Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2023) Featured Review of Soul of the Deep by Natasha Bowen

Soul of the Deep by Natasha Bowen

Narrated by Yetide Badaki

Listening Library | Penguin Random House Audio

Publication Date: September 27, 2022

ISBN: 9780593609743

In Skin of the Sea, listeners met Simi, a Mami Wata who collects the souls of those who die at sea, and traveled with her as she journeyed to save humanity. In Soul of the Deep, Simi discovers that despite her best intentions, her sacrifice may not have been enough. Olokun did not fulfill their promise to return Esu to Oludumare. Without Esu to bind them, the demon ajogun are threatening to break free and destroy the world. Simi must free Esu and return to the land to seal the gateway between worlds before the ajogun can escape.  Along the way, Simi enlists the help of Kola-whom she thought she would never see again. Even though she knows they can never be together, their reunion is an opportunity for hope and connection.

Yetide Badaki brings characters to life with depth and nuance. Her narration brings West African spiritual beliefs to life with lots of Black girl magic in a beautiful mesh of history and myth. The audio version is especially powerful as it recenters the rich oral storytelling traditions at the heart of this narrative.

Fans of Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi and Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor will love the weaving of intricate world building, mythology, romance, and high-stakes adventure found in these books. 

–Josie Snow and Katie Patterson

Other Nominated Titles: 

  • Alone Out Here by Riley Redgate; narrated by Riley Redgate (04/05/2022)
  • The Coldest Touch by Isabel Sterling; narrated by Katie Koster and Kristen DiMercurio (12/7/2021)
  • When We Make It by Elisabet Velasquez; narrated by Elisabet Velasquez (09/21/2021)
  • Alma Presses Play by Tina Cane; narrated by Dana Wing Lau (09/14/2021)
  • Together We Burn by Isabel Ibañez; narrated by Ana Osorio (05/31/2022)
  • K-Pop Revolution by Stephan Lee; narrated by Joy Osmanski (04/05/2022)

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 (#AA2023) Featured Review of Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao

Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao
Narrated by Rong Fu
PRH Canada Young Readers
Publication Date: September 20, 2021
ISBN: 9780735269972

Humans in Huaxia are constantly under attack from Hunduns, giant bug-like aliens. Humanity has created two-pilot robot war machines known as Chrysalises in order to protect themselves.  Boys dream of the chance to pilot a Chrysalis in order to find fame and honor. Girls, on the other hand, are either married off or serve as concubine co-pilots for Chrysalises. Concubine-pilots rarely survive a Hundun battle. Zetian joins Chrysalis training to avenge her older sister who was murdered by a Chrysalis pilot. She shocks the world by not only surviving her first battle, but taking full control of the Chrysalis on her own, an impossible task without the qi energy of both a male and female pilot. Zetian is then paired with the strongest pilot in the fleet: former prisoner Li Shimin. If Zetian wants to dismantle the Chrysalis system and stop the sacrifice of innocent girls, she will have to work with her new partner alongside help from her secret love interest, Yizhi, all while fooling eagle-eyed government officials and battling aliens.

Continue reading Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2023) Featured Review of Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao

Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2022) Nominations Round-Up, Winter

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Each quarter, the Selected Lists teams compile the titles that have been officially nominated to date. These books have been suggested by the team or through the title suggestion form, read by multiple members of the team, and received approval to be designated an official nomination. At the end of the year, the final list of nominations and each Selected List’s Top Ten will be chosen from these titles.

Ace of Spades. By Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé. Macmillan/Feiwel & Friends, $18.99 (9781250800817). 

Ambitious queen bee Chiamaka and loner scholarship kid Devon are the only Black students at school. That’s all they have in common until an online bully going by the name “Aces” starts spilling all their secrets. Chiamaka and Devon will have to join forces to bring Aces down—or lose everything.

Bad Witch Burning. By Jessica Lewis. Penguin Random House/Delacorte Press, $17.99 (9780593177389). 

Katrell’s ability to converse with the dead has been earning her enough money to help her mom pay bills and buy food. When she makes a startling discovery about her abilities around the same time she receives a dire warning to stop using her magic, Katrell is faced with an impossible decision.

Barry Squires, Full Tilt. By Heather Smith. 2020. Penguin Random House Canada/Penguin Teen, $17.99 (9780735267466). 

After watching a performance of Irish step dancers, Barry Squires decides he was meant for tap shoes. The trick will be convincing everyone around him to give him a chance.

Continue reading Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2022) Nominations Round-Up, Winter

Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2022) Featured Review of Sway With Me by Syed M. Masood

Sway with Me Cover Art

Sway With Me by Syed M. Masood
Hatchette/Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: November 2, 2021
ISBN: 978-0316492416 

Being homeschooled by his nearly 100-year-old great grandfather (Nana) has left seventeen-year-old Indian American Arsalan with an impressive vocabulary and not an ounce of cool. Considering that Nana doesn’t likely have many years left on this earth, Arsalan comes to the conclusion he needs to get engaged. Not married, just engaged. He just wants a guarantee that he won’t be left alone when Nana dies. So he makes a deal with Beenish, whose stepmother is the “premier matchmaking aunty of the Greater Sacramento Area” and so presumably knows something about the matchmaking process. Beenish agrees to set him up with someone if he will be her dance partner for her sister’s upcoming wedding. A wedding — Arsalan soon discovers — that Beenish wants to end before it happens, primarily through choreographing an outrageously inappropriate dance that will be sure to offend her sister’s in-laws-to-be.

Continue reading Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2022) Featured Review of Sway With Me by Syed M. Masood