Monday, March 16, 2020

Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Rating: ★★★ | 9 hours 58 min. | G.P. Putnam's Son | Adult Fiction  | Release Date: 12/31/19
2020 has been kind of a meh reading year for me so I decided to switch it up with some upmarket book club-y fiction.

This is one of those books where it’s better to go in with as little information as possible. Such a Fun Age starts with 25-year-old Emira, a Black girl living in Philadelphia, being racially profiled while babysitting a white child. The book then follows Emira as she tries to figure out how to become a “real adult” and her boss, Alix Chamberlain, who starts noticing Emira in a new way after the incident.

This book started off kind of slow but it steadily builds into this addictive, complicated narrative about privilege, race and class with a few plot twists and turns along the way. Reid’s writing is so carefully observed and veers into the humorous and even absurd.

I can see why Reese Witherspoon picked this for her book club because it is so discussion-worthy. I’ve found myself thinking about character motives and intentions long after I'd finished it. It has a satisfying ending but leaves you with some interesting questions.

I highly recommend this on audiobook. Narrator Nicole Lewis’ has this remarkable ability to code-switch between the Black and white characters. Literally, every voice she did sounded like a different character. This is her only audiobook and I have no idea how she's not doing all the books.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Protect The Prince by Jennifer Estep (Crown of Shards #2)

Rating: ★★.5 |  12 hrs. 40 min. | Adult Fantasy | Harper Voyage | Release Date: 07/2/2019

*Kill the Queen Spoilers*
Last year, I had some nitpicks with Kill The Queen but overall I enjoyed watching Princess Everleigh Blair's journey from a low ranking royal to a fierce gladiator. But I found this sequel completely lackluster and kind of dull. It didn’t work for me at all and I know this opinion makes me a total black sheep.

In Protect The Prince, Everleigh is now queen of Bellona. She travels to Andvari to work out a peace treaty as Mortans, the people behind her family’s assassination, keep popping out of the woodwork to kill her. That’s it. That’s the entire plot. People keep trying to kill her.

I was just bored with it. There was no tension or interesting stakes. The tension between the characters turns on Everleigh lying to her close friends and allies Because Of Reasons--which is my least favorite thing.

I’m also not feeling the relationship between Everleigh and Lucas Sullivan, a bastard prince of Andvari. This man does next to nothing most of the book except brood. Everleigh's emotional relationship with every other character except Sullivan is so specific and well done. The way Everleigh talks and thinks about Paloma, her gladiator rival turned captain of her guard, reads like a more authentic romance...I’m just sayin'.

The author  constantly describes rage as smelling like “hot jalapeno.” The phrase "hot jalapeno rage" is used multiple times, it took me out of the book and I just could not take it seriously.

While I would still rec the first book, I think I'm out on this series.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta

Rating: ★★★ | 9 hours 44 min. | Viking | YA Fantasy | Release Date: 10/30/18

In this Italian inspired fantasy, we travel to the mountains of Vinalia and meet Teodora “Teo” Di Sangro, the second daughter of a high ranking family. Teo has a secret. She's a strega who uses her magic to turn the men who have wronged her family into objects. You a straight-up serial killer.

Stregas are supposed to be things of the past but when tragedy strikes her family, Teo joins up with Cielo-- a mysterious orphaned strega who can change genders-- to teach her how to become a boy and take over as the Di Sangro family son.

Capetta is clearly doing some interesting work with Italian mythos and gender identity but overall I never connected with the stakes of the book. This story moves pretty fast and I wish we’d lingered a little bit to develop the relationships between the characters. There were so many people towards the end and I had no idea who most of them were or what their purpose was supposed to be.

The audiobook is narrated by Carlotta Brentan. She has a great voice for YA and her accent work was spot on. I demo-d a few other European inspired fantasy audiobooks and so many of the accents came off cartoonish. I was not all surprised to discover Brentan is from Italy Italian, it added a real authenticity to the narration. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Five Black Children’s Books For Young Bookworms

Jess and I bought our nephew his first book at two months old because you’re never too young to excited about books! We have a list of children books by Black authors that will make perfect additions to a burgeoning bookshelf.

King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
A kindergartener takes on his first day of school

Rocket Says Looks Up by Nathan Bryon, Illustrated by Dapo Adeola
A little astronaut-in-training just wants everyone to look up!

Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History by Vashti Harrison
Illustrator Vashti Harrison’s newest book about Black men in history!

Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry Illustrated by Vashti Harrison
Based on the touching Academy Award-winning short film about a father doing his daughter’s natural hair for the first time.

