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!

Friday, June 29, 2018

Audiobook Review: Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein

Rating: ★★★★ | Penguin Audio | 7 hours and 4 minutes | Memoir | 10/27/2015

I find Carrie Brownstein really interesting. She’s one of those people who has managed to have two very distinct yet very successful careers in the public eye. Depending who you are you may know her from the rock band Sleater-Kinney or, if you’re like me, from the award-winning show Portlandia.

This memoir is focused exclusively on her relationship to music and Sleater-Kinney. I picked up this book because it was like a window to the eclectic and chaotic world of 90’s punk rock band life during the riot grrrl movement--a world I knew nothing about.

This is a fun listen on audiobook,  Brownstein does a great job narrating her life story from her wistful childhood in the Seattle suburbs to her unexpected rise to notoriety. She reveals all the grit behind band life and is open about the ups and downs of forming and keeping a band going for over a decade. The audiobook has fun bonuses like musical interludes, a section where guest narrators show up, and an interview with Brownstein and the audiobook producer. The only thing you would  miss by not picking up the physical book are all the photographs

Her narrative is very personal, I expected her to dig into the riot grrl movement and feminism more broadly, but she keeps it only to her experience. This book also has a tendency to periodically take a turn for the literary and purple prose. There were some paragraphs where I had no idea what she was talking about.

Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl is a fascinating and honest memoir, but may not be the best book for fans looking to get a more behind the scenes look at Portlandia. Maybe the story of Portlandia will be her next memoir because I don’t understand how she went from musician to successful sketch comedy writer/producer/actor.


The whole time I read this I was thinking this could be a TV show and it looks like a pilot is in production for Hulu. Now, I just want a Last Black Unicorn based TV show, come through HBO

Saturday, June 23, 2018

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E Schawb

Rating: ★★★★ | 354 pages | Tor Books | Historical Fantasy | 4/21/15 | 11hrs and 34 Minutes

If there is a super popular hyped novel you can bet I will read it years after it comes out. I'm always fascinated by series that have huge fandoms and I've seen so much fanart and generally squeeing about this series that I don't know what took me so long to get to it.

In A Darker Shade of Magic, there isn't just one London, there are four--red, gray, black and white. At least that's how Kell likes to think of it. He is an Antari, one of only two people with the ability to travel to the other Londons

Antari are to be messengers; passing only messages between the heads of states of the various Londons, but Kell can't help but to smuggle a few trinkets between worlds on the side. When he smuggles an item back that could destroy the Londons and tip the balance of power and magic it will take all his magical knowledge and abilities to set things right. Along the way, he gets mixed up with a Lila Bard, a thief looking for a bit of adventure and danger.

I can see why this book is a keeper. It's got nail-biting action, sweeping adventure, and dastardly magic. I've read enough of Kat's reviews of Schwab's work to wonder just how many fully formed worlds exist in her head.

Delilah is my favorite kind of female characters, I would like more, please. She was clever, headstrong, laidback and not afraid to pull a weapon on someone. It was one of those characters where I thought I knew where they were going with her as a character and it just never goes there. Especially at the end.

Narrator Steve Crossley's deep Britsh voice was perfect for this narration but his voice was a bit to mature for the main characters who were 19 and 21. He made the female voices work but I'm curious to see what Michael Kramer and Kate Reading (who BTW are married), who perform the other books in the series, do with the characters.

A solid fantasy that has plenty of stories left to tell.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Five Audiobooks For Pride Month

June is audiobook month and Pride month, to celebrate here are five of our favorite YA audiobooks featuring gay, lesbian or bisexual protagonists. If you have audiobook recs with trans or asexual protagonist please leave below!

You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan | Narrated by Matthew Brown and Emma Galvin

You Know Me Well moves dreamily along as we follow high schoolers Kate and Mark through their first San Francisco Pride. Matthew Brown and Emma Galvin provide the alternating narration for each of our protagonists as they form an instant friendship and navigate a night of unexpected twists, anxiety, and unrequited love.

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy | Narrated by Thérèse Plummer

When Ramona's romance with a tourist ends along with the vacation season in her small town, she doesn't think she will get over it; until an old friend from her childhood catches her eye. A quiet YA about the moments that matter in the life of a teenager and her found family. Plummer's narration is upbeat, youthful and a perfect fit for this story

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera | Narrated by Ramon De Ocampo

Aaron Soto is going to try 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. This YA book makes you feel the feels and when it comes to the emotional moments narrator Ramon De Ocampo lets it out.

Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert | Narrated by Alisha Wainwright

Audiobook narrator Alisha Wainwright brings a cool west coast vibe to this story about 16-year-old Suzette who is returning to her eclectic LA community for the summer after a year in boarding school. She contends with her brother's bipolar diagnosis and finds herself in the middle of an unexpected love triangle.

Lies My Girlfriend Told Me by Julia Ann Peters | Narrated by Christine Lakin 

After Alix's girlfriend's sudden death she has to sift through the lies she left behind. This novel is a great snapshot of how teens deal with love, loss, and relationships in the 21st century. Like how do you put someone away when their Facebook is still there or what's the power of a text message when you don't know who is on the other end? Narrator Christine Lakin voice is textured authentic.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Not My Father's Son by Alan Cummings

Rating: ★★★★  | HarperAudio | Memoir | 10/07/2014 | 

Alan Cumming examines the violent and abusive childhood that nearly sent his adult life off course while on a journey to uncover a family secret on the reality TV show  Who Do You Think You Are? Just when Cumming thinks he has a handle on all his family secrets, his estranged father calls and drops a big one.

This silver fox actor is known for playing eccentric characters. I  know Cumming best from his role as Eli Gold on The Good Wife (He was also in X2).  At the time I had no idea he was Scottish but by the time I finished this audiobook the thought of him with an American accent seemed strange.

Cumming is a veteran stage and theater actor and I believe his experience telling and performing stories enabled him to create a memoir that reads more like a literary drama. Underneath his glamorous jet-setting lifestyle, Cumming is still very much connected to the self-conscious frightened boy working the land with his tyrant of a father during the final era of big Scottish Estates. Like Cumming says in the book--think Downton Abbey but in the 70's.

Cumming is very close and protective of his mother and brother who also survived his father's abuse. You can hear the affection in the audiobook, which I don't need to tell you is great because it'won two Audie Awards .  Cumming's voice is full of bravado and his Scottish brogue glides rhythmically over the words.

I watched some of Cumming's episode of Who Do You Think You Are ? and I can tell he used the episode as a reference to help him write the book. He uses some of the same descriptions and jargon.  It's certainly interesting watching the episode knowing all the things that were happening in his life off camera.

I listened to this on Scribd and it recommended me Tommy's Tale, a novel Cummings wrote two years before this book. If you've read Not My Father's Son it's easy to see where he draws his inspiration from.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Non-Fiction Mini Reviews : Lawyered !

I'll be honest, I've been kind of freaking out about getting closer and closer to the big 3-0, but one of the things I learned as I've gotten older is that I can read non-fiction. I always thought I was one of those readers who would never be able to get into serious non-fiction, but it's a muscle I'm slowly learning to build thanks to audiobooks.

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
I grabbed Just Mercy last year after hearing Stevenson, a civil rights attorney fighting wrongful convictions, on a podcast. I started and stopped this audiobook so many times and eventually just kept it on my phone so I could tell people I was reading a "smart" book.

One day I ran out of podcasts, so I decided to try putting Just Mercy on in the background while I was working. Soon I found myself listening in the car, at home and slowly found myself looking forward to hearing more about Stevenson's often brutal and heart-wrenching career.

Just Mercy is a tough read because so much of Stevenson's work is connected to things that are hard to look in the eye like; institutionalized racism, violence, corruption and mass incarceration.  His book focuses on the wrongful conviction and imprisonment of Walter McMillian , but also tells several harrowing and heartbreaking cases Stevenson has fought along the way. The format threw me off a bit because we'd leave one story for another without warning, but I gather this has a lot to do with the audio format. Stevenson is a capable narrator and does some subtle voices here and there.

I do not understand the cover of this book. Early on Stevenson notes the somewhat dubious nature of To Kill A Mockingbird and Atticus Finch. I mean John Grisham's quote and name are just so big.

