Today I have a very special blog tour for you: my very first audio book review! Bad Love by Maame Blue is part of one of the most exciting publishing projects of this year, Jacaranda’s #Twentyin2020 campaign. The indie publisher has vowed to publish twenty books by Black British writers this year, which Audible will be exclusively producing as audio books. Already released under the #Twentyin2020 campaign are: Lote by Shola von Reinhold, Through the Leopard’s Gaze written and narrated by comedian Njambi McGrath, The Space Between Black and White written and narrated by Esuantsiwa Jane Goldsmith and Under Solomon Skies by Berni Sorga-Millwood, narrated by Damian Lynch. Bad Love is narrated by Vivienne Acheampong, an actress and comedian, best known for featuring in Death in Paradise (2011), The Trap (2015) and Turn Up Charlie (2019).
Many thanks to Amber Choudhary from Midas PR for inviting me on this tour and Audible and Jacaranda for providing an advance copy of the audio book of Bad Love.
RELEASE DATE: 18/06/20
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
Bad Love tells the story of Ekuah Danquah, a London-born Ghanaian who is 18 years old when she falls in love for the first time. As both narrator and protagonist now in her 30s, she delves into her memories of angst and confusion that dismantled her experience of that first, impactful romantic relationship. It meets none of her rigid expectations and instead shines a light on other significant relationships in her life, especially the marriage of her parents, something she had long considered an unhappy pairing.
First of all, looking at the breathtaking cover makes me rather upset that I only got to review an audio book and not a physical copy so I could stare at the cover for hours instead of actually reading and reviewing it. But I have to say, I loved the experience of having an audio review copy – I’ve been binging audio so much recently that I absolutely flew through Bad Love.
Ekuah is a great leading voice throughout the book, and it is lovely to have a book narrated by a character so clearly rooted in London and the Arts. As someone who predominately reads SFF, Bad Love has made a welcome change and shown me once again that contemporary fiction can be incredibly powerful. Growing up with Ekkie throughout the course of the book resonated with me as a woman in my mid-twenties, struggling with some of the same issues that she is facing. Between the UK, Ghana and Italy, Ekkie discovers who she is and what she wants, through and despite the relationships in her life.
Bad Love is incredibly well-written, and audio book narrator Vivienne Acheampong brings it to life just as well. It approaches the intangible and complicated subjects of love and relationships with grace and nuance, and refuses to paint a rosy picture. Love is shown to be just as toxic, heart-breaking, beautiful and exhilarating as it is in real life.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Maame Blue is a Ghanaian Londoner, writer, and project manager for not-for-profit organisations. As well as co-hosting Headscarves and Carry-ons – a podcast about black girls living abroad – she regularly runs social media campaigns for www.bmeprpros.co.uk and sporadically blogs over at www.maamebluewrites.com. In 2018 she won the Africa Writes x AFREADA flash fiction competition for her story Black Sky. She has since been published in AFREADA, Afribuku, and Memoir Magazine; with stories forthcoming in Storm Cellar Quarterly and Litro Magazine.
There are so many great books coming out in July – we’re hitting that first wave of COVID delays being published! I had to really limit myself to get to a manageable list, and it’s a really diverse one this month that I’m quite excited about. I hope you love the ideas behind these books as much as I do and decide to check them out!
The first book on this list is Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust. I reviewed an ARC of this a while back (click here for my review) – and I’ve already snagged myself a shiny finished copy from Fairyloot. This lush, Persian mythology based story centres a morally grey princess who discovers her bisexuality and struggles with doing the right thing. It is compelling and wonderful, and I love it so much. It’s finally out on the 7th of July after being pushed back, and you need it in your life. Pre-order it from Waterstones!
Also out on the 7th of July is The Book of Dragons edited by Jonathan Strahan. This volume collects stories based on world mythology from some of the best contemporary fantasy authors – think R.F. Kuang, Zen Cho, Sarah Gailey… to name just a few of my personal favourites in the lineup. Every entry is also accompanied by a piece of artwork, and have I mentioned that it draws from all sorts of cultures? I love short story anthologies, and this promises to be an extraordinarily excellent one! Pre-order DRAGONS from Forbidden Planet.
One of my top three books of 2020 so far is The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow, a book about witches fighting the patriarchy. So I’ve been intrigued about Alexis Henderson’s The Year of the Witching ever since I first heard of it. Out on the 21st of July, this is a book about witches in a puritanical society, dealing with race politics and religion. Immanuelle sounds like my kind of dark and spirited witch, fighting for what is right, and I already love her, even before reading the book. You can pre-order this one from Forbidden Planet.
To cap this list, also out on the 21st of July, we have Trouble the Saints by Alaya Dawn Johnson. Black girl magic in alternative history meets assassins falling in love, set in late Jazz-age NYC. Phyllis, the MC is a white-passing Black woman, working as an assassin for a mob boss and features both a magical love story and an exploration of racial tensions. It sounds like a wonderful read, and I can’t wait to get my greedy hands on it next month! Pre-order it from Hive (though the UK release isn’t until August, sadly).
