Audio book: The Black Flamingo

by Dean Atta
Read by the author
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at
Content: There is some swearing, talk of gay sex, and (older) teen drinking and drug use. It’s in the Teen section (grades 9+) of the bookstore.

Michael has spent his life feeling different from everyone else. A mixed-race kid (half-Black, half-Greek-Cypriate) in a mostly white London neighborhood, and as a boy who likes more traditionally “girly” things. He tries to find a place for himself in a religious school, with a female best friend, and in the drama department, though some of his crushes on boys don’t go over well (he gets the “you’re going to hell” speech more than once). But it’s not until he gets to university, and finds the Drag club, that he truly begins to Find Himself.

I read this as part of Trans Awareness Readathon week, mostly because I thought there would be more about gender fluidity and drag. There wasn’t. However, there was a lot about identity in general, both as a Black man in a majority white society and as a gay man in a conservative school. It was good – though listening to it on audio means I missed out on the novel as verse aspect. And because it was read by the author (who did well with it), I mistakenly thought it was a memoir for a while (there are some striking similarities between Michael the character and Atta the author). Even with all of that, it was a short, good listen, and I’m glad I got to experience Michael and his story.

Audiobook: Nora Goes Off Script

by Annabel Monaghan
Read by Hillary Huber
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at
Content: Oh, well, it’s a romance book. Infer what you will. It’s in the romance section of the bookstore.

Nora is fine. She has a fairly successful career writing scripts for romance movies for the Romance Channel. When her husband left, she was sad, but he was also an asshole, so it wasn’t that bad. And then she wrote a script about their story and sold it to an actual movie studio and it got made into a movie. The studio spent a couple of days filming at her actual house – and the star, Leo Vance, is charmed by her home. After the filming is done, he sticks around, wanting to experience normal life for a bit (in order to process his mother’s recent death). He helps Nora with the shopping and cooking and with her kids… and eventually, they fall in love.

But things are not perfect; when Leo has to jet away to deal with a film contract, he promises he will come back. But he doesn’t. Nora’s heart breaks, and life goes on, and suddenly those romance movie scripts with predictable outcomes seem trite. Will Nora be able to get her life back on track after the second man in as many years has walked out on her?

Oh, I liked this one. It was delightful on audio – Huber does a fantastic job, keeping me engaged in the story. Which was a lot of fun as well. It seems that the current trend in romance books is to be the thing while critiquing the thing, so while I knew the beats of the story, there was some depth to it. I liked how the focus was more on Nora’s ability to be resilient and vulnerable to others, as well as making her children her priority. I liked the relationship between her and Leo, and even the conflict felt real. It was a solid romance book, and I’ll be happy to read whatever Monaghan writes next.

Audiobook: Poverty, by America

by Matthew Desmond
Read by Dion Graham
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at
Content: There are a few mild swear words. It’s in the Sociology section of the bookstore.

I was moved by the stories of the people in Desmond’s Evicted, but I think there was a part of me that could put it at a distance. At least that’s not my life. But in Poverty, by America Desmond pulls no punches: poverty is not just a “them” problem. It’s something that affects ALL of us. 

In this short, to the point, book Desmond uses data to show how the system exploits poor people, from the TANF government funds that so many states misuse or use for programs other than to actually help poor people (for every $1 of the fund, only 22 cents make it into the hands of poor people) to the landlords who nickel and dime the poor into higher rents for lower quality apartments that they can get evicted from. But it’s more than that: it’s the middle class with our health care and mortgage subsidies (the middle class and wealthy are subsidized by the government at much if not more than poor people are) and the wealthy and businesses who are not made to pay their (measly, comparatively) tax share. 

It’s Desmond challenging the reader to think about whether a corporation pays their employees a living wage before shopping there. It’s a call for a universal basic income. It’s a lament that for the past 50 years, in one of the wealthiest countries on earth, no progress has been made to help the people living in poverty. 

It’s quite probably one of the most important books I’ve read and challenged me as well as changed my perspective on things. 

It doesn’t get much better than that.

Audiobook: Daisy Jones & the Six

by Taylor Jenkins Reed
Read by a full cast
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at
Content: There is a lot of drug use, some on-screen sex, and a lot of swearing including many f-bombs. It’s in the Fiction section of the bookstore.

This book has been on my radar since it came out, one of those I’ve been meaning to get to it for ages books. But then my daughter started watching the series on Prime, and talking about it and I remembered that I had the audiobook, and so… why not listen to it?

The basic plot: it’s a book told entirely through interviews, the six members of the band The Six and Daisy Jones telling their story of how they formed and the one album that they made together. It was an absolutely perfect way to tell this type of story, of music and creation, of egos and drugs, of Rock and the 1970s. Oh, and it’s loosely based on Fleetwood Mac. That’s really all you need to know.

