Categories
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
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
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
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
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

Categories
Audiobooks

Audiobooks 01/14/21

Hola Audiophiles! What a boring news week, amirite? I cannot tell you how thankful I am for yoga and meditation right now. I hope my audiobook fam is also finding ways to stay sane and safe, too. As always, I’m sending you virtual love and wishing you happy reading.

Need some distraction? Let’s audio.


New Releases – week of January 12  (publisher descriptions in quotes)

I quickly want to shoutout to Angie Thomas’ new book, Concrete Rose. I figured you all don’t need me to tell you about this buzzy title, but I wanted to at least briefly mention it. It’s narrated by Dion Graham!

audiobook cover image of The Ruthless Lady's Guide to Wizardry by C.M. Waggoner

The Ruthless Lady’s Guide to Wizardry by C.M. Waggoner

In a fantasy version of Victorian England, Delly is a petty con and partially trained fire witch who’s not quite making ends meet. Then she comes across a listing for a job protecting a young woman in the weeks before her marriage. Seems like a cushy gig with easy money… Ha! Nope! Dellaria learns pretty quickly that her charge is the target of some pretty dangerous assassination attempts using necromantic magic. With the help of a motley crew of her fellow female bodyguards (including one she’s warming up to, if you know what I’m sayin’), Delly will have to find a way to best this elusive adversary and keep her charge (and herself) safe. (historical fantasy)

I read this one in print, so I sampled the audio and I have one hangup with the narration: it’s read in an American accent! Ava Lucas is lovely, this is not a critique of her. The book’s setting makes me wish it was read in an English accent, but the book is so fun that I have to include it here.

You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey: Crazy Stories about Racism by Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar

I love Amber Ruffin, a hilarious comedian and performer who’s written for Late Night with Seth Meyers since 2014 (a role that made her the first Black woman to write for a late-night network talk show in the US). While Amber lives in New York, Ruffin’s sister Lacey still lives back in Nebraska where they both grew up. This book is a hilarious, if at times downright horrifying, collection of anecdotes of the kinds of comments, behaviors, and general racist BS that Lacey is subjected to on a near daily basis in Omaha. Some examples: strangers touching her hair, being mistaken for a prostitute, being mistaken for Harriet!! Tubman!! Oh, and getting hit on online by a dude with the confederate flag in his profile pic. Whew. The sisters’ banter and delivery injects a whole lot of comedy into what are otherwise some truly cringey stories. (humor, essays)

Read by the authors

Yellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson

Pheby Brown has grown up relatively sheltered on a Charles City, Virginia plantation, shielded by her mother’s position as the plantation’s medicine woman and beloved by the Master’s sister. She’d been promised freedom on her 18th birthday and plans to start a new life with the man she loves. Instead, Pheby is forced to leave the only home she’s ever known and finds herself at Devil’s Half Acre, a notorious jail in Richmond, Virginia where the enslaved are “broken, tortured, and sold every day. There, Pheby is exposed not just to her Jailer’s cruelty but also to his contradictions. To survive, Pheby will have to outwit him, and she soon faces the ultimate sacrifice.” This sounds like a heartbreaking read, but comes highly recommended. (historical fiction)

Read by the wonderful Robin Miles (Caste by Isabel Wilkerson, The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin, The Good House by Tananarive Due, and a million billion other awesome books).

The House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O’Donnell

A seamstress leaps from the window of an estate with a cryptic message sown into her skin; after receiving a strange letter warning him of impending danger, a destitute Cambridge student comes to London in search of his uncle—and the woman he once loved; an heiress-via-adoption is trying to make her name as a serious journalist, but her curmudgeon of an editor believes ladies should only report on society events and gossip; and a sharp and committed but volatile detective who deals with cases of an occult nature is assigned to find out what happened to the aforementioned seamstress. Alll of these people (and a whole bunch of others), are connected by a twisty case of missing girls who’ve all disappeared under similar mysterious circumstances. This book is a gothic romp and I loves it! (historical fiction)

Read by Charles Armstrong, the voice behind The Mysterious Affair at Styles and tons of other Agatha Christie novels)