I had no idea this book was published way back in 2014. I'm sure he has seen some rising book sales recently. Also this

A Higher Loyalty by James Comey

After reading Just Mercy, I picked up another book by another lawyer; this one being A Higher Loyalty by James Comey. I'm not gonna lie. I picked up this book for the tea...and the tea was spilled. I may not understand everything about political maneuverings but I've worked at enough places know when people are jumping ship and getting fired left  and right something is not working

But also it was interesting learning how Comey became the controversial figure he is.  He's sort of been hovering in the background of several major cases before becoming a household name, he was involved in quite a few scandals including The Palme Affair, The abuse at Abu Ghraib and the  Martha Stewart conviction. Comey is no stranger to controversy. I think Comey has some interesting thoughts on leadership and how to be a leader but nothing particularly innovative.  He narrated the audiobook and gets emotional talking about how he was held hostage as a teenager and the death of his son. His views on mass incarceration aren't great and he tries to reason out the statistics a little too much. I think due to the very public and sudden end of his government service, Comey is really just trying to get the last word in and he holds nothing back.

The Parking Lot Attendant by : Nafkote Tamirat

Rating: unrated | 225 pages | Henry Holt and Co| Literary Fiction | 3/13/18  

The Parking Lot Attendant is this sort of unsettling literary novel about a teenage girl and her father living in Boston's Ethiopian community. They are both introverted and reserved people who keep to themselves; their insulated lives are not perfect but it works. Until the unnamed teenage protagonist bonds with Ayale, a charismatic parking lot attendant who rules this part of Boston, the teen soon finds herself caught up in something bigger than herself. Throughout the book, she serves as an unreliable narrator as she lays out how she and her father ended up on the run and living in an isolated island community.

The book is well written and dives into a very specific world. There was this constant unnerving tone to the book where you kept waiting for something big to happen. Did I necessarily understand everything that was happening towards the end of this book ? Not really,  but I enjoyed learning about the Ethiopian culture and about the community in Boston.  There are a ton of inserting characters and I liked the how it presents the narrators’ father as this introverted and closed-off man who is being a father the best way he can. At first, it is so easy to find fault with him but as the book goes on you start to understand what kind of father he is.

Check out the audio review at AudioFile Magazine!

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Non-Fiction Review: Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish

Rating: ★★★ +.5 | Non-fiction | 6 hours 29 minutes | Gallery Books | 12/05/17

Tiffany Haddish was the breakout star of 2017  following the success of the film Girl’s Trip. The Lasst Black Unicorn delves into how she went from a broke stand-up comedienne living in her car to having a first look deal with HBO.

This memoir is an absolute must listen on audiobook. Haddish writes like she talks and it flows so much better when listening to it. Also, all of the dialogue is written in script format and sounds much better when Haddish is “acting it out.” She’ll say things that aren’t in the book like “and then I was like” or “he was like” before launching into the words that are on the page. Also, there are some updates and asides that aren’t in the printed book so trust me, you want this on audio.

The majority of the book is Haddish sharing her stories of growing up in South Central LA, all of the toxic and abusive relationships she found her self in and how she used her comedy hustle to get on the other side. The latter half focuses on what it was like for her, a girl from the hood, to adjust to life as a star and learning to fit in in Hollywood. I loved the relationship between her and Jada Pinkett Smith and how Smith mentors Haddish on how to be a star.

In the acknowledgments section, it’s revealed that this book was co-written by Tucker Max, a controversial writer who wrote a lot misogynistic books chronicling his sex life. There was a quite a bit of rumbling from feminist publications when it became known he co-wrote this book. TBH, I wasn’t too surprised since Haddish has the same raunchy, sex-based humor Max does. This revelation didn't bother me, but I will say there is a “Roscoe” story about Haddish sleeping with a handicapped man that I found really out of place, cringe-y and borderline offensive. It never fit in with the overall theme of the book. Apparently, this particular story is something Max says is the greatest story he ever wrote...I get the feeling this story was an extreme fabrication of something that may have happened but it came off as really crass and a little bit like making fun of handicap people.

Humorous and heartbreaking, The Last Black Unicorns is an ultimately hopeful memoir that will have you cheering for Tiffany Haddish's continued success if for some reason you weren't already.

Now look, I’m not saying I noticed her before she blew up but I remember watching The Carmichael Show and thinking she was the only funny person on it.

