Monday, December 9, 2019

End of The Year Mini Reviews

Picture Us In The Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert 

Picture Us in the Light is a quiet contemporary YA that explores the microscopic world of first-generation American Danny Cheng and his idyllic Cupertino suburb. Danny is an aspiring artist and with his supportive best friends and parents he is ready to take on senior year and head to RISD. It should all be perfect but his life begins to fall apart around him when he discovers his parents and the life they built for him aren't what they seem.

This book slowly reveals all it's secrets--some which are more predictable than others--as Danny goes searching for the secrets and sacrifices his parents made to give him a future.  I liked how in this book Danny and his classmates truly care and support each other. As a reader, you are instantly transported into the enclosed world of Cupertino that Danny is now struggling to hold on to. - Jess

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

I read this very early this year and forgot to write a review! Celeste Ng's sophomore novel takes readers inside the fishbowl of the upper-middle-class town of Shaker Heights, Ohio where the presence of a single mother and nomadic artist Mia Warren and her teenage daughter sets the seemingly perfect Richardson family on edge. The Richardson teens are enthralled by the non-traditional Warren family and  I personally like books that are not YA, but are about younger characters. I feel like the perspective is more reflective and there is less of a need for the characters to be earnest.

The only thing I knew for sure in this book is that it features a custody battle between a mother who abandoned her baby and the wealthy family trying to adopt her, but that's really just one of the many weaving plots in this atmospheric book. ★★ - Jess

Sadie by Courtney Summers

Told in a mix of first-person narration and podcast transcripts, Sadie is the story of the titular 19-year-old Sadie Hunter as she sets out on a journey to avenge her 13-year-old sister’s brutal murder. Summers crafts a propulsive and heartbreaking narrative that interrogates the narratives we have about missing girls. The perspective of an NPR-like podcast following in Sadie’s footsteps was a unique addition and the full cast audiobook adds a radio play quality to the audiobook.

Unpopular opinion: While I think this book is good, I think it’s an example of a book that is marketed as YA but doesn’t feel at all like YA. It’s not so much the subject matter but the perspective feels like this could have easily been an adult novel. In fact the cover blurb is by adult thriller author AJ Finn (who...has his own stranger than fiction story)  ★★- Kat

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite

Unrated | 432 pages | Inkyard Press | Contemporary | 09/03/2019 | unrated
Dear Haiti, Love Alaine is a book that defies categorization as Alaine, an aspiring journalist and daughter of one of the biggest Black women in broadcasting, (read: Joy-Ann Ried or Melissa Harris-Perry ) begins a project to follow the history of her Haitian family. Told in diary entries, e-mails, letters and text this book takes some deeply emotional turns and dives into the complications of mother-daughter relationships and unspoken family history--with a touch of magical realism. 

Right out of the gate Alaine is an extroverted over-confident character with a story to tell,  I always enjoy seeing extroverted female characters in YA,  her confidence is somewhat well earned as she is the daughter of a psychologist and famous talk show host--who hails from Haitian royalty. When a tragic diagnosis puts her mother's career in jeopardy she and Alaine head down to Haiti, where Alaine becomes wrapped up in the possibility of setting her family free from a curse that has followed them for centuries.

We get to follow Alaine as she meets her extended family, learns about her parent's roots while also working for her aunt's start-up where she has a slight romance that I kind of could have done without, it felt like it had been placed in last minute.

This book actually strikes a pretty sweeping emotional turn and I  was sort of surprised by the dark and somber turn this book took as we learn about secrets of Alaine's mother's past and how it all comes back to the present.  It is interesting seeing Alaine, who is used to being decisive and loud, have to listen and really consider his actions as she starts looking into the curse.

This debut novel is a surprising look at how deep roots of a family tree are and the ever change tides of mother-daughter relationships.

Because of the bright colors on the cover and Alaine's spunky attitude, I thought this was going to be a bright, funny summer read. I mean hate to complain but I truly feel like this book does not have an appropriate cover. I liked this cover but it looks a lot like Terry McMillian's last book cover. I think it's something about the shades and lipstick that looks

Saturday, December 7, 2019

20 Books We Can't Wait To Read In 2020

It's that time of the year again! Jess and I have scoured lists and publishing announcements to give you 20 of the books we can't wait to read in 2020.  You can add them to your to-read shelf from our Goodreads list

1. Displaced by Alyssa Cole
Beloved romance author Alyssa Cole is dipping her ink into the thriller genre! There isn't much out about this book out except that it is Rear Window meets Get Out.  - Kat

2. Well Played by Jen DeLuca
Well Met was one of my favorite romances of 2019 and I can't wait to see what DeLuca has in store for Willow Creek's other tavern wench! - Kat


3. A Love Hate Thing by Whitney D. Grandison 1/7/2020
Wealthy golden girl Nandy Smith fights her attraction to the boy from the wrong side of the tracks when he moves in with her family. 2020 will be a banner year for Black teen romances! - Kat

4. Then, Now, Always by Mona Shroff 1/28/2020

This second chance romance features an estranged hero and heroine coming together to help their teenage daughter. - Jess


5. Of Curses and Kisses Of Curses and Kisses Sandhya Menon  2/18/2020
I enjoyed Menon's debut and Of Curses and Kisses is a Beauty and The Beast retelling where teens from two opposing families attend the same boarding school. - Jess

6. The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel 2/15/2020
Station Eleven was one of my favorite reads when it first came out and I can't wait to read her latest. - Kat

