Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2024) Featured Review: The Black Queen by Jumata Emill

  • The Black Queen
  • by Jumata Emill
  • Narrated by Angel Pean and Erin Spencer
  • Publisher: Listening Library/Peguin Random House
  • Publication Date: January 31, 2023
  • ISBN: 9780593667699

Nova Albright is the first Black homecoming queen of Lovett High. Murdered on coronation night and found in a cemetery she was helping advocate for funds to maintain, the investigation to find her killer creates shockwaves and turns relationships upside down in the town. Among a cast of characters, Nova’s best friend Duchess Simmons, and her competitor for homecoming queen, Tinsley McArthur, stand out as their independent desires for justice join forces to see who can solve the case. Race, history, trauma, and family secrets unfold in this modern-day murder mystery. 

The alternating voices add depth to the story and keep listeners in suspense. Additional chimes and bells mimic the high school setting. Jumata Emill’s criminal journalism experience builds the fast-paced twists and turns of a suspenseful thriller. Angel Pean and Erin Spencer bring excitement, anger, and sadness with their tone, volume, and emotion.  

Mystery readers who deep dive into thriller and social themes like structural racism or readers who enjoyed One of the Good Ones by Maika and Maritza Mouilite, One of Us is Lying series inspired by Karen M. McManus’ novel or Bad Things Happen Here by Rebecca Barrow, will have a compelling time with The Black Queen by Jumata Emill.

-Ileana Pulu

Other Nominated Titles

Released February 28, 2023

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.

Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2024) Featured Review: Chaos Theory by Nic Stone

  • Chaos Theory
  • by Nic Stone
  • Narrated by Nic Stone and Dion Graham
  • Publisher: Books on Tape/Listening Library
  • Publication Date: February 28, 2023
  • ISBN: 9780593609422

Shelbi and Andy meet through an errant text message. Walter Andy Criddle’s DUI, totaled car, six-month driving suspension and lost wallet along with a text to a random stranger leads to a pact of friendship between two individuals who are truly in need of a friend. Told in alternating voices of Shelbi, a sixteen-year-old doing her best to live with bipolar disorder, and Andy, a high school senior dealing with the issues within his family through alcohol, you’ll learn of Shebi’s intellect, supportive parents and struggle. Andy talks of parents, their treatment of him and the tragedy that broke them. Friendship evolves to potential romance but each will need to address their own situation for the relationship to survive.  

Both characters are dealing with issues that are illustrated well throughout the story. Text message dialogue interspersed throughout gives additional insight to each Shelbi and Andy. Shelbi’s fear of relying on Andy and backsliding on the progress she has made and Andy’s grief and anger are evident in their dialogue. Andy’s parents are almost completely hands-off, unless it reflects on his politician mother, while Shelbi’s parents are compassionate, kind and loving. All of which together tells a heartbreaking, tender and heartwarming love story. 

Shelbi is narrated by the author while Andy is narrated by Dion Graham. The expert narration as well as the author’s handling of controversial topics makes this the perfect recommendation for teens experiencing similar situations or who want to better understand the issues addressed.

Readers of Nic Stone’s previous books Dear Martin and Dear Justye, Solo by Kwame Alexander or Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo will enjoy this story of dealing with addiction, grief, mental health challenges, and family issues. 

–Lysha Thompson

Other Nominated Titles

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.

Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2024) Featured Review: Afterglow by Phil Stamper

  • Afterglow
  • by Phil Stamper
  • Narrated by Michael Crouch, Graham Halstead, Shawn J. Kain, Briggon Snow, Matt Ford, and Karissa Vacker
  • Publisher: Listening Library
  • Publication Date: February 7, 2023
  • ISBN: 9780593347720

In the sequel to Golden Boys, four best friends Gabriel, Reese, Sal, and Heath return from a summer apart and navigate their senior year. Throughout the year they band together to navigate life changes, discrimination, and love. While also exploring their own separate, intriguing paths. Gabriel creates his school’s first LGBTQ+ advocacy group and uncovers a mystery; Reese pursues an unlikely direction in fashion design; Sal considers what politics could look like for him, and Heath works out what a future in baseball could mean for his family. This group of friends move from an exploratory summer to a pivotal senior year focused on accomplishing dreams and advocating for themselves.

Skillfully performed by an ensemble cast, multiple narrators bring the main and secondary characters to life. Narration is steady and grounded while still being responsive to the suspenseful, angsty, sweet, and serious elements of the novel. Listeners will connect to the story through the individual narrators intonation and pace. 

Be sure to check out Golden Boys by Phil Stamper, first in the duology to reunite with the group again. Fans of Casey McQuiston, David Levithan, Nina Lacour, and Benjamin Alire Saenz will enjoy this heartfelt and fun production.

-Ileana Pulu

Other Nominated Titles