Thursday, July 18, 2019

A Curse So Dark and Lonely By Brigid Kremmer

Rating: ★★ | 496 pages | Bloomsbury YA | Fantasy | Release Date: 01/29/2019

The big marketing push for this book in the blogosphere totally put this book on my radar. Brigid Kremmer is a veteran YA author and the premise of this book sounded pretty intriguing; Harper, a modern teen girl, teams up with Rhen a  prince from another world, to end a curse. While the ending is quite the cliffhanger I generally found that this book wasn't for me

I want to preface this all by saying I'm sort of fascinated by YA Fantasy and the tropes it often inhabits. Tropes that I think are so prevalent that the YA Fantasy novel Damsel purposefully turns them on their head. Some things I keep an eye out for are :

No Boys .... Unless Thier Cute
YA Fantasy has no shortage of brooding cute boys. Usually royalty. If there isn't one just wait until book 2

Capitan of The Guard
In a YA fantasy world, you can usually count on a high ranking bodyguard or royal protector. 9 times out of 10 this character is secretly in love with their charge. I feel like this character's existence is an easy way to create an emotional bond between the main (usually royal) protagonist and the secondary character. Kremmer turns this concept on its head during the last few chapters which was pretty interesting.

There is always a rebellion. A lot of YA fantasy has a fight-against-the-machine-tear-it-down mentality. This is one of my favorites tropes in YA fantasy because whether or not I will read the second book in a series depends on how much the rebellion has changed the status quo

A Curse So Dark and Lonely hits all of the usual tropes in a way that is satisfying but sort of predictable. When Harper is whisked away to Emberfall and meets Prince Rhen, who (after sleeping with an evil sorceress) is cursed to relive the same three months over and over again until he can find someone to love him.

Honestly . . . this curse is kind of convoluted

The curse only resets time on the grounds of Rhen's castle....also, if he kills people they don't come back... also, every time he fails to find love he is turned into a monster and attacks his kingdom. Also, he can leave the grounds of his castle if he wants to where time goes on normally but he doesn't tell people he is cursed? Also Grey, his trusty commander-- can cross worlds to kidnap girls because... reasons?  I mean I get Grey having the ability to cross worlds to get the girls got Harper into the plot but ... why? Why would that even be a thing?

A majority of this book was just a bit too earnest for me. When I read YA fantasy I like it when character's actions are flawed or selfish because sometimes being a teenager can mean being a little selfish. You never have to worry if Rhen and Harper are doing the right thing because doing what's right is all they want to do.

There was also a lot of forced proximity which always makes me feel claustrophobic. For a large portion of this book, Rhen and Harper barely leave the grounds around the castle and so much of the story is focused on Rhen,  Harper, and Grey that I didn't immediately get a feel for Emberfall or what makes it special.

The ending intrigued me, I may check the next one out from the library. Also, I'm surprised there is no audiobook. I think Chris Coulson and Eva Kaminsky would be a great pair for this.

A Curse So Dark and Lonely features a heroine with Cerebral Palsy, if you are looking for that representation give this book a shot!

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Timekeeper by Tara Sim

Rating: ★★| 8 hours 48 minutes | Fantasy | Skypony Press | Release Date: 11/8/2016

In Sim's Victorian London clock towers do more than just tell time...they keep it moving. Danny Hart is London’s youngest clock mechanic and his job is to repair England’s many clock towers. But when Danny falls in love with the spirit of the Enfield clock tower their forbidden relationship could stop time forever.

Oh, and they solve a crime.

I kept hearing Eric Smith talk about this book on the Hey YA podcast so when I saw it at the library I decided to pick it up. This is such a unique genre-bending story. It’s got a steampunk setting with fantasy elements and some mystery beats. I will say, the rules about clock spirits and how they work and who can see them does fall apart if you look too hard. I'm a little afraid Sim will have to break her own rules to continue telling more stories in the series.

The audiobook is narrated by Gary Furlong (whose name kept making me think of the character in Veep) who gives a great performance and I highly rec this on audio. Furlong has this great arsenal of British male accents, although he only has about one female voice in him. I see he does some romances so I'll have to check those out.

