Monday, November 12, 2018

Let's Talk About Love by Claire Kann

Rating: unrated  | Swoon Reads | Contemporary New Adult | Release Date: 1/23/2018 

Let's Talk About Love is an upbeat, modern romance-y novel that feels way more like millennial (Gen Z ?) women's fiction than like a true romance.

Alice loves a pleasing aesthetic, her best friends and herself--asexuality and all.  When she meets her new co-worker the sweet, generous and soon-to-be teacher Takumi she finds herself on a journey to balances her smoldering attraction with her identity as asexual.

I think I basically agree with Carrie's review on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, this book has a lot of drama and angst that comes from characters not talking to each other but I also like following them around as they try to tackle this whole adulting thing.

Alice was recognizable as a young person today, she loves Tumblr, fandom, bingeing tv and making memories with her friends.

I personally had a hard time seeing this book as a romance because Takumi felt--to use a term Kat uses a lot--unknowable to me. Perhaps it's because I'm used to romances where we get into the other characters but he never felt like a real person to me. He was just a little too perfect.

Monday, October 29, 2018

We'll Fly Away by Bryan Bliss

Rating: | Release Date: 05/8/18 | Contemporary YA | 8 hours 49 minutes | Harper Audio

Toby, an academic wisecracking high school senior and his best friend Luke--a dedicated star wrestler are an unlikely pair. The two survived their abusive and impoverished home lives together and with Luke’s college wrestling scholarship locked down, they were prepared to head into the next chapter of their lives together.

But now Luke is on death row.

Told partially in Luke’s letters from death row and partially in a close omniscient third person, Bliss crafts a story of friendship, coming-of-age and poverty that manages to deliver a gut punch at the end--even though you know where Luke is going to end up from page one.

I really liked the way this book is set up with Luke’s letters opening the book and then having it slowly build to the precipitating event. It reminded me of Big Little Lies and it adds so much tension to every scene because you keep thinking is this it? Is this the thing he did? With that in mind though the book moves at a slower pace.

I picked up this book because James Fouhey did the audio, I’ve enjoyed his narration in other things and his performance in this book is one of the best I’ve heard. He takes on each character perfectly with a nuanced and intentional performance. I think he could have easily done stereotypical Southern accents but he avoids that completely while still making the characters sound authentic. Needless to say Fouhey has remained on my auto-buy audiobook narrator list. 

Between this and Jeff Zetner books I’m really starting to think any YA book by a straight white dude will be sad AF.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Vox by Christina Dalcher

Rating:   +.5| Release Date: 08/21/18 | Speculative Fiction | 9 hours 27 minutes | Penguin

Vox takes place in the near, near, near future where the government has limited women to 100 spoken words a day in an effort to Make America Great Again reinforce traditional gender roles. Dr. Jean McClellan is a cognitive linguist who has never quite adjusted to the new rules of society and brings the entire system down--which by the way isn’t a spoiler. It’s literally the first line of the book.

I added this book to my to-reads shelf the minute I heard about it on the What Should I Read Next podcast and was so excited to get into it...but this book really disappointed me. I think it’s because I went into this book thinking it was supposed to be this feminist dystopia but when you read Dalcher’s interviews you find out she’s a linguist who just wanted to write a book about her passion.

Despite being marketed as the book of the #MeToo movement that’s not what this book is--it’s really more of a workplace thriller. The feminist dystopic themes are the weakest elements of the novel and lack the nuance and detail that makes a world feel believable. There is also a huge white feminism problem. Vox acknowledges the existence and problems of white feminism but then is a book centered on the ideas of white feminism. All the women of color are silenced in one way or the other to further Jean's story.

As for the thriller aspect...I just didn’t get it. I didn’t understand the Big Bad’s plan and I was kind of miffed that technically a straight white dude saves the day.

On the plus side, I did this on audio and it re-introduced me to Julia Whelan as a narrator. I’ve always known of her and Jess has reviewed a few of her books, but I hadn’t really listened to much of her. Whelan is such a solid narrator for this book, particularly for her range of male voices. She made this a good listen, even if I could never fully invest in the story.

Friday, October 19, 2018

AudioFile Magazine’s Picks of the Best New Young Adult Audiobooks for Autumn Listening

When it comes to discovering great audiobooks it always helps to turn to the experts! We are super excited to welcome AudioFile Magazine blogger, Aurelia C. Scott, to share some inspiring young adult audiobooks to add to your TBR pile!

