Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Kat's Crooked Kingdom Review (in Gifs)

I finished Crooked Kingdom so it's time for a GIF review! 

Monday, March 18, 2019

2019 YA Books for Black Mirror Fans

One of my favorite shows on Netflix is the science fiction anthology series Black Mirror. It's like The Twilight Zone for the Millennial / Gen Z generation and I've noticed quite a few 2019 YA titles are giving me serious Black Mirror vibes.

"Black Museum" 

The Obsoletes by Simeon Mills
Black Museum and many other episodes of Black Mirror examine what it means to be human and what is considered deserving of humanity. In this debut YA novel, a pair of teenage brothers hide that they are robots from the humans in their small Michigan town for fear of being disassembled.

"Be Right Back"

No One Here is Lonely by Sarah Everett
This is the book that inspired this list. The Black Mirror episode Be Right Back follows a woman who uses a service to recreate a digital and then lifelike version of her dead boyfriend. In this sophomore book from author Sarah Everett, a teen girl falls in love with a digital version of her dead crush.

"Shut Up and Dance"

Swipe Right For Murder by Derek Milman
While I love the more science-fiction Black Mirror episodes, the show is really about how technology affects our lives. In Shut Up and Dance, a teenage boy's bad choices online send him on a blackmail fueled wild goose chase. In Swipe Right For Murder a 17-year-old in New York swipes right on the wrong person and finds himself labeled a cyber-terrorist and on the run from the government.


Rated by Melissa Grey
In Nosedive we enter a world where ratings on an app mean everything and watch a woman slowly lose everything as she tries to get more points. In this new book from Girl At Midnight author, the Rating system is everything to the students of the prestigious Maplethorpe Academy.

Bonus Picks!

When Zan moves away from her best friend she starts to suspect something isn't quite right with her best friend's suddenly sunny, vapid social media posts. This sort of sounds like a Marina Joyce situation.

Okay, so I'm not sure this is technically YA but Veronica Roth has a lot of YA appeal. This new release from Roth is a collection of novella-length stories set in the future.

Do you have a favorite episode of Black Mirror ? Let me know of some books you would rec to Black Mirror fans in the comments below !

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Black Enough edited by Ibi Zoboi

I feel like there should be a category on this blog called "Books I Wish Existed When I Was A Teen" because this book would be first on this list.

Black Enough is a wonderful anthology that tells the varied experiences and stories of Black teens; from the suburbs to the hood to the country and even the inner sanctum of heavy metal rehearsals. It's just a masterful blend of experiences. These are not struggles stories, they are funny, poignant and some of them are emotional but they never "gut" you. One of my favorites was Jay Coles' Wild Horses, Wild Hearts which I felt was like "response" to Brokeback Mountain.

I think the book is best read straight through. I'm not a big contemporary reader, so I was glad to see there were two magical realism stories. The titular story, Black Enough, I think really sets the tone for the anthology and the last story is meant to be more reflective. I got snippets of black authors I've been meaning to read and right now Jay Cole is moving up on my TBR list.

I'm all in for these YA anthologies!

Audiobook Review

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Spin Launch Party

A few weekends ago Kat and I had the opportunity to go the launch party for  Lamar Giles's new novel Spin. Giles writes mystery/thriller YA fiction featuring black teens. He is an Edgar Award Finalist, fellow Virginian and most will know him as one of the We Need Diverse Book co-founders. I hadn't even known about the event and I was excited to go because I'd just finished Black Enough and I had questions -- Although now I am seriously wondering how long it will take to get each author in the anthology to sign the book. I also picked up a copy of Fresh Ink because YA Anthologies are a thing I want more of and Giles edited the collection.

The event was hosted by Chop Suey books and held at Hai Y'all, a local Japanese style restaurant. There was a live DJ,  tasty appetizers and an open, positive and upbeat atmosphere. Giles was very personable we talked about fantasy novels and that time he met Stephen King.

Kat and I sat for a while and chatted with the co-founder of Black Men Read, a non-profit that gets young black men reading and talking about books. This group is very impressive and looks to be doing amazing things.

Spin is a mystery/thriller about a Kya, a teen sleuth who teams up with her sworn enemy to solve the mysterious death of the famous DJ,  ParSec, who she used to call her best friend. #ParSecNation

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Five Modern Memoirs for Black History Month

February is Black History Month! To close out the month here are five of Books and Sensibility's favorite memoirs about African-Americans who are making history today.

I Can't Date Jesus by Michael Arceneaux

Pop culture writer Michael Arceneaux often writes about the intersections of being Black and gay in America. In this debut essay collection, he offers something new to the pop culture essayist genre and I’m sure there will be many more books from him in the future.