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson Illustrated by Rafael López 
a young girl builds relationships and expands her world

Saturday, February 15, 2020

AudioFile Magazine’s Picks of the Best New YA Audiobooks For Winter Listening

We are teaming up with AudioFile Magazine, the place for audiobook reviews, narrator interviews and audiobookish content, to present AudioFile Magazine's Picks of the Best New YA Audiobooks for winter listening. This Earphones Award-winning list has fantasy, historical fiction, and long-awaited series finales.


by Tomi Adeyemi |  Read by Bahni Turpin

Bahni Turpin exquisitely narrates the second book in this fantasy series, Legacy of Orïsha. Her steady pace and West African accent draw us into the story of Zélie, a Maji warrior, and Princess Amari-- both of whom fight against a monarchy that threatens to destroy the people of Orïsha. The listener is able to connect and sympathize with these two magical beings, even after they have made terrible decisions that produce violent consequences. They are relatable, overwhelmingly passionate, and humanly flawed. A riveting audiobook! Earphones Award Winner


by Mildred D. Taylor | Read by Allyson Johnson

Both author Mildred Taylor and narrator Allyson Johnson fully meet expectations in concluding the Logan family saga, which began in 1975. Johnson warmly welcomes listeners as if inviting them to sit by the fire to hear this family story. The heroine of so many of the Logan books, Cassie, is 19 at the time of the Civil Rights movement. She leaves behind both her beloved land and the hateful prejudice of Mississippi when she moves north and then goes to California. But she discovers that prejudice exists everywhere. The drama of the plot and the depth of the characterizations ensure that this audiobook is unforgettable. Earphones Award Winner


by Rosaria Munda | Read by Christian Coulson, Candice Moll, Steve West

This dragon fantasy rife with political intrigue has three narrators. Christian Coulson portrays Leo, the last living member of the ousted ruling class, who is hiding in plain sight as Lee, a dragon rider who is competing for the coveted Firstrider position. Candice Moll voices Annie, another contender for Firstrider, whose family was murdered by Lee's father. Steve West's voice is stately and resonant as he delivers the flashback sequences that show Lee and Annie's shared childhood in an orphanage. Coulson's Lee and Moll's Annie are both very likable, and the narrators do an exceptional job expressing the characters' complex emotions as they begin to question the new meritocracy's harsh caste system. Earphones Award Winner.


by Justine Ireland | Read by Bahni Turpin, Jordan Cobb 

Two narrators portray the dynamic relationship of the heroines in this compelling sequel to DREAD NATION. In an alternate history, zombies risen from Civil War battlefields are turning folks into undead across the country. Alternating chapters reveal the viewpoints of two African-American characters, both trained assassins who struggle to find their true identities. Themes of human experimentation and prejudice take a back seat to the tense action in this gripping audio. Earphones Award Winner
 by Libba Bray | Read by January LaVoy

Narrator January LaVoy returns for the final installment of Bray's Diviners series. The dead are rising, and only a band of supernaturally gifted people can stop them. There are more than 25 characters in this story, ranging from an African-American boy to an adult woman with a Russian accent, and the choice to leave it all to LaVoy was inspired as she needs no supporting cast. This is an audiobook one wishes would never end. Earphones Award Winner
Which audiobook are you excited for?

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor

15 Hours 54 Minutes | Hachette Audio | YA Fantasy  | 10/02/2018

There is just no way Laini Taylor brain works the way everyone else does. Her vibrant and expansive imagination allows her to dive into fantasy worlds that are beautiful, mystifying and devastating. 

Muse of Nightmares seamlessly continues the story of Strange The Dreamer and unravels the horrifying truth behind the Godspawn and Mezarthum all while Lazlo and the people of Weep come face to face with the children who survived a horrific genocide. In a way, this book is also an origin story that spans worlds and decades.

I think this series worked well as a duology and I'm starting to really get behind wanting more. I mean  there is a point where you could see where a third book could have easily been inserted because we are introduced to a new adversary whose sudden arrival instantly accelerated the story in kind of an awkward way but Taylor eventually evens it out

Like with the first book I  found the references to genocide and rapes hard to read. This series and Daughter of Smoke and Bone exist. in the same universe and it feels like Taylor is still asking the same question about redemption and reconciliation after genocide and war. Also, both books feature mass rape and the commodification of children.

Taylor's story really crosses the divide between Young Adult and Adult fantasy. As a writer, she is invested in the lives and perspectives of her adult and teen characters alike.

Speaking of Smoke & Bone I liked the ending of this one a lot better if fit together and felt more…planned. 

With all of that said I personally enjoyed how Taylor connects her worlds and hinted at future stories to come.  

