Categories
In The Club

In the Club 02/24/21

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed. How is everyone this week? In Portland we’re getting some actual sunshine and slightly warmer temps, and I know I’ve changed as a person when I see 45 degrees in the forecast and go, “Oh word? I don’t even need a scarf!” For those of you still recovering from the hell of winter storms, I’m thinking of you and hoping relief finds its way to you soon.

To the club!!

Nibbles and Sips

I’ve mentioned before that I love me some Food Tik Tok, right? Well one of my favorites right now is a creator by the name of Hajar Larbah (Tik Tok username @moribyan). She makes all sort of delicious foodstuffs, including a lot of recreations of popular restaurant foods. I die. My recent favorite recipes (there are… so many) are chicken shawarma, which I’ve always been needlessly intimidated to make??, and yellow rice like you’d get at a Halal cart. My mouth is so happy! Make and share with the club.

Just Because We Can Doesn’t Mean We Should

When planning out this week’s newsletter, I already knew what books I wanted to recommend but couldn’t really put my finger on… why?! I knew I wanted you to read and discuss them because they’re all really great books, but what was the theme that was lumping together in my brain? After lots of consideration, I’ve landed on this: just because we can do a thing, does that mean we should? Let’s get into it.

The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey

I made a face and went “eeew!” out loud a few times in the first few chapters of this book. Why? Because “eew” is how I feel about a husband stealing his brilliant scientist wife’s research and then using that information to not only clone her (seriously, bro?) and but then cheat on her with! that! clone! The squick factor gets turned all the way up when we find out the clone is pregnant. It all gets just a little more complicated when the wife, Evelyn, gets a panicked call from Martine: she’s just killed the husband Nathan and needs help… err… cleaning up the mess. It does not go how you’re thinking it will. Whew.

Book Club Bonus: Well then! There’s so much to talk about here: bodily autonomy, consent, a woman’s right to choose, and of course: the ethics of scientific research. There’s a lot of grey area in this kind of innovation, and this book dives straight into the murky bits.

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

I thought a lot about this book when I heard it was being adapted for film (yiiiiiikes, if you know, you know), and again last week when the Perseverance rover landed on Mars. It’s about a Jesuit priest and linguist who leads a scientific mission to make first contact with intelligent extraterrestrial life. I was told to prepare for a catastrophic end, but I was so not prepared! Space exploration is super cool and all, pero this book is all, “what if it went horribly wrong?” Like rull wrong. So wrong. Theeee most wrong. I can’t get the wrong out of my brain and it’s been literal years since I read it. (TW: violence, sexual assault)

Book Club Bonus: I don’t want to tell you too much here because you need to experience it for yourself. Once you’ve taken a day or two to process this one, write down and discuss the ways in which this book is an indictment of colonization, an examination of faith, and what it says about the way we define humanity.

catherine house

Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas

Catherine House isn’t your run-of-the-mill educational institution; admission is highly competitive and its demands super intense: once students arrive, they must disconnect from the outside world and remain on campus for their full three-year tenure with no outside contact. No phones, no internet: they must dedicate themselves wholly to the Catherine House way. This sort of immersive education maybe sounds like a cool, edgy and immersive idea, but like… I sense problems! This has been described to me as weird and labyrinthine with major gothic vibes all set in a creepy old house, so what I’m saying is I bought it immediately.

Book Club Bonus: You may have sensed, as I did, that there are some sinister secrets in this story, and you’d be right. The school is determined to keep a history of shady experiments hidden at all costs, and if only THAT were a thing that only happened in fiction. Discuss! You know what to do here.

Suggestion Section

Need some swoonworthy picks perfect for your romance book clubs? Say no more!

How about some queer picks? These audiobooks are great for LGBTQ+ book clubs.


Thanks for hanging with me today! Shoot me an email at vanessa@riotnewmedia.com with your burning book club questions or find me on Twitter and the gram @buenosdiazsd. Sign up for the Audiobooks newsletter and catch me once a month on the All the Books podcast.

Stay bad & bookish, my friends. 
Vanessa 

Thanks again to our sponsor Read Bliss, a community created by romance fans at Harlequin Books! If you’re looking for a way to connect with fellow romance readers and authors, Read Bliss may just be the bookish community you’re looking for. Stay up to date on the latest in romance book news, genre discussions, book-tuber videos, reading challenges and more with fellow lovers of swoons!

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Audiobooks

Audiobooks 02/18/21

Hola Audiophiles, and greetings from the other side of a very rare Portland snow storm! I finally got to make snow angels and touch actual powdery, fresh snow for the first time. I’m feeling very grateful to have been warm, cozy, and safe for the whole experience because a lot of folx are out there struggling. My thoughts go to all of you in places ill prepared for the weather you’re experiencing.

For those of us who are able: consider dropping off food, water, blankets, warm clothing, etc for those in need (both the houseless and those otherwise affected). Instagram has been a great resource for me to find places accepting donations here in Portland, and here’s a directory of mutual aid organizations in Texas.

Ready? Let’s audio.

New Releases – Week of February 16 

(publisher descriptions in quotes)

audiobook cover image of The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey

The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey

Evelyn is a brilliant scientist who’s just won a prestigious award for her research in the field of human cloning. She should be ecstatic, but her personal life has fallen apart. Not only did her husband Nathan cheat on her, he did it with a clone of Evelyn, a clone he created behind her back using her own research without her knowledge. The “oh snap!” moments don’t stop there though. That clone, Martine, is pregnant when she’s not supposed to be able to conceive, making her very existence an ethical violation. And another thing: she’s just killed Nathan in self defense after he attacked her first. This is a sci-fi light ride from start to finish that flips the domestic thriller on its head. Oh, to be inside of Sarah Gailey’s mind. What a place! (science fiction, thriller)

Read by Xe Sands (Magic For Liars by Sarah Gailey, The Great Offshore Grounds by Vanessa Veselka)

audiobook cover image of Soulstar by C.L. Polk

Soulstar by C.L. Polk

Yesss we finally have the third book in C.L. Polk’s Kingston cycle! Robin Thorpe has kept her magic hidden for years to avoid imprisonment by the state, keeping her head down in Riverside. Then Grace Hensley comes knocking with wonderful news: Robin’s days of hiding are over! Freed witches are flooding the streets of Kingston and returning to the families they were ripped from. Robin begins hashing out a plot to ensure that Aeland remains free and just, but that won’t be easy. She’ll also have to face the “long-bottled feelings for the childhood love that vanished into an asylum 20 years ago.”

Read by Robin Miles (Caste by Isabel Wilkerson, The Yellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson, Just As I Am by Cicely Tyson)

cover image of No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood

No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood

Everyone who’s read this has told me two things: that it’s one helluva genre-bender and that you should go into it knowing as little as possible. So I’ll just give you this: “a woman who has recently been elevated to prominence for her social media posts travels around the world to meet her adoring fans” and then sh*t gets a little too real. I’m a huge fan of Lockwood’s Priestdaddy and can’t wait to see what she’s done with fiction! (fiction)

Read by Kristen Sieh (One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London)

Latest Listens

cover image of Tip for the Hangman by Allison Epstein

A Tip for the Hangman by Allison Epstein

For those not familiar with Christopher Marlowe, he was a famous Elizabethan poet and playwright, a contemporary of Shakespeare’s and probably his most important predecessor in English drama. He was a bright kid who went on to earn his B.A. from Cambridge and was soooort of working on his master’s a few years later. The university tried to deny him the degree, presumably due to a slew of unexplained absences and rumors that he’d converted to Catholicism and would soon be ditching Cambridge for a Catholic institution—how dare! Then a funny thing happened: advisers to Queen Elizabeth intervened, recommending that Marlowe receive the degree on account of his “services for the state.” In case you’re not picking up what I’m putting down here, it is pretty commonly accepted today that Kit Marlowe was a spy for the Crown. We’ll never actually know for sure because of how spying works, but historical records from that time (of which there are way more of than I expected!) make a pretty good case.