Latest Listens

Beach Read by Emily Henry

January is a successful romance novelist whose views on love are shattered when she learns her recently deceased father was unfaithful to her mother for years. While staying at her dad’s Lake Michigan beach house for the summer to a) clear the house out, and b) isolate herself into writing an overdue book, she discovers her college rival Gus, a Very Serious literary fiction author, lives in the house next door. Neither of them is particularly jazzed about running into one another, but they can’t seem to stay away from one another either. When they both reveal that they have writer’s block, they come up with a plan: they’ll swap genres for the summer—and try not to fall in love.

I deeply identified with how bristly January is when she was first reunited with Gus. My alter ego’s name is Peppermint Petty (Petty and the Jets album dropping soon!), so I got my whole life from January messiness when she couldn’t figure out how to process her feelings (purse wine!). The book really sits with the ways in which our experiences, specifically grief, color how we interpret other people’s words and behaviors. The miscommunications abound, but they’re all so relatable. We aren’t ourselves when we’re consumed with big, scary feelings.

Perhaps best of all though was the very meta examination of the healing escapism of romance novels. January describes first being drawn into romancelandia when her mother was diagnosed with cancer, and my eyes got a little foggy; I became a romance reader in the last few years and emphatically vouch for the restorative quality of a good HEA when nothing else in your life makes sense. Reading about it from the perspective of a character who loses her love-conquers-all self in the wake of tragedy and then finds her way back again was a wonderful balm to start the year off with, even if things took a ridiculous turn a mere few days later.

From the Internets

at Audible: an interview with Angie Thomas on Tupac, honoring Black men, and what’s next

at Audiofile: Remembering John le Carré, Master of Spy Thrillers

at Libro.fm: an interview with Author Interview: Robert Jones, Jr. and discussion of his new book, The Prophets

Over at the Riot

Eight of the Best Audiobooks Narrated by Nancy Wu

The Best Earphones for 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
Audiobooks

Audiobooks 01/07/21

Hola Audiophiles, and welcome back! I am fresh off two glorious weeks of sleeping in, reading, eating, and lather-rinse-repeating. I feel refreshed and kinda sorta hopeful for a less-hellish 2021! Let’s kick off the year with a fresh batch of audiobooks and think positive thoughts.**

**Past Vanessa wrote and scheduled this newsletter hours before the news coming out of the US Capitol broke. I went from feeling the bliss of hope to the crush of anger and terror. I don’t know what else to say here, so I’ll just say that I think it’s still important to keep hope alive even when it’s hard to be hopeful. Sending you all a virtual hug for whatever it’s worth.

Ready? Let’s audio.


New Releases – week of January 5  (publisher descriptions in quotes)

cover image of Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour

Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour

Unambitious 22-year-old Darren is perfectly content living with his mom and working at Starbucks, but his mom wants him to want more. Then a chance run-in with the smooth-talking CEO of New York’s hottest tech start-up leads to Darren joining his team. Within a week, Darren has transformed into “Buck”, a ruthless salesman unrecognizable to his friends and family (and the only Black person at the mysterious, cult-like, company). “But when things turn tragic at home and Buck feels he’s hit rock bottom, he begins to hatch a plan to help young people of color infiltrate America’s sales force, setting off a chain of events that forever changes the game.” (fiction)

Read by Zeno Robinson (Ali Cross by James Patterson, Hi Five by Joe Ide)

Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant

Sixteen-year-old Tessa Johnson has rarely seen herself reflected in the pages of the romance novels she loves (relatable, Tessa!). The only place she gets to be the leading lady is in the love stories she writes. She’s ecstatic when she’s accepted into the creative writing program of a prestigious art school, but gets smacked with a case of writer’s block during her very first workshop. But it’s okay! Her bestie Caroline has a plan! All Tessa needs is a real-life love story for some inspiration via a list of romance novel-inspired steps to a happily ever after. But Tessa finds these steps may actually be pulling her further and further away from herself… (YA romance)

Read by Jordan Cobb (Deathless Divide by Justine Ireland, A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown, two books I really need to read)

One of the Good Ones by Maika Moulite, Maritza Moulite

Teen social activist and history buff Kezi Smith is killed under shady circumstances after attending a social-justice rally. Her sister Happi and their family are left reeling and devastated as Kezi becomes yet another victim in the fight against police brutality. Then Happi begins to question the idealized way her sister is remembered. Perfect. Angelic—”one of the good ones.” (contemporary YA)

This narrator trio tho!!! Bahni Turpin, Jordan Cobb, and Carolyn Smith. What?!

