Friday, July 12, 2024

I Listened to Born in the Wild by Tems

Tems has steadily released music since 2018, including work with other artists and two extended plays—For Broken Ears (2020) and If Orange Was a Place (2021). And while I’m not as familiar with her discography as some of the other artists I’ve mentioned for this segment on Our Thoughts Precisely, I was still looking forward to her 2024 album after I watched the livestream of her performance at this year’s Coachella. Titled Born in the Wild, Tems’ debut was released on June seventh with eighteen songs, including the singles Love Me Je Je and Me & U. And with that, welcome back to the music minded corner of Our Thoughts Precisely!

I’ve loved a number of the R&B albums being released this year, and Born in the Wild is one of the best I’ve listened to so far in 2024. It sits solidly in its genre, but the quality and creativity of the lyrics and production made for an engrossing listening experience. And I have to praise Tems’ vocal performance. She has a very distinct voice, and the delivery across the track list was consistent. Born in the Wild also had two features, from the artists J. Cole and Asake, on Free Fall and Get It Right respectively.

At the end of the day, Born in the Wild was stylish and lyrically complex, and a great body of work showcasing Tems’ talent.

Friday, July 5, 2024

Quarterly Recap: April-June

It’s the beginning of July. I can’t believe I already had to write that sentence, but here we are. And because it’s the seventh month of 2024, it means it’s time for another quarterly recap, where I take a look back at the blog post from the past three months as well as a brief look at what’s coming up. As always I’m starting with reviews.
April, May, and June Reviews...
Other April, May, and June Blog Posts....
Looking ahead this month, I have a couple of music related posts as well as reviews for some books releasing this month. So keep an eye out for that content.

Up next, I have a good selection of ARCs to read, including one of my most anticipated releases of the year from one of my favorite authors.

And in terms of gaming, the last Nintendo Direct brought some surprises and slightly expanded the list of games I’m looking forward to in the last half of 2024. Tales of the Shire (the Lord of the Rings farming sim), and The Legend of Zelda Echoes of Wisdom, the new 2D game set in Hyrule, where you get to play as Zelda, according to the trailer.

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Masquerade by O.O. Sangoyomi

Title: Masquerade
Series: n/a
Author: O.O. Sangoyomi
Source/Format: Bookish First/Publisher; Paperback ARC
More Details: Loose Retelling; Historical Fiction
Publisher/Publication Date: Forge Books; July 2, 2024

Goodreads     Amazon     Barnes & Noble

Synopsis from Goodreads...
Set in a wonderfully reimagined 15th century West Africa, Masquerade is a dazzling, lyrical tale exploring the true cost of one woman’s fight for freedom and self-discovery, and the lengths she’ll go to secure her future.

Òdòdó’s hometown of Timbuktu has been conquered by the the warrior king of Yorùbáland. Already shunned as social pariahs, living conditions for Òdòdó and the other women in her blacksmith guild grow even worse under Yorùbá rule. Then Òdòdó is abducted. She is whisked across the Sahara to the capital city of Ṣàngótẹ̀, where she is shocked to discover that her kidnapper is none other than the vagrant who had visited her guild just days prior. But now that he is swathed in riches rather than rags, Òdòdó realizes he is not a vagrant at all; he is the warrior king, and he has chosen her to be his wife. In a sudden change of fortune, Òdòdó soars to the very heights of society. But after a lifetime of subjugation, the power that saturates this world of battle and political savvy becomes too enticing to resist. As tensions with rival states grow, revealing elaborate schemes and enemies hidden in plain sight, Òdòdó must defy the cruel king she has been forced to wed by re-forging the shaky loyalties of the court in her favor, or risk losing everything—including her life.

Loosely based on the myth of Persephone, O.O. Sangoyomi’s Masquerade takes you on a journey of epic power struggles and political intrigue that turn an entire region on its head.

I originally read an excerpt of this book on Bookish First. I was sold on the concept laid out in the synopsis as well as intrigued by it being a loose retelling of the myth of Persephone, but set in a fictional version of fifteenth century West Africa. Having read the whole story, I have a new favorite book. And between Katherine Arden’s The Warm Hands of Ghosts, Leigh Bardugo’s The Familiar, and now O.O. Sangoyomi’s Masquerade, historical fiction is having quite a year.

Òdòdó, a blacksmith from Timbuktu—which carried its own connotations (and stigma) in the context of the story—finds herself whisked away by the king of Yorùbáland after an act of naïve kindness, to be his bride. It's in the early beginnings of Masquerade where some of the strongest aspects related to the myth could be found. It wasn’t on the nose either, and instead Masquerade was sprinkled with subtle nods.