Even though Danny is 17-years-old I think this is a great YA for younger readers. It has interesting themes and questions without being too dark. Sims' world is also inclusive. The clock spirit, Colton, is a boy and Danny being gay is part of his story but not the whole story. I do kind of side-eye the half Indian character who is constantly described as fair and blonde.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

That Time I Read The Grishaverse Books Out of Order

In the Star Wars fandom there is this thing called Machete Order. It was created by software developer and Star Wars fan Rod Hilton in 2011 as an alternative to watching the films in chronological or release order. In Machete Order, you watch a New Hope and then the 2000’s movies are watched as a flashback between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. I’ve been thinking about Machete Order because that is sort of the way I read Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha books and I kind of think it’s a really effective way to read them.

Here is my Machete Order of the Grishaverse:

I think Shadow and Bone should be read first because it breaks down the Grisha orders, how they exist in the world at large and how their power works more so than the other books. Now, I personally still find some of Bardugo’s magic, er science system, confusing but I think it can be even more confusing if you go straight into Six of Crows.

Much like in the Star Wars Machete Order some of the twists and reveals get moved to earlier in the series and yes, you will get spoilers. Most of the spoilers are about who survives in the Grisha series but I actually like the idea of knowing where they end up and then flashing back to how they got there. I’m thinking particularly about *mild spoiler* Zoya. When I first read Shadow and Bone I wrote Zoya off as a basic mean girl who existed to show Alina wasn’t “like the other girls”. But when I re-read Shadow and Bone after knowing her role in the Six of Crows series, it made her character arc more apparent and I understood why she was there.

I'm not going to review the entire Grisha series but I do want to talk about it a little bit. I think there are a lot of critiques and nitpicks that could be made, but on a surface level, I've really come around to the series. I enjoyed binging it all at once and just living in that world. It’s a classic hero’s journey but with a female character who not only gets to be strong but also vulnerable. I see how such a rabid fan base has developed, although you can keep all that Darkling fan service. My biggest issue with the series is he got way too much redemption for my taste.

I am so nervous about the upcoming Netflix series. They are smashing the books together and I’m not sure how they are going to do it. At this point I have it in my head the television shows plot won’t follow either of the books but take elements to create something new?

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

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

Rating: ★★★★ | 337 pages | Contemporary | Little Brown | Release Date: 10/30/2018
17-year-old Jack Rothman loves sex and finds his reputation as the school slut somewhat amusing. When he uses his experience to write an advice column he’s prepared for more gossip and judgment but nothing prepares him for an anonymous stalker leaving little pink notes in his locker.

This book has a pretty high bar to clear. It has to give advice about sex and sexuality to minors in a way that is safe, inclusive and frank, explore the multiple facets of being a gay teen and build a thriller-like stalker plot. Somehow, L.C Rosen (the pen name of SFF author Lev AC Rosen) manages to do it all and more in this gem of a YA contemporary. 

I'll admit as some who is *mumbles* *mumbles* years old I was clutching my pearls at how explicit the advice column sections were, but I think it’s ridiculous to think teens aren’t talking and thinking this way. Especially gay or lesbian teens who don’t have a lot of models for love and romance for people their age. The columns go beyond just sex advice and also talk to teens who don’t feel like they want to have sex or straight boys who feel like they don’t fit into the way media portrays their desires. I will say the Jack in the advice column seems a lot more mature and worldly than the one in the story but I think it’s a conceit that makes sense for the book.

My favorite part of this book has to be the stalker plot. As Jack and his friends (who were also great) scheme to figure out how to catch the stalker and start interrogating their fellow classmates I got some serious American Vandal vibes. Rosen did an amazing job slowly heightening the stakes and building a mystery. This book is set in the world of the privileged New York City rich kids and it really worked because it took away a lot of the barriers and it didn’t have to explain why they never had jobs or responsibilities and  had access to just about anything they wanted.

I feel like Gen Z and younger are growing up with this new genre of teen sex comedy that are just more interesting and nuanced than what Millenials and Gen X had.  Things like this book, the show Sex Education, Chewing Gum and movies like Cockblockers give the perspective of sexual desire to women and non-straight people without making them the butt of a joke and I think that’s really great.