A Tip for the Hangman is an Elizabethan spy thriller that fictionalizes, with creative license, Christopher “Kit” Marlowe’s story. When the book opens, Kit gets called to a meeting by the head of his department at Cambridge, and he assumes Cambridge is about to give him the boot for slacking off. But no, not exactly: the Queen’s spymaster is at this meeting to recruit Marlowe to spy on the papist Mary Stuart (aka Mary Queen of Scots) and prove she’s involved in a plot to commit treason. I say “recruited,” but it’s more like he’s voluntold, so off he goes, more than a little nervous but hoping to get it over with quickly. Spoiler alert: nah.

Kit is smart and resourceful, but also clearly out of his depth. He gets by mostly by the skin of his teeth because he’s a great liar, but you just know his luck is gonna run out sooner or later. He’s also clearly conflicted by the work he does the further he gets pulled into this web of espionage, especially when his involvement starts to have consequences in his personal life. In the middle of a string of treacherous missions and impossible decisions, we also watch his career as a playwright explode. In spite of the fact that you kinda know the ending here ain’t a happy one (if you know a bit about Kit Marlowe), you just keep hoping the author will write in a change of course. The final chapter (and off, the final pages!) just gutted me. Let’s just say hope is a helluva drug.

The performance of this book by James Meunier is just wonderful. He nails the snark and irreverence of Kit’s character so well that you’ll forget, for just a moment, that this isn’t an author telling you their own story, but a voice actor reading the role of a fictional character. He tells it all so naturally, conveying everything— annoyance, love, lust, desperation, betrayal, abject terror—like he was feeling every one of these emotions himself in real time. The parts where he gets low and tender (you’ll see what I mean) are so heartfelt that I had to pause what I was doing and remind myself again that James was not personally traumatized by the beheading of Mary Stuart, or heartbreak.

This book is perfect for fans of historical fiction who also enjoy a queer romance, a lot of snark, and all the tense, suspenseful parts of a classic spy novel. Oh, and make sure to listen to the author’s note for some important notes on artistic license. It’s all just catnip fo history nerds.

From the Internets

AudioFile’s new podcast, Audiobook Break, is bringing novels into a serialized podcast format, presenting an extraordinary audiobook chapter by chapter.

Also from Audiofile, here are six second-chance romance audiobooks to keep you believing in that thing called love.

Libro.fm has a ton of amazing author interviews up on their blog right now:

Over at the Riot

5 of the Best Audiobooks About Food and Cuisine. Yum. I read Rebel Chef last year and loved it! A must-listen if you like reading about celebrity chefs.

Excellent Gifts for Audiobook Lovers – I really love the bright mustard yellow color of that sweatshirt!

Picture it: you go to pick an audiobooks and see there are several versions of the same book. Here are some tips for choosing between varying versions, narrators, and content.


Thanks for hanging with me today! Shoot me an email at vanessa@riotnewmedia.com with with all things audiobook or find me on Twitter and the gram @buenosdiazsd. Sign up for the In The Club newsletter and catch me once a month on the All the Books podcast.

Stay bad & bookish, my friends.
Vanessa


Thanks again to MIRA Books for sponsoring this week’s newsletter, publisher of The Woman Before Wallis by Bryn Turnbull. This stunning novel tells the true story of the American divorcée who captured Prince Edward’s heart before he abdicated his throne for Wallis Simpson.

Categories
In The Club

In the Club 02/17/21

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed—and greetings from my first real snow experience! The Pacific Northwest is one of the regions of the US that got slammed by a snow storm that aren’t used to getting slammed by snow storms (Texas, I see you!), so we effectively shut down as a city. I spent the better part of four days inside a blanket fort with tea and books on hand, and it was kind of glorious? There’s something about the snow and the cold that made doing so less depressing and more fun, at least for me. I embraced the cozy, though I’m aware we had it easy compared to a lot of other places. I hope you too have found some way to be cozy and safe wherever you are.

To the club!!


Nibbles and Sips

image belongs to Vanessa Diaz

I perhaps over-prepared for Snowpocolypse PDX with flashlights and matches (or perhaps not, because a ton of people lost power!), but I’m the most glad I stocked up on groceries. My car remains buried under a mountain of snow and I probs wouldn’t drive it even if it weren’t, and all it took was the sensation of my boot slipping when I placed one toe on an icy sidewalk for me to say “nope!” to an extra grocery run. I made a snow angel instead.

So today’s recipe is one I threw together from the odds and ends of other meals, and it is delicious! I mixed some orecchiette pasta (use whatever you have) with some sautéed mushrooms and spinach that I’d seasoned with salt and red pepper flakes, then tossed all of that with a healthy portion of sun dried tomatoes, olive oil, a little bit of pasta water, and some crumbled goat cheese. Easy, quick, delicious. If I hadn’t scarfed down the leftover spicy Italian sausage bits I had as a “snack” earlier that day, I’d have tossed that in too.

Faithful Schmaithful

You may have heard that Zack Snyder is working on a “faithful” retelling of Arthurian legend—you know, the dude who directed 300. That guy. I…read that and immediately wanted to make the subject of this newsletter “LOL Wut?” because, dear readers: que!? What in the rooty tooty fresh and fruity f*ck is a “faithful” retelling of a legend that is, in and of itself, a mish-mash of British lore, Welsh and Celtic mythology, and a whole bunch of other influence that’s been told and retold for centuries? (I really enjoyed that Twitter thread).

I am not actually dissing 300; in fact, I’ve never seen it. I’m just saying that a guy who made a movie like 300 about the Battle of Thermopylae and the Persian Wars should be intimately familiar with the way legends and mythology work and is clearly okay with some creative license. And you know what, it’s still fine to want to make a film that doesn’t veer so much from you perceive to be the “canon.” But the explosion of people on the internet being like, “Finally! All these retellings have bastardized the original!” are what made me scratch my head.

So today we’re going to revel in Arthurian retellings, versions that are creative and subversive and would certainly ruffle the feathers of Arthurian purists. Two of these are YA, but don’t let that deter any of you who don’t normally read young adult fiction. There is such good potential for book club talk with all three of these interpretations of this age-old legend.

By Force Alone by Lavie Tidhar

Lavie Tidhar said “$@^& your Arthurian feelings” with this book. He took the legend, chopped it into pieces, poured on some gasoline, and lit. that. match. To call this work subversive is not enough. It nocks an arrow with a white-hot tip right at the whole idea of Arthurian legend as a noble, virtuous tale of English conquest (can conquer be noble?) and his aim is true. No one, and I do mean not one single soul, is likable in this version: the Knights of the Round Table are a band of selfish misanthropes, Merlin is a lying jerk and an instigator who feeds off conflict, and even the Lady of the Lake is a shady arms dealer. No one is safe! Woven into lots of violence and some dark & twisty humor is a searing critique of Brexit and British nationalism in general. That is where this book hooked me. Make sure to read the afterword: it explains how and why Tidhar twisted this beloved story to point out the hypocrisy of zealous nationalism.

Book Club Bonus: It’s uncomfortable conversation time! Let this book be a jumping board for a chat about how many classic stories aren’t all that virtuous and actually glorify some pretty trash behavior. Maybe that behavior is imperialism, or ableism, or white supremacy; maybe it’s the vilifying of women as evil temptresses and monsters at every turn. Don’t limit the conversation to literature either (American history taught in schools, I’m looking at you); cast that net wide and talk about it!

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn (Legendborn #1)

My months-long hold on this book came and went for a second time because I was reading too many other books! I will get my hands on it soon though, especially in light of this whole kerfuffle. Tracy Deonn combines Southern Black Girl Magic with a modern-day twist on Arthurian legend. After her mother dies in an accident, 16-year-old Bree Matthews needs an escape from family memories and her childhood home. She enrolls at a residential program for bright high school students at UNC Chapel Hill thinking it’ll be just the thing to bring her back to life, but then…. she witnesses a magical attack on her very first night on campus, as one does. She’s hit with an avalanche of revelations: Bree possesses a unique magic of her own that she never knew about, a magical war is coming, and there exists a secret demon-fighting society known as the Legendborn whose members are descendants of King Arthur’s knights. This is just the sort of adventure I need and crave!