Where is the next book, please?

Saturday, January 25, 2020

New Cover Who Dis 2020 : Illustrated Edition

It's been a while since we've done one of these but we're in the age of illustrated covers and some of our faves are getting a whole new look

Four Days of You and Me by Miranda Kenneally
Old Cover                                                                                           New Cover

This cover changed before the release and it's a blink and you miss it type change. The playful models have been switched out for illustrated characters in similar poses. When the original cover was revealed the models were used in some of the marketing and honestly, the male model looked a bit too old for YA. I'm all for this new cover. Also, as Kat pointed out, the illustrated models change clothes showing the passage of time.

You'd Be Mine by Erin Hahn
Hardcover                                                                                       Paperback
Having read this book I'm partial to the hardcover, I think it captures the free-spirited nature of the young country singer heroine who lands a place on tour with country music's favorite bad boy. Brightly light stock photos with the colorful font used to be the status quo for YA romance covers but illustrated cover reign now and this one...IDK. Something about the faces looks a little rushed and there is no "flow" to the artwork. I will say the scene does tell you more about the book than the original does...unless you think that's a school bus instead of a tour bus.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Old Cover                                                                                                            New Cover
This was one of the first books we talked about on the blog and it takes me back to 2012. The cover of Cinder was unique and the red shoe was iconic, but it didn't quite capture the rompy space adventures in the book.  I like that the new cover kept the signature font and the mood of the artwork  but, and this my personal opinion, I'm not a fan of the artistic style. It's very gritty, sharp and stylized in a way that looks more grim and dystopian than I  think the story is. I will say I really like this trend of YA books having stepbacks ! (I'm looking at you, paperback Grisha series)

Hungry Hearts
Hardcover                                                                                                   Paperback
This YA Anthology's hardcover is light, warm and cozy. The new cover is a little bolder and the hands give it a more communal feel. Something about it seems more fun. I like the details on the hands like the nail polish and rings. This is a situation where I like both covers equally but the paperback cover is a nice upgrade.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Let Me Hear A Rhyme by Tiffany Jackson

Rating: ★★★★ | Macmillan | Contemporary | Release Date: 05/21/2019
After Brooklyn teenager and aspiring rapper Steph is shot to death, his two best friends and sister hatch a plan to give Steph the legacy he always dreamed of. They use his recordings to turn him into Brooklyn’s hottest rapper and unexpectedly uncover secrets to solve Steph’s murder.

This book takes place in 1998 and normally I side-eye YA authors writing books that take place in the ’90s because it feels like it’s pandering to adult readers of YA but in this book, it just works. The '90s setting feels essential to the story and not just like a nostalgia trip because it was such a significant time in hip-hop and Black culture.

Gatekeeping in the music industry was different back then and our characters have to hustle to produce and publicize Steph’s music. If this took place in modern time they’d just have a GoFundMe, upload the recording to SoundCloud and be done.

Each of our three protagonists gets their own separate plots and it felt like there wasn't as much follow through on the individual storylines which was kind of disappointing. particularly with Steph's sister who falls in with militant Black Nationalists. We never fully get into what is going on with her and I feel like it could have been a book on its own.

This is a full-cast audiobook and all of the narrators were new to me. My favorite was Nile Bullock because he actually sounded like a teen. He doesn’t do voices, which was a little confusing, but he easily and naturally navigates the 90’s New York slang. By comparison, Korey Jackson and Adam Lazarre-White sounded significantly older. Our sole female narrator, Adenrele Ojo, has a teen voice that sounded a little whiny and like she was always on the verge of tears. There are a few moments of rapping and singing in this book and I really wish they’d brought in someone... those sections just felt awkward.

In the acknowledgments, Jackson says this is a personal story for her because she was a teenager in Brooklyn during this time and pieces of her are weaved into book. I think her experience brings a refreshing authenticity to this YA about grief, music and what it means to be seen.

This book is also the perfect read-along with 2019’s other hip hop YA On The Come Up by Angie Thomas, they both say interesting things about the legacy of hip-hop and Black youth.

I….I think this book may have taught me how to play Spades….

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Books and Sensibility By The Numbers 2019 !

It's that time of year where we crunch the numbers from the books we've reviewed on this blog in 2019. We keep track using a review tracking spreadsheet in Google Sheets and turn it into an infographic on Canva. This isn't indicative of all our reading because the romance blog has its own stats and there are books we've read that haven't been reviewed.