The story was wonderfully detailed and steeped in the rich history, traditions, and folklore of its setting. It also meant superstition and often strict societal norms, and one of the most interesting parts of the book was seeing how Òdòdó would learn to navigate the sudden change in her environment, between Timbuktu and Sàngótè.

The king’s characterization was done so well. He was portrayed as a capable leader as well as the kind of person who has never been told no. I was expecting it, since even the synopsis makes mention of his cruelty. And he was ambitious and entitled, even to have Òdòdó become his wife. I could almost say he was arrogant in that regard, and he wasn’t careful with how he spoke to or treated—or even acknowledged the ambition and the suffering—of his supposed soon-to-be wife.

Being at the whim of a fickle king who Òdòdó’s power—and the favor bestowed to her by his people—depended on, was a heavy a burden. There was a power imbalance, especially between the king and his bride, which wasn’t helped by the superstition (and suspicion) surrounding the blacksmith guilds and the woman who worked there.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed Òdòdó’s journey. It was a costly one in a politically tense environment, but her quest was one of self-discovery, power, and influence. She wanted more and more, which was often the crux driving the story forward: escape from the life as a blacksmith, her desire for power and status, and the lengths she was willing to go to not only obtain it but to keep it as well. It was perilous and dark, and no one was left unscathed by the end.
Masquerade had a lot going for it. As a loose retelling, it worked. And as historical fiction, it had everything I was looking for. If you like richly detailed world building and political intrigue, then I highly recommend Masquerade.

About the author....
O.O. Sangoyomi is a Nigerian American author with a penchant for African mythology and history. During a childhood of constantly moving around, she found an anchored home in the fictional worlds of books. She is a recent graduate of Princeton University, where she studied literature. Her debut novel, Masquerade, will be published by Macmillan/Forge in July 2024.

Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by the publisher (Forge Books) via Bookish First in exchange for an honest review, thank you! 

Monday, July 1, 2024

Music Monday (291): Tems, Jelly Roll


  • Music Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Lauren Stoolfire at Always Me that asks you to share one or two songs that you've recently enjoyed. For the rules, visit the page HERE 
Breana: I've been enjoying Tems' new album, Born in the Wild. She recently did a Tiny Desk concert, where she performed a mixture of songs including older releases as well as her latest. This is one of my favorites from this channel to-date. Give it a listen! 

Andrea: Hi all! This week I'm listening to I Am Not Okay by Jelly Roll. Have an amazing week!

What are you listening to this week?

Saturday, June 29, 2024

Short Stories I Read in May

It’s June twenty-ninth. So it’s time to write about the short stories, miscellaneous posts, and podcast episodes I read or listened to in May.

And the Dreams That You Dare to Dream by Marissa Lingen (Lightspeed Magazine; May 2024; Issue 168)

The first story I checked out in May was Marissa Lingen’s And the Dreams That You Dare to Dream. Pretty standard portal fantasy/fantasy land setting, which reminded me of Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children’s series. Where this story shines is in the character, Gemma’s, POV. She wants to go to a fantasy land, and she doesn’t want to come back—and she’s very logical/deadpan about her approach. It's one of the aspects I liked best about her characterization. Besides that, the story has a very frank style to the way it was written, which suited it perfectly. All-in-all, I liked this one.

Done Deal by Rory Harper (Lightspeed Magazine; May 2024; Issue 168)

While I was still on Lightspeed Magazine’s website, I read two other stories. The first was: Done Deal by Rory Harper. In speculative fiction, deals with the devil—Faustian bargains, errant wishes—those can be pretty common. However, they are among my favorite kind of story conventions, because the possibilities are endless. In Done Deal, a famous, at the top of the world musician named Jack Malagan, is suspected to have made a deal. Much of the story has a blasé feel to it, as it recounted Jack’s meteoric rise, and a pivotal conversation that revealed his backstory and the consequences of the titular “Done Deal.” As the story progressed, however, the tension increased, which gradually built toward the final twist at the end. Done Deal was a great story!

Exit Interview by Ben Peek (Lightspeed Magazine; May 2024; Issue 168)

And the second was Ben Peek’s Exit Interview. It’s the exact kind of story I like: magic hidden right alongside the normal every day, a sense (and atmosphere) of danger and darkness, and a secretive organization with questionable recruitment tactics. All of that was great. At the heart of Exit Interview, though, was a mother whose life fell apart after the disappearance of her daughter, the places her work for “The Ministry of Saturn” took her to, the people she met, the answers she found, and the actions she took. Sprinkled throughout was the titular exit interview, which added another layer of detail to the story. This was a truly engrossing read.

From around the web…

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...