Friday, June 1, 2018

AudioFile Magazine’s Picks of the Best New Audiobooks for Summer Listening

It goes without saying that we are big audiobook fans around here, so Kat and I  are excited to invite AudioFile Magazine blogger Aurelia C. Scott to stop by and keep to all of our audio TBR piles stacked!

What is it about individuals and society? They’re not always coming from the same place, that’s for sure. 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.

Thanks to Jess and Kat, we’ll be stopping by regularly with our audiobook picks for Books and Sensibility readers. Here’s to having an audiobook in your ear

INK by Alice Broadway | Read by Amy Shiels
Scholastic Audiobooks | Unabridged

What if the heart tat on your ankle or the dragon on your back were just two of hundreds that told the story of your life? What if, instead of wanting a tattoo, you had to get a tattoo? What if an un-inked body made you an outcast? There’s so much going on in this gorgeously read mystery-fable that it made me want to listen slowly to savor and reflect. It’s about the rules that society lays down, finding your personal truth, and so much more. Here’s our review.

FOR EVERY ONE by Jason Reynolds | Read by Jason Reynolds
Simon & Schuster Audio | Unabridged | AudioFile Earphones Award Winner

Written over a period of years, some of them hopeless, others jumpin’, this is a poem to listen to again and again. When you’re good; when you’ve been knocked up sideways; and always, always, when you need to know that you’re going to make it. Reynolds’s warm, deep voice seeped into my marrow and set it thrumming. And how about this? Reynolds, who’s written more than ten books, including LONG WAY DOWN, grew up a non-reader who didn’t take in a whole book until he was 17. Here’s our FOR EVERY ONE review. And our take on LONG WAY DOWN . Plus, more about Jason Reynolds. He’s a keeper.

THE POET X by Elizabeth Acevedo | Read by Elizabeth Acevedo
Harper Audio | Unabridged | AudioFile Earphones Award Winner

Listening to Acevedo read her amazing novel reminded me why bards and poets were the rock stars of the ancient world. Words loosed into the air are powerful. And Acevedo’s debut novel about Xiomara, a 15-year-old Afro-Latina in Harlem with a body that’s blooming and a mother who judges everything she does, is mighty. Acevedo is a National Poetry Slam Champion, and all I can say is that you can tell. What a performance. Here’s our review.

WHEN MY HEART JOINS THE THOUSAND by A.J. Steiger | Read by Tavia Gilbert
Harper Audio | Unabridged

Figuring out who you are and how to navigate this crazy world is thorny enough. Now try it when people are extra hard to read because you’re neuroatypical, plus you’re dealing with staying out of the messed up foster-care system. Then you meet a guy. My heart broke and then leapt with joy while listening to Tavia Gilbert, who positively channels the heroine, Alvie. This is a can’t-take-the-earbuds-out romance that fills your head with all that is deep, painful, funny, and soaring. Plus, it’s a debut novel, so hopefully, we have a future with this author. Here’s our review. And don’t miss this video of narrator Tavia Gilbert talking about how she works her magic

THE DANGEROUS ART OF BLENDING IN by Angelo Surmelis | Read by Michael Crouch
Harper Audio | Unabridged

Drawing from his own life, author Angelo Surmelis knows what he’s talking about in his intense and ultimately uplifting first novel about being 17 and gay in an immigrant family that will not accept him. So well written and narrated, and tough enough that I paused occasionally to catch my breath – abuse, prejudice, homophobia are all here. So glad that I kept listening, because this one’s about sticking to your truth no matter what with laughter; and yes, love. Here’s our review. And more about narrator Michael Crouch


Aurelia C. Scott, AudioFile Magazine blogger. Aurelia C. Scott Author and audiobook fanatic, Aurelia often falls asleep at night with earbuds still attached. She can also be found at www.aureliacscott.com.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Joint Review: The Belles by Dohnielle Clayton

Jess' take:

Camellia Beauregard and her sisters are Belles, young women gifted with the talent to make the gray people of Orléans vibrant with color. Beauty is the economic backbone of Orléans and even though they are treated as queens, Camellia and the other Belles quickly learn  something dark lays beneath their work

I read this book a while ago and I had a lot of feelings. This was one of the most highly anticipated YA books of 2018  and was a phenomenal audiobook, but the story just left me scratching my head and the world seems to fall apart under scrutiny.

