and Iris fighting for her life in an abusive relationship. Long Shot holds strongly to the spirit of a genre that guarantees an HEA even after the most tumultuous of storms.

The Beckoning Shadow by Katharyn Blair

Vesper, a former high school cheerleader with secret superhuman powers ditches her pom-poms for a pair of boxing gloves and the cage match of her life. 

On The Come Up by Angie Thomas

Aspiring rapper Brianna "Bri" Jackson is ready to have her come up but injustice, poverty, and complicated family dynamics stand in her way. On The Come Up is an incisive contemporary take on teen issues and a love letter to the power of rap music.

Jack of Hearts (And Other Parts) by L.C. Rosen

In this modern and engaging take on the teen sex comedy, 17-year-old Jack Rothman starts a sex advice column for his school's website. He’s prepared for gossip and judgment but nothing prepares him for an anonymous stalker.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley

Rating: ★★★+.5 | 414 pages | Simon & Schuster | Historical Fiction|  Release Date: 04/24/18 

It's sort of fitting that I read this book at the end of the year because the end of this book was such a letdown.

Bellwether is a blend of historical and contemporary fiction revolving around the Wilde Family and their lasting legacy in small-town Millbank, NY 

In present-day, Charley Van Hoek is the newest curator at the Wilde House Museum who discovers the Wilde house and the ghost within it have a story to tell about the forbidden love between daughter Lydia Wilde and Jean-Philippe--a captured French Candian Officer being held at the Wilde house during the Seven Years' War. The story goes that when the star-crossed lovers tried to escape together Jean-Philippe was shot and his lantern has been seen still lightning the way and looking for Lydia ever since.

We travel back in forth in time and the historical chapters reminded why I like historical fiction, I always find it fascinating how people lived off the land and worked in the "olden days." The Wildes are a close-knit and hardworking family-- this warmth draws Jean-Philippe to them even though he is a prisoner and there is a language barrier.

The present-day chapters were full of competency porn as Charley, her friends and colleagues use their skills to track down documents and artifacts to tell the story of Lydia and the Jean-Phillipe while turning Wilde House Museum into a community gathering place--which leads to some cozy small-town scenes.

I appreciate how Kearsley directly confronts slavery in the time period. It is discussed and debated multiple times and she even gives a voice to a slave family the Wilde's "saved" from an abusive relative. Although, I still feel like having  “good” white character ignores that they are all complicit in the system.

This audiobook featured three narrators. Sarah Mollo-Christensen and Megan Tusing narrate Charley and Lydia's chapters sound very similar to one another. Tim Campbell narrates Jean-Philippe's chapters and he notably makes use of a very good French accent.

So, the ending.  *spoiler alert*   it’s revealed the story of Jean-Philippe and Lydia being star-crossed lovers and Jean-Philippe dying was fake news. An old French woman shows up and explains that the ghost story wasn’t true at all.  Jean-Philippe was released under a technicality and then he and Lydia just...lived HEA. It felt like both timelines were hurtling towards the tragic event we are told about in present-day and then it's like...no. The story just fizzles out.

I mean there was this thread throughout the book about how one of the Wilde brothers with PTSD    was left out of the family history and he was supposed to be the one who killed Jean-Phillipe...but no. IT JUST DIDN’T HAPPEN. It was a red herring and the ghost turns out not to be Jean-Philippe but  Lydia’s mother who died before the book started??? Even the prologue alluded to his death but I guess this was supposed to be when he died of natural causes?

I'm intrigued by Kearsley's format enough to want to pick up another one, but I'm not sure I will if all of her books feature red herrings like this.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Serpent & Dove Shelby Mahurin

Rating: ★★★  | HarperTeen | Fantasy | Release Date: 09/03/2019

Okay, is it just me or is this one of those books in the YA book world that people either really love or really don't like? I feel like the other books series that fall into this category are Daughter of Smoke and Bone and The Raven Cycle. I like a polarizing book so I had to check this one out.

I started this having no idea what it was about, I just knew it was a YA fantasy and was stirring up some controversy. As I was reading (listening on audio) my interested was piqued as we enter Cesarine, an opulent city forged in a land once ruled by witches---who have been ruthlessly conquered by the religious and devout Le Blanc royal family.

