December Giveaway #2

It’s our last mailbag giveaway of the year. We’ve got mysteries, romance, fantasy, and the new Zadie Smith! One winner will get the whole pile (this giveaway is open internationally).

Go here to enter for your chance to win, or just click on the image below.


The Goods

30% Off E-Gift Cards


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Riot Rundown


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The Stack


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Audiobooks!: December 29, 2016

This week’s Audiobooks! Newsletter is sponsored by Penguin Random House Audio.

Start off the new year with some inspiring audiobooks! From personal improvement, to spiritual listens, to health and fitness advice, audiobooks are a great way to digest this useful content while on the go! Visit for listening suggestions.

It’s Lin-Manuel Miranda! Lin-Manuel freaking Miranda narrates The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, you guys!!

brief-wondrous-life-of-oscar-wao-audio-lin-manuel-mirandaFirst published in 2007, Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao won a Pulitzer in 2008 and is now finally here on audio, read by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Karen Olivo.

Díaz’s classic novel tells the story of Oscar, a sweet lovesick nerd with Dominican roots who lives in New Jersey. He dreams of becoming the Dominican J.R.R. Tolkien and finding love someday, but his family is haunted by a curse that dooms them to prison, torture, tragic accidents, and ill-starred love.

I just started listening to my copy, and there’s no better team than Lin-Manuel Miranda and Karen Olivo to bring out the book’s warmth, humor, shenanigans, and insight. Miranda narrated Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe before he was the most super duper famous person on the planet, and it’s objectively one of the best audiobooks of this century. This is the first novel he’s narrated since he created Hamilton, and I’m so excited about what this could mean for the future. Will Lin-Manuel Miranda continue to use his platform to amplify marginalized stories through audiobooks? A girl can dream! Do yourself a solid and listen to a clip here.

Problems Only Audiobook Listeners Understand

“#1: You realize the audiobook isn’t postmodern, you’ve just been listening to it on shuffle by accident.” (Ahem, please tell me I’m not the only one.) Book Riot contributor Sonja Palmer compiled this (hilarious) list of all the problems we’ve encountered while trying to enjoy our audiobook habit. What would you add?

Only 2 Days Left to Get Invisible Man for Free

Invisible ManWe talked about this last month, but enough of you are new here (hi! welcome!) that I think we’re due for another PSA: go download Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man for free, right now. It’s been free through Audible since November, and will continue to be free for just 2 more days thru Saturday, December 31.

Invisible Man is a 1952 classic about an unnamed narrator whose black skin makes him invisible in a segregated society, and it’s universally beloved as one of the greatest American novels of all time. The founder of Audible, who was Ralph Ellison’s student at NYU, says Ellison’s love of oral tradition and spoken word are what inspired him to create Audible in the first place. Now go download Invisible Man for real if you haven’t yet!

I Got Lost in London and I Blame Audiobooks

Woman runner running in fall autumn forestYou know that feeling when an audiobook is SO great that you miss your exit, or worse, get completely and utterly lost in a city you know like the back of your hand? When Book Riot contributor Aisling Twomey picked up an audiobook subscription to help her break out of her running rut, she found herself in exactly this situation. Read on to find out which audiobook is to blame!

What's Up in YA

Your Favorite 2016 YA Books & Under-The-Radar Picks

Hey YA Fans!


We’re giving away a $250 gift card to Barnes & Noble for a shopping spree. Go here to enter.  


One of my favorite things is hearing about your favorite reads and the reads you think deserve more attention. It’s interesting not just because it means hearing about the books that you loved, but it’s interesting because what I see or have seen as a “big book” isn’t always the case with readers. I saw this play out a couple of times in your lists which is neat to see.

Since many of us are in a holiday seasonal quiet time, let’s get in and get out with this one. Here are your top 16 books from 2016. They are in no particular order, since I didn’t bother ranking and counting; the clear favorites were very clear. I’m linking straight to the Amazon descriptions so you can see what the books are about if you want more details — I don’t want to spoil any of the details for the books here that aren’t first in a series.