STAR RATING: 5/5 ✶
SUMMARY: Branwen has a secret powerful enough to destroy two kingdoms.
Her ancient magic led to a terrible betrayal by both her best friend, the princess Essy, and her first love, Tristan. Now this same magic is changing Branwen. Adrift in a rival court, Branwen must hide the truth from the enemy king by protecting the lovers who broke her heart—and finds herself considering a darker path.
Not everyone wants the alliance with Branwen’s kingdom to succeed—peace is balanced on a knife’s edge, and her only chance may be to embrace the darkness within… (From Imprint)
OPINIONS: I originally was not going to review Wild Savage Stars on the blog, as I have quite a few books I am already planning on featuring in June. But I just finished reading it and I am blown away. Sweet Black Waves was good, but Wild Savage Stars is so much better. It is a character-driven YA fantasy based on medieval legend and culture, using outside conflict as catalyst for growth rather than taking easy, story-led paths out. Much of what happens is unexpected but entirely in character and justified and shows great craft on the part of Kristina Pérez.
Branwen, Marc, Ruan, Tristan and Eseult are some of the most frustrating, complex and human characters that I have read in YA recently. Their behaviour and actions are heartbreaking and believable, and I could not put the book down. After Sweet Black Waves had Branwen fall in love and set up a story, Wild Savage Stars dared to tear it all down and go in a new direction, have its heroine face her darker side and come out stronger. One of the aspects that is thoroughly refreshing, is seeing her take a lover for the pleasure of it, something which I think is far too rare in YA, still hung up on the concept of the ‘one true love’ as a teenager and the purity of virginity.
What gives the story an additional dimension is that Kristina Pérez is intimately familiar with the period and literature as someone who has a PhD in medieval literature. Her knowledge shines through without overburdening the reader at any point, making Wild Savage Stars a pleasure to read throughout.
If you are intrigued, Sweet Black Waves and Wild Savage Stars are out now and available from Waterstones here and here, and the trilogy’s conclusion, Bright Raven Skies, will be published in August and is available for pre-order from Book Depository here. You can add them all on Goodreads by clicking on the titles!
Bunny bunny bunny. They dominate our culture in very specific ways, be it around Easter, or in regards to the Fibonacci sequence. But what if they actually gained sentience and joined our society? Jasper Fforde’s The Constant Rabbit interrogates exactly that question. Known mainly for his Thursday Next series featuring a book-travelling special agent, which starts with The Eyre Affair, Fforde is no stranger to the absurd and satirical. While some of his work can be very hit or miss, I was very excited to pick up this newest foray into a Britain full of human sized rabbits.
Many thanks to Hodder and the Bookfairies for the ARC in exchange for this honest review.
RELEASE DATE: 02/07/20
STAR RATING: 3.5/5 ✶
There are 1.2 million human-sized rabbits living in the UK.
They can walk, talk and drive cars, the result of an Inexplicable Anthropomorphising Event fifty-five years ago.
And a family of rabbits is about to move into Much Hemlock, a cosy little village where life revolves around summer fetes, jam-making, gossipy corner stores, and the oh-so-important Best Kept Village awards.
No sooner have the rabbits arrived than the villagers decide they must depart. But Mrs Constance Rabbit is made of sterner stuff, and her family are behind her. Unusually, so are their neighbours, long-time residents Peter Knox and his daughter Pippa, who soon find that you can be a friend to rabbits or humans, but not both.
With a blossoming romance, acute cultural differences, enforced rehoming to a MegaWarren in Wales, and the full power of the ruling United Kingdom Anti Rabbit Party against them, Peter and Pippa are about to question everything they’d ever thought about their friends, their nation, and their species.
It’ll take a rabbit to teach a human humanity . . . (from Hachette)
OPINIONS: So, The Constant Rabbit is insanely funny. I kept laughing out loud while reading the book, and I don’t do that very often – I’m much too awkward as a person. It also holds up a mirror to society, and it is not a pleasant image to see. The anthropomorphised rabbits are not very different to humans at all, but they are not accepted as part of society, and completely ostracised. Once a family does move into a space reserved for humans, and break these invisible barriers, all hell breaks loose, and the humans who refuse to participate in the institutionalised hate suffer the consequences just as much as the rabbits do.
In that respect, it is a very timely novel. More timely now that when it was written, to be honest. It is a satire on xenophobia, using allegory heavy-handedly to underline the very real problems that do exist in contemporary Britain. But it is still a Jasper Fforde novel, which means it is very, very weird, and tends to drag at times. There is a focus on plot over character relationships, which I tend to have trouble connecting to. This is a pattern that is visible throughout his writing, and still I keep going back for more. I don’t know if I’ll ever learn, but his concepts are always incredibly intriguing!