We're Going To Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union

The memoir is set up as a  collection of the life stories the Hollywood actress tells after too many glasses of wine. Union's narration is full of charm and authenticity as she dishes about all the celebrity stuff you want; her career, marriages and sex life but also focuses on broad issues like colorism in Hollywood, police brutality and her rape at gunpoint as a teenager.

Hunger by Roxane Gay

Novelist and essayist Roxane Gay 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.

Around The Way Girl by Taraji P Henson

 Around The Way Girl is an inspiring and insightful look into the making of some of Henson’s most memorable moments. Beginning with Henson’s childhood in Southeast DC during the crack epidemic, Henson shows the kind of hustle and hard work it took for her to get her Hollywood dream.

Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You! by Marley Dias

This is a fun instructive book by the girl who lead the #1000BlackGirlBooks hashtag. Marley created a movement and in her book, she encourages teens to start their own movements. A must-read for teen book bloggers and budding social activist.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

The Disasters by M.K. England

Rating: ★★★ | 8 hrs. 33 min. | Science-Fiction | Harper Audio | Release Date: 12/18/2018

Nasir “Nax” Hall dream of becoming a pilot and moving to one of Earth’s space colonies is quickly dashed when he washes out of flight school on the first day and is sent packing with three other failed students. But instead of going back to Earth, this unlikely group of strangers find themselves in the middle of a conspiracy and on a high flying journey around the galaxy to save the universe.

I don’t always think you should give a book extra points just for diversity but I’m honestly not sure a book like this would have existed pre-WNDB. It’s a space adventure story with teens of color across the LGBTQ spectrum that is not a struggle narrative. I think this book is perfect for those looking for that representation. England creates a set of characters who we meet are at their lowest points and shows them growing into more than their "failed student"label. On a character level, this book is really interesting.

However, on a plot level The Disasters didn’t work for me. The front cover blurb is from Mackenzi Lee so I was ready for that same fun epic adventure feeling of Gentlemen’s Guide but it never came. I couldn’t buy into in the storyline and I kept blanking out while listening to this and I think a lot has to do with the stakes. The stakes in this story are literally the entire universe and it felt too broad for me to really invest. I  also think the story would have benefited from having POVs from characters besides Nax to open the world up a little more.

The audiobook narrator, James Fouhey, is one of my favorite narrators but this was not my favorite performance of his. I don’t think he quite captured the rhythm of the dialogue and banter England was creating. Also...there is a British character and the accent work is not great.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Bad Blood by John Carreyrou

I don’t always read nonfiction, but when I do it’s for the hot tea.

On the surface, Bad Blood is the sensational story of  Elizabeth Holmes, a young ambitious college-dropout turned  CEO who used her access to wealth, power, privilege and influence to cause the downfall of Theranos, a billion dollar company.

As someone who has worked in a lot of offices and seen tons of office politics gone awry, there is something fascinating about hearing someone else’s workplace gossip, drama and scandals; all while knowing those in power are eventually held accountable. I mean it’s maddening some of the things the employees of Theranos had to live with in silence.

Elizabeth Holmes’ rise and fall from grace wasn’t that surprising to me. She had access to a world of wealth and privilege and while I appreciate Carreyrou not outright saying it--- and this probably isn’t fair to say ---it's not surprising that a conventionally attractive young woman who is undoubtedly smart and ambitious could easily pull in influencers. 

I’m not convinced Elizabeth Holmes set out to be a scammer. I think she got herself in too deep and tried to hide from the truth. She surrounded herself with people who refused to believe that she was over-promising because that would mean they sunk millions of dollars into false promises. I mean she was rubbing elbows with former secretary of states, Ex-CIA agents, tech millionaires and people who would later become aides in the Trump Administration.

It’s interesting that Carreyrou was put on the story by a mid-sized pathology blogger-- because pathology blogging is a thing. John Carreyrou makes a point to presents himself in the story as an enterprising investigative reporter who participates in clandestine meetings, goes toe-to-toe with lawyers and his editor to bring the truth to the surface.

Will Damron narrates the audiobook and I’ve been sort of so-so on some of the YA he has done, but his voice works for non-fiction, he has a very instructive quality and he went all in on the few moments that required a slightly cinematic touch.

I think her story of blind ambition, wealth and ego goes hand-in-hand with Billy McFarland from Fyre Festival, her face even appears in Fyre Fraud. Like seriously she and McFarland should do a TED Talk or appear on Celebrity Big Brother together or something . . .  when they get out of prison. Holmes hasn’t been convicted yet, but…come on.