I hope some of these are surprise favorites, like they were to me! As much as I love seeing your top picks, it’s interesting to see what titles that did really well this last year didn’t end up on this list.


the-girl-from-everywhere-by-heidi-heiligA Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Exit, Pursued By A Bear by EK Johnston (also scored high on the “deserves more attention” list)

The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig (also scored high on the “deserves more attention” list)

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

The Iron Cast by Destiny Soria

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

The Reader by Traci Chee

Salt To The Sea by Ruta Sepetys

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

summer-days-and-summer-nightsSummer Days and Summer Nights edited by Stephanie Perkins

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp (also scored high on the “deserves more attention” list — this one was and continues to be a big New York Times Bestseller, so that was surprising to see!)

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

A Torch Against The Night by Sabaa Tahir

When The Moon Was Ours by Anne Marie McLemore


I noted above some of the titles that also scored high on the “needs more attention” list. I’m keeping those titles above and not replicating them here, since we should see 16 fresh titles on this list. And, like above, links go to Amazon for description purposes.

This list is fascinating, from both the perspective of what titles made it, which titles I saw so many readers rave about over the last year, and more, how this list features more inclusive titles than the favorites list. That doesn’t surprise me, given how we know about publicity and marketing and how often it’s the diverse titles which fall under the radar.

But alas, this is a great reading list! Again, not in any order except alphabetical by title.


art-of-holding-on-and-letting-goThe Art of Holding On and Letting Go by Kristin Bartley Lenz

The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch, Volume 2 by Daniel Kraus

The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter

The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love by Sarvenaz Tash

Girl In Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

The Last True Love Story by Brendan Kiely

The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

the-smaller-evilMy Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier

The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry

The Smaller Evil by Stephanie Kuehn

The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters

Still A Work in Progress by Jo Knowles

Up To This Pointe by Jennifer Longo

We Are The Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson
A few more under-the-radar picks from your newsletter editor: Emily Hainsworth’s Take The Fall (super Twin Peaks-like!), Meet Me Here by Bryan Bliss, Break Me Like A Promise by Tiffany Schmidt (start with the first book in the duology, Hold Me Like A Breath), Cherry by Lindsey Rosin, and A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry.


Thanks for hanging out this year with “What’s Up in YA.” Hopefully, you’ve found some really great reading, and more, that you spend your next week curled up with a book that ends the year in the best way possible. We’ll be back next week with a special edition of the newsletter, featuring the most anticipated 2017 books from a variety of awesome YA authors (prepare your TBR, for real!).

Unusual Suspects

2016 Under-the Radar Mysteries, & More Mystery/Thriller News

I am trapped between elation over 2016 finally coming to an end and terror over 2017 beginning. Since I have yet to find a time traveling DeLorean, I have no option but to continue with time as it’s presented. Because of this I’ve decided to do a bit of a different newsletter this time and will be rounding up my favorite mystery-related things of 2016 and talking about upcoming things in 2017 that I am excited for.

We’ll start with Best Of 2016 lists for mystery books!

Or at least that’s what my intention was, BUT my plan crashed and burned like 2016 when I realized people are still putting out lists that would make readers think authors of color don’t even exist. Kirkus Reviews managed to choose 18 mysteries for Best of 2016 and 17 are by white authors. That feels like it takes effort to do. Or, you know, a lot of conscious/unconscious bias. The Wall Street Journal and The Seattle Times apparently met their quota of 1 out of 10, and in what I can only imagine is the worst game ever (where everyone loses) Publishers Weekly and The Washington Post tried to outdo everyone by actually having all-white author lists. I just finished writing about the problem with the Goodreads Choice Awards—spoiler, all white authors—and here we are again.

I know for a fact that there were a lot of great mystery books written by non-white authors this year because I read a bunch and quite a few are on my Best Of list. NPR also put together a great list—although I have to note that as much as I LOVE The Regional Office Is Under Attack! audiobook, I would not categorize it under mystery. I really wanted to use this space to talk about the various lists and books on them but I honestly would be doing readers a disservice if I did because the mystery genre, starting from the top of publishing, needs to have a long hard discussion/thinking about how and why anyone is still publishing lists that only promote white authors as being the best.