Finding one’s own true way is full of challenge and reward.  Here are our picks of five great new audiobooks about making your own rules and being yourself no matter what.  Some edgy, some sweet, some joyful, some weepers.  All awesome.  The hyper-linked titles reveal AudioFile’s full review and a soundclip.  Here’s to having an audiobook in your ear - Aurelia C. Scott, AudioFile Magazine blogger.

IN SIGHT OF STARS by Gae Polisner| Read by Michael Crouch
Blackstone Audio | Unabridged | Earphones Award Winner

When teenage Klee wakes up in a mental health facility, it’s the start of a painful, heartening, occasionally funny effort to get back to normal, whatever that is.  Crouch provides vivid portrayals of Klee, his therapist, his mother, and Klee’s internal voice in this powerful listen.

THE LONELIEST GIRL IN THE UNIVERSE by Lauren James | Read by Lauren Ezzo
Harper Audio | Unabridged | Earphones Award Winner

Imagine being Romy, the teenage daughter of scientists and the only person left alive on a spaceship headed out to colonize Earth2.  After getting used to talking only with computers, she’s fast-shipped another human – a teenage boy.  Lauren Ezzo’s portrayal of Romy in all her moods, from terrified to thrilled, is entrancing, hooking listeners all the way to the astonishing ending.

THE RUINOUS SWEEP by Tim Wynne-Jones | Read by Tim Wynne-Jones
Brilliance Audio | Unabridged | Earphones Award Winner
In an unusual feat for an author, Tim Wynne-Jones offers a wonderful performance of his involving detective novel about Bee, who the only person who believes that her boyfriend did not murder his father and try to commit suicide.  But what did happen?  Using every inflection from tough to frantic to gentle, Wynne-Jones gradually unravels the gripping mystery.

FRESH INK edited by Lamar Giles | Read by Guy Lockard, Kim Mae Guest, Bahni Turpin, Dion Graham, Ron Butler et al.
Listening Library | Unabridged | Earphones Award Winner

Stars of the narrating world meet stars of the YA writing world in this spot-on anthology focused on race, sexuality, and urban living.  Some of the tales are comic, some heart-rending, all them of them get it.  Plus, they’re perfectly voiced.  It’s a win.

ASH PRINCESS by Laura Sebastian | Read by Saskia Maarleveld
Listening Library | Unabridged

Book 1 in what promises to be a trilogy will only make you want more of this epic fantasy about Princess Theo’s determination to win back the kingdom of her murdered mother.  As Maarleveld’s riveting narration makes clear, Theo’s status as a prisoner is no way going to defeat her.

Which one of these inspiring audiobooks do you want to start with? For more audiobook reviews and reccomendations head over to

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

I Can't Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race, and Other Reasons I've Put My Faith in Beyoncé

Rating: ★★★ + .5 | 6 hrs and 9 min | Simon & Schuster | Memoir/Essay Collection | 07/24/2018

This memoir caught my eye because well . . . how can you bypass a book with a subtitle like that? I wasn’t familiar with Arceneaux before, but he is a prolific pop culture writer who often writes about the intersection of being Black and gay.

 I've been kind of meh on memoirs by millennials lately*, particularly the ones around identity, because they feel like they are written specifically for the gaze of White liberal progressives. But Arceneaux’s stories are messier and have a personal authenticity that I enjoyed.

My favorite essays were the ones he wrote about his relationship to Catholicism and the importance of R&B music in his life. At first, it seemed like Beyoncé's name was put in the title just to get clicks but once you get to his essay about Beyoncé it fell into place. 

Arceneaux reads the audiobook, and it didn’t 100% work for me. While it was great to hear his particular southern accent, his affect was flat and stilted at times.

I also just admire Arceneaux’s hustle to become the media personality he’s become. While he doesn’t address it directly,  there is an ongoing thread in the background of his essays about the years of hard work he put into building his career.

Arceneaux offers something new to the gay/pop culture essayist genre and I’m sure there will be many more books from him in the future.

*This review of Morgan Jenkins' This Will Be My Undoing hits on a few  the issues I have with some of these millennial memoirs about indentity

Sunday, October 7, 2018

A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas (Lady Sherlock #1)

Rating: ★★★ | Release Date: 10/08/16 | Historical Mystery | 323 Pages | Berkley Books

In this reimagining of Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective Sherlock Holmes is the pseudonym of Charlotte Holmes, an overly practical and hyper-observant member of the gentry who doesn’t quite fit into society's standards. She spends her time solving everyday mysteries via letters, but when scandal strikes and Charlotte’s life is turned upside down, she finds herself solving her biggest mystery yet--a murder.

