Saturday, December 31, 2016

Our 16 Favorite Podcast Episodes of 2016



At Books and Sensibility we don't just listen to audiobooks, we listen to tons and tons of podcast. So, After listening to Pop Culture Happy Hour's  "Favorite Podcast  of 2016" episode, we started thinking about all great podcasts we heard this year. Here are our  favorite episodes from 2016



1. "When A Tamale Determines The Presidency"
The Sporkful
In this podcast all about eating Dan Pashman explores the intricacies and  complications that arise when it comes to food on the campaign trail.



2. "Stuff That Happens in Books But Would Not Fly in Real Life"
Scandalicious and The Nerd Herd
Scandal and her panel of romance novel loving nerds discuss the tropes they love in their romance novels, but would never allow in real life. This panel is always hilarious together and I think we'd have 50% less think pieces on romance if non-romance readers listened to this episode.



3. "Flying Food"
99% Invisible

Once you listen to this episode you won't be able to unsee all the "flying food" used in fast food advertisements. Roman Mars and his production crew make this very visual topic ready for your ears.



4. "Debatable"
   RadioLab
If you think a podcast about science can't tell the compelling story of how a pair of queer black men shook up the very white world of college debate, then you would be wrong.



5. "What's So Funny About The Indian Accent" 
Code Switch 
A podcast about race and culture,  this thoughtful and funny episode has a group of Indians and Indian-Americans sit down to figure out what's so funny about  the Indian accent. And yes, they talk about Apu from the Simpsons



6. "Fantasy, Movies, Shows and Books"
Pop Rocket 
This episode was recorded after the shootings in Orlando and other tragedies around the world . The host come together over the realities of what's happening IRL, while still talking about the function of fantasy in popular culture. Also, I still kind of lol'd over one of Wynter Mitchell's thoughts on why there aren't more black people in fantasy. Basically it's: ain't nobody got time for that.


7. "Disappeared"
 Reply All (2nd story)
When the host of this podcast learns that he completely misrepresented the origins of the phrase 'Yas, Queen' he apologizes and then reports a story on the origin of the phrase in drag balls in the 1980s and the often erased people the phrase belongs to.


8. "Gaming the System"
Start Up

A two part episode about a group of friends in a struggling Internet start up in the early 2000s that has had billion dollar success in recent years. Can you guess the start up before it's revealed at the end ?



9. "Put Some Respeck on Self Publishing's Name"
 Girl, Have You Read

Self-publishing  gets a lot of judgment, but for may romance writers it's their way to a new career. In this episode two indie authors give a transparent look into what it means financially to self-publish...including giving real numbers. It is fascinating.



10. "Couples Who Read Together"
Smart Podcast, Trashy Books
Who said men don't read romance ? In this round table two married couples talk about how they started reading romance together, their shared love of romance novels and the men dish on what does and doesn't work for them in romance.



11. "Kittens Kick The Giggly Blue Robot All Summer"
More Perfect
What starts out as a podcast about the origins of the Supreme Court's power divulges into an account of rogue politicians, feuding cousins and...80's movie tropes ? Seriously,  Lin Manuel Miranda, where you at ?


12. "Diana Guerrero on Debt and Deportation"
Death, Sex and Money
Orange Is the New Black star Diana Guerrero gives an intimate look at her life as a first generation Colombian immigrant and what happens after her parents are deported.



13. "Are We There Yet ?" and "Don't Have To Live Like A Refugee"
This American Life
Speaking of intimate looks at broad issues, the This American Life team did two episodes on what it is like at Syrian refugee camps in Greece. Stories of people who are tying to survive and also maybe find a cell phone charger.



14. "The Election"
Read it and Weep
This comedy podcast reviews bad books movies and TV but sometimes they get a little meta and this year they reviewed. . . the election. Everyone is having conversations following this year's elections so why not eavesdrop on a group of friends talking it out amongst themselves with some laughs along the way.


15. "Spring of Success Jennifer Weiner (Tour of Duty)"
Book Fight
This spring, the thoughtful but sometimes bawdy pair of writers went back to read a successful author's first piece of published work and examine that authors path to success. This is the last episode in the series  and they come to some interesting conclusions about success in the literary world. 



16."Covering 2016 As A Muslim"
NPR Politics
NPR Politics usually features weekly political break downs or updates on breaking news, but in this episode Asma Khalid sheds her reporter role to discuss what it was like being a Muslim woman covering the 2016 campaign. 