Jack of Hearts was a random pick from my library and I’m really glad a book like this is sitting on the shelves. Jack of Hearts is a modern and engaging take on the teen sex comedy.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Adult Genre Fiction: A Curious Beginning and Kill The Queen

I remember being a teenager in Borders (RIP) and hating that one day I’d have to give up YA and read only boring “adult” books. But over the years I’ve discovered adult books are kind of awesome too and this year I’ve been dabbling in adult genre fiction.

A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn
In Victorian England, lepodocrhstis (butterfly scientist) and adventurer Veronica Speedwell returns home for her foster aunt’s funeral and finds herself swept up in a conspiracy that puts her on the run with the mysterious natural historian named Stoker. Raybourn has a huge dedicted fanbase and she’s from my state so I was excited to try this book. Overall I thought this was an enjoyable read and a great palate cleanser from what I normally read. I was kind of hoping for more mystery. The mystery element didn’t show up until 40% and I was wavering at that point because I wasn’t sure where the book was going. Audiobook narrator Angele Masters does a masterful job giving voice to our spirited protagonist and navigating the many different accents that pop up. I had to DNF Master’s narration of Jenny Holiday’s Three Little Words last year but in this book she shines and brings life to all the intriguing twists, cheeky banter and witty characters.  - ★★★ +.5

Kill The Queen by Jennifer Estep

After my toe dip into adult mystery, I jumped over to epic fantasy to try out another title that I've heard so much about. When Lady Everleigh Safira Winter Blair, 18th in line for the crown, is the sole survivor of a royal massacre she hides her identity and takes refuge as a recruit in a gladiator troupe. Parts of this book frustrated me; It doesn’t make sense why Everleigh keeps her identity a secret when she has proof of who she is. The fantasy elements felt spoonfed. Everyone is described as wearing tunics and leggings and for me, the word leggings felt really modern? All I could think of was everyone was wearing Lularoe.

Those nitpicks aside I  liked this story. Estep creates an imaginative, visceral tale about a woman finding power. I thought the gladiator troupe was such a unique take and I like how the whole book is led by women. Most of the gladiators, rulers and guards are women but it’s not like a thing, it just is. If you want a book that is basically like the first 10 minutes of the Wonder Woman then this is a book you should check out. Keep an eye out because it goes on sale for 1.99 a lot. - ★★★ +.5

*Kill The Queen was received as part of the Avon Addicts program

Saturday, June 29, 2019

We Set The Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia

Rating: ★★★ | 9 hours 54 minutes| Dystopian YA  | Harper Audio | Release Date: 2/26/2019
On the island of Medio, young women are trained to take up positions as sister wives to the island's highest ranking men. 17-year-old Daniella Vargas is paired with her bully Carmen and the two are married to Mateo Garcia--a boy being groomed to become president of their island country.

Dani’s life looks picture perfect but she has a secret. She's an illegal immigrant and was bought over from the wrong side of Medio’s border as a child. This secret makes her vulnerable to the resistance group La Voz, who begin blackmailing her for information to help their cause. As Dani embarks on this new life full of discovery and danger she begins to understand her own privilege and that there is more to life than what she ever imagined--including her feelings for her sister wife, Carmen.

This book feels a lot like the dystopian YA we were getting in the early 2010’s but the Latinx setting and f/f relationship make it modern and unique. That type of inclusivity is just not a thing we’ve seen in this type of YA before. This book has gotten rave reviews and a lot of media attention but….*it didn’t work for me*

Thematically I get it but I never felt connected to Dani as a character and the world of Medio never felt fully formed. I don’t understand what Medio looks like or how it exists outside of Dani's perspective. A big part of the story is Dani being blackmailed by the resistance group La Voz, but we don’t really know much about La Voz or it's members. I just wanted so much more context and world building. This book gets billed as a fantasy sometimes which I think it interesting because there are no fantastical or science-fiction-y elements. Like at all.

I listened to a majority of this on audio and narrator Kayla Garcia was a delightful discovery. She has a great voice for YA and I’ll have to check out some of the other books she does.

We Set The Dark on Fire is a timely story and a gateway for teens to talk about privilege, power, and citizenship.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Interview With Award Winning Audiobook Narrator Bahni Turpin

For more than a decade actress Bahni Turpin has dazzled audiobook listeners with her vibrant performances. This year, Turpin received a lifetime achievement honor and has become one of AudioFile Magazine’s Golden Voices. I had an opportunity to interview Turpin about her life as an award-winning narrator, actress and community organizer.

