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.


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