Hi everyone! I have been really struggling with writing reviews. Anyone else? My reading as been going well, but I just can’t bring myself to sit down and write reviews. I think the stress of everything going on this year is just taking its toll. In order to alleviate this, I have decided that Saturdays will be devoted to my audiobook mini reviews.
So here we go…
- When No One is Watching
- Author – Alyssa Cole
- Narrators – Susan Dalian & Jay Aaseng
- Publication Date – 01 September 2020
- Genre – Adult Fiction: Thriller
- Length – 8 hours 29 minutes
- Publisher – Harper Audio
Synopsis: Sydney Green is Brooklyn born and raised, but her beloved neighborhood seems to change every time she blinks. Condos are sprouting like weeds, FOR SALE signs are popping up overnight, and the neighbors she’s known all her life are disappearing. To hold onto her community’s past and present, Sydney channels her frustration into a walking tour and finds an unlikely and unwanted assistant in one of the new arrivals to the block—her neighbor Theo.
But Sydney and Theo’s deep dive into history quickly becomes a dizzying descent into paranoia and fear. Their neighbors may not have moved to the suburbs after all, and the push to revitalize the community may be more deadly than advertised.
When does coincidence become conspiracy? Where do people go when gentrification pushes them out? Can Sydney and Theo trust each other—or themselves—long enough to find out before they too disappear?
My Thoughts: Whew. This book right here is what I want to see more of in the thriller genre. It was so refreshing to have a thriller that didn’t center around the the housewife stuck in a broken marriage, the alcoholic female, or the death of a child, which seems to be the majority of most thrillers these days.
I immediately was drawn to Sydney’s character. She’s a Black female (which also is not common in thrillers) who is strong willed, independent, and refuses to just accept the gentrification that is threatening to erase the Black history and culture of her beloved Brooklyn neighborhood. Theo is the antithesis to Sydney. He’s a white male who thinks he’s woke until he’s confronted with his own internal biases (one being his racist ex-girlfriend that needed a good throat punch).
From start to finish, this story was engrossing, thought-provoking, and heart racing. The author does a phenomenal job of sprinkling nuggets of lost Black history throughout the narrative as well as giving the audience some amazing plot twists that you don’t see coming. I can’t recommend this book enough.
Thank you to William Morrow and Harper Audio for providing a review copy. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.
My Rating: 4/5 stars.
- Author – Yamile Saied Méndez
- Narrator – Sol Madariaga
- Publication Date – 15 September 2020
- Genre – YA Fiction
- Length – 8 hours 51 minutes
- Publisher – Workman Publishing
Synopsis: In Rosario, Argentina, Camila Hassan lives a double life.
At home, she is a careful daughter, living within her mother’s narrow expectations, in her rising-soccer-star brother’s shadow, and under the abusive rule of her short-tempered father.
On the field, she is La Furia, a powerhouse of skill and talent. When her team qualifies for the South American tournament, Camila gets the chance to see just how far those talents can take her. In her wildest dreams, she’d get an athletic scholarship to a North American university.
But the path ahead isn’t easy. Her parents don’t know about her passion. They wouldn’t allow a girl to play fútbol—and she needs their permission to go any farther. And the boy she once loved is back in town. Since he left, Diego has become an international star, playing in Italy for the renowned team Juventus. Camila doesn’t have time to be distracted by her feelings for him. Things aren’t the same as when he left: she has her own passions and ambitions now, and La Furia cannot be denied. As her life becomes more complicated, Camila is forced to face her secrets and make her way in a world with no place for the dreams and ambition of a girl like her.
Filled with authentic details and the textures of day-to-day life in Argentina, heart-soaring romance, and breathless action on the pitch, Furia is the story of a girl’s journey to make her life her own.
This was such an inspiring and fun read. Camila comes from a fútbol family, but playing fútbol has been exclusively for the males in her family and not her. What her family doesn’t know is that not only does Camila play, but she’s incredible! Camila is La Furia…a force to be reckoned with.
Furia is an incredible coming of age story that discusses the challenges of parental and societal expectations and rising above them in order to carve out your own path to becoming an adult. Camila is a fantastic character that I immediately started rooting for. I loved that she constantly pushed back on the expectations of a “good girl” narrative as well not allowing her boyfriend Diego to “save her”. Rather, Camila is determined to break down the barriers and choose her own path.
I also love that this story features a female being unapologetic about pursuing her love and passion of sports. We definitely need more narratives like this!
My Rating: 4/5 stars
- Black Sun
- Author – Rebecca Roanhorse
- Narrators – Cara Gee, Nicole Lewis, Kaipo Schwab, & Shaun Taylor-Corbett
- Genre – Adult Fiction: Fantasy
- Length – 12 hours 46 minutes
- Publisher – Simon & Schuster Audio
Synopsis: A god will return
When the earth and sky converge
Under the black sun
In the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial event proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world.
Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and set to arrive on the solstice. The captain of the ship, Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless, the passenger, Serapio, is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. As Xiala well knows, when a man is described as harmless, he usually ends up being a villain.
Crafted with unforgettable characters, Rebecca Roanhorse has created an epic adventure exploring the decadence of power amidst the weight of history and the struggle of individuals swimming against the confines of society and their broken pasts in the most original series debut of the decade.
It is so unbelievably refreshing to finally get epic fantasies within adult fantasy that are NOT eurocentric (I know this one isn’t the first, but I am loving the trend). From the diverse cast to the casual queerness, I was here for every minute of this story.
Inspired by the pre-Columbian Americas (yes Indigenous rep!), we have a tale that spans different cultures and continents and we watch them inevitably collide with one another. The story closely follows four characters: Serapio, Xiala, Naranpa, and Okoa. I’ll be honest, Serapio and Xiala were my favorites. I loved watching them develop a relationship even though their respective cultures would’ve normally dictated otherwise. Naranpa was my least favorite of the characters just because she seemed to be the most immature. I am hoping that this is addressed in later books though, so not all hope is lost.
I absolutely loved the normalcy of queerness in this book. Furthermore, one of the cultures has a third gender. And it is presented as if everyone else is the barbarian for not understanding such, and y’all, that TOOK ME OUT. This is how you address queerness and gender identity. Period. Thank you Rebecca Roanhorse for that.
Now onto the world building. OMG, it was incredible. I was mostly drawn to the pirate scenes that took place with Serapio and Xiala. I absolutely love the unease and tension of the ocean, and Roanhorse absolutely delivered!
Overall, this is a stunning start to the Between the Earth and Sky trilogy, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.
Thank you to Saga Press (Gallery), Simon & Schuster Audio, & Libro.fm for providing a review copy. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.
My Rating: 4/5 stars.
- The Left-Handed Booksellers of London
- Author – Garth Nix
- Narrator – Marisa Calin
- Publication Date – 22 September 2020
- Genre – YA Fantasy
- Length – 11 hours 15 minutes
- Publisher – Penguin Random House Audio
Synopsis: In a slightly alternate London in 1983, Susan Arkshaw is looking for her father, a man she has never met. Crime boss Frank Thringley might be able to help her, but Susan doesn’t get time to ask Frank any questions before he is turned to dust by the prick of a silver hatpin in the hands of the outrageously attractive Merlin.
Merlin is a young left-handed bookseller (one of the fighting ones), who with the right-handed booksellers (the intellectual ones), are an extended family of magical beings who police the mythic and legendary Old World when it intrudes on the modern world, in addition to running several bookshops.
Susan’s search for her father begins with her mother’s possibly misremembered or misspelt surnames, a reading room ticket, and a silver cigarette case engraved with something that might be a coat of arms.
Merlin has a quest of his own, to find the Old World entity who used ordinary criminals to kill his mother. As he and his sister, the right-handed bookseller Vivien, tread in the path of a botched or covered-up police investigation from years past, they find this quest strangely overlaps with Susan’s. Who or what was her father? Susan, Merlin, and Vivien must find out, as the Old World erupts dangerously into the New.
I was really nervous about picking this one up because I was so disappointed by Angel Mage. That’s not to say that Angel Mage was terrible, it just didn’t wow me. That wasn’t the case here in The Left-Handed Booksellers of London.
This is one of those stories where the worldbuilding and magic sucked me in before the characters. The worldbuilding is lush and vivid. Since this takes place in 1980s London, the author really immerses you in that time period and setting. Furthermore, we get bits of British history and folklore sprinkled out, which I loved.
Now to the characters. Susan is an eighteen year old girl that just wants to study art and hopefully find her father while she’s in London. I loved Susan’s determination and perseverance especially when she constantly hits dead ends. My favorite character was easily Merlin. I love that Merlin doesn’t allow societal or gender norms define him and is completely unapologetic (he looks incredible in a dress and forget those that think otherwise). Vivan, Merlin’s sister, tends to be the voice of reason every time everything goes haywire, and I definitely appreciated her.
Overall, this is a light-hearted fantasy that is just a fun romp packed with humor and magic.
Thank you to Epic Reads for providing a review copy. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.
My Rating: 4/5 stars.
- We Were Restless Things
- Author – Cole Nagamatsu
- Narrators – Sophie Amoss & Tom Picasso
- Publication Date – 06 October 2020
- Genre – YA Contemporary
- Length – 10 hours 8 minutes
- Publisher – Recorded Books
Last summer, Link Miller drowned on dry land in the woods, miles from the nearest body of water. His death was ruled a weird accident, but Noemi Amato knows the truth: Link was killed. He told her so himself, because hes been texting her from beyond the grave, warning her to keep away from the forest. Amberlyn, Links sister, cant shake the feeling that Noemi is hiding something, and Jonas, Noemis new housemate, cant get past the walls that she has constructed around herself. Because Noemi has a dangerous secret even bigger than Links ghost Link drowned in an impossible lake that only she can find. If the three dont work together to unravel the truth about what is happening in the woods, someone else may wind up dead. Set over the course of one heartbreaking, mystifying, and ultimately hopeful year, this remarkable debut heralds the arrival of an incredible new voice in young adult literature.