Listening to on audio was a blast. I loved that it was a full cast, and everyone did amazing. You could just hear their personalities (Daisy was a DIVA) come through, and it made what I think might have been a good, if somewhat tedious, reading experience FUN. It was an audiobook I wanted to keep listening to. And even when the story turned saccharine at the end, I had fun with it. You can’t get much better than that. I might check out the show, but am quite tickled that they put out a few songs (which are actually pretty good).

Not sure it’s a great work of literature, but I definitely had fun with this one.

Audiobook: B. F. F.

A Memoir of Friendship Lost and Found
by Christie Tate
Read by the Author
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at
Content: There is talk of eating disorders, alcoholism, and swearing, including multiple f-bombs. It’s in the biography section of the bookstore.

In this memoir, Tate deconstructs her friendships with women, from the way she abandoned her high school friends for a (alcoholic, abusive) boyfriend, to the way she compared and sabotaged friendships as an adult. The throughline for all of this was, yes, her group therapy and recovery sessions, but also a woman she calls Merideth. A woman 20 years Tate’s senior with problems of her own that she is recovering from, Meredith became not just Tate’s rock to lean on, but her conscious and guiding hand. 

So what does one do when Meredith is diagnosed with an incurable and advanced form of cancer? How can she deal with being present for Meredith and with her own grief? How can she learn to be better?

I do have to say up front that, assuming all this is true, Tate is remarkably brave for putting it all out there. She is not likable for a good half of the book when she’s talking about how she abandoned friends due to jealousy and anger. She comes across as petulant and insecure, and yes I was judging her until I started really listening and figuring out where I’m like her. She has much to say about friendship, not just her friendships, and I think that part is worthwhile. The second part is Meredith’s decline and death, and I think Tate has a lot of good things to say about supporting people through that – not just the person who is ill, but the people around them as well – and about grief. But, the final section, after Meredith has passed on, where Tate writes letters about her healing and rekindling friendships she had thought she had permanently destroyed – that was the best section. I think it all had to be there, though. You had to get through petulant Tate to truly understand the healing process. 

While I think it’s kind of uneven in spots, it’s worth it for what Tate has to say about friendship, overall.

Audiobook: The Sum of Us

by Heather McGhee
Read by the author
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at
Content: It deals with some tough issues, and there is some swearing. It’s in the Sociology section of the bookstore.

Heather McGhee, a lawyer, former president of Demos, and someone who specializes in how the American economy works tackles how the idea of a “zero-sum game” between Black and white people is a losing proposition, and not just for people of color. For everyone. She looks at the economy, the housing market, environmental regulations, education, among other areas, and breaks down how racism is at the root of, well, pretty much everything, and how that is costing everyone. It’s especailly relevant for a white person to read: to be shown how white people, especially poor white people, will vote against their interests because the Powers That Be have convinced them that, well, at least they’re not Black (or Latinx, or an immigrant, or…)

I do have to admit up front that I’m not sure I got all her arguments and data, because I listened to the book and sometimes my attention wanders. And I was somewhat unsatisfied that there really wasn’t any clear solutions laid out, except for just “get out of your comfort zone, work with people not like you, and do better”. Which, in reality, is probably not a bad solution. There is a sense of urgency, though: things aren’t just going to get better on their own. If we want things to improve (and maybe we don’t because we’re white, and well-off, and maybe They should just Work Harder?), then we need to get involved. Start local. 

McGhee was a good narrator, and I think this is one of those books that i will think about for a long time. 

Audiobook: Lost & Found

by Kathryn Schulz
Read by the author
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at Libro. fm
Content: There’s some mild swearing and frank talk of dying. It’s in the Biography section of the bookstore.

The subtitle of this one is “Reflections on Grief, Gratitude, and Happiness” and I think that sums the book up really well. Schulz divides the book up into three parts: Lost, in which she reflects on the death of her father, and the process of grieving him; Found, in which she recounts the story about how she met and came to marry her wife; and And, in which she talks about coming together, and the importance of community. It’s a simple premise, but Schulz pulls it off beautifully.

I first heard about this when one of our Random House reps, Bridget, spoke highly about how this book about grief and loss wasn’t sad but filled her with gratitude for living. And she’s right: yes, it’s a book about loss and grief, but it’s also a book about learning to live with loss and grief, and gratitude for the simple act of living. It’s reflective and poignant and sometimes quite funny. And Schulz is a good narrator; she reads well and is captivating to listen to.

In short: the RH rep was right: it’s one of the best books about loss that I’ve read in a long time.