For generations, witches have been forced into hiding or face death at the hands of the Chasseurs, witch executioners. So for Lou, a foul-mouthed impulsive young witch on the run, Cesarine is the last place she should be. When a public misstep forces her to marry Captian Reid Diggory a Chasseur officer, soon the man she fears the most becomes the only one she can trust

What I like is this is one of the books where we jump into the action at the start, then quickly watch  Lou and Reid navigate their forced marriage of convenience. I never knew what to expect and liked that it didn't feel formulaic and wasn't just about a rebellion. Lou and Reed had individual journeys and goals they wanted to accomplish.

I am strictly middle of the road with this book. I'm not a big fan of forced marriage or enemies to lovers tropes. I can see how the taboo nature of their relationship might be appealing to some readers but not so much for me.  I mean because Reid is a Chasseur, he has killed tons of women and girls because of his religious creed as Chasseur and this is something Lou has to accept about him? Not an appealing dynamic.

Now with that said I feel like there is a bit of a controversy with this book as it features a rather steamy sex scene for YA while they are two consenting people having a positive experience,  I can see how younger teens may not want to read this.

I'm just actually really curious why this YA? The perspective felt like it could have been an adult fantasy novel.  The characters are 18 but read much older, they are established in who they are and what they want. And I know when you are young a teenager a few years makes a big difference but they treated a 16-year-old character like he was much younger than them.

Readers looking for a darker YA romance with anti-heroes, snarky female characters, magic, and some witch related female-rage will enjoy the start to this unpredictable YA duology.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

The Wicked King and Queen of Nothing Holly Black


In 2019 I swam back into the YA fantasy audiobooks waters and I’ve had a great time. When I listen to a good fantasy audiobook I just get transported into the author’s imagination and no series has done that more for me more than Holly Black’s Folk of The Air series.

That said, I wasn’t entirely on board with the direction this series took and that mostly came down to me not shipping Jude and Cardan as much as Black wanted me to.

In Wicked King, Jude has control of the crown but she’s working against time and once again finds herself in the middle of deadly power games, deceptions, and burgeoning war. Except for this time, there is some Undersea thrown in!

Much like with The Cruel Prince I was sucked in by Black’s prose and Caitlin Kelly’s lively performance on the audiobook. Black loves faeries (seriously...she even had her ears modified to points) and her enthusiasm shows in her writing. She lingers on descriptions of food, clothes and appearances and pulls every detail out of the scene.

But this book had some serious sophomore book syndrome. I was surprised when I was 58% into it and nothing had really happened. After reading Queen of Nothing, it’s clear to me Black was using this book to set up the plot twist at the end and the events of the next book.

This book also...turns up the heat a little bit.

I’m glad I waited to read Wicked King because after that cliffhanger I hoped right into Queen of Nothing. To steal a saying from NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour Podcast; this thing is on rails from page one. It reminded me of the last few seasons of the ABC show Once Upon A Time as the stakes and loyalties kept changing. Black’s plotting felt very episodic and at times...a little disjointed. While the snake thing was interesting it felt like it came out of nowhere.

I also wasn’t wild about Taryn’s plotline. It seemed like we had to go through the whole drawn-out marriage plotline just as a vehicle so they could switch places in book 3. I will say I really liked the portrayal of how Taryn fit herself into Jude’s new life. Taryn’s enjoyment of things like clothes and needlepoint weren’t treated as useless and she used those things to help Jude.

My problem with the end of this series is that Cardan’s HEA felt undeserved. I think Black tries to show in little ways that he had evolved beyond the cruel prince but it never came full circle. Especially after Jude had to give up so much to fight for her place. Black made us feel bad for him instead of showing him on an active journey to be better. This tweet sums up my thoughts about his redemption:

When Jess gets around to reading this book she’s going to be doing the I told you so dance because I was convinced Black was doing the Protagonist Journey to Villian thing with Jude and not writing a love story. I  just don’t like them as a couple. I was definitely 2.5x the love scene because I wasn’t into it.

Also, my last nitpick, at the very end when they go to the mortal world the tone of the book just felt so different. I almost felt like I was reading fanfiction. I do still kind of like the series but overall it left me feeling kind of bitter.

Why is it that in every YA fantasy after you have sex you either die or something bad happens to you? This happens every time.

Also, when Cardan breaks the crown literally all I could think about was this


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