Matt Flatow
Turpin fell into the world of audiobook narration while working as an actress—a career path she chose at the age of nine.

“The day [my mom] told me that I was going to take acting classes I was nine. I said ‘Okay!’ and I walked away and I was just sort of skipping up to my room and. . . . I remembered stopping on the landing of the stairs and saying that’s what I’ll do! ….the decision was made at nine. I never changed mind.”

In addition to acting on stage Turpin has appeared in several iconic TV shows and films including the HBO film O.G alongside Jeffrey Wright, a film that was shot inside an Indiana state prison.

 Max Flatow
Turpin was introduced to audiobook narration by an actress she was working with in a play. Turpin auditioned and began working with Random House, one of her early audiobooks was A Piece of Cake by Cupcake Brown.

“I thought it was fun”, said Turpin, “and then one day a director I had worked with on The Help called me and she said ‘Oh I just wanted to call you and let you know that you won! You won!”

That was how Turpin first found out she won an Audie for The Help.

“I didn’t know what an Audie was… I didn’t know there were awards for this.”

Since then Turpin’s accolades have been non-stop, with performances that have been highly reviewed
as lively, skillful and energetic. Her backlist contains hundreds of audiobooks spanning children’s,
fiction, non-fiction, and young adult.

This summer Turpin and a team of narrators will bring 131 books in the classic Baby-Sitter’s Club series to audio for the first time. Turpin will be narrating eleven-year-old Jessi, a ballet dancer and one of the junior officers of the club.

“I’m interested to see how girls today will receive them, they are a bit dated…they don’t have phones. They had to meet in Claudia’s room because she was the only one with a phone line/"

On the acting front, Turpin just wrapped up a play with Cornerstone Theater Company and is starting on a full-cast audio project. In addition to acting and narrating Turpin is also the founder and board member of the SoLA Co-op.

Are there any books you are reading to or listening to right now that you’d recommend?
I just listened to The Murmur of the Bees narrated by Xe Sands, what a unique voices Xe has…It’s beautiful very beautiful.

If you had the opportunity to narrate any book from your childhood what would it be?
James and The Giant Peach. I loved that book and I loved the original illustrations so much that I had to buy it on eBay to get the old version.

If you could choose anyone to narrate your life story who would it be?
It would have to be me!
For readers who want to dive into your backlist of audiobooks where would you suggest they start? Do you have any favorites?
The True Meaning of Smeck Day, that was a classic Bhani Turpin audiobook that won an Odyssey award. The Darkest Child, If Beale Street Could Talk, Allegedly and Children of Blood and Bone. I really really loved [Children of Blood and Bone] and I was really proud of it.

In addition to being an actress and audiobook narrator, you are also the founder and board member of the SoLA Food Co-op. Can you tell us more about that?
I started SoLA food coop about eight years ago I had purchased a home in South L.A. in 2010 and having lived in Hollywood for 16 years before that I used to having a lot of different options in buying [organic] food and down here not so much. They didn’t really stock organic foods in the grocery stores at that time and then shortly after a couple of the main conventional grocery stores closed. Still holding the dream of being an actress I didn’t want to open a grocery store, but I did get the idea of a cooperative…so I started doing that with no experience in community organization whatsoever. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done and I love it. Our goal is to open a full-service health food store in Southern L.A.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Book Review : The Care and Feeding of Ravenous Girls by Annisa Gray

Rating: unrated | 304 pages | Berkley | Adult Fiction | Release Date: 02/19/2019

I like a book with a really long title. Just throwing that out there.

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls is this blend of African-American, Women's and Literary fiction that I'm starting to find myself drawn to more.

This is a very human story of the Butler siblings who are brought together after their seemingly perfect elder sister, Althea, and her husband Proctor are convicted of a crime that shakes up their small lakeside town.

Everyone in this book has something to work through. Althea and her husband are trying to get through their prison sentences with their strong loving bond intact and without losing their teenage daughters, who are now being raised by Lillian, the youngest butler sister--who is also taking care of her ex-husband's grandmother. At 36 and newly single this was not the life she was prepared for. The prodigal daughter and academic, Viola, returns home after separating from her wife and falling back into the clutches of her eating disorder.