Book Club Bonus: We need more retellings that make space for people that don’t fit the white, cis-het, able-bodied norm. “But Vanessa, you’ve already told us that representation matters!” And I’m gonna tell you again, because it does! How does the southern setting and inclusion of Black characters deepen a legend that was previously super not inclusive? Discuss.

cover of Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White

The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White (Camelot Rising #1)

**taps mic** The women are the most interesting parts of Arthurian legend. I said what I said. **drops mic**

Now that we have that out of the way, I can tell you about a YA series I have gleaned so much joy from in the last couple of years. Guinevere is front and center in this series, as you may have imagined, but get this: Guinevere isn’t really Guinevere. She’s a changeling! Not-Guinevere has come to Camelot to wed King Arthur in a plot devised by Merlin (spoilery! things! I can’t! tell! you!) to protect him from dark magical forces. Maybe? Gah. I love when a story you think you know still manages to make you go, “Oh word?!” There’s queerness and gender-flipping and all kinds of fun stuff in both this book and it’s sequel, The Camelot Betrayal. I haven’t seen a release date announced for the third book in the trilogy yet and that second book ends on SUCH a cliffhanger. You’ve been warned!

Book Club Bonus: I can’t suggest too much without going into spoiler territory, but I think you’ll come to that part on your own. So here’s this: talk about the symbolism of Guinevere as a changeling and the reframing of villainous women’s arcs in this story. Go!

Suggestion Section

Read all about the Moms Demand Action Book Club, a discussion group open to the organization’s six million (!!) supporters who advocate against gun violence via their state chapters. Love to see that!

More news from Reese’s Book Club: it’s set to launch a digital cooking series hosted by Christina Milian. If you were born in the 2000s or after, this next bit ain’t for you: I desperately need this series to be called Cook It Low, Mix It Up Slow. (insert body roll with spatula here)


Thanks for hanging with me today! Shoot me an email at vanessa@riotnewmedia.com with your burning book club questions or find me on Twitter and the gram @buenosdiazsd. Sign up for the Audiobooks newsletter and catch me once a month on the All the Books podcast.

Stay bad & bookish, my friends. 
Vanessa 

You could win a 1-year subscription to Scribd! Book Riot is teaming up with Early Bird Books for this awesome giveaway. Enter here!

Categories
Audiobooks

Audiobooks 2/11/21

Hola Audiophiles! Hello again from Portland where we’re allegedly going to get up to four days of snow! I probably need to go stock up on a few things since this Californian isn’t used to driving in these conditions, so I’ll get this intro over with quickly and get to the part about books.

Ready? Let’s audio.


New Releases – Week of February 9th 

publisher descriptions in quotes

cover image of Tip for the Hangman by Allison Epstein

A Tip for the Hangman by Allison Epstein

I will do a full review for this one probably next week, because I just finished it and loved it so much! This Elizabethan spy thriller is a fictional account of a story many believe to be true: playwright Christopher Marlowe was recruited as a spy by the Crown while working on his Master’s at Cambridge in the 1580s. The Queen’s spymaster shows up one day and is all, “Get in loser, we’re going to prove that papist Mary Stuart is plotting treason.” He sort of gets voluntold, so off he goes, and in that moment his life—and history—are forever changed. It’s got a queer romance and a lot of snark and plenty of spy novel aaah-is-he-going-to-pull-this-off-or-die suspense stuff. This one is great for history nerds; it sent me down a Google rabbit-hole for sure. (historical fiction)

Read by James Meunier (Murder Ballads and Other Horrific Tales by John Hornor Jacobs)

cover image of The Witch's Heart by Genevieve Gornichec

The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec

You know I love mythology, but I’m especially excited to read this one because it’s rooted in Norse mythology. Why, you ask? Because I went to a high school called Valhalla and our mascot was The Norsemen, and I’ve been way into Norse mythology ever since the first day of my freshman year when I completed Odin’s March up and across a rainbow bridge and touched Thor’s hammer at the end (it’s a big ol symbolic ceremony that students do again in reverse when they graduate to this day, at least in non-COVID times. I’m not kidding). And now that you know another nerdy fact about me, go get this audiobook! It’s narrated by one of my faves and is all about the banished witch Angrboda who falls in love with that trickster Loki and risks the wrath of the gods in so doing. (mythology, fiction)

Read by Jayne Entwistle (Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce series, The Poison Thread by Laura Purcell)

cover image of A Pho Love Story by Loan Le

A Pho Love Story by Loan Le

I make a gleeful little noise every time I see a romance or cozy mystery with characters of color at the center, especially when they involve food! In this YA rom-com. Bao Nguyen and Linh Mai are two Vietnamese-American teens who each work at their parents’ neighboring pho restaurants. Bao is stable and reliable, Linh a creative, artsy firecracker. For years, the Nguyens and the Mais and their competing establishments have been at odds, so Bao and Linh have mostly avoided each other. But a chance encounter brings them together and pow! Sparks fly. Sound familiar?! Like maybe a tale that takes place in fair Verona? (YA romance)

Read by Ryan Do (The Writer’s Library by Nancy Pearl, Jeff Schwager), Vyvy Nguyen (Quiet As They Come by Angie Chau)

cover image of Kink by R.O. Kwon and Garth Greenwell

Kink: Stories by R.O. Kwon (editor) and Garth Greenwell (editor)

I knew I wanted to read this book before I knew wtf it was about; I saw a black cover with bright pink text and a contributor list that included R.O. Kwon, Garth. Greenwell, Roxane Gay, Alexander Chee, and Carmen Maria Machado. Then I read it, and what a reward. This passage from the intro to the book really sums it up beautifully: “By taking kink seriously, these stories recognize how the questions raised in intimate, kinky encounters…can help us to interrogate and begin to re-script the larger cultural narratives that surround us.” This collection of stories spans the sexual spectrum and ranges from the relatively mild to the super explicit, examining desire, consent, safety, and power dynamics, and asking readers to think about the ways in which gender, politics, and cultural norms inform those power dynamics. I love the framing of kink as empowerment, and the challenge to examine any discomfort you feel in reading these stories. Be warned: it’s NSFW. Don’t come crying to me if you forget to connect your ear buds to your phone at the office. (short stories, erotica)

Read by an ensemble cast: Corey Brill (The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu), Aden Hakimi (Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday), Lameece Issaq (They Never Learn by Layne Fargo), Kyler O’Neal (singer, writer, and actress), Joy Osmanski (This Time Will be Different by Misa Sugiura), Kaipo Schwab (Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse), Aven Shore (Notes on a Killing by Kevin Flynn, Rebecca Lavoie), and Ashton Grooms (actress you may know from Fox’s Star).

cover image of Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

Sixteen-year-old Deka is a nervous wreck ahead of the blood ceremony that will determine if she will become a member of her village. She already stands out because of her powers of intuition, so she really, really needs her blood to run red. But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs a brilliant gold. If like me, you’re thinking, “oooh pretty,” hold that thought. In Deka’s world, gold is the color of impurity, and Deka will thus face a consequence worse than death. There’s hope though—maybe. A mysterious woman approaches her with a proposition: she can stay in the village and submit to her fate, or she can join an army of girls like her and go fight for the emperor. Does she choose acceptance for an uncertain fate? And is anything—or anyone—what it seems? (fantasy)

Read by Shayna Small (The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson, Trouble the Saints by Alaya Dawn Johnson)

Latest Listen

The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite (Feminine Pursuits #1)

I finally see what all the fuss about this feminist historical f/f romance was about. When we first meet Lucy Muchelney, her lover of several years has ditched her to marry a man for “security.” But her spirits perk up when she receives a letter from Catherine St. Day, the recently widowed Countess of Moth, looking for someone to translate a groundbreaking French astronomy text. Hey! Lucy happens to be an astronomer. Heartbroken and with no other professional prospects, Lucy takes a gamble and shows up at the countess’ estate unannounced to be like, “Yo, so, hire me!” She doesn’t expect to be bowled over by the countess’ beauty, but she is.