In all honesty, the best part of this book was the asexual representation. Noemi questions her sexual identity and has a really amazing conversation addressing such. I think these types of questions and conversations need to be normalized in stories, especially when it comes to young adult, so that is my positive takeaway from this book.
The rest of this book is just a trainwreck and not in a good way. The pacing of this story is painstakingly slow (which is saying something considering I was listening to this one at 2x speed) because this is a character driven novel. I am typically all for character driven novels but outside of Noemi, the other characters are just not particularly interesting.
I also alm not a fan of the whole step sibling love story, so I was not invested in that plot line with Noemi and Jonas. The summary makes it seem like Jonas is simply a roommate that Noemi ends up becoming interested in, but they are in fact step siblings, so their love story was just not for me.
Thank you to Recorded Books and Sourcebooks Fire for providing a review copy. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.
My Rating: 2/5 stars.
- Ghost Squad
- Author – Claribel A. Ortega
- Narrator – Almarie Guerra de Wilson
- Publication Date – 01 April 2020
- Genre – Middle Grade Fantasy
- Length – 5 hours 31 minutes
- Publisher – Scholastic Audio
Shortly before Halloween, Lucely and her best friend, Syd, cast a spell that accidentally awakens malicious spirits, wreaking havoc throughout St. Augustine. Together, they must join forces with Syd’s witch grandmother, Babette, and her tubby tabby, Chunk, to fight the haunting head-on and reverse the curse to save the town and Lucely’s firefly spirits before it’s too late.
Oh gosh, this book made my heart squee so much. Ghost Squad is a fun and inspiring middle grade story that is filled with magic and adventure. I loved the friendship between Lucely and Syd. Even though they aren’t related, you can tell that they are family regardless of what anyone things. Babette reminds me of all those grandmothers that will tan your hide if you step out of line but love fiercely…loved her so much. And can we talk about Chunk (Babette’s very fat tabby)? Chunk was adorable.
The story was original and filled with so much rich Latinx culture. We saw the importance of food, family, tradition and how they are all completely interwoven in both Lucely’s and Syd’s daily lives. I loved that Lucely is connected to her extended family by being able to still see them as ghosts. I think this really highlights the importance of extended families, which you don’t always see in middle grade or even YA.
Overall, this if you’re looking for a light-hearted read that is perfect for spooky season, Ghost Season is for you.
My Rating: 4/5 stars.
- Cinderella is Dead
- Author – Kalynn Bayron
- Narrator – Bahni Turpin
- Publication Date – 04 September 2020
- Genre – YA Fantasy
- Length – 10 hours 31 minutes
- Publisher – Bloomsbury Publishing
Synopsis: It’s 200 years after Cinderella found her prince, but the fairy tale is over. Teen girls are now required to appear at the Annual Ball, where the men of the kingdom select wives based on a girl’s display of finery. If a suitable match is not found, the girls not chosen are never heard from again.
Sixteen-year-old Sophia would much rather marry Erin, her childhood best friend, than parade in front of suitors. At the ball, Sophia makes the desperate decision to flee and finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s mausoleum. There, she meets Constance, the last known descendant of Cinderella and her step sisters. Together they vow to bring down the king once and for all – and in the process, they learn that there’s more to Cinderella’s story than they ever knew….
This fresh take on a classic story will make listeners question the tales they’ve been told and root for girls to break down the constructs of the world around them.
I’ve recently seen some negative reviews on this one, and I can’t help but laugh because people are upset that this isn’t true to French Cinderella fairytale and all other nonsense that just shows me that people’s inherent bias is showing. I don’t have time for that nonsense. This book is what happens when you take a classic fairytale setting and make a dystopian environment out if it, so if that’s not for you, move on.
That being said, I LOVED all things Sophia. She’s Black, unapologetically queer, and refuses to give into the misogynistic traditions of the kingdom. Then there’s Constance. Constance has that vigilante spirit that Sophia has always craved. The two of them perfectly complemented each other. Now, people say that this is an insta-love situation, but I’m not sold on that. Sophia and Constance recognize their immediate attraction and chemistry, but it’s not like they immediately jump in any sort of relationship.
Overall, if you’re looking for an original and engrossing twist on a classic fairytale that features some badass gay ladies then pick this one up!
My Rating: 4/5 stars.
Great post, Toya. I’m sorry you’ve had problems with writing reviews lately. I had a bit of a slump about a month ago. You’ll get back to normal soon. Glad you enjoyed most of these 😊
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Thank you so much Stephen! I think I just need to get back to a routine.
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I loved the audio for When No One is Watching!
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Same here! I thought it was really well done!
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Great mini reviews! I’m glad you liked the new garth nix. Sadly it wasn’t for me lol. I do need to get to Furia and Black Sun