Together these sisters navigate the pain of their childhood, the closely held secrets they have buried and the ways their father let the family down.

I like reading books about Black families that takes place in locations we don't often see Black people in the media. This is a story about three Black women trying to find their way that doesn't involve getting a man, getting a promotion or rubbing their fingers on their temples. It was about more interior things and (as Iyanla Vanzant would say) doing the work and coming out whole on the other side. This is like the novel version of those episodes of NPR (which are not my favorite) where reporters re-examine moments from their childhood and look for answers and meaning.

Orange Is The New Black meets Queen Sugar in this solid debut about women finding their way through the unexpected.

Check out the audiobook review on Audiofile!

I was really shocked to discover that Anissa Gray is a career journalist, this is the kind of book that I expected from a life-long fiction writer. I can't wait to see what she write next.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Spin By Lamar Giles

Rating: unrated | 10 hours 50 minutes | Scholastic | YA Thriller | Release Date: 01/30/2019

Last weekend Virginia Beach hosted Something In The Water Festival and they honestly should have just started throwing these books out at the audience. Spin is a love story to the underground music scene and the tradition of Tidewater musicians.

DJ ParSec started from the bottom with nothing but her best friend Kya's tech skills,  mismatch DJ equipment and a passion for music. After blowing up online and gathering a rabid fanbase DJ ParSec was on her way up--- until she is found dead-- now it is up to Kya and ParSec's estranged social media manager, Fuse, to find justice.

Giles knows how to write a solid thriller, he keeps the stakes high and has his characters face danger at nearly every turn, especially from DJ ParSec's most devoted fans whose intense network is keeping tabs on Kya and Fuse.   Along the way Kya and Fuse, who have never seen eye to eye, begin to bond through their shared grief. It was great reading a story about complicated female friendship.

Giles does not hold back when it comes to violence and peril his characters face, but I've always found it interesting that the language remains fairly tame.

Spin really taps into the world of social media fandom with a dash of action, and suspense that will keep you guessing until the end.

Check out the audio review on Audiofile

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Rating: ★★★★ | 18 hours 20 minutes| Fantasy | Hachette Audio | Release Date: 3/18/2017

We’ve been talking about Laini Taylor on this blog since Daughter of Smoke and Bone was featured in this Wall Street Journal article about new books reaching the Harry Potter generation. The Daughter of Smoke and Bone series blew me away and Taylor is back at it again in Strange The Dreamer.

In this book, we meet Lazlo Strange, an orphaned librarian who finds himself the center of a story beyond his wildest dreams. Taylor is one of the best storytellers in YA right now and this book reflects that. The worlds and magic systems she creates are so detailed and creative.

At over 500 pages and 18 hours on audio, there were times where you could feel the page count. In the acknowledgments, Taylor says this was originally one book that got made into two and I think with a little less backstory it probably would have worked as one book but there seems to be no room for standalones in YA

At its heart, Strange The Dreamer is as a unique and original tale of trauma and survival.

....I’m not really a fan of YA duologies. They always feel like one story that has been stretched and padded to become two books instead of a story that needed to be told with two books.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Rating: ★★★ |  358 pages | Henry Holt and Co, | Fantasy | Release Date: 06/05/2012 

Wow, reading this book was a blast from the past. Shadow and Bone was first published in 2012, which was our first full year of blogging. The then-unknown Bardugo was part of a group of debut YA/MG authors called the Apocalypsies that included several other YA fantasy powerhouses like Zoraida Córdova, Sara J. Maas, Brigid Kremmer and Marissa Meyer.

On to the book!

Shadow and Bone takse place in the Russian-inspired land of Ravka that has been divided by a dark shadowy wasteland known as The Fold. Wars have broken out at the borders leaving devastation in its wake.

Childhood friends Mal and Alina are soldiers in Ravka's First Army, which is nothing compared to Ravaka' Second Army---made up of Grisha,  individuals who have mastered the small science (magic) and can wield elements in mind-bending ways. When Alina discovers she maybe one of the most powerful Grisha of all time, she is thrown into the opulent Grisha world and at the arms of the Grisha's charming leader The Darkling.