Happy Place

by Emily Henry
First sentence: “A cottage on the rocky shoreline, with knotty pine floorboards and windows that are nearly always open.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Release date: April 25, 2023
Content: There are a couple sexytimes and swearing, including multiple f-bombs. It will be in the romance section of the bookstore.

Harriet and Cleo and Sabrina have been friends since their freshman year of college. They’re an unlikely trio from vastly different backgrounds with different ambitions, but they make it work. As they get older they add more: Parth, whose house they moved into their junior year, and then Wyn, Parth’s friend, got folded in. Except Harriet and Wyn felt an almost-instant attraction. They eventually got together, thinking it would last forever.

Fast forward 8 years and Wyn and Harriet have broken up. Harriet’s in a medical residency in San Francisco, and Wyn just… wasn’t happy. So he left. Then he broke it off. But, they’re both at Sabrina’s family’s cottage in Maine for a week in the summer, with everyone, for one last fling. Can they pretend everything is fine, for the sake of old times?

This one is less focused on the romance, though Henry intersperses chapters of Wyn and Harriet’s getting together and falling in love, with the present week in Maine. It was an effective tactic: we got to see the fallout before we read about how they got together. But it worked. Mostly because this book is less about the Romance Tropes than it is about friendship – as important as Wyn and Harriet’s breakup is, the feeling that the friendships are falling apart because everyone is getting older, and things are Changing – and about making your own happiness.

It was the last thing that struck me the most. Harriet had spent her life trying to make her unhappy parents happy, making the choices that landed her in San Francisco. But, over the course of the novel, she realizes that she can’t do that, that the one thing she can control is her own happiness and her own choices. It was something that resonated with me.

So, while this was not my favorite Henry (that remains Book Lovers), it was a very, very good one, one that resonated with me quite a bit.

Audiobook: The Inheritance Of Orquídea Divina

by Zoraida Córdova
Read by Frankie Corzo
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at
Content: There is mention of abuse, one on-screen sex scene, and some swearing, including a few f-bombs. It’s in the Science Fiction/Fantasy section of the bookstore.

Orquídea Divina Montoya is dying, so she calls her family back to their home in Four Rivers so they can say goodbye. Once they get there though they are confronted with the decisions Orquídea made in the past. When the house burns down, Orquídea is turned into a tree, and three of them – her grandchildren Marimar, Rey, and great-grandchild, Rhiannon are left with magic marks – they are forced to figure out what Orquídea has done to bring them all to this point. Seven years after Orquídea’s death, members of the Montoya family are dying, and it’s up to Marimar, Rey, and Rhiannon to finally untangle all the knots Orquídea tied, and set everyone free.

I’m not usually one for magical realism, but I really loved this one. Part of it was the narrator: Corzo is incredibly talented at capturing the essence of a book and holding the listener’s interest. But there’s also a deeper layer to this book as well: it’s about generational trauma, and the choices one makes to survive. Orquídea is doing the best she can in a bad situation, and she is making decisions that backfire, but ones that also give her her family. It’s captivating and engrossing and heartbreaking all at once.

I’m so glad I finally got around to this.

Audiobook: Blood Debts

by Terry J Benton-Walker
Read by Bahni Turpin, Joniece Abbott-Pratt, Torian Brackett & Zeno Robinson
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or Listen at
Release date: April 4, 2023
Content: There is a lot of violence, a lot of swearing, including many f-bombs, and an on-screen sex scene. It will be in the Teen (grades 9+) of the bookstore.

The basic plot? Clem and Chris Trudeau are practitioners of Generational magic – a branch of magic along with Light and Moon and Necromancy. But their family hasn’t had the best history with it. Their grandmother was the leader of the Gen magic council but was framed for murder and killed by an angry mom. Their father was killed after something went wrong with a spell Chris cast. And their mother was slowly dying until they found the cause: a hex doll. Chris and Clem are determined (in spite of adults telling them to stay out of it) to figure out why their family has had such a run of bad luck with magic and fix it.

Truth be told, it’s a LOT more than just that. This book has everything. Family drama? Check. Solving multiple murders? Check. Stupid white people with grudges and guns? Check. Authorities refusing to help because the Trudeaus are black? Check. Zombies? Check. (Seriously.) Wonderfully sweet gay love? Check. Complicated gay love? Check. This book has EVERYTHING. It’s so much.

That’s not to say it was bad. It wasn’t. The audio is especially good – the narrators pulled me in and kept me coming back for more, even as I wanted to cringe and pull away because it’s a LOT. But, I really liked the magic system Benton-Walker dreamed up, and I liked the way he wove the challenges and triumphs of Black people into the book. There’s surprisingly a lot to talk about. (There’s just a LOT. Period.)

In the end, I think it was good? I’m still reeling from the end, and I want to know if there’s another, so at the very least, it hooked me.