Genre Breakdown
33.9% YA  Fantasy
28% YA Contemporary
7.5% Adult Fantasy
5.6% YA Mystery

5.6% YA Sci-Fi
3.7% Adult Fiction

3.7% Mystery Adult
1.8% Adult Non-Fiction
1.8% YA Non-Fiction
1.8% Adult Sci-Fi
1.8%YA Anthology
1.8% Horror
1.8% Dystopian

Diversity / Demographics
28% books written by POC authors
~ 45% books narrated by POC narrators
7% books featured characters with disability
46 books written by female authors
7 books written by male authors
1 written by a nonbinary author

Overall the stats are exactly what I expected, although things are a little skewed because I read the first five books in the Grisha Series (just couldn't get to King of Scars)  which is why Macmillian is showing up as a popular publisher. I also think it's interesting that Scribd and Audible are neck and neck because there was a point where I was done with Scribd after having technical issues and a low selection.  I'm glad I gave the app a second chance.

I compared this year to last year and there aren't too many differences. The SFF number is significantly higher than last year's 29% but like Jess, I read the Grisha series and Crooked Kingdom so those got counted twice.Our number of LGBQA protagonists went up 18% and I think as more books are published LGBTQ characters that number will only go up.

*Includes The Bellewether which is Contemporary with Historical elements.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

10th Annual End of Year Book Survey !

I can't believe the Perpetual Page-Turner has been doing this for a decade! You can find the questions on her blog here. For this I'm also including books from this blog and my romance blog, Romance and Sensibility.


Number Of Books You Read: 60, which is a real record for me ! 28 were non-romance and 32 were romance novels/novellas
Number of Re-Reads: Just one. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. I wanted to read the rest of the series and needed a refresher.
Genre You Read The Most From:  Contemporary Adult Romance

1. Best Book You Read In 2019?

I'm going to break it down:

Backlist YA: Jack of Hearts by LC Rosen
Frontlist YA: On The Come Up by Angie Thomas
Backlist Romance: Buns by Alice Clayton
Frontlist Romance: Well Met by Jen Deluca

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

The Whole Package by Marie Harte. Harte wrote two of my favorite romances of all time,but this one disappointed me. I am giving Harte's newest book a change though...

Honorable mention: I listened to the book Fluffy by Julia Kent purely because I heard a snippet of it on the Sound Bites podcast that sounded funny. I ended up hating it.

3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read? 

I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest. I was anticipating this book for a while and I was surprised how much I liked it. I usually have a hard time with YA romances. This is probably the best one I've read in recent years.

4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?

The only person I really push to read books is Jess and I pushed her to read Six of Crows. Our older brother is also (suddenly becoming) a reader and I think I'll rec the series to him too.

5. Best series you started in 2019? Best Sequel of 2019? Best Series Ender of 2019?

Best series started: The Crown of Shard series by Jennifer Estep
Best sequel: I didn't read a sequel that I liked
Best series ender: I didn't read a series ender that I liked

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2019?

Lucy Lennox is a new to me author who wrote King Me, a sexy art heist romance.

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

This year I read two adult SFF novellas and I think of the two I liked This Is How You Lose The Time War best.

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

Jack of Hearts by LC Rosen, I just wanted to know who the stalker was!

9. Book You Read In 2019 That You Would Be MOST Likely To Re-Read Next Year?
I don't typically re-read but I can see myself re-reading This is How You Lose The Time War because I feel like it's a book that makes more sense the second time around.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2019?
I absolutely hated this book, but it has one of my favorite covers. It just really stands out:

11. Most memorable character of 2019?

Natalie Grayson in Cream of The Crop by Alice Clayton

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2019?

This Is How You Lose The Time War by Max Gladstone and Amal Eh-Mohtar

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2019?
I don't think I had one of those

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2019 to finally read?

The Grisha series. I had no idea how I've gone this long without getting spoiled.

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2019?
I really like this passage from Suddenly One Summer between divorce lawyer Victoria Slade and her hero, journalist Ford Dixon because after the black moment the heroine does a "grovel" instead of the hero which is kind of subversive.

She lifted her chin. “Are you dating that woman who was with you in the elevator?”
Fuck that. All his frustration boiling to the surface, he took a step closer to her. She had no right to ask him that, not anymore. She had kicked him out of her life. “Would it make any difference if I was?” he asked sharply.
Victoria held her ground, peering up at him and taking a moment before answering. “No.”
His shoulders slumped.
Well. He’d asked.
“That’s what I thought,” he said tersely. He spun around and started walking toward his car.
“Because I’d fight for you anyway.”
He stopped.
His heart pounding, he turned around to face her.
She stepped toward him, speaking determinedly. “This was not supposed to happen. My whole adult life I have avoided exactly this happening. I had things all mapped out, I knew what I wanted, and I was set. But then you came along, and you messed up all of that, with your little quips, and your jaw that twitches when you get protective, and the way you somehow manage to always be so infuriatingly unfazed no matter what I throw at you. And now I’m stuck. I can’t get back to my old life and, even crazier, I don’t want my old life anymore.” She held his gaze. “Because that life doesn’t have you in it.”

16. Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2019?

Shortest: A Tale of Two Cities by Alexandra Warren at 60 pages

Longest:  It was a tie. Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardguo and Mixtape: A Love Song anthology were both 536 pages.

17. Book That Shocked You The Most
I'm going to say Ruin and Rising. Because I read Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom first I  was sure I knew what was going to happen at the end of the books and I was wrong.

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)

Dirk Falcon and King Wilde (I know, the names are peak romance hero names) in King Me by Lucy Lennox

Bonus: This is not canon but I totally ship Nena and Inej from Six of Crows

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year
The friendship between all the couples in Alice Clayton's Hudson Valley series. I loved the scene when they were all running a marathon together.

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2019 From An Author You’ve Read Previously
Hmm... I read a lot of new to me authors this year. I did like both Alexandra Warren Tale of Two Cities novellas I read.

21. Best Book You Read In 2019 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure/Bookstagram, Etc.:

Timekeeper by Tara Sim...I pretty much only read it because Eric Smith kept bringing it up on the  Hey, YA. Podcast

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2019?
Zavier Demons from Syncopation by Anna Zabo

23. Best 2019 debut you read?

Well Met by Jen Deluca

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?
All of the timelines and worlds in This is How You Lose The Time War

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?
The Hudson Valley series by Alice Clayton

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2019?
I didn't have one this year

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?
I wouldn't necessarily call her a hidden gem but Alexandra Warren's Tale of Two Cities series is great for quick romance reads.

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?
I didn't really have one

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2019?
This is How You Lose The Time War

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?
Queen of Nothing by Holly Black--mostly because it didn't go the way I wanted it to go.

1. New favorite book blog/Bookstagram/Youtube channel you discovered in 2019?

I got more into Booktube more this year. I just kind of leave it running in the background when I'm doing something. Some of my go to channels are:

Alexa Loves Books
Bookish Realm
Bree Hill

2. Favorite post you wrote in 2019?
My post about reading The Grisha series out of order

3. Favorite bookish related photo you took in 2019:
I didn't really take too many photos

4. Best bookish event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, etc.)?
ApollyCon ! It was kind of overwhelming but I'm glad I went.

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2019?
I don't have one, blogging has kind of taken a backseat for me so I'm just glad I can still do it.

6. Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year?
I think just the usual...feeling some burn out and going weeks without publishing anything.

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?
According to Blogger it is my Broken Things review ?

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?
I don't have one.

9. Best bookish discover (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?
I've been using Libro.FM and it's a great way to support local indies and it has pretty much all the same features as Audible

10. Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?
I always try to read more of the books I already have....I think I only got to two.
1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2019 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2020?
Midnight Beasties by Megan Shepherd...I wanted that book so badly last year and I never got to it!

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2020 (non-debut)?
Now That I've Found You by Kristina Forest

3. 2020 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?
A Sweet Mess by Jayci Lee

4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2020?
The Bride Bet by Tessa Dare

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2020?
I....I may try a booktube video or two

6. A 2020 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone (if applicable):
I haven't read any 2020 books

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Our Top Five Books of The Year

Polaris Rising by Jessie Mihalik

An action-packed space opera that follows a fugitive princess and an outlaw as they make daring escapes and planet hop while trying to end a dangerous trade war before it can begin.

Long Shot by Kennedy Ryan

A heartbreaking romance that follows college grads Iris and August as they begin a journey that finds August shooting for his hoop dreams and Iris fighting for her life in an abusive relationship. Long Shot holds strongly to the spirit of a genre that guarantees an HEA even after the most tumultuous of storms.

The Beckoning Shadow by Katharyn Blair

Vesper, a former high school cheerleader with secret superhuman powers ditches her pom-poms for a pair of boxing gloves and the cage match of her life. 

On The Come Up by Angie Thomas

Aspiring rapper Brianna "Bri" Jackson is ready to have her come up but injustice, poverty, and complicated family dynamics stand in her way. On The Come Up is an incisive contemporary take on teen issues and a love letter to the power of rap music.

Jack of Hearts (And Other Parts) by L.C. Rosen

In this modern and engaging take on the teen sex comedy, 17-year-old Jack Rothman starts a sex advice column for his school's website. He’s prepared for gossip and judgment but nothing prepares him for an anonymous stalker.


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