Kat reviewed this book in 2013 and I think I liked it better than she did. I think the book is setting up for an interesting series. I will say it was kind of jarring how quickly we sort of glossed over Alina's origin story and her time at the Os Alta which is like a Grisha magical school. I also felt the order of the Grisha was so confusing. I kept having to flip back and forth to the information page to understand everyone's category.

I like the relationship between Mal and Alina and I think for fans this is the biggest draw. There was plenty of nightmare fuel and even a few twists that felt sort of predictable. People are enamored by this series (though I'm guessing it's mostly the Darkling)  and I'm curious to see how Bardoguo evolves as a writer in her second book

Slight spoiler, but I feel like the early 2010s were full of YA Bad Boys destined to be Draco In Leather Pants.

I'm reading this series because Kat wants me to read Six of Crows, but I want to go in with the context. Also, I've been wanting to binge a series and when the Netflix show comes out I can be on Twitter going all  "Well, but actually"

Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Loves and Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan

Rating: unrated | 336 pages | Scholastic Press | Contemporary | Release Date: 1/29/2019

Rukhsana Ali lives two very different lives. With her friends and brother, she is a happily out and dating her girlfriend Arianna. But when she is among her traditional Muslim Bangladeshi community--which includes her marriage-minded mother--her sexual identity is a closely held secret. When Rukhsana is caught kissing her girlfriend, she finds herself fighting for her happiness and possibly her freedom.

Sabina Khan's debut is a layered story that takes a close look at how family and identity can sometimes be at odds, but how there can also be a happy medium if you fight for it. Even though Rukhsana doesn't understand all her family's beliefs, she still has a lot of love for her culture and traditions that she does not want to lose because she is in love with a girl.

But I will say,  I felt like this book had some severe tone shifts.  The book starts off like any other YA contemporary about a teen struggling to balance two lives. In the beginning, it's pretty light and then there is a lot of tension in the build-up as Rukhsana lives in constant fear of being caught with her girlfriend.  After she is outed she travels with her parents to Bangladesh where things get very serious and harrowing, the book takes on an urgent tone. All the fears and anxiety that Rukhsana' had early on in the book come to life. She is given a dramatic ultimatum that leaves her looking for an escape.

All this pain and betrayal sort of comes to a head and vanishes when (slight spoiler) a character is Fridged, a trope where a character's death is used to further or push forward the protagonist's story. It's not just any Fridge---this is a Bury Your Gays Fridge that segues the book almost immediately back into a lighter tone.  Like the death of this character instantly causes Ruhksana's parents to accept her and the book takes on this humorous tone as her parents learn to navigate LGBTQIA spaces. It's startling really. I feel like Khan wanted this book to have a positive ending which I appreciated--but it sort of jumped out of nowhere.

I mean there is a point where they lock Ruhksana in a room, take her passport and drug her but then it's like ---LOL, Mom is trying to set me up with a Muslim girl again. Also, her family spends a ton of money at one point and it's like...shouldn't that be an issue?

With (all) that said I did enjoy Khan's debut and I'm really curious to see what she does next.

Check out the audiobook review here! 

So, like I have on more thing to say related to tone. I think this book is hard to make a cover for. I mean I really like the cover and the color choices for this book- but it has a fierce, modern, resistance-y-The Hate U Give inspired cover that doesn't quite hit the dark tones in this book. Like I know illustrated covers are all the rage but I don't know if it works for everything.

Monday, April 1, 2019

We Are Here To Stay by Susan Kuklin

Rating: Unrated  | 4 hrs and 12 mins |  Penguin Randomhouse | Non-Fiction 
We Are Here To Stay is a no-frills collection of interviews that gives voice to young immigrants affected by the precarious renewal of Deferred Action against Childhood Arrivals  (DACA). It's not an easy read but it's certainly an important one. We meet immigrants from Mexico, Samoa, Korea, and Ghana. We Are Here To Stay sheds light on the various reasons families come and stay in America, while also displaying the diversity of the immigrant experience. I think the one thing that stood out is despite all the hardships, many of the individuals in this book still believe that America is the best place for them.

Check out the audio review here!