The countess is also taken aback, and not just because she’s feeling some things that she’s never felt for a woman before when she lays eyes on this unexpected guest. She’d only reached out to Lucy in the first place hoping she might know of a person who could help because Lucy’s recently deceased father was a renowned and respected astronomer. Lucy explains that her father not only taught her everything he knew, but that Lucy herself did a lot of the work her father was commissioned for. The countess is all about women’s empowerment, but fears introducing Lucy to society and giving her this important project will piss off the the Very Serious male scientists in the field.

She’s right of course, and it’s only when those science dudes show their entire misogynist asses at a society meeting that the countess makes up her mind: she’ll withdraw the funding she’d committed to that group for the project and will instead allow Lucy to live in her home while she works on the translation by herself. And that’s how Lucy comes to spends her days interpreting the complicated French text at this lovely estate. At night, Catherine and Lucy explore each other’s celestial mechanics if you know what I’m sayin’. Life would be grand if things stayed this way, but old wounds and sabotage by some salty (and inferior) science bros threaten to undo all this happy.

This one is read by Morag Sims (A Little Light Mischief by Cat Sebastian), whose delivery I found so delightful. The banter felt natural and matched the mood (tension! frustration! lust! science feelings!) of every conversation, and the steamy sexy times scenes were wonderfully executed (listen, not everyone can pull this off, but Miss Sims had me asking if it was hot in here). In light of my enthusiasm for this performance, I can’t tell you how excited I was to learn that Morag Sims will read the audiobook of Pride and Premeditation, our very own Tirzah Price’s debut Austen-inspired YA murder mystery novel out this spring!!!

But back to the book at hand: there are two more books in the Feminine Pursuits series if you like this one as much as I did: The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows is out now (just… don’t judge the cover) and The Hellion’s Waltz comes out in June.

From the Internets

Audible editors share the listens that changed their lives.

Audiofile has some romance-themed content just in time for Valentine’s/Galentine’s/Palentine’s Day: 5 Audiobooks about Love, Unbidden and Romantic Suspense for Valentine’s Day Listening

at Libro.fm: take a quiz to find your next Black History Month listen

Over at the Riot

5 of the Best YA Audiobooks – You know how I feel about Cemetery Boys!

Short audiobooks that enhance the reading experience


Thanks for hanging with me today! Shoot me an email at vanessa@riotnewmedia.com with with all things audiobook or find me on Twitter and the gram @buenosdiazsd. Sign up for the In The Club newsletter and catch me once a month on the All the Books podcast.

Stay bad & bookish, my friends.

Vanessa

Categories
In The Club

In the Club 2/10/21

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed. This week’s newsletter was inspired by a moment of intense frustration when I could not twist and bend the way my yoga app was telling me to, and the feeling that this inability engendered. Luckily I have collected several tools to help me with this frustration, but that journey was a long and hard one. It got me thinking about how so many of the conversations we see on health and fitness leave a huge portion of our population behind, or just exclude them altogether. Let’s dive into that. All three of my picks are by Black women (one in collaboration with a white woman), and that fact alone has been so refreshing in redefining what yoga and body acceptance means for me.

Also: I am not ashamed to admit that in my frustration, I forgot I have vertigo and fell flat on my face trying to get into position. I am nothing if not graceful.

To the club!!


Nibbles and Sips

There is this place here in Portland that rocks my socks off with their juicy, smoky, tasty wood-fired chicken and “guns,” these perfectly crispy potatoes dressed with lemon and sea salt, then topped with pickled red onions and either Peruvian aji sauce or chimichurri. I will almost never turn down a good chimichurri, but that aji sauce is the business. It’s a bright and citrusy concoction of jalapeño, cilantro, garlic, and lime.

So today’s nibble is a recipe for Peruvian-style aji sauce. I had the hardest time finding a recipe by a Peruvian chef or blogger, but did find what sounds like the sauce under a different name by Ecuadoran food blogger Laylita. I also found a YouTube video in Spanish, and a version at Food and Wine. I am not familiar enough with Peruvian cuisine to confidently say whether this sauce is “authentic,” but I do know that it tastes amazing. Serve with some crispy potatoes, put it on on eggs, pour it on tater tots, or use it as a salad dressing. Enjoy!

Move Your Body, F*ck the Shame

Two of these books are about yoga, but you don’t have to be a yogi for their message of self love and acceptance to be relevant. Even if there isn’t a yogi among your book club, I could encourage you all to get into those books and try! One of the many, many lessons you’ll learn is that yoga is not just those intense 90 minute flows in a hot room you may be thinking of; even a quick 15-30 minute stretch in the morning (in a chair! on the floor! with blocks! there are options!) can do wonders for your mood and muscles —I am SO much less sore in my day to day life. The third book is quite literally about the radical power of self love, and all three stare down our society’s lack of acceptance for bodies that don’t fit a narrow definition of “normal.”

cover image of Every Body Yoga by Jessamyn Stanley

Every Body Yoga: Let Go of Fear, Get On the Mat, Love Your Body by Jessamyn Stanley

Jessamyn Stanley is a huge part of the reason I came back to yoga after years of fits and starts. I was disillusioned by all the yoga classes where everyone but me was a thin white person, and where the instructors did little to nothing to offer modifications when poses weren’t accessible to me. I thought there was something wrong with my body and that maybe yoga just wasn’t for me. This book (and Jessamyn’s online presence in general) changed the game. It challenges stereotypes and offers tips and inspiration for finding yoga and self love, whether you’re at the beginning of your yoga practice or have already begun but find yourself hitting a wall. I go back and search for her tutorials at least once a week (I need to repurchase this book, see below to understand why) when I need a little help or encouragement to make a pose work for my body and my ability. It’s also just a really funny book—there’s a section called “The Chick-fil-A Bandit Walks Into Weight Watchers” and I cackle every time I think about that.

A story that sounds made up but is not: I bought this and took it with me to read at a park last summer with a little picnic in tow. A dog beelined it for my sandwich, but I managed to snatch the sammy away just in time. In what I can only call an act of savage vengeance, he/she grabbed my book instead and then hauled ass away in a matter of seconds. And that, children, is how I came to own Every Body Yoga for less than 48 hours.

Book Club Bonus: When you think of yoga, you probably think of a thin, flexible white woman who can effortlessly flow into a perfect chaturanga pushup while dressed in a cute, coordinated sports bra and legging combo that costs what I spend on two weeks of groceries. That’s because yoga is marketed that way pretty aggressively! Discuss that messaging and how completely at odds it is with the core principles of yoga.

cover image of Yoga Where You Are by Dianne Bondy and Kat Heagberg

Yoga Where You Are: Customize Your Practice for Your Body and Your Life by Dianne Bondy and Kat Heagberg

I first heard of Dianne Bondy on an episode of the Food Heaven podcast about joyful movement. When I found out her book was blurbed by Jessamyn Stanley, I had to cop it. This book and Jessamyn’s go hand in hand for me. They both offer a ton of insight as to the origins of yoga and its modern iterations, break down poses in a glossary format with modifications, and provide sample sequences. While Every Body Yoga speaks more to the individual and their own practice, Yoga Where You Are takes the messaging of accessible yoga further by tying it into activism. Dianne Bondy and Kat Heagberg discuss the whitewashing of modern yoga and its failure to make space for larger and disabled bodies, offering suggestions and solutions for creating truly safe spaces aimed at yoga teachers, while also speaking to individuals looking to find a place in the yoga world that’s accepting of them. I found the chapters on breath work super helpful and love the emphasis that there isn’t, contrary to what we’ve been told, a “right” way to do yoga.

Book Club Bonus: A lot of the same talking points for Every Body Yoga apply here. It goes beyond yoga though: discuss how fitness spaces in general leave a lot of people out of the conversation.

cover image of The Body is Not an Apology, 2nd Edition by Sonya Renee Taylor

The Body is Not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor (2nd edition)

The cover of the first edition of the book was stunning and they someone managed to up the ante with the second! My nickname for this one is “f*ck your body shame!” Activist and poet Sonya Renee Taylor calls readers to embrace radical self love and shed the indoctrinated body shame that’s so engrained in many of our thoughts. I cried a lot while reading this one when I realized quite how many times a day I think negative thoughts about my body and have spent a lot of time thinking about how and when I learned this behavior.