2016 mystery/thrillers that may not have crossed your path but should have:

betty-boo-by-claudia-pin%cc%83eiroBetty Boo by Claudia Piñeiro, Miranda France (Translation): The novel starts with a murder, but rather than having the urgency of must-solve, it becomes a character driven novel which follows a novelist (semi-retired after her last book bombed), a crime writing journalist (punished and moved off of his crime section), and the new wet-behind-the-ears crime journalist as they try to piece together the murder of a man three years after his wife was murdered. You get a good mystery that it is solved at the end, but what I loved most about this novel were the characters and the exploration of gender roles, youth vs. middle age, gated communities, and the secrets we live with.

the-english-teacher-by-yiftach-reicher-atirThe English Teacher by Yiftach Reicher Atir, Philip Simpson (Translator), Charlotte Albanna (Narrator): I really enjoyed the audiobook of this spy novel. It was different from what I’m used to, in that rather than being a fast-paced, heart-pounding thriller, it simmered and took you into former Mossad agent Rachel Goldschmitt’s life, sharing how she became an agent, while giving the details I find spy novels usually skip. While not comparable to the USA Network show Covert Affairs, the audiobook did manage to briefly fill that void I’ve been feeling since the show was canceled. For interesting backstory on the novel: A true Mossad spy story that didn’t really happen.

Want to see the gigantic list of submissions for the Edgar® Award? Here you go!

2016 mystery/thrillers I didn’t get to that are rolling over like cell phone minutes to my 2017 must-read list:

study-in-scarlet-womenThe Kingdom by Fuminori Nakamura

Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh

The Trap by Melanie Raabe

A Study in Scarlet Women (Lady Sherlock #1) by Sherry Thomas

Death at Breakfast by Beth Gutcheon

Unknown Caller by Debra Spark

I’m counting down the days for Attica Locke’s crime novels!

I haven’t actually heard any more news—fingers crossed it hasn’t been pushed back to 2018—but I haven’t forgotten the announcement that Attica Locke has two crime novels coming, the first in fall of 2017.

Publishing News:

Kate Carlisle’s Fixer-Upper Mystery series sounds like a fun cozy-mystery series.

In case you missed these 2016 articles/posts:

Troy L. Wiggins’ The Unique Crime Fiction Perspectives of Black and Latinx Women

NPR’s The ‘Girl’ In The Title: More Than A Marketing Trend

Liberty recommends books to read after binge watching Making a Murderer.

Interview with a Bookstore: The Mysterious Bookshop

Free coloring page download of Amy Stewart’s Girl Waits with Gun and Lady Cop Makes Trouble covers.

Elle’s 6 Books You Need to Read This December, including mystery.

BuzzFeed’s The Girl on the Train and Women’s Dark Fantasies

Bill Morris’ Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine Turns 75

Leaving Netflix and premiere reminder:

Murder, She Wrote will no longer be streaming on Netflix starting January 1st so get your binge on now!

Reminder that Sherlock returns with ‘The Six Thatchers’ on January 1st.

Until next time, keep investigating! And in the meantime feel free to come talk books with me on Litsy, you can find me under Jamie Canaves.









Kissing Books

5 Lesbian and Gay Holiday Romances to Read This Season (dev)

The holidays are a complicated time for many people, but since we’re all readers, I’m sure we can all relate to curling up with a book during cold weather or looking for some escape from family bonding time. There’s a big draw for holiday romances because for some, they really help bring in that warm and fuzzy holiday spirit, the kind of feeling only match by a hot mug of tea or cocoa (preferably with a little splash of an alcohol of your choosing). These lesbian and gay holiday romances will be sure to match that wintry coziness for both readers new to the genre or simply want to add more holiday romances to their collection. As a note, I did have some trouble finding romances that include asexual and transgender characters, so if you know of any you’d love to recommend, leave a comment!

Unwrap These Presents by VariousUnwrap These Presents edited by Astrid Ohletz and R.G. Emanuelle

I always recommend anthologies to readers who are just dipping their toes into a new genre, but anthologies are also a great way for readers, in general, to try a variety of authors at one time. Not all the stories may be winners, but you’re bound to walk away with a few favorites and some new authors to check out. Unwrap These Presents is a collection of lesbian holiday romances with a pretty diverse cast of characters. With twenty-three stories, there are heroines of all sizes who celebrate more than just Christmas! As a bonus, proceeds of the anthology will go toward the Albert Kennedy Trust in the UK and the Ali Forney Center in New York City, which are both organizations which help homeless LGBT youth.