End Of The Year Book Haul

Between Black Friday Deals and Christmas sales here are the last few books I got to round out 2016



Wednesday, December 28, 2016

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

Release Date: 6/2/16
Audiobook Length :  8 Hours 25 minutes
Genre: Contemporar
Publisher: Soho Press

The expectation to be happy can be overwhelming, but Aaron Soto is going to try. He is going to happily spend the summer hanging with  his friends, nerding out over comics and finally telling his girlfriend he loves her. He won't think about the things that threaten his happiness like his father's suicide or Tomas, a neighborhood boy whose friendship could spark something more. Looming in the background of this happy summer is the divisive Leteo institute, a facility that claims that can make memories go away.

In his debut novel, Silvera takes his time bringing readers into the rhythms of summertime in the Bronx. One that is filed with silliness, work and fiercely loyal bonds while just grazing the surface of  the intersectionality of  homosexuality and toxic masculinity as one abandons childhood for adulthood. As you do.

The Leteo's  Institute and its memory erasing procedure is this huge Chekov's Gun that sort of hangs throughout the book with a big arrow pointing to it, you are just waiting for it to go off and when it goes off, it really goes off.

I listened to the audio and could immediately tell that actor,  Ramon De Ocampo, was not a career narrator. His dialogue and performance lacked consistency. I could never get a feel for what Aaron or any of the characters "sounded" like.  Aaron has a tight group of friends and when you have a book with multiple male voices you really need that distinction. If he would have played it straight without trying to change his pitch it could have been a more immersive experience.

The very very end of this book is just. . . unbelievable. It makes you feel the feels. I had to PREPARE myself to listen to it because it's a tough one that will stick with you long after you finish. While reading this book I couldn't help but to think about this quote from White Cat by Holly Black

"We are, largely, who we remember ourselves to be."

I think teen me would have liked this book, so I would totally recommend this. It's a wonderful debut, I can't wait to read Silvera's next book The History of Us.

I really like the paperback cover for this book.


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

17 Books We Want To Read In 2017



The Countdown is on to 2017 and here are the books we can't wait to read in 2017 !


JANUARY

1. Seconds To Sunrise by Nico Rosso
Book three in Nico Rosso's romantic suspense undercover operator series. This time an Automatik operative's mission is to protect a war widow from cyber terrorist. - Jess








2. The Book of Mirrors by E. O. Chirovici 
An investigative journalist is hired by a literary agent to use a  posthumous partial manuscript to solve a murder from twenty years earlier. Crime and a journalist protagonist ? Yes, please. - Jess








3. Caraval by Stephanie Garber
During the BEA Buzz panel the editor of this book said she had a sit-on-the-floor-couldn't-get-up moment when reading this. If that's endorsement enough this book has also been compared to The Night Circus. - Jess








4. Breathless by Beverly Jenkins
A follow up to Forbidden, this installment seems to have a bit of a time jump and features the niece of the heroine from the first novel. - Jess










5. History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera
Based on his debut novel Adam Silvera knows how to pack an emotional punch and make a contemporary settings come to life. - Jess







MARCH


6. Stealing Mr. Right by Tamara Morgan. 
Um, jewel thief married to an FBI agent ? Yes, please - Jess










7. An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole
Two Civil War spies;one a former slave the other a private detective begin a mission together in Richmond, VA. Not sure if this is going to be an easy book to read considering some the power dynamics but. . . I'm open. -Jess









8. Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
Published last year in the UK, this YA book  tells the story of two teenagers who start a podcast that goes viral. Interestingly enough, this is Oseman's third book and she's only 21. -Kat






APRIL

9. Back To Your Love by Kianna Alexander
This second chance romance is the first in a series following the brothers of a the fictional Black fraternity Theta Delta Theta. - Kat









10. To Me I Wed by K.M. Jackson
This is the second book in KM Jackson's Unconventional Bride's series and starts with a woman who is throwing a big wedding where she's going to marry...herself ? I just have to see how this plays out.








11. Gem & Dixie by Sara Zarr
Sara Dessen was raving about this on Twitter and it instantly went on my TBR. It tells the story of two sisters from a broken home. - Kat







MAY


12. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
I can't wait to read this YA romantic comedy about two Indian American teens - Kat











13. One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus
A YA murder mystery where 5 students walk into a detention room and only four walk out alive. The questions is, which one of them is the killer ? - Kat








14. From Duke Till Dawn (The London Underground) by Eva Leigh
I read Leigh's debut last year and really liked her style. This is the first book in a new series and features a con artist heroine who needs the help of a duke to get back her stolen money. - Kat











June


15. Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts
Okay, first of all I'm super surprised Barnes and Noble let a YA book get a title like this. This looks like a Games of Thrones-y type book about a group of literal royal bastards who group together to try and stop a civil war. Shvarts is a videogame designer so I'll be curious how videogame storytelling will influence the story. - Kat