7. The New David Espinoza  by Fred Aceves 2/11/2020
Aceves debut was so nuanced and quiet that I didn't think we'd hear from him again, but I'm glad to see he has another book out this one tackling steroid abuse and male body image disorders. - Jess


8. The Kingdom Of Back by Marie Lu 3/3/2020
I haven't read the blurb for this but we are big Lu fans around here so we are up for whatever she does next. - Jess

9. Only Black Girls In Town  By Brandy Colbert 3/24/2020
Brandy Colbert's YA books are a favorite on this blog! She writes the kinds of books I would have loved as a teen and I'm excited to see what she does with her debut middle grade. Also shout out to her other 2020 book, The Voting Booth - Kat

10. House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Mass 3/5/2020
I haven't gotten around to reading Mass' YA series but I'm really curious to see what her adult fiction will be like - Jess

11. The City We Became by N.K Jemisin 3/24/2020
In this new series from Hugo Award-winning author N.K Jemison, 5 strangers come together to defend New York City. I'm still working through her high fantasy series but I have a feeling her urban fantasy may be more up my sleeve. - Jess


12. Incendiary by Zoraida Cordova 4/28 2020
In this Spanish Inquisition inspired fantasy a girl who can steal memories becomes wrapped up in royal politics. - Kat


13. Running by Natalia Sylvester 5/5/2020
There's been a spotlight on political activism and advocacy these past few years and I'm curious the perspective of this book about a teenage girl watching her Cuban-American father run for president. - Jess

14. Deal With The Devil by Kit Rocha 5/12/2020
Indie authors Kit Rocha make their jump to traditional publishing with this trilogy about mercenary librarians and super soldiers in a post-apocalyptic America. As you do. - Kat

15. Camp - LC Rosen 5/26/2020
Rosen's debut contemporary Jack of Hearts was such a groundbreaking portrayal of teens and sexuality and I can't wait to see what he does in this comedy about teens at a queer summer camp and toxic masculinity. - Kat

16. You Should See Me in A Crown by Leah Johnson 6/2/2020
In Leah Johnson's debut novel a girl who never felt like she belonged in the spotlight runs for prom queen to win a scholarship...and falls for the competition. -Kat

17. Now That I've Found You by Kristina Forest 6/2/2020
I loved Forest's debut and her sophomore novel about a disgraced starlet and delivery boy on an adventure through New York City sounds great. - Kat


18. A Sweet Mess by Jayci Lee 7/14/2020
A Korean-American baker falls for a jaded food critic who gave her a bad review. Also, lol this cover just tickles me! -  Kat

19. Seven Deadly Shadows by Courtney Alameda 7/28/2020
I really want to read more under the radar YA Fantasy and this re-telling of Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai sounds fun. - Kat


20. The Bride Bet by Tessa Dare 8/15/2020
This is pretty much the only historical romance series I'm keeping up with and as long as there are books in this series they will be on this list. I feel like we haven't gotten much about Nicola and I can't wait to see what Dare has in store for her. - Kat

Thursday, December 5, 2019

I Hope You Get This Message by Farah Naz Rishi

Rating: ★★★ | 9 hours 58 min | Sci Fi YA  | Harper Teen | Release Date: 10/22/2019
I Hope You Get This Message is one of those books that asks the question ‘what would happen if everyone on Earth knew they were about to die ?’ I feel like YA does this kind of book every once and a while* but this is my first time reading this trope in YA...and it just didn’t work for me.

In this iteration of the end of the world, Earth has picked up communication from a planet called Alma. They learn from intercepted transcripts that Alma has been incubating Earth for thousands of years and is currently debating whether or not to kill all of humanity in 8 days for what they have done to Earth.

This looming fate runs in the background to the stories of our three protagonists; Jesse, a teen from Roswell who doesn’t believe in Alma but want to use it to make money, Cate a girl looking for her father  and Adeem, an amateur radio enthusiasts a looking for his sister who left the family after coming out as gay. Our main characters start off on their journey as separate individuals but their lives merge and tangle in a This Is Us kind of way.

The biggest weakness for me with this book was the characters. Because they aren't trying to stop the big bad so much of this narrative is reliant on characters and they all felt so underdeveloped. Nothing they did make any sense except for the fact that it had to happen to move the book along. I wanted to feel something at the end of this book and I felt nothing. This wasn’t helped at all by the audio done by Priya Nyaar. Her voice was so stiff and I think the audiobook could have really benefited from three narrators. I'm not sure why they went with a female narrator when most of the characters are men.

The only thing I did like about this book is the interstitials of people sending messages out into the universe to convince Alma was worth saving but other than that I found this one pretty tedious.

*Does anyone remember Tumble & Fall by Alexandra Coutts? It had a similar conceit but that book just got panned by bloggers and readers.

Monday, December 2, 2019

AudioFile Magazine's Best Young Adult Audiobooks for 2019

It has been a great year for audiobooks and we are partnering with AudioFile Magazine to present AudioFile Magazine's Best Young Adult Audiobooks for 2019. Don't forget to visit AudioFile Magazine's website to check out all of AudioFile's 2019 Best Audiobooks!

WITH THE FIRE ON HIGH by Elizabeth Acevedo, read by Elizabeth Acevedo

THE SECRET COMMONWEALTH by Philip Pullman, read by Michael Sheen

FRANKLY IN LOVE by David Yoon, read by Raymond J. Lee

WAYWARD SON by Rainbow Rowell, read by Euan Morton

THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT SWEETIE by Sandhya Menon, read by Vikas Adam, Soneela Nankani

AKATA WARRIOR by Nnedi Okorafor, read by Yetide Badaki


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