When the book opens we see Camellia perform a non-traditional transformation which is kind of cool, until later in the book you learn that transformations are grueling and painful. Which didn't comes across in this opening scene? Also, the girls are competing to become the favorite and work in the palace. I hate to be nitpicky but.. the favorite? That was the best name for it? The favorite?

We follow Camellia as she begins her work as a Belle in Orléans.  We follow her step-by-step from her introduction to her discovery of how harsh life really is in the kingdom and it all left me kind of looking around for the plot.

Along the way we, as the reader, and Camellia start to see and hear things that contradict what Camilla has been taught. For example, she learns there are unofficial Belles in Orléans and that work hours are grueling and she won't be able to see her sisters. Slowly, the fundamental things she has been taught her whole life are being contradicted and she never seems to care? The people of Orléans can’t even “be cool” or whatever because they hint and talk about the unofficial Belles to the official ones.

Like, are we really supposed to believe no other Belles have ever tried to leave? I’m guessing this will be addressed in the sequel.

Clayton says this book was inspired by The Uglies and I think it's an interesting take on the same theme, but I think what this book was missing was brevity. It's 488 pages of watching people do and say exactly what they are doing and saying.

When some things get revealed in the end...it's not really a reveal because we already knew about them. I mean once we see how challenging the work is you can figure out that it’d be pretty impossible for six Belles to service an entire realm. We already know unofficial Belles are kept in hiding because we see one, and we already know Belles aren't born traditionally because we are told and we already know the princess is cray-cray. It just took 300 pages for the heroine to realize.

I did like the world-building in this book. Clayton develops this quasi-Gilded Age French inspired steampunk world. I think this book will appeal to those who like The Selection, in that is all about the process.

Now, the Belles mentions multiple times that what they do isn't magic... yet magic does seem to exist in this world, as a character uses people's DNA to create a "wall" where she can watch their movements. That seemed like a big lipped alligator moment to me.

I wanted to love this book, I want more diverse fantasy and while this is highly imaginative it just didn't do it for me

Kat's Take
This book needs no introduction, it’s been the belle of YA Twitter ball since its cover debuted as an  with a black girl in a pretty dress on the cover. In this female forward magical fantasy, it is the duty of the Belles to create and maintain the beauty of the gray citizens. As the story unfolds Camillia Beauregard, the most talented Belle of the new class, begins to discover the true ugliness behind the beauty she and her sisters create. Dhonielle Clayton brings the magical world of Orléans to life with lush descriptions of a steampunk-y Belle Epoque but like, covered in a layer of frosting and sprinkles.

While the world has been carefully built down to the last detail the plot development moves at such a slow pace with multiple scenes of beauty work that felt repetitive after the first time.This is the first in a duology and this really did feel like half a story, we don’t get on the “hero’s journey” until the last quarter of the book and there’s no real payoff.

Audiobook narrator Rosie Jones was a treat, I liked the kind of pouty, posh British accent she did for Camellia. She has such a great command of accents, her American accent was flawless and she even adds some Irish lilts in as well. Camellia has 6 sisters and in scenes where the girls are together Jones ability to create unique and different voices shines. ★★★ + .5

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Non-Fiction Mini Reviews : Get Woke

When I think about the non-fiction I read as a teen in the early 00's I think about The Diary of Anne Frank and Chicken Soup For The Soul books. For me, Chicken Soup books were this way to get advice, gain insights and learn about the struggles of other people. I think teen me would have been fascinated by these two books which open doors to people making a difference in modern times.

Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You!

This is a fun instructive book by the girl who lead the #1000BlackGirlBooks hashtag.  I could totally relate to Marley's struggle growing up with few books that reflected her. It was so striking to me that in the 2010's kids are still being assigned mostly white boy and his dog books.
I vividly remember reading books like  Shiloh and Where The Red Ferns Grow in school. 

Marley created a movement and in her book, she encourages teens to start their own movements; my favorite part was her taxonomy of woke Disney princesses.  It's a must-read for teen book bloggers and budding social activist. Check out the audio review at AudioFile Magazine

How I Resist: Activism and Hope For A New Generation

How I Resist offers advice, inspiration, and words of wisdom to underaged resisters, it's less of a book and more of a feels dump about the post-election atmosphere all centered around one question; How do you resist? Jennifer Weiner's story of talking to her daughter post-election felt pretty ubiquitous and I think Jonny Sun's section will appeal to the "internet kids never sleep" crowd.