Book Club Bonus: As prep for book club, spend a day or even a couple of hours paying attention to every negative thought that pops into your brain about yourself. Write down your thoughts on that, then have the group share whatever they’re comfortable sharing, even if it’s just “I shamed my body 12 times in an hour” (you don’t have to share the specifics if you don’t want to). Where do these thoughts come from? At what age or stage in life do you remember absorbing that negative messaging? It’s eye-opening and heartbreaking to have these discussions, but empowering to name and reject the shame once you identify it.

Suggestion Section

Reese Witherspoon’s book club is now an app. Anyone try it yet? Rebecca and Jeff talked about it on this well’s Book Riot podcast and I too am a little surprised by what is and isn’t on the app.


Thanks for hanging with me today! Shoot me an email at vanessa@riotnewmedia.com with your burning book club questions or find me on Twitter and the gram @buenosdiazsd. Sign up for the Audiobooks newsletter and catch me once a month on the All the Books podcast.

Stay bad & bookish, my friends. 

Vanessa 

Categories
Audiobooks

Audiobooks 02/02/21

Hola Audiophiles! Whoa. This week brought the first book explosion of the year, and there are far too many amazing titles for me to fit in this newsletter! I’m going to highlight a few whose audio performances sound the most exciting, but check out our New Books newsletter if you haven’t already for a more robust list. Let’s get to it before I take up too much of your time.

Ready? Let’s audio.


New Releases – Week of February 2, 2021

I truly wish I could talk about ten other books, like Milk Fed by Melissa Broder (queer dark fiction centered on disordered eating, blurbed by Carmen Maria Machado) and The Project by Courtney Summers (look, I have watched two documentaries about NXIVM and one about Heaven’s Gate, I am clearly in the mood for cult stuff). So many books, not enough time! But here are four I’m particularly excited about. (publisher descriptions in quotes)

cover image of  Make Up, Break Up by Lily Menon

Make Up Break Up by Lily Menon

Let’s kick things off with an enemies-to-lovers rom-com, shall we? Annika and Hudson go their separate ways after a summer fling in Vegas, never to see each other again… but not really! Annika gets the quite the unpleasant shock when she learns that Hudson is not only moving into her building in Downtown LA, but into the office right next to hers. She is trying to keep her app, Make Up, afloat, billed as “Google Translate for failing relationships.” Hudson has an app of his own called Break Up (really, bruh?) and it’s wildly successful, and it’s known as “Uber for break-ups.” Well isn’t that just peachy?? The two will clash again and again as they compete in a prestigious investment pitch contest. But again, I did say this was enemies to lovers, so… (romance)

Read by Natalie Naudus (The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart, Ace by Angela Chen). I really enjoy her pace and inflection!

cover image of The Three Mothers by Anna Malaika Tubbs

The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation by Anna Malaika Tubbs

I mentioned both this book and the next one in yesterday’s In the Club newsletter and I’ll say it again: I’m so surprised that the concept for this book wasn’t explored sooner. So much has been written and read about Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, and James Baldwin. But very little has been said about the extraordinary women who raised these American icons. In one stunner of a debut, Anna Malaika Tubbs (an educator, Cambridge PhD candidate, and Gates scholar, no big deal) celebrates Black motherhood by telling these women’s stories.

I recently found myself wondering what it must be like right now for the people MLK Jr. left behind: to witness a violent attempted coup largely led by white supremacists and then not a week later hear cries for unity underscored by MLK Jr quotes as though Dr. King wasn’t hated and persecuted in his time (and, you know, assassinated). This book feels like it came right on time; I for one am very interested in getting to know the women who raised these important figures, all of them taken too soon. For some bonus content, you can listen to Anna Malaika Tubbs on Jonathan Van Ness’s Getting Curious podcast. I especially enjoyed the part where he introduced her and said he “loves, like, a PhD moment.” (nonfiction)

Read by the author, whose voice is so bright and fresh! Her passion for this project is evident even in the sample for this title. I’m really excited to see what else she put out into the world.

cover image of Four Hundred Souls edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain

Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019 edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain

It feels lazy to call this anthology impressive, but impressed I am. This is a community history by 90 brilliant writers, each of whom tackles a five-year period from 1619 to the present. Each writer’s approach is different: some wrote historical essays, others short stories, some shared personal vignettes. The result is an important body of work that “fundamentally deconstructs the idea that Africans in America are a monolith—instead it unlocks the startling range of experiences and ideas that have always existed within the community of Blackness.” (nonfiction, history, essays)

Read by… everyone? This book features 87 different narrators, including Dion Graham, Robin Miles, Phylicia Rashad, Leslie Odom Jr., Bahni Turpin, and more. Oh my gatos!

cover image of Blood Grove by Walter Mosley

Blood Grove by Walter Mosley

Walter Mosley’s infamous Detective Easy Rawlins is back! This is, I believe, the 12th book in this series and returns to the streets of sunny Southern California. Easy “navigates sex clubs, the mafia, and dangerous friends when he reluctantly accepts the racially charged case of a traumatized Vietnam War veteran in late-1960s Los Angeles.” (mystery)

Read by Michael Boatman (Slay by Brittney Morris, Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley), who btw is an actor who’s been in aaaaaall of the crime dramas. I heard him and legit went, “Hey! I know him from SVU!” His voice was practically made for audiobook performance. What a perfect person to read an Easy Rawlins mystery!

Latest Listens

Having finally blasted through my Libby loans last week, I went right back to waiting for other holds to come in. Then I remembered that the Libby app’s landing page usually has a collection of titles with no wait times available for immediate loan. And that is how I came to finally read Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You.

This is, to be honest, not a book that was even on my TBR. When a book is everywhere—for reasons I can’t explain—I either want to run and grab it immediately or unconsciously stay far, far away from it. Everything I Never Told You fell into the latter category, and I don’t know why! I ended up really enjoying it and see why it makes such a good book club pick.

Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet...” So opens the book, and we very quickly learn that Lydia was the favorite, and I do mean fave-oh-rit, child of Marilynn and James Lee. Marilynn, who is white, and James, who is Chinese, are raising their mixed-race family of five in 1970s Ohio. All their hopes and dreams seemingly rest on Lydia’s shoulders, their perfect golden child who will surely go on to live the life they each once envisioned for themselves. But when Lydia’s body is found at the bottom of a local lake, the gossamer threads holding their family together come undone. The story is told in flashbacks and slowly pieces together what happened on the night of Lydia’s untimely death. It’s told from multiple perspectives, including Marilynn, James, Lydia, and her brother Nathan’s point of view, each revealing secrets and lies they kept from each other and from themselves.

Again, I see why this makes such a good book club pick. It asks us each to examine how well we really know the people we love, and confronts the devastating effects, if not addressed, of generational trauma. It considers the cost of perfectionism, especially the kind we foist on other people who never asked to be crushed under the weight of someone else’s expectations. It asks readers to sit with the idea that hurt people hurt people and to think critically about ambition. I kept finding myself shaking an angry fist at a character on one page only to better understand their motives, though not necessarily forgive them, a few chapters later.

It has been awhile since I listened to a book read by Cassandra Campbell, which is impressive considering her 47 pages of audiobook credits on Audible. I really enjoyed the life she gave to each character, especially Lydia and her siblings, Nathan and Hannah. She did a great job at nailing “frustrated teen” without sounding over-the-top and gimmicky, which many of you know is my pet peeve when adults voice younger characters. She conveyed hurt and anger and grief so well that I had to pause a few times and give it a minute.

If you’re in the mood for fiction that’s also a slow burn mystery and focusses more on the “why” than the whodunnit, and that sits with some of of the unsavory behaviors we exhibit when we feel robbed of our agency, add this one to your TBR.

From the Internets

I know I already expressed my awe for Four Hundred Souls, but here’s a piece from The Root about its star-studded audiobook cast. I’ll say it again for the people in the back: eighty! seven! different! narrators!