Just as I finished this book ABC News released their podcast about Elizabeth Holes called The Dropout, I mean the podcast is okay, but they just scratch the surface of the story. It is interesting to hear the tapes from her deposition and you get to hear Elizabeth’s trademark voice. Carreyrou is in the podcast and I kind of feel like he should have been the entry point into the podcast since he broke the story.

Also, there is an HBO documentary which has an interesting visual style that I think will be interesting.

Based on how much Holmes reputation meant to her I bet she is fuming about all this.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Rating: ★★★ | 9 hrs. 8 min. | Horror | Harper Audio | Release Date: 5/13/14

From To All The Boys I've Loved Before to Crazy Rich Asians 2018 was the year more book adaptations skyrocketed into the pop culture zeitgeist. Bird Box came on the scene at the end of the year with the popular Netflix film that spawned its own memes and challenges.

Bird Box is a 20 Minutes Into The Future post-apocalypse story where people see something outside that makes them murderous. The book begins with Malorie and two 4-year-olds leaving an empty house and getting into a boat to head down the river blindfolded. Flashbacks from four years earlier are interspersed, showing how the panic started and how Malorie got to the house.

The tension builds as we learn how Malorie and her housemates have to suddenly navigate a world blindfolded. I liked the survivalist aspects of this book, I’ve kind of gotten into books that make me wonder how long I could survive on the canned food in my house.

What was missing for me was character development. It’s revealed early on there were once other people in the house where meet Malorie but they all felt like blank slates, I couldn't tell any of them apart or what their purpose was. I don’t read much horror so I don’t know if plot over character is a convention of the genre or that is just this book.

The audiobook was done by Cassandra Campbell, I've enjoyed her in the past but this wasn't my favorite performance of hers. It felt muted and didn't fully bring me into the story.

I have watched some of the Netflix movie and I enjoyed it so much better than the book.  Sandra Bullock is great and the movie fleshes out the motivations and creates connections between the characters in a way the book never did. 

The guy who wrote Bird Box's Netflix adaptation is also writing the Leigh Bardugo Netflix series and I can’t wait to see what he does with it.  He seems to have the ability to capture the spirit of a book without making it literal.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

End of The Year/Christmas Book Haul

It's been a while since I've done a book haul so here are the newest books decking my shelves !

Books Received For Christmas

  • Unmask Me If You Can by Shana Galen
  • Made Out of Stars by Meera Lee Patel
  • Brave Enough by Cheryl Strayed

Gift Card/Sale Purchases

  • A Conjuring of Light by V.E Schwab
  • A Recipe For A Perfect Christmas - move over Hallmark this is one of my favorite Lifetime Christmas movies.
  • Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan
  • China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan
  • All The Light We Cannot See  by Anthony Doerr


  • Bad Blood by Jon Carreyrou
  • Menagerie by Rachel Vincent

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Books and Sensibility By The Numbers 2018 !

It's that time of the year again! All year long we track our reading and reviewing habits so we can crunch the numbers and pull some stats.

Here are some additional breakdowns

  • 34% Audio Review Copies 
  • 24% Public Library
  • 20%
  •  8%
  • 7% Barnes and Noble
  • 5% Fountain Bookstore
  •  2%
  • 19% Macmillan
  • 18% HarperCollins
  • 16% Simon and Schuster
  • 16% Penguin
  • 11% Hachette/Hachette Audio
  •  5% Random House
  •  3% Harlequin
  •  3% Candlewick
  •  3% Disney Worldwide
  •  2%  Amazon Publishing
  •  2%  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  •  2% Scholastic

  • 59% YA Fiction/Non-Fiction
  • 24% Adult Fiction
  • 17% Adult Memoir/Non-fiction
Other Stats
  • 40% of audiobooks narrated by  narrators of color
  • 49% 2018 Frontlist Titles
2017 vs. 2018
We reviewed 40% more book this year and our average rating is still at a solid 3.6. The format numbers are the same but it is worth noting that   Kat and I "hybrid-read" several books where we did them both in print and on audio.

I'm not surprised to see our non-YA numbers increase as we've both been exploring more genres this year, particularly nonfiction. I know there are a ton of narrative non-fiction titles I want to get to in 2019.

The diversity numbers line up with what we've done previously. This is probably the first year we've been able to say the books reviewed included transgender, lesbian and asexual characters.

Finally, Scribd is back on the scene as a resource for books. I stopped using Scribd after I realized it was skipping chapters on audio and I wasn't a fan of the limited reading, but once they reverted back to "unlimited" it seemed to find a solid place in my reading line-up.


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