This is a fun origin story and functions as a kickoff for the rest of the series. All of your favorite Sherlockian characters are present but are introduced in new and interesting ways that I don’t want to spoil. Thomas gets into the nitty-gritty of the kinds of hoops a Victorian woman would have to go through to get to do any kind of detective work. There is definitely a feminist thread throughout the series, particularly when you look at how the circumstances of the main mystery are changed from the original story.

This is my first foray into the mystery genre and hopefully not my last.

Can we talk about how Sherry Thomas is slaying everything? She writes award-winning historical romances, YA fantasy and mystery all in English--which is her second language! There are lot of romance authors who write more than romance, but she seems to be the only one to have a name for herself in so many genres.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Rating: ★★★★ | 368 pages | Washington Square Press  | Contemporary | 07/15/2014 |  

Along with  Ikea, The Skarsgard family and fish-shaped candy, Fredrik Backman is the newest Swedish export making money moves in the U.S.

Ove is best described in the novel as "a man with his hands perpetually in his pockets". He is the human equivalent of the Old Man Yells at Cloud meme. At 59-years old he has a fondness for the way things used to be and fights progress with indignation and a solid hurmph. Ove has a plan for what should come next in his life, a plan that gets turned upside down by the boisterous family that moves in next door, a mangy old cat and a community of unlikely neighbors.

Backman writes with a capricious tone with an infinity for in medias res. This book is translated from Swedish and there were only a few times where I felt like something wasn't translating

I'm not sure what I expected from this book but it as a lot more fun than I was anticipated. Ove truly becomes an endearing figure,  and I really like stories that explore life in all its stages a la The Curious Case of Benjamin Button or Big Fish.

A quaint, heartwarming story that is satisfyingly earnest and has universal appeal for fans of contemporary fiction.

The Supervillain and Me by Danielle Banas

Rating: ★★★ | 310 pages | Swoon Reads | Sci-Fi YA | 07/10/2018

Crime rates have skyrocketed in Abby Hamilton’s town of Morristown, but luckily their local superhero, Red Comet  (who is also secretly Abby’s brother), is always around to save the day. Abby is content just being a theater kid and leaving the saving to her super-powered brother, but when a new super teen known as Iron Phantom starts causing trouble Abby finds herself tangled up with Morristown’s first supervillain--who may not be so villainous after all.

Does anyone remember the movie Sky High? This book gave me a lot of those same vibes as that movie. The Supervillain and Me supers aren't the angsty complex heroes of Marvel and DC films. The teens in tights are kind of treated like boy bands with their adoring fans, public signings, merch and thriving fanfiction communities--which I guess is a good time to note that although this is a debut novel, Danielle Banas is a prominent Wattpad author.

 Also fair warning, despite being from the Swoon Reads imprint there are a lot more super saves than super swoons.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente

Rating: ★★★★ | Release Date: 08/20/18 | Science Fiction | 9 hours 45 minutes | Saga Press
The aliens have arrived--- and in order for humanity to prove itself as a sentient species worthy of being welcomed into the greater galaxy, they must compete in an intergalactic singing competition.

Luckily, Earth’s been given a leg up as the welcome committee has already chosen the musical group most likely to place; The long defunct and estranged glitterpunk glamrock band Decibel Jones and The Absolute Zeroes. Now, Decibel Jones (aka Danesh Jalo) and Oort St. Ultraviolet (aka Omar Caliskan ) two middle-aged, washed up former rockstars have to get the band back together, travel across the universe and give a performance that will prevent the total annihilation of all of humanity.


I think the only reason I picked this up is that the cover kept catching my eye. In the back of the book, Valente notes this book was heavily inspired by  Eurovision and Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (two things I know very little about)which made this book feel totally original and fun for me.

I struggled a little because  I had a hard time keeping up with all the alien species. These aliens aren’t little green men in suits; they come in a variety of forms including murderous war hippos, impressionist blue flamingos, sentient computer code and time raveling red pandas. It was all so fascinating and creative but it was a lot to keep track of.

The audiobook narrator for this book, Heath Miller, does an absolutely phenomenal job and I think the audio is essential for this book. Particularly because Miller and Valente are longtime creative partners and they’ve likely collaborated on how the delivery should go and how all the characters sound. There is also just a lot of walls of text that are daunting to the eye but sound so good with Miller’s rhythmic narration. Miller is also just an amazing performer. Everyone in this book is British and I was shocked to discover Miller was Australian. I would say he needs to do ALL the books but he seems to mostly narrate Valente's work and he is slaying.