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Our ApollyCon 2019 Recap

This year Kat and I made it to our first big romance reader event!  ApollyCon is only  2 hours north of us and has been on my radar for years. What started as a signing for Jennifer Armentrout fans has turned into a 3-day fan convention. The big reason I wanted to go this year was to meet Elle Kennedy. Kennedy has become very well known for her New Adult Briar U series but I'm a big fan of her romantic suspense Killer Instincts series and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to meet her.
The signing floor

We arrived on Friday evening to register at the event hotel, The Hyatt Regency Crystal City, a very chic hotel with a restaurant and coffee bar.  We didn't stay in the event hotel and after getting our badges we grabbed dinner at Shake Shack.

I went to sleep early so I could get up and get a ticket for Elle Kennedy's signing. I got in the ticketing line a little before it opened and met some readers who were also first-time attendees. I was able to get tickets for all of the authors I wanted including Christina Lauren--which I did not think would happen.

I met Elle Kennedy during the second half of the signing, she was very excited to talk about her Midnight Series and I wish I'd had the chance to tell her how much I appreciated her writing characters in their 30's.  I just feel like since I've been reading romance,  romantic suspense has never
had a big moment.

The event was very well planned and I think the organizer's decision to split the rooms was a great idea. It allowed readers to take their time browsing the signing floor and kept lines short--so much so that pretty much all of the ticketed authors opened up. Novelly Yours Candles was also there and The Bookworm Box was selling mystery bags!

After the signing, we attended the decades themed after party and some people really brought it with their costumes.

Jess' Haul
Some big moments that stood out for me were how approachable the authors were across the spectrum, whether they were  NYT bestsellers, independent or traditionally published. I mean Christina Lauren were literally just standing there interacting with fans. Their publicist Kristin was very nice, they had sold out of Christina Lauren in the bookstore and she tipped us off when more came in. I also had a chance to meet Kirsten Callihan, Kennedy Ryan, Suzanne Young, Chanel Cleeton and Brigid Kremmer. My opening for most of them was "So I heard your interview on this podcast . . ."

I also met romance narrators--Lia Langola, Bailey Carr and Emma Wilder--whose work I can't wait to check out! Also on the audio front, I chatted with Andi Arndt at the Lyric Audiobook table.

Jennifer Armentrout and her team put a lot into this event and her fans really appreciate it. At the end of the after party Armentrout  (and cover model Drew Leighty) took pictures with and hugged everyone in line. The way she thanked and interacts with her fans is very personal.

My only critique is that I do feel like a lot of the event planning, announcements and cancellations happen on Facebook and Instagram which can leave some readers out of the loop. I also heard there were some upsets regarding the Sara J. Maas signing.

I'm totally up for ApollyCon 2020 and plan to spend the year reading up on all the authors I learned about at the event. The weekend went pretty fast and we grabbed quick meals (read: Door Dash is your friend) between signings at fast-casual chains we don't have in RVA like Nando's Peri Peri and &Pizza

First of all: The people behind ApollyCon are so well coordinated they probably could have saved Fyre Fest. I feel like so much happened in such a short time, but I'll hit the highlights.

I took a much more laid back approach than Jess. I didn't go to the signings when the doors opened and didn't get up early for tickets. The only ticketed author I wanted to see was Sarina Bowen but nothing of hers I wanted was for sale in the official bookstore. When Bowen's line opened up to everyone a few hours into the signing; I went to see if I could just get a bookmark signed and she told me I could purchase the copy of Steadfast she had on display! She was so nice about it and we even chatted about having the same clear credit card that always gets lost. I can't remember anything book-ish we talked about but it was a pleasure meeting her and narrator Tanya Eby.

I came to ApollyCon with a bag of books from my shelf but I managed to somehow come home with more books than I brought with me? Here is a list of what I purchased:

- Signed by Marni Mann. Her story in the Mixtape anthology left me wanting more so I picked this up. Her husband seemed super supportive and was at her table acting as a great publicist.
Kat's Haul
- Josh and Hazel's Guide To Not Dating by Christina Lauren. I didn't think I'd meet them because they are so high profile but an hour before the signing ended they had literally no line so I rushed out and got this.
- Dusk Til Dawn by Andie J. Christopher. I loved her interview on Wicked Wallflowers and I am so excited for her new book. Plus, she brought her dog along.
- The Corner of Forever and Always by Lia Riley. I chatted with Riley about being an Avon Addict and about a coffee shop in her book. She was so nice and took this book off the display and gave it to me.