I recognized a lot of these names from YA Book Twitter and some of the podcast I listen to, so I think book bloggers (teens and adult) will find something that rings true. Check out the audio review at AudioFile Magazine

Sunday, May 27, 2018

New Cover Who Dis: YA Paperbacks

I noticed a few YA books were getting new paperback designs, so I decided to do a roundup! OG covers are on the right.

The Luxe Series by Anna Godbserson

The Luxe series was the trope codifier for the girl in the pretty dress covers and these 3-dimensional text-based covers give this series a modern refresh that will attract a new generation of teens. I also like that they've added taglines that tell you something about the books.

Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert
Paperback                                               Hardcover
I really enjoyed this book and I loved the original cover with its bright colors and how you only understand the importance of the illustrations after you've read the book. I don't love the new cover because it looks MG-ish but I'm always for more POC on book covers and I think they wanted this book to match Colbert's 2018 book Finding Yvonne.

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
Paperback                                                 Hardcover
I like both of these covers but I just find the hardcover much more striking. I like how the refresh kept so many of the elements like the crossbow, the colors and the font--although it's in 3D now.

                    Paperback                                               Hardcover
So.. I do not like this new cover at all, it's just so boring and static. I feel like the original cover was striking and had more life and complexity to it. I don't know...maybe the new one looks better in person or something?

Paperback                                         Hardcover

There are some subtle changes to the paperback of Geekerella, this is a book Jess gave high marks to but I will forever side-eye how they didn't put the hero of color on the front ( Yes, I know he's on the back on the hardcover)  until the book did well.  Side note: this cover is great in person because the title is holographic. 

What do you think of these new YA covers? Are there any I missed?

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Non-fiction Mini Reviews: Survivors

I’ve been on a little nonfiction kick and these two memoirs have a lot in common. They're both by black women in their early 40s who were raised Catholic while living in predominantly white spaces. Both authors were victims of rape (though the circumstances and results were very different) and both use their platforms as a form of activism, so I thought it was fitting I reviewed them together.

Gay’s book is a tough read. She details her life story through the lens of her body, which at 6’3 and over 500 pounds is considered super-obese or as Gay calls it an “unruly body”. Gay intersperses essays of her personal experiences with essays about The Biggest Loser, Ina Garten, and the obesity epidemic. I started this book on audio and unlike her previous nonfiction release, Gay narrates the book herself.  Gay is a great reader, but because of the heaviness of the topics, I couldn’t listen to this audiobook for long stretches of time. This isn’t really a book you can devour. and I found it better in physical format. Each essay is only a few pages long so you can read a few and pick it up later. Since the release of the book, Gay announced she had gastric bypass so it will be interesting to see if she does a follow-up.

Actress Gabrielle Union’s book also has some hard truths in it but there is more of a humorous perspective. The memoir is set up as a  collection of the life stories  Union tells after too many glasses of wine. I really liked this book but it's fairly raunchy, so warning if that bothers you. Union talks about the dishy celebrity memoir stuff you want; her career, marriages and sex life to more broad issues like colorism in Hollywood, police brutality and her rape at gunpoint as a teenager. There is also a healthy dose of what it was like on the set of 10 Things I Hate About You and Bring it On and how she feels about those movies over 20 years later. I never know how honest memoirs are since they are heavily edited but I respected that she wasn’t afraid to make herself look bad and admit her own PC blindspots and bad moments. That said, the only thing she doesn’t touch that I thought she would is the Birth of A Nation situation.

Union is a great narrator, this memoir works wonderfully on audio because her voice brings these stories to life. I admit, I only really knew Union as the black girl from Bring it On and various black films but this made me see her and her success in a whole new light. I’ve been elbowing Jess with the “Hey, did you know…” for weeks now.

This book is definitely not written for teens, but Union works a lot with teens and I wish they would re-edit it a little and release a teen version because I think this could be a great book for the YA audience. Particularly for her frankness about teenage sexuality and how she teaches her privileged black stepsons about how police and white people may see them.

Also, no,  Union does not explain what kind of sorcery her skin care routine requires.


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