This book is from Saga Press, Simon and Schuster's inclusive sci-fi imprint and you know what? I appreciated the inclusivity. There are tons of liberal dog whistles in here and Valente doesn’t let it go unnoticed that our heroes come from immigrant backgrounds.

Space Opera is the totally bizarre must-listen audiobook with cheeky, sci-fi fun you can dance to.

Saga Press also re-published and repackaged The Curse Workers series by Holly Black so they are A+ in my book.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E Schwab (Shades of Magic #2)

Rating: ★★★+.5 | 512 pages | 2/23/16 | Shades of Magic #2 | Tor Books | Fantasy
A Gathering of Shadow picks up a few months after ADSOM and our characters are reunited just in time for an international contest that pits magician against magician--- and it's a lot like Goblet of Fire. I legit kept thinking that for the first few chapters of the books. I mean Lilah even "Harry Potters" herself into the competition. You know that thing where an underqualified competitor gets themselves into the competition and The Powers That Be let it slide because. . .  Chosen One? (yes, I know Harry doesn't put his own name in, but still.)

Overall this felt like a solid"middle of the series" book. At first, I thought this was going to be an episodic series because it introduces so many new plot elements and conflicts. Instead it just very slo-o-o-o-wly continues the arc from the first book. I think fans of the world and the brooding characters will enjoy this, but those looking for something more plotty might find this one a little slow. Speaking of brooding characters, we get introduced to the flashy, snarky, mysterious pirate Alucard. I sorta feel like this book was written just to introduce this character.

Michael Kramer and Kate Reading take over the narration duties and to be honest--I could take or leave the narration.  Reading, who was raised in England, has done a ton of historical romance drops her vaguely British accent at odd times. While I was excited to see how Kramer would interpret the characters he basically mimics Steve Crossley. The pair does an admirable job but at the end of the day, I think younger voice would have done more justice to the characters. I think I may check out the next book in paper.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Drawing Conclusions : Are Cartoon M/M Covers a New Trend ?

Lately, I've noticed a mini-trend of m/m centered YA with illustrated character covers.

The ones that initially caught my eyes were these 2018 - 2019 m/m books that feature intricately drawn, expressive cartoon characters on the covers. Each of these covers could easily be for a graphic novel or a still from an animated series.

Then there are these m/m book covers which also feature detailed cartoon characters but are more artistic or ambiguous. 

And then there are also these m/m illustrated covers, but these go with graphic novels.


Now there is some recent f/f that has illustrated characters on the covers but I've noticed the faces of female characters in f/f are either hidden or just gone altogether. We don't get the same amount of expressive facial features from these illustrations.

Although I did find one exception:

I have some theories as to why there have been so many illustrated people on m/m covers. At first, I thought it was maybe going off the success of the m/m anime Yuri on Ice or because of the rising popularity of illustrated covers in general, but Jess pointed out that it may have to do with publishers not wanting to put photos of same-sex couples on books.

You hardly see a  same-sex YA couples getting the Kasie West or Katie McGarry treatment. The only three YA books that we could come up with that had an explicitly same-sex couple on the cover were 2017's Our Own Private Universe 2016's No Holding Back by Kate Evangelista and 2013's Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan.

Have you noticed any illustrated covers with same-sex couples? Why do you think they are becoming so popular? Let us know in the comments below !

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'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 Lives 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


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

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

WWW Wednesday #1

This is my first time participating in this meme hosted by Taking on A World of Words!

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King  and Owen King
I feel like I've been listening to this 25-hour audiobook forever and I still have 9  more hours left. This book takes place in a near future where women suddenly fall into a permanent sleep and the chaos the follows in a small Appalachian town.


Around The Way Girl by Taraji P. Henson
I've been a fan of Henson since she starred in Lifetime's The Division and it's been great seeing her get so much attention later in her career. This book details all of her successes as well as her struggles with racial inequality in Hollywood and single motherhood. 

Indecent Exposure by Tessa Bailey
I received this book from Avon as part of Avon Addicts program. The series follows recruits at an NYPD police academy and this one is about an alcoholic NYPD trainee who falls for the new Irish arms instructor and turns his life completely around.


The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
The hype I've seen for this book has been unreal and I can't wait to start it!


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