Lore by Alexandra Bracken

For centuries, Zeus has punished the gods with a game called the Agon wherein the gods must walk the earth as mortals and then be hunted for their immortality. Fun! Only a handful of gods remain, the rest replaced by mortals who killed them and ascended. Lore is the lone survivor of a line of god hunters who were brutally murdered by a rival family. With the Agon approaching, Lore sees a chance for revenge against the mortals-turned-gods responsible for her family’s deaths.

Read by Fryda Wolff (Mass Effect Andromeda: Nexus Uprising by Jason M. Hough, K. C. Alexander and Mass Effect: Initiation by N. K. Jemisin, Mac Walters)

Outlawed by Anna North

Seventeen-year-old Ada is all smiles on her wedding day: she loves her husband and she loves working as an apprentice to her midwife mother. But a year later, she hasn’t been able to get pregnant, which is kind of a big deal when you live in a town where barren women are routinely hanged as witches. That’s when she packs up and joins the notorious Hole in the Wall Gang, a band of outlaws led by a preacher-turned-robber known as the Kid. “Charismatic, grandiose and mercurial, the Kid is determined to create a safe haven for outcast women. But to make this dream a reality, the Gang hatches a treacherous plan that may get them all killed. And Ada must decide whether she’s willing to risk her life for the possibility of a new kind of future for them all.”

Read by Cynthia Farrell (The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren, This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar, Max Gladstone)

Latest Listens

Tiny Pretty Things by Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra

TW: eating disorders and body stuff (not quite body horror, but close if you’re squeamish).

Oh my gatos, y’all. The release of this book’s Netflix adaptation reminded me that I’d been meaning to read it for years, it’s so my kind of book (I know, I know: story of my life). I finally read it over the break and wooooooow. It’s like Center Stage meets Black Swan and Fatal Attraction.

The book is primarily told from the perspectives of Gigi, Bette, and June, three young ballerinas at an intensely competitive ballet school in Manhattan. Kind and lighthearted Gigi just wants to dance, but the act could literally kill her. She’s also the only Black girl at the school, so… you can guess how that goes. Privileged New Yorker Bette is… how do I put this? Picture a version of Regina George who pops a lot of pills and has a serious complex from dancing in the shadow of her ballet-star sister. She’ll stop at nothing to end up on top, and I do mean nothing. *shivers* June is a dangerous perfectionist who has to land a lead role this year, otherwise her super-controlling mom will pull her from the school. Everyone’s losing their sh*t because the cast for the school’s Nutracker performance is about to be announced, and an absolute mess of a scandal erupts when the Gigi lands the role of Sugar Plum Fairy. Everyone thought it would be Better. Bette for damn sure thought it’d be Bette. But it’s not, and not everyone is willing to accept that.

This is absolutely one of those books that makes you hold your breath and grip the nearest object with white knuckles. The competitive nature of ballet and all the related pressures, body issues, disordered eating, etc all leap off the page and smack you in the face: it’s tense and uncomfortable and vicious. I loved how the authors also examined the motivations of the less palatable characters (hurt people hurt people, it turns out). If you’re in the mood for an absolute ride of a book full of characters you both love and love to hate with narration that matches the AAAAAAAH-level tension and pace, pick up Tiny Pretty Things (and it’s sequel, Shiny Broken Pieces).