Libro.fm is kicking off Black History Month with a new, permanent collection of audiobooks by Black authors. Check out the collection here!

at AudioFile: go behind the scenes of the recording of Barack Obama’s A Promised Land

at Audible: Weezer… wrote a song about Audible?

Over at the Riot

6 Great Audiobooks in Translation – I’d like to add Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, such a good listen! Just speed it up a little, unless you prefer your narration on the slower side.

Great YA Nonfiction on Audio


Thanks for hanging with me today! Shoot me an email at vanessa@riotnewmedia.com with with all things audiobook or find me on Twitter and the gram @buenosdiazsd. Sign up for the In The Club newsletter and catch me once a month on the All the Books podcast.

Stay bad & bookish, my friends.

Vanessa

Categories
In The Club

In the Club 02/03/21

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed. I am writing this to you with my face numbed to high heaven on account of some aggressive dental work and I am so. freaking. hungry!!! I keep trying to chew and drink something—anything!!—but I either bite the hell out of my cheek or the food just ends up on my shirt. But enough about me being a mess as per usual! Let’s kick off Black History Month with just that: Black history.

To the club!!


Nibbles and Sips

I was in the mood for an adult beverage last week but couldn’t decide what the $@^#! to make with the ingredients on hand. That’s when I remembered that one of my favorite podcast personalities, Jade Verette, has a legit (and hilarious) IGTV cocktail series called Cocktails en la Casa (read up on her in this spotlight on Black mixologists by Food and Wine). I whipped up this frozen cucumber mint situation to pretend it was much sunnier outside my casa. It’s such a fresh, delicious blend of cucumber, mint, elderflower liqueur, fresh lime, and gin. Enjoy!

New Black History

Let’s get this part out of the way: around here, we read Black authors year round and not just in February. We do still set aside some designated time to celebrate Black voices during Black History month though, so that’s what we’re going to do today. These history books are all new and recent works by Black authors.

Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019 edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain

I was originally going to suggest Ibram X Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning, a book I’ve been slowly making my way through for months now. Then I remembered Four Hundred Souls and had to go with this. It’s a one-volume community history by 90 brilliant writers, each of whom tackles a five-year period from 1619 to the present. Each writer’s approach is different: some wrote historical essays, others short stories, some shared personal vignettes. The result is an important body of work that “fundamentally deconstructs the idea that Africans in America are a monolith—instead it unlocks the startling range of experiences and ideas that have always existed within the community of Blackness.”

The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation by Anna Malaika Tubbs

I’m actually surprised the concept for this book wasn’t explored sooner, because it feels long overdue. So much has been written and read about Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, and James Baldwin (not that everyone has digested their message accurately, pero that’s some side eye for a different day). But very little has been said about the extraordinary women who raised these American icons. In one stunner of a debut, scholar Anna Malaika Tubbs celebrates Black motherhood by telling these women’s stories.

Caste

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson

When Isabel Wilkerson gets out bed in the morning, do you think she has her toast and coffee before or after she sits down to craft masterpieces of thought? Whew! It landed on all of the best-of lists and won all of the things in 2020, and it’s no wonder. This time she’s taken on America’s hidden caste system with a “deeply researched narrative and stories about real people.” She pulls back the veil to reveal the hierarchy of human rankings that dominates our society and the systemic racism that allows it to thrive.

Suggestion Section

Barack Obama apparently surprised a Zoom book club by dropping in on their discussion of his book, A Promised Land. I can’t even pretend that I wouldn’t have blurted out, “HOW HAVE YOU BEEN, DAD, AND DO YOU THINK MICHELLE WOULD LET ME BORROW THAT COAT?”

Good Morning America’s February book club pick is Cherie Jones’ How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House.

The Today Show’s Jenna Bush Hager selects not one, but two books for February’s book club.

PBS’s February book club pick is Charles Yu’s Interior Chinatown.

American Airlines’ new Apple Books partnership includes access to Oprah’s Book Club picks,


Thanks for hanging with me today! Shoot me an email at vanessa@riotnewmedia.com with your burning book club questions or find me on Twitter and the gram @buenosdiazsd. Sign up for the Audiobooks newsletter and catch me once a month on the All the Books podcast.

Stay bad & bookish, my friends. 

Vanessa 

Categories
Audiobooks

Audiobooks 01/28/21

Hola Audiophiles! It’s snowing in Portland (“snowing” because it’s kind of weak, but it still counts!) and I’m about to curl up on the couch with some Mexican hot chocolate and an audiobook to watch it from my window. My mood these days is just so much lighter! Wishing the same good vibes for all of you with me here today.

Ready? Let’s audio.


New Releases – week of January 26  (publisher descriptions in quotes)

Content warnings provided where possible

The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe

I organically stumbled across Instagram posts by no less than six Rioters singing this book’s phrases in a 48 hour period! Nora is a teen living with her aunt in Northern California dealing with an awkward love triangle (love shape?) between her and her two best friends. But skrrrrrr! That issue is put on pause when Nora and one of those friends walk into a bank and finds themselves in the middle of a robbery. Things escalate quickly, hostages are taken, and law enforcement awaits outside. But there’s another wrinkle the robbers don’t know about: among the hostages is a young woman who’s been several girls in her short lifetime, and has enough dangerous criminal experience to be a seriously dangerous threat. (YA mystery/thriller)

Content warning: chemical use, physical violence, sexual abuse, domestic abuse, child abuse, murder, torture, and gore.

Read by the author, Tess Sharpe!

Just As I Am by Cicely Tyson

Cicely Tyson is a living legend, an icon, a gem in our midst! This is Miss Tyson’s memoir chronicling a storied life and career: “It is me, plain and unvarnished, with the glitter and garland set aside. Here, I am indeed Cicely, the actress who has been blessed to grace the stage and screen for six decades. Yet I am also the church girl who once rarely spoke a word. I am the teenager who sought solace in the verses of the old hymn for which this book is named. I am a daughter and mother, a sister, and a friend. I am an observer of human nature and the dreamer of audacious dreams. I am a woman who has hurt as immeasurably as I have loved, a child of God divinely guided by His hand. And here in my ninth decade, I am a woman who, at long last, has something meaningful to say.” (memoir)

Content warning: violence, racism, and chemical use.

Read by (are you ready??) Cicely Tyson, Viola Davis, and Robin Miles. Legends!

A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes

I looooove mythology and need this book in my hands now! Told from the perspective of Calliope, the goddess of poetry (and side note: one of my forever favorite characters in Grey’s Anatomy history), this book is a fictionalized account of the Trojan war that focuses on the women: Trojan citizens, Penelope awaiting the return of Odysseus, the Amazon princess who fought Achilles, and three goddesses who started the whole damn thing. And in the highest of all cosigns, Song of Achilles and Circe author Madeline Miller says Haynes has given a “much-needed voice to the silenced women of the Trojan War.” I. can. not. wait. (historical fiction, mythology)

Content warning: mention of slavery, murder, violence, sexual assault, violence

Read by the author (a theme today!)

We Could Be Heroes by Mike Chen

Jamie and Zoe are strangers who have a funny little thing in common: they’ve each woken up in apartments they don’t remember renting. They have no idea who they are or how they got there, and one more surprise: they have super powers! Jamie uses his powers to pull of bank heists and other shady endeavors while Zoe uses hers to rain down some vigilante justice. and that is how their paths come to cross. When they meet for a second time at a support group for folks with similar stories to tell, they realize they might all be part of a bigger plan. (fantasy)

Read by Emily Woo Zeller (Book Riot fave alert! The Bride Test by Helen Hoang, The Poppy War series by R. F. Kuang)

Latest Listens

Recipe for Persuasion by Sonali Dev

All of my library holds are coming in and I’m trying to keep up! I inhaled this one in just a couple of days, the second book in Sonali Dev’s Rajes series of Austen rom-com remixes.