Let It Snow by Heidi CullinanLet It Snow by Heidi Cullinan

Let It Snow is the first book in Cullinan’s Minnesota Christmas series, so if you are a fan of gay romance and snowy, Midwest settings, you may want to binge read these books. This is also an opposites attract, city-mouse-country-mouse romance between a pretty adorable stylist, Frankie and a gruff, former Minneapolis lawyer named Marcus. The story has so many layers beneath its cozy, winter cover and is more than just a saccharinely sweet holiday romance (which is one of the reasons I’m so picky about holiday books). There’s also a bit of an age difference between Frankie and Marcus, so if that’s not your bag, I highly recommend giving one of the other Minnesota Christmas books a try.

A Family for Christmas by Jay NorthcoteA Family for Christmas by Jay Northcote

A shy hero. A workplace crush. A fake relationship. If any of these things appeal to you, pick this up, immediately! Zac has no real family to speak of, growing up in a series of foster homes. So when coworker, Rudy, invites him to spend the holidays with him and his family, the potential to have a real holiday surrounded by Christmas spirit is a temptation he can’t resist. But when Rudy’s mom assumes her son has found some happiness with a new boyfriend, the two men don’t have the heart to tell her the truth. As someone who rarely has a good holiday season with family and is dating someone whose family is bursting with holiday cheer, I really understood Zac’s internalized struggle about fitting in and not being good enough. But I promise that Rudy’s family hijinks temper Zac’s broodiness and angst.

Under a Falling Star by JaeUnder a Falling Star by Jae

Adorable, holiday hijinks ensue in this lesbian romance! Austen is the new secretary at a gaming company in Portland and her first assignment is to decorate the company tree. But when the topper on the tree falls and hits another employee, Dee, in the head, Austen is worried she already might be out of the job. Dee instantly blames her attraction to Austen on her head trauma because, whether or not Austen is aware, Dee is the second in command at the company. And of course, workplace relationships between a boss and an employee never turn out well. This romance is perfect for those who like their romances sweet and a little bit silly.

Whiteout by Elyse SpringerWhiteout by Elyse Springer

This holiday romance isn’t coming out until after the holidays, but with snow still on the ground in parts of the world in January when it releases, I’m counting it because oh. em. gee. Springer puts a different spin on the typical Hallmark movie-esque quality of holiday romances by throwing in some good, ol amnesia! Noah wakes up in a cabin with no memory of what happened and who the attractive man is who’s taking care of him. As his memories slowly begin to come back, he starts to realize who his caretaker is and how Noah wound up in this scenario. It’s twisty and mysterious and reminds me a little bit of if M. Night Shyamalan wrote gay romance. I should also note that this is the first book in the Seasons of Love series. The next book, Thaw, features a lesbian romance between a librarian and a supermodel and I’m all sorts of excited!

True Story

A Reading List for Understanding the Media in 2016 (dev)

A few years ago, I was teaching a digital journalism course at a local college. It was a dream job in a lot of ways: I had a small group of enthusiastic students and the freedom to choose my own readings. We examined the news, and how it was reported, as it happened. And because the digital landscape was constantly changing, so was the course. I was always reading and changing the syllabus.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about how I’d update my syllabus to account for 2016. How would I teach my student my students to deal with a media landscape in which any fact can (and will be) disputed? In which reporters are targeted? With a president-elect who lies often and blatantly? With implicit bias in major news organizations, and fake news churned out by small ones?

This reading list (much of which is my own TBR) grew out of that. It has all the information I wish I could teach my former students, were I teaching this year: history, context, racial bias in the media, ethics, an examination of why people hate the press, and essays about the media’s role in a digital and contentious world.

For a background in digital media:

online-news-by-stuart-allanOnline News: Journalism and the Internet, by Stuart Allan –  I actually did assign this book to my class, and you should know something: it’s dry and my students haaaaated it. BUT (and this is the important “but” I’d give my students when they started to complain about their reading) it provides an essential history of news and the Internet, going back to the Oklahoma City bombing. If you want to understand how the news got online, and how that changed the industry and how we think of news,  this book delivers.

Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, by Clay Shirky – This book’s not so much about media as it is about using the Internet to organize, but its focus on the Internet makes it an important resource for anyone who wants to understand the Internet’s influence on the news. It’s a little dated (MySpace is mentioned), but it is an exploration of how the Internet has changed the way we connect with one another, and that includes the media.

The Master Switch, by Tim Wu – This book, also not strictly about the news, is a slightly more jaded examination of the Internet. Wu focuses on the information industry’s history, pointing out that all information industries, from the telephone to the Internet, start in a lawless, free, chaotic state, until a corporation clamps down and privitizes. This book may point at the future of the Internet and the media.

For an understanding of media distrust:

Getting It Wrong: Debunking the Greatest Myths in American Journalism, by W. Joseph Campbell – The media’s mandate is the truth, but so many of its own stories aren’t true. In this second edition, W. Joseph Campbell examines the biggest media-driven myths — from Watergate to the Internet age — describing how these myths “feed stereotypes, distort understanding about the news media, and deflect blame from policymakers.” (It may sting a little to read this if you’re a journalist, but hey, hydrogen peroxide only stings when it’s working, right?)

trust-me-im-lying-by-ryan-holidayTrust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator, by Ryan Holiday Why yes, the media is often manipulated. Why yes, it’s easy for someone who knows how. I feel a little queasy about putting this book by media strategist Ryan Holiday on the list, but any student of media should know the press’s weak points.

Why Democracies Need an Unloveable Press, by Michael Schudson – Everybody looooves to hate the media. This was true way before this election, it was true before the Internet was a thing, and it’s probably been true since the first newspaper was published back in Rome. This book, by sociologist Michael Schudson, addresses the relationship between the media and democracy and examines what public knowledge is, and what it should be.

Understanding racial bias in the news:

Within the Veil: Black Journalists, White Media, by Pamela Newkirk – This book is from 2002, a time when — although there were a number of black reporters in newsrooms — they often faced resistance from editors and their papers when they tried to tell stories that challenged the white mainstream narrative. Newkirk tells stories of racial struggle within newsrooms across the country, as black reporters tried to challenge stereotypes, depict African-American communiteis fairly and honestly, and simply do their jobs. This book may be 14 years old, but it’s just as relevant as ever.

race-baiter-by-eric-deggansRace-Baiter: How the Media Wields Dangerous Words to Divide a Nation , by Eric Deggans — Veteran journalist Eric Deggans’s 2012 book is tailor-made for this year. Deggans examines the way that today’s media courts readers and clicks by exploiting their prejudices. While Newkirk writes about news organizations suffering from entrenched racial prejudices, Deggans writes about the news organizations that deliberately weaponize them, and the consequences of those articles.

News For All The People: The Epic Story of Race and the American Media, by Juan Gonzalez and Joseph Torres – It’s no secret that the media is responsible for shaping our cultural narrative, and that means that the media disseminates prejudices and images that contribute to racial oppression. This book examines the history of race and news from the colonial age to segregation, to the present day, and tells the stories of Black, Latino, Asian, and Native American journalists.

Guidelines for 21st century journalism:

the-new-ethics-of-journalism-by-kelly-mcbrideThe New Ethics of Journalism: Principles for the 21st Century, edited by Kelly McBride and Tom Rosenstiel – I’m reading this book, which was put out by Poynter, right now. The book’s goal is to come up with guiding ethical principals for the 21st century, but the essays themselves — which examine the role of media in the Internet age — (for example,  how do you report in a “post-fact” age?) are the most interesting part.

The New Censorship: Inside the Global Battle for Media Freedom,by Joel Simon – Few discussions of journalism focus on the threat to journalists themselves. This book, put out by the Columbia Journalism Review, discusses the danger that individual journalists are in across the globe, by governments, militants, and terrorists, among others. The threat to journalists is also a threat to journalism, because when reporters are surveilled, threatened or killed, public information suffers. Joel Simon proposes 10 priorities for combating this new censorship and a global free-expression charter


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