Read by Imani Parks (Saving Ruby King by Catherine Adel West, Monday’s Not Coming my Tiffany D. Jackson), Nora Hunter (You Don’t Know Everything, Jilly P! by lex Gino), Greta Jung (The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim, Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha)

From the Internets

Any Bodega Boys fans out there? Check out Audible’s interview with Desus and Mero and a discussion of their book, God-Level Knowledge Darts: Life Lessons from the Bronx.

New year, new beginnings! Here are five audiobooks about new beginnings brought to you by the good folks at Audiofile.

Libro.fm has a quiz to help you pick your first listen of 2021 (or not first if I know my audience)!

Over at the Riot

6 Audiobooks to Help You Out of Your Post-Holiday Reading Slump


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
Audiobooks

Audiobooks 12/24

Hola Audiophiles! It’s the last Audiobooks newsletters of 2020, and it’s Christmas Eve! Like a lot of Latinx folks, I celebrate on Nochebuena (Christmas Eve) as opposed to Christmas Day itself; so by the time you read this, there’s a good chance I’ll be a few glasses of ponche and about a dozen tamales deep.

Before we dive in, thank you for doing the audiobook thang with me for another turn around the sun, especially the kind of year that this one turned out to be! I wish all of you a very happy holiday season and even happier new year—I’ll catch you on January 7th with brand new audiobooks and hopes for a fresh and wonderful start.

Ready? Let’s audio.


Audio Lang Syne (I’m sorry)

**strums ukelele**

Oh the COVID-19 is frightful
But vacation’s so delightful
And since I’ve no place to go
Audio, audio, audio!

I’m actually off work for these last two weeks of the year and plan on using that time to catch up on books I’ve been meaning to read. I’m pretty excited and thought I would share my holiday listening list with you today. Without further ago, here are the audiobooks that will keep me company as I write cards, wrap presents, and cook tasty things.

cover image of The Camelot Betrayal by Kiersten White

The Camelot Betrayal by Kiersten White

This is the second book in the YA fantasy Camelot Rising series, which reimagines, as you may have guessed, Arthurian legend. In The Guinevere Deception, we first meet Guinevere, except she isn’t who we think she is: she’s a changeling come to Camelot to protect the kingdom, her real name and true identity a secret even to herself (not a spoiler). The Camelot Betrayal finds Guinevere trying to find her place in her adopted kingdom as she grapples with the price of progress and her own search for meaning. All the familiar characters make an appearance, but with all sorts of magical twists and unexpected romance. I feel like not enough people talk about this series and I can’t wait to dive back into this world!

Read by Elizabeth Knowelden (The Book of Dreams by Nina George, The Apprentice Witch by James Nicol, The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Jenny Bayliss)

cover image of Brave, Not Perfect by Reshma Saujani

Brave, Not Perfect by Reshma Saujani

This is a book I’m reading with Book Riot staff and one whose message I hope to internalize and put into practice more in 2021. Reshma Saujani is the founder and CEO of Girls Who Code and starts off by telling us about the time she quit her stable and lucrative career for a disastrous run for political office. She not only lost, she lost hard. That moment acted as a turning point in Saujani’s life and an epiphany: women are taught to chase perfection since childhood, and that pattern ends up holding us back in adulthood. Through a combo of personal anecdotes and some in-your-face statistics and studies, Saujani challenges readers, especially women, to embrace imperfection and live a bolder life.

Read by the author

cover image of American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson

American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson

I am high-key obsessed with spy stories and I love Bahni Turpin, so this audiobooks is kind of a no brainer for me. The fact that it comes highly recommended by several Rioters only made the decision that much easier! Marie is a young Black woman working as an FBI agent in the 1980s. She’s in a career rut when she’s approached by the CIA to spy on the president of Burkina Faso; she has her reservations, but figures she may be able to leverage some information of her own if she takes the gig. But as any spy novel aficionado worth their salt knows, that spy life is hashtag complicated: she finds herself sympathizing with her target and thus questioning her loyalties.