Ashna Raje is not okay! She’s struggling to run the failing restaurant that was her father’s legacy and to prove to her estranged mother that she knows her own mind. When she gets a last-minute offer to be on The Food Network’s latest celebrity cooking show, Ashna agrees begrudgingly. She does it mostly to avoid having to see her mother, and because winning the competition means a cash prize and the chance to turn her restaurant troubles right around. Pero… here’s the thing: the gorgeous retired pro soccer player she’s paired with on the show was once the love of her life, the one who ghosted her when she was at her absolute lowest. He has reasons of his own for wanting to be on the show, and him leaving her may not have gone exactly like Ashna remembers it. Is this partnership a recipe for disaster? Or will it end in sweet success? (tw: suicide, sexual assault; descriptions aren’t extremely graphic, but may still be much for some)

I am always so impressed by how fun and hilarious Sonali Dev’s books are while tackling some pretty heavy issues. The women in all of her books (and all of her characters in general) are so dynamic and layered, flawed and relatable. Both Ashna and her mother have moved through the world in ways that are difficult to understand as onlookers until we examine their behaviors through the lens of trauma. I am still sitting with the feelings that surfaced for me once the motivations behind Ashna’s attachment to the restaurant and loyalty to her father were revealed, and when her mother’s decision to rebel against societal norms at the cost of her family is made clear. Sonali Dev continues to give us these thoughtful examinations of the ways in which women have had to advocate for themselves, often at immense personal sacrifice, and rewarding us with a deliciously satisfying happily ever after for joining her in that reflection.

As for narration, I cannot imagine a more perfectly suited voice for Sonali Dev’s books than Soneela Nankani. In addition to also reading Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors, her catalog includes titles like The Daevabad Trilogy by S. A. Chakraborty, The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey, and Internment by Samira Ahmed. She gives you mid-30s anxious, Brazilian-British athlete swag, wise aunty energy, and more with seamless transitions.

So go, dear reader, and treat yourself to Recipe for Persuasion. Oh, and you don’t need to read the series in order, but do absolutely make some time for Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors! and look for Incense and Sensibility in July!

From the Internets

2021 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults — This list from YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) is a little dense visually, but worth it for the content.

Spotify Launches Audiobooks Program with 9 Classics, including Frankenstein and Jane Eyre.

Are you thinking, “How do I listen to audiobooks on Spotify??” Here you go!

at Audible: an interview with Alanis Morissette

at AudioFile: Families in Mystery Audiobooks: The Good and the Really Bad

at Libro.fm: 18 Audiobooks to Pre-Order Before Spring

Over at the Riot

6 of the Best Audiobooks Narrated by Prentice Onayemi

On this week’s Hey YA: Extra Credit episode, Hannah is joined by special guest Emily Blaeser to talk about their favorite YA audiobooks.


Thanks for hanging with me today! Shoot me an email at vanessa@riotnewmedia.com with with all things audiobook or find me on Twitter and the gram @buenosdiazsd. Sign up for the In The Club newsletter and catch me once a month on the All the Books podcast.

Stay bad & bookish, my friends.

Vanessa

Categories
In The Club

In the Club 01/27/21

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed. This week we’re finding love in this club with some discussion-worthy romance inspired by When in Romance’s 75th episode! Happy 3rd anniversary to the lovely ladies who turned me into a bona fide romance reader! Let’s talk about love and all its trappings.

To the club!!


Nibbles and Sips

By the time this newsletter goes out, a friend and I will have surprised the third member of our quaranteam with a birthday dinner comprised of some of her favorite things. I have never met anyone more loyal to the potato in all its forms—she legit dreams in tater tot. So today’s nibble is exactly what we’re serving our friend for the main course: a totcho bar!

For the uninitiated, tots + nachos + totchos. So you basically load up a bunch of crispy and pillowy potato puffs with all the fixings one might apply to loaded nachos. We all nacho/totcho in our own way, but here’s the bar setup we’ll be providing for customization:

  • tater tots
  • shredded cheese
  • scallions/green onions
  • sour cream
  • diced tomatoes
  • sliced jalapeños
  • crispy chorizo/soyrizo
  • refried beans
  • avocado

You could also go with a bacon/cheese/sour cream/scallion situation, or go the shredded beef route with melty cheese.. go forth and starch totsper.

Romantically Speaking

cover of The Widow of Rose House by Diana Biller

The Widow of Rose House by Diana Biller

I give you this blurb from April 2020 as proof of my When In Romance fandom: “I was in theeeee worst reading slump for weeks and decided I’d try some gothic fiction with a romance at its core; I’m still newish to the romance game, so thanks once again to Trisha and Jess from When in Romance for the inspo. The Widow of Rose House by Diana Biller is the book that not only snapped me out of the slump, but keep the reading well past my bedtime. Gilded Age New York, a gothic mansion, a ruined widow with a tragic past, and a sexy nerd type who loves consent, sexy times, and science in equal, passionate measure. Oh and some ghosts, maybe? What a remedy! Read this now.” (tw: domestic violence)

Book Club Bonus: There is plenty to talk about with respect to Alva and how many hoops she (and any woman from that time period) has to go through to live life on her terms. But! Please also talk about how awesome it is to see such explicit requests for consent in sexy times scenes! It was so refreshing, as is how open and communicative Sam is so consistently.

Recipe for Persuasion by Sonali Dev

This is the second book in Sonali Dev’s The Rajes series of Austen rom-com remixes. Chef Ashna Raje is not okay; she’s struggling to run the failing restaurant that was her father’s legacy and is desperate to prove to her estranged mother that she knows what’s best for her own life. When she gets a last-minute offer to be on a celebrity cooking show, Ashna agrees to be on it mostly to avoid having to see her mother, but also because winning the competition means a giant cash prize that could turn her restaurant troubles right around. But plot twist!! The sexy retired pro soccer player she’s paired with is the former love of her life, the one who ghosted her at the lowest point in her life. He has reasons of his own for wanting to be on the show, and he remembers the end of their relationship quite differently. Is this partnership a recipe for disaster, or one for…persuasion? You don’t need to read the series in order, but I do very highly recommend Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors! (tw: suicide, sexual assault; descriptions aren’t extremely graphic, but may still be much for some)

Book Club Bonus: Sonali Dev’s books are hilarious and fun, but they tackle some heavy issues (see trigger warnings above). Both Ashna and her mother have made decisions about the way they move in the world that are easy to judge if you don’t examine them through the lens of trauma. Why is Ashna so attached to the restaurant, and why does she idealize her father? What would you have done in her mother’s shoes? This is such a good one to unpack.

Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade

April is a geologist who writes fan fiction of her favorite show, Gods at the Gates, and cosplays in her free time. She’s always kept her “real life” separate from her fandom, but she decides to be more open about it when she gets a new job. When she posts her latest costume creation on Twitter, a plus-size take on Lavinia, it goes viral. Then the star of the show, Marcus, surprised everyone by first defending her from fatphobic trolls online and then asking her out on a date IRL. It’s on that date that Marcus—a secret fanfic writer who goes by Book!AeneasWouldNever online—realizes that April is his longtime online friend. Eek! This part I had to rip from the publisher copy: “With love and Marcus’s career on the line, can the two of them stop hiding once and for all, or will a match made in fandom end up prematurely cancelled?” (tw: fat shaming—but it’s not the whole point of the book, know what I mean?)

Book Club Bonus: We’ve recently seem some progress in the body positivity movement, and with that some moves in fat positivity, too. But wow, is there still a long ways to go. Was I jazzed when Ashley Graham became the first plus size model to book a Sports Illustrated cover? F*ck yes! Am I also tired of *only* seeing plus size bodies with those hourglass proportions in content that alleges fat positivity? Also yes. Discuss fat representation in media and in this book.

cover of reverb by anna zabo

Reverb by Anna Zabo

This third book in the Twisted Wishes series is one I keep meaning to read, and I remember that every time Trisha gives it a shout out on the show. Bass player Mish Sullivan is a rockstar goddess who can fend for herself, thankyouverymuch. But when a stalker gets too close and puts her in the hospital, Mish finds herself stuck with a bodyguard she doesn’t need or want. That bodyguard is David, a badass, ex-army martial arts expert who feels an instant attraction to this person he’s supposed to protect. Neither of them can deny the attraction and whoops! They wind up in bed together (again and again and again). But when the stalker up his game, David will have to choose—lover or bodyguard?