July


16. Unraveled by Lauren Dane
The first book in a new series about a vintage style barbershop and whiskey bar in Seattle(because of course). From the hipster setting to the heroine being a punk rock drummer this romance feels fresh and doesn't sound like anything I've read before. - Kat








September


17. They Both Die At The End by Adam Silvera
Okay, I have been unamused by "end of the world" books but Silvera is a promising YA authors so I'll give this one a chance. Set in the near future this novel follows two teens who meet on their End Day. - Jess







Thursday, December 22, 2016

Heartless by Marissa Meyer


  • Release Date: 11/08/16
  • Audiobook Length :  14 Hours 34 Minutes
  • Genre: Fairytale
  • Publisher: Macmillan Audio / Feiwel & Friends

Katherine Pinkerton knows better than dream of owning her own bakery baker, she knows her destiny lies in becoming the queen of a wacky, quirky, surreal little Kingdom of Hearts. On the night she is to be betrothed she sets eyes on the handsome court joker, who has more than cards up his sleeves.

Unlike the Lunar Chronicles where the fairytale aspects are subtext and set in a modern world, Heartless is an overt-played-straight prequel to Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. Meyer digs into the Kingdom of Hearts and all its little oddities. It's a place where animals talk, playing cards are courtier and if one bring something back from a dream. . . well then so be it. 

What we don't really get to dig into in this novel is the plot. Plot points in the novel are hung like painting with no nails, there are a lot of them, you want to see them. . . but they have a tendency to fall off. One of the many plot in this book is about a forbidden romance that never really started for me. There is also a beta romance, a monster, intrigue,  war and magic. . . but we never get fully invested in any of it.

If you've read Fairest then you know Meyer has already explored the idea of what makes a villain a villain. In Fairest she focuses on those who are naturally evil, but in this novel she looks at the outside forces that can turn a hopeful baker into The Queen of Hearts. In the end the change was too simple, basically it came down to a binary . It's like . . . that thing. . . if you did the opposite of that thing then you would have been fine.

And what's even more curiouser and curiouser is the tone the novel takes, it goes from whimsical to oddly dark, then right back to light again.

Rebecca Soler always comes to win with her grand performances. She takes each characters voice as her own Her performance of the man-child, babbling, silly King of Hearts was so on point. Unfortunately Soler makes use of this quasi-British accent that just doesn't hit the mark all the time.

Heartless is a different beat from the Lunar Chronicles (and I think the cover totally tricks you into thinking this is apart of the series) , that's may be more for fans of Lewis Carroll than the Lunar Chronicles.



Monday, December 5, 2016

The Sun is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon



  • Release Date: November 1, 2016
  • Pages: 384
  • Genre: Contemporary
  • Publisher: Crown (Random House)

Tasha Kingston's family is 24 hours away from being deported to Jamaica after her father drunkenly tells a police officer they've been in the country for over a decade on expired travel visas. Tasha isn't ready to leave America, she has a fake social security number and was prepared to go to college and become a data scientist. She resolves to spend her last day doing everything she can to find a way to delay the deportation. What she doesn't plan on is meeting Daniel Bae, the idealistic aspiring poet  who believes their meeting was an act of faith. Tasha is pragmatic and doesn't believe in fate or soul mates but as they spend the day together Daniel starts to change her mind and get inside her heart. But what does any of it mean when in 24 hours she won't be allowed back in the United States ?

Honestly I was kind of lukewarm on the romance, I just have a hard time investing in romances in such a condensed timeline. To me the most interesting thing about this book is how the story is structured. Not only do we get Daniel and Tasha's POVs we also get these mini sections called "brief histories" that give you a minor characters past and future or give you a history on a certain subject. I liked the way these sections broadened the 24 hour timeline a little bit.

Maybe I'm getting old, but there were parts of this book that were just a little too earnest for me, especially with Daniel. I feel like his mean older brother was made almost manically mean just to be his foil. Daniel has a lot of angst about the fact that his parents want him to go to Yale when he just wants to be a poet and I don't know I'm just like:


I mean...Yale has an English department


Okay, I'm going to talk about diversity for a second here. I think you can draw a straight line from the beginnings of We Need Diverse Books hashtag to a book like this getting so much great pre-release buzz. I think this book is what success and publishers "getting diversity" looks like. The Sun is Also A Star is about an interracial couple with two POCs that isn't all about The Struggle and not really being marketed for it's diversity; It's being marketed for it's  story. Books like this are pretty rare and I hope with her success we see more !

The Sun is Also A Star is  a book I think we will be hearing a lot about for a long time. It's about first love, family and all the little coincidences that throw two people together in the right place at the wrong time.




This book has one of my Top 5 Title Drops.






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