Read by Bahni Turpin (The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron, Dread Nation and Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland, The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead…all of the things!)

cover image of Death in D Minor by Alexia Gordon

Death in D Minor by Alexia Gordon

I’ve been in the mood for a cozy mystery set during the holidays, and it just so happens that the second book in the Gethsemane Brown series takes place over Christmas. Gethsemane Brown is a Black American classical musician who expatriated to an Irish village for a job when she was down on her luck in Murder in G Major. Then as one does, she made friends with a snarky ghost who helped her solve a string of murders and led a school orchestra to victory in a major competition. Now our whisky-drinking, music-playing sleuth in preparing for a little rest over the Christmas break—or not! Her ghost buddy has disappeared, her landlord’s wants to sell her cottage to a skeezy hotel developer, and the brother-in-law who’s shown up to visit unexpectedly has been accused of stealing a valuable antique. It’s up to Gethsemane to go undercover and solve the case.

Read by Helen Duff who also read most of the books in this series as well as a ton of work by Lisa Jewell (Then She Was Gone, I Found You, The Family Upstairs)

From the Internets

Say “I Do” to Love with 5 Wedding Audiobooks – I cosign C.L. Polk’s The Midnight Bargain!

Over at the Riot

at Audiofile: 8 great poetry audiobooks performed by their authors – You know how much I love listening to Danez Smith’s poetry out loud!

at BuzzFeed: 23 Audiobooks That Were Really Popular in 2020

at Libro.fm: 12 Bestselling Audiobooks Across Genres (solid list there!), plus How Real Booksellers Are Faring This Holiday Season: Part II

For my Procrastinator Posse: don’t forget that audiobook memberships make great last minute gifts! Go here for Libro.fm and here for Audible.


That’s all she wrote (literally)! 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
Audiobooks

Audiobooks 12/17/20

Hola Audiophiles! It’s that time, time for my favorite audiobooks of the year! This process always makes me so nervous because I hate having to leave out other books I love, and because not all of the wonderful books I read in a year are ones I read on audio. Nevertheless, I am pretty proud of the list of books I have for you today and hope you enjoy them.

Ready? Let’s audio.


My Favorite Audiobooks of 2020

cover image of Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert

Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert

contemporary romance

PhD candidate Dani Brown is in a serious sexy times slump, so she asks the goddess Oshun for a no-strings-attached partner with whom to get it on and poppin’. Enter Zafir, a sexy security guard at her university, who rescues Dani in a fire drill gone wrong. A video of the rescue goes viral and a hashtag is born (#DrRugbae- did I mention Zaf is a former pro rugby player?) as the internet assumes the two are a couple. Rather than quell the rumors, Dani and Zaf enter into a fakelationship so Zaf can parlay this newfound publicity to benefit the charity he runs. But wouldn’t you know it? Real feelings make their way into this fake—and steamy–arrangement.

What I love about it: Dani is so driven, confident, and unapologetically bisexual. Zaf ain’t here for that toxic masculinity BS: he reads romance novels and goes to therapy. The communication between Zaf and Dani is #goals.

Read by Ione Butler (who will also read the next book in the Brown Sisters series, Act Your Age, Eve Brown, out on 3/9/21!)

A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow by Laura Taylor Namey

YA fiction

Lila Reyes has just graduated from high school and is supposed to take over the family panadería with her sister, move in with her bestie, and live happily ever after with her boo. Instead, her best friend bails on her, her boyfriend dumps her, and her abuela passes away suddenly. Concerned for her mental health after an alarming episode, her parents send her to England to stay with family and hopefully clear her head. Lila goes kicking and screaming, immediately finding ways to be annoyed by the people, the weather, and the quaint countryside setting that’s very unlike Miami. Just when she’s decided England isn’t her cup of tea (heh), she meets Orion, a teashop clerk who shows her all that she’s been missing.

What I love about it: All the Spanish and all of the pastry talk (mmm pastelitos and Chelsea buns) plus a real depiction of the struggles of dealing with grief. Lila’s relationship with her sister leaps off the page and made me want to call my cousin/BFF immediately. I will say Frankie Corzo’s take on a make English accent was… not my favorite, but I’m willing to overlook it for the rest of the positives.