Book Club Bonus: Mish is cis femme and David is trans masc, and that’s why I think this makes such a great book club book: not because it has a trans character (because that should just be normal), but because it centers trans joy. As Zabo said themselves, “…people aren’t only their gender—even cis people. It’s an aspect of their lives, sure, and maybe a big one, but at a certain point, you’re just yourself. You’re the sum of all the things about you, and then some.” Discuss how representation is more than just seeing yourself on the page; it’s also about the quality and diversity of that representation, like in this lovely HEA.

Suggestion Section

Some book club friends in Skowhegan, Maine started a community refrigerator to help hungry. Love to see it!

Meet the book club that’s helping to quickly vaccinate its town. Love to see this too!

Brown Girls Book Club, a group of eight Black women who’ve been meeting for 25 years, came together to celebrate and watch last week’s historic inauguration. I love everything this week! Look at that joy.


Thanks for hanging with me today! Shoot me an email at vanessa@riotnewmedia.com with your burning book club questions or find me on Twitter and the gram @buenosdiazsd. Sign up for the Audiobooks newsletter and catch me once a month on the All the Books podcast.

Stay bad & bookish, my friends. 

Vanessa 

Categories
Audiobooks

Audiobooks 1/21/21

Hola Audiophiles! I’ll keep it brief today: it’s a new dawn and a new day, and I’m feeling good. There’s work to do, absolutely. But today, we celebrate.

Ready? Let’s audio.


New Releases – week of January 19  (publisher descriptions in quotes)

audiobook cover of Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston

Amari and the Night Brothers by B. B. Alston

Amari has never stopped believing her missing brother is alive. Then she finds a ticking briefcase in his closet (totally normal!), and inside it is a nomination for a summer tryout at the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs. She knows this organization is the key to finding her brother, and that’s why she soon finds herself competing with a whole bunch of kids who’ve always own magic exists. If she can accept that magicians, fairies, aliens, and other supernatural creatures exist, and convince her paranoid classmates that she isn’t, in fact, an enemy, Amari might finally have a chance at finding her brother. This book is the first in a new series. (middle grade fantasy)

Read by Imani Parks (Saving Ruby King by Catherine Adel West, Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton)

audiobook cover image of Winterkeep by Kristin Cashore

Winterkeep by Kristin Cashore

I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about this latest book in the Graceling Realm series. Bitterblue has been queen of Monsea for the past five years, slowly rebuilding her nation after her father’s horrific reign. She sends envoys to the nation of Winterkeep when she learns of lands in the east, but those envoys drown under suspicious circumstances. When Bitterblue decides to set off for Winterkeep herself, tragedy strikes again— a tragedy with devastating political and personal consequences. Meanwhile, in Winterkeep, the teenage daughter of two powerful politicians waits and watches. She’s the key to unlocking everything – but only if she’s willing to transcend leave behind the person she’s always been. (YA fantasy)

Read by Xanthe Elbrick, who also reads books two and three in the series (Fire and Bitterblue)

audiobook cover image of Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor

Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor

“The day Fatima forgot her name, Death paid a visit.” The new name given to her by the Angel of Death is Sanokfa, a name that means nothing to anyone but her and is her only tie to her family and her past. Now she searches for the object that fell from the sky and took everything from her with only a fox as her companion; anyone who gets in her way will face a girl whose looks and touch can kill. Whew, Nnedi Okorafor’s brain is a national treasure. (science fiction)

Read by Adjoa Andoh (Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert, The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie), one of the most rich, regal voices I’ve ever heard.

audiobook cover image of Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo

Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo

After she comes across a book featuring a love story between two women, a question takes root in seventeen-year-old Lily Hu: “Have you ever heard of such a thing?” She can’t remember exactly when the question planted itself in her, but the answer is obvious the moment she and Kathleen Miller walk under the flashing neon sign of a lesbian bar called the Telegraph Club. “But America in 1954 is not a safe place for two girls to fall in love, especially not in Chinatown. Red-scare paranoia threatens everyone, including Chinese Americans like Lily. With deportation looming over her father – despite his hard-won citizenship – Lily and Kath risk everything to let their love see the light of day.” (YA historical fiction)

Read by Emily Woo Zeller, a Book Riot fave! (The Poppy War for R. F. Kuang, This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone)

audiobook cover image of The Rib King by Ladee Hubbard

The Rib King by Ladee Hubbard

For over 15 years, August Sitwell has worked as a groundskeeper for the Barclay family, “a well-to-do White family who plucked him from an orphan asylum and gave him a job” in their household’s all-Black staff. But the Barclay’s fortune has fallen and their money gone with it, so a desperate Mr. Barclay agrees to sell his cook Miss Mamie’s delicious rib sauce for some quick cash. Marketed under the brand name “The Rib King,” the sauce bottle features a caricature of a wildly grinning August on the label, and neither Miss Mamie nor August will see a dime from the sale. “Humiliated, August grows increasingly distraught, his anger building to a rage that explodes in shocking tragedy.” (fiction)

Read by Korey Jackson (Not So Pure and Simple by Lamar Giles, Let Me Here a Rhyme by Tiffany D. Jackson) and Adenrele Ojo (Call Your Daughter Home by Deb Spera, The Mothers by Brit Bennett)

Latest Listen

cover image of American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson

American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson

I mentioned wanting to read this book over my holiday break, but my Libby hold didn’t quite come in on time. It finally arrived this week and the timing was perfect; I’ve been in the mood for a spy story and don’t come across nearly enough of them by authors of color! The plot: Marie is a young Black woman working as an FBI agent in 1980s New York. Her career has gone stagnant when she’s suddenly approached by the CIA to spy on the president of Burkina Faso, a figure being billed as a dangerous Communist despot; she has her reservations, but figures she may be able to leverage some information of her own if she takes the gig. But as we spy novel people know all too well, that spy life is not an easy one; she finds herself sympathizing with her target and questioning the US’s motives—and thus questioning her loyalties in turn.

The story is told in the form of a diary that Marie is writing to her young sons in the hopes that they will read it and understand her better when they’re adults. I loved this format so much for the insight it gave into Marie’s career and her psyche, into the ways her relationships with the mother (who left her), her sister (who died on assignment), and even her target have informed her every move—and not always in a good way. Marie is smart, capable, intuitive, but she’s also human, vulnerable, and a mother; none of the decisions she’s forced to make are easy ones, and the consequences of those decisions don’t just affect her. I loved getting into her head to live in that complicated grey area along with her. I clenched my teeth and held my breath through a lot of it.

The other aspect of the book that I’m a big fan of is how it shines a light on our country’s propensity for acting like the word’s police with, to be generous, less than noble intentions. This is an uncomfortable truth to sit with: we’ve meddled and contributed to instability worldwide under the guise of upholding democracy and fighting terrorism. Have we been the good guys in some of these scenarios? I hope so. But we’ve also done a lot of harm and don’t seem to like confronting that reality.

If you’re in the mood for a good, complex spy thriller with a POC main character and a lot of nuance, you know what to do. Bahni Turpin delivers another stellar performance that wonderfully embodies both Marie’s cynicism and passion. Is there anything she can’t do?!

From the Internets

Amazon Book Review suggests the best mysteries to try on audio.

at Audiofile: 6 Romances with Medical Workers (the real MVPs!)

at Audible: Alan Alda and Journalist Kate Rope Unearth a Hidden History of American Medicine

at CNN: a spotlight on Akrican Echoes, an audiobook app will tell unheard African stories

at TIME: 11 Funny Audiobooks to Lighten the Mood This Dreary Winter

Over at the Riot

Check out these audiobook apps to help you on your language learning journey.

5 Must-Listen Short Story Collections on Audio


Thanks for hanging with me today! Shoot me an email at vanessa@riotnewmedia.com with with all things audiobook or find me on Twitter and the gram @buenosdiazsd. Sign up for the In The Club newsletter and catch me once a month on the All the Books podcast.

Stay bad & bookish, my friends.

Vanessa