I also chatted with Chanel Cleeton, Amanda Bouchet, Miranda Keneally, Sophie Jordan, Andrew Shaffer and Sonali Dev. Everyone was friendly and I felt bad that I couldn't buy physical copies of everyone's books but my digital TBR and library request list has grown.

I thought the decade's themed afterparty was so fun, the costume game was on point. At the afterparty, I spotted Tif Marcelo (after seeing her ApollyCon posts on Twitter) and said hi since she is coming to visit my local indie in May. She was so personable and open.

My other favorite part of this event (and all events) is being around so many readers and specifically these readers who all speak the same language of romance novels. It's always fun to overhear people having IRL conversations about the things I only see on the Bookish Internet.

I hope I can go next year and if so, I want to take time to talk to authors who I am not familiar with.
If you are thinking about going to Apollycon 2020 tickets go on sale May 9th at 8PM and be ready because they go fast!

Two authors at the event were reading Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston...can't wait to see the splash this book makes.

Monday, March 25, 2019

AudioFile Magazine’s Picks of the Best New Young Adult Audiobooks for Spring Listening

Spring is finally here and whether you are hitting the road for Spring break or hunkering down for  Spring cleaning you will want to check out AudioFile Magazine's Picks of the Best New Young Adult Audiobooks for Spring to keep you company chosen by Aureila C. Scott !

Finding one’s own true way is full of challenge and reward. 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. [The linked] titles below to reveal AudioFile’s full review and a soundclip. Here’s to having an audiobook in your ear

- Aurelia C. Scott, AudioFile Magazine blogger.

by Jaye Robin Brown | Read by Amanda Dolen

Tantor Media | Unabridged | Earphones Award Winner

Amanda Dolen totally channels high school senior Jo Dolan, a devout Christian who moves in with her dad and step-mom in an evangelical small town.  What could go wrong?  Well, Jo is gay and when she finds love, her new girlfriend can’t understand why Jo won’t go public.  Dolen captures Jo’s vulnerability, humor, and determination perfectly.

by In This Together Media, Foreward by Amy Klobuchar | Read by Amy Klobuchar [Fore.], Vikas Adam, Jonathan Davis, Ari Fliakos, Sullivan Jones, January LaVoy, Soneela Nankani, Adenrele Ojo, Nancy Wu, Gabra Zackman

Listening Library | Unabridged | Earphones Award Winner

Forty-eight stirring short essays about speaking truth to power and standing up for oneself are terrifically read by some of the best narrators around.  They bring vibrancy and understanding to a huge range of remarkable stories, from former NFL player Wade Davis’s bullying of gay classmates in an effort to hide his own sexuality to Holocaust survivor Fanny Starr remembering what it was like to lose her friends and family one by one in Auschwitz.


by Courtney Summers | Read by Rebecca Soler, Dan Bittner, Gabra Zackman, and a Full Cast

Macmillan Audio | Unabridged | Earphones Award Winner, Audie Award Winner

Rebecca Soler, Dan Bittner, and supporting actors keep listeners glued to this podcast-like in-the-moment account of a teen on the trail of a killer.  The daughter of a drug addict, Sadie has been left to care for her younger sister.  When her sister is murdered, Sadie sets out to discover the truth in a tense and unforgettable tale about love and revenge.

by Arwen Elys Dayton | Read by Michael Crouch, Karissa Vacker, Brittany Pressley, Christopher Gebauer, Ari Fliakos, Rebecca Lowman

Listening Library | Unabridged | Earphones Award Winner

A fine cast of narrators drop us into the middle of a twilight zone tomorrow where you can do so many things to change yourself genetically and surgically.  What would you do for yourself or your kids?  How far would you go?  The interconnected stories in this right-now book are addicting.

by April Genevieve Tucholke | Read by Saskia Maarleveld

Recorded Books | Unabridged | Earphones Award Winner

Saskia Maarleveld beautifully expresses the disparate personalities of the three unusual young women in this enveloping fantasy.  They sell death, you see.  Kind death to those who are ill.  With witchy backgrounds, they have the power to end your life just the way you want.  But what’s really for sale?  And what exactly are they earning?

For more audiobook reviews, features and interviews check out AudioFile Magazine!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Kat's Crooked Kingdom Review (in Gifs)

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


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