Read by Frankie Corzo, who I think I’m calling my 2020 Narrator of the Year (Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Incendiary by Zoraida Cordova)

When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole

thriller

I stand by this statement: go into this knowing as little as possible and prepare to be wowed. All I will tell you is that it’s a thriller and there’s gentrification involved. That’s it. Go!

What I love about it: HA! Did you think I’d give up the secrets now? Wrong! Let’s just say Alyssa Cole made me redefine what I find terrifying.

Read by Susan Dalian (the voice of Haku in the first season of Naruto and Storm in Wolverine and the X-Men) and Jay Aeseng (writer/actor/producer who you may know from the Twin Peaks TV series).

The Switch by Beth O’Leary

romantic comedy

Leena Cotton is dealing with a ton of unprocessed grief. When her job sends her on a mandatory paid holiday for two months, she leaves London and escapes to Yorkshire to visit her grandmother Eileen. Eileen is newly divorced and in the mood for adventure, so Leena helps her set up a dating app profile. When they discover the dating pool in the countryside is a bit limited, they come up with a plan to switch places for two months. Leena will live in Eileen’s home in the country and assume her grandmother’s daily duties, and Eileen will stay at Leena’s flat in London and dive headfirst into London’s dating scene. Both are way out of their element and it’s a bumpy ride at first, but they slowly come around to each of their new surroundings, meeting a love interest or two along the way.

What I love about it: the rare portrayal of an older woman in the dating scene. Breaking news: women in their 50s and beyond have sex lives!

Read by Alison Steadman and Daisy Edgar-Jones (Several reviews for this delightful book are critical of Alison Steadman’s performance for excessive mouth/smacking sounds, and I am here to defend my adopted English grandma. Yes, some of those noises are present; they never bothered me once, the performance felt authentic).

cover image of Murder on Cold Street by Sherry Thomas

Murder on Cold Street by Sherry Thomas

historical mystery

You know Lady Sherlock is my favorite Sherlock! Charlotte Holmes is back to investigate a murder case that implicates Scotland Yard inspector Robert Treadles. I inhaled this book in two days and wish I’d savored it longer!

What I love about it: I’m a sucker in general for mysteries set in Victorian England, but this one is so special because of the gender-flipped Sherlock element. The protagonist is an empowered woman living on her terms, including an insistence on sexual agency, and is very vocal about her appreciation for cake.

Read by Kate Reading (A Study in Scarlet Women and the rest of the book in the Lady Sherlock series, The Witching Hour by Anne Rice)

Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall

romance

Luc O’Donnell is the son of rockstar parents who split up when he was a kid. His in-and-out-of-rehab dad is planning a comeback which means Luc is put in the public eye, and a compromising photo lands Luc in hot water at the charity where he works. Fearing that Luc’s “particular variety of queer” will hurt the charity’s image, his boss orders him to find a nice, normal, fake boyfriend to clean up his image. Luc decides straight-laced, squeaky-clean barrister Oliver is the perfect partner to fake date, and Oliver agrees to the arrangement for work-related image issues of his own. They appear to have tragically little in common, but the more time they spend together… *raises and lowers eyebrows knowingly*

What I love about it: Luc is just a charming mess, and it’s so satisfying to watch him work through his issues even when he gets it wrong (#relatable). Oliver seems uptight, but he’s actually a total cinnamon roll beneath that polished exterior.

Read by Joe Jameson (The Third Wife by Lisa Jewell, and may I just say that every time he said “Lucien” with that gorgeous accent, I was reminded of the human capacity to feel attraction for a person you’ve never met or seen).

Homie by Danez Smith

poetry

My favorite description of this book used to be one from this interview at Them calling it a book “hellbent on envisioning a world where queer Black joy exists not as a release but as a constant reality, while still recognizing the current state of affairs.” I do believe my new favorite is this one in Smith’s own words: “Homie is a book that says it’s about friendship and intimacy just like that guy that sent you 13 d*ck pics just now. But at the end of the day, it is really about so much more…. it’s about depression, it’s about suicidal ideation, it’s about men who f*cking suck. It’s about everything that a life can be about, and just about how friendship is that net that can catch you.” (Watch that and a reading here; just FYI, it’s a link to Grindr’s YouTube page. Do not at me with any clutching of pearls).

What I love about it: It’s a powerful, hilarious, heart-wrenching love letter to Black queer friendship on its own, but Smith reading their poetry aloud like it was intended takes it to a whole new level of slap-you-across-the-face impactful.

Read by the author.

Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman

historical fiction

I only just read Practical Magic last year and wondered what the hell took me so long, but on second thought, I played that pretty cool: unlike the folks who had to wait literal decades for The Rules of Magic, I got the read all three of the books about the Owens sisters almost back to back. In Magic Lessons, we go way way back and learn the story of the OG Owens witch Maria, and find out what the deal really is with the Owens curse. I am so in love with these books, I grieve their ending.

What I love about it: Put witches in any book and I’m already one foot in. Make those witches powerful, kind, bold, self-assured, headstrong, and fiercely protective of one another? I melt.

Read by Sutton Foster, who’s the star of the Younger TV adaptation, and reads the audiobook it’s based on, Older: A Younger Novel by Pamela Redmond.

Disfigured by Amanda Leduc

nonfiction

Have you ever noticed that the villains in popular fairly tales are disfigured in some way or that disability is their punishment for being evil? Or that the princesses and princes who find love aren’t ever disabled, or if they are, they only find love only after their hideous disfigurement has been shaken off? Yikes. I thought I kinda already knew that the fairy tales of the West have major ableist tones, but reading this book really just circles all that’s wrong with those depictions in bright red ink. Able-bodied privilege has kept many of us from thinking critically about the implications of ableist messaging in these beloved stories, from Brothers Grimm to Hans Christian Andersen to the Disney machine. This #ownvoices book is a must read.

What I love about it: It’s no one’s job to make able-bodied people feel more comfortable about learning all that we get wrong about disability, but this book manages to feel like a call-in. Again, Amanda Leduc doesn’t owe anybody that, but this audiobook felt like a respected friend was telling me to have a seat and learn,

Read by the author

The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon

romance

This is the first in a new series about three women who become instant BFFs after the live tweeting of a terrible date leads them to an unfortunate discovery: they’ve all been catfished by the same loser! In the wake of their newfound viral fame, Samiah, London, and Taylor bond over Moscow mules and make a no-dating pact: for the next six months, they’ll take a break from men and dating to focus on themselves. Of course, this is precisely when a new hottie starts at Samiah’s office, making her seriously reconsider the pact.

What I love about it: Where do I start!? There’s the exploration of the role of race and gender in workplace dynamics, specifically Black women’s experience in STEM; a friendship between self-assured and empowered women who know their worth (and when to say no to catfishing f*ck boys); a fun, sexy, and satisfying romance.

Read by Je Nie Fleming (And Now She’s Gone by Rachel Howzell Hall, How Long ’til Black Future Month? by N. K. Jemisin)

From the Internets

If you’re still looking for holiday gifts, consider an audiobook gift membership through Libro.fm! You pick the membership (1, 3, 6, or 12 months/credits), and your gift recipients get to choose their own audiobooks. As a bonus, when you buy a 12-month audiobook gift membership through your participating indie, that store will get half of the retail price on those sales—that’s $90 from your purchase! Or you can get yourself a membership because you deserve.

also at Libro.fm: How Real Booksellers Are Faring This Holiday Season: Part I

at Audiofile: 5 Family Mystery Audiobooks to Share

at Real Simple: 10 Best Books (and Audiobooks) to Read When You’re Busy and Stressed

Best Audiobooks lists from Slate, The Washington Post

at Lifehacker: 8 Audiobooks You’ll Love as Much as Their Adaptations

at USA Today: Top audiobook narrators read The Night Before Christmas

Over at the Riot

8 of the Best Audiobooks Narrated by Emily Woo Zeller


Catch you all next week—just one more newsletter left in the year! 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
Audiobooks

Audiobooks 12/10/20

Hola Audiophiles, and Happy Thursday! Thank you so much to everyone who wrote in to tell me about your favorite audiobooks. I had to look up a few of those to confirm they came out in 2020 and almost every one of them did. Whew, this pandemic has destroyed my sense of time!

Ready? Let’s audio.


Audiophiles Weigh In: Your Favorite Audiobooks of 2020

All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto by George M. Johnson

A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green

Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall

The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Code Name Hélène: A Novel by Ariel Lawhon 

Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

Furia by Yamile Saied Mendez

The Girl With the Louding Voice by Abi Dare

Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots

Is Rape a Crime? by Michelle Bowdler 

Long Bright River by Liz Moore

Loveless by Alice Oseman

Memorial Drive by Natasha Trethewey

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno Garcia

Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong

Network Effect by Martha Wells

Our Bodies, Their Battlefields by Christina Lamb

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

Squeeze Me by Carl Hiassen

Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert

We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Berry

When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole

Writers & Lovers by Lily King

Honorable Mentions (books not released in 2020)

3 Mages and a Margarita by Annette Marie (and the entire Guild Codex: Spellbound series)

The Wandering Inn by Pirate Aba (and The Wandering Inn series)

Everything by Molly Harper and Patricia Briggs

Latest Listens

A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow by Laura Taylor Namey

Your girl’s podcast obligations for the year are put to bed and that means it’s 100% pleasure reading for me right now! I knew I had to finally pick up this highly recommended book because hello, Latinas in England + tea is the most my jam.

When we first meet Lila Reyes, she’s super grumps. She was supposed to take over the family panadería with her sister, move into her first apartment with her bestie, and live happily ever after with her boo thang, pero… Instead, her best friend bailed on her, her boyfriend dumped her right before prom (rude!), and she’s still grieving the sudden loss of her abuela pretty hard. Concerned for her mental health, her parents ship her off to England to stay with family against her will in the hopes that the trip will clear her head. Lila agrees to go but she sure isn’t happy about it, landing at Heathrow with a scowl, a stank attitude, and not a single sweater packed in protest. Our girl is pure Cubana, Miami born and raised; she not used to or prepared for the people, the weather, and the quaint countryside setting she’s to call home for the next three months. But then!!! Just when she’s decided England isn’t her cup of tea (wink wink), she meets Orion, a teashop clerk who appoints himself her personal tour guide and shows her all that she’s been missing.

I was low-key annoyed with Lila at first for being so salty about the trip while I’m stuck inside praying for a vaccine. Pobrecita Lila, so burdened with this all-expenses-paid trip to one of my favorite places in the world! But I found my frigid heart melting right along with Lila’s as she began to let loose and find herself, especially when she got to flex in the kitchen and show off those finely tuned baking skills. There’s a lot to love in this cinnamon roll of a book; the romance is sweet and faith-restoring; the idyllic country setting made me long for strolls down cobblestone lanes, lunch at a local pub, and a proper afternoon tea; all the pastry talk made my mouth water for scones, buns, pan Cubano, and pastelitos with guava and cheese. But what really set this book apart for me was Lila’s relationship to her family, especially with her sister and abuela. Those dynamics made me long for my own hometown with all it’s sunshine, Latin flavors, and the people in it. Do yourself a favor and treat yourself to this book; it’ll make you want to call a person you love, whip up a sweet, buttery treat, and perhaps even dare you to bet on yourself.

Read by Frankie Corzo (Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton, Incendiary by Zoraida Cordova, Each of Us a Desert by Mark Oshiro)

From the Internets

Libro.fm reminds us of 12 reasons to gift audiobooks. Shop small and gift big!

Last week Audiofile shared their best overall audiobook picks of 2020; they also have specific Best of 2020 lists for romance and sci-fi, fantasy, and horror.

Audible has rounded up their best interviews and features of 2020.

Over at the Riot

October’s over, but scary is always in season! Here are some of the best audiobooks that fit the bill.

Here are six summer audiobooks for readers in the Southern Hemisphere, or anyone who likes reading about warmer locales no matter the weather outside their door.

On balancing audiobooks and podcasts during quarantine—whew, this takes work for me.


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