Zeroboxer by Fonda Lee

I read this earlier this year and have been wanting to talk about it and it’s TIME. I’m into sports, but not so into boxing. However, if zero gravity boxing existed that might change things for me. How the book describes the sport is completely amazing. I became more engrossed in these fictional matches than I have been in many real life sporting events.

Aside from the awesomeness of futuristic sport, this book has a lot going for it. Here’s what I liked:

  • World Building: Lee does a fantastically well at building a complex world without over-explaining or making it confusing. I am not exactly well-read when it comes to Sci-Fi, but the world she creates is different than a lot of what I have read. I think the uniqueness of zero gravity boxing helps. There have been comparisons to Ender’s Game (which I love), but while there are some similarities I don’t find them truly comparable. Completely different tone, different message, and so on.
  • The Action: There is a lot of detailed action in this and it’s amazing. Sometimes I get bored with play-by-play fight scenes, but Lee makes them so tense and engrossing. God, do I wish this sport was real so I could watch it.
  • Characters: The story centers around zeroboxer Carr and his rise to fame. The book made me root for Carr, but not always entirely love him which is what I want from my MCs. I am drawn to characters who aren’t entirely lovable. Carr is adored by his fans and the general public, but not always lovable for his reader and it makes the story much more interesting.
  • The Sports World: What I liked most about this book is its subtle satire about the sports world and advertising. Carr is assigned a brandhelm (basically a publicist) Risha (who is beautiful and… you can see where this is going…). Carr is seen as marketable and gets a bunch of sponsorships. As someone who worked only briefly in sports, but got to see a glimpse of how this all works, I loved how Lee handled this. Branding – whether it’s a company or a person, in sports or elsewhere – is obviously a Big Deal in corporate America. So how Carr is treated is relevant. When I recently read about how Serena Williams doesn’t get as much sponsorship money as some of her counterparts, I instantly thought of this book. People become brands and it’s strange how that works in our world.
  • The Messages: Besides the publicity commentary, there are a few other things happening in this book that I won’t talk about to avoid spoiling anything. However, what’s nice about this book is the story isn’t over-burdened by these many ideas. The plot is first and foremost about Carr and his conflicts. The questions are there and they don’t necessarily have answers. The book delivers the action-packed fun but also gives you a few things to chew on if you wish.

I think the one negative of Zeroboxer for me is the characters didn’t feel fully developed. Carr of course comes far by the end, but I wanted more in the beginning with him and Risha and a few other characters. The character relationships didn’t feel as strong as they could have been.

If you enjoy Sci-Fi and/or sports you should definitely read this book. Even if you don’t enjoy some of its commentary, it’s still so much fun. And if you don’t like Sci-Fi or sports, this might temporarily win you over.

Now Listening

I, of course, started this blog and then got busy. I have so many books to talk about, but, for now, here are some new albums I’ve been listening to:

Blood – Lianne La Havas
While her first album was amazing, I’m even more in love with this new one. She’s unfortunately playing Philly when the Pope is here and I’m staying far away from the city that weekend. Hoping she comes back at a better time. Until then, I will listen to her beautiful voice on repeat. (Spotify)

Psychic Reader – Bad Bad Hats
My first exposure to Bad Bad Hats was their music video for It Hurts. I instantly loved them. But they only had an EP out at the time. Psychic Reader is their debut and a great debut at that. (Spotify)

Communion – Years & Years
The lead singer of Y&Y, Olly Alexander, is an actor who had been in a few things I liked. Years & Years then formed and I was really into the songs that started trickling out. The full length got pushed back a few times, but it’s finally here and as dancey and fun as expected. (Spotify)

How Does It Feel – MS MR
I’m not in love with this new album and think I prefer their first, however it still has a lot of catchy songs. The duo is super adorable though and they’re always SO EXCITED when they perform live. (Spotify)

The Way Back Up – Prides
This isn’t out in the US yet, but as per usual I am impatient and can’t wait. (I buy things when they’re finally released here.) Prides is comprised of members that have been in other Scottish bands I like. While my heart will still always belong to (punk) rock, I’m finding more and more electronic bands I enjoy. This is another solid album.

A Dream Outside – Gengahr
This one came out in June and I am just late.  A bunch of British bands/music fans tweeted about how great they are and now I have to agree. (Spotify)

In addition to new albums I’ve been listening to Hop Along and George Ezra a lot lately. I saw both live about a week ago which reinvigorated my love.

I also periodically add artists on SoundCloud who don’t have a lot of music out yet. A few I recently added:

Spotify playlist of these recommendations.


I’ve read many wonderful books this year and would usually write about them on my other tumblr, but I fell away from that. To make up for it, I decided to list some* of what I’ve read the past six months (how are we at the halfway mark already????). A few of these will get longer reviews later on since they deserve more than blurbs, but I wanted to get some recs on here.

As many have said, YA is really coming up big lately. I’ll save you my ramblings on that (for now). But there’s a fair amount of genre mixing going on YA fiction that’s appealing. So I’ve ended up reading quite a few books labeled “Young Adult” that really feel like they’re for any age. Anyway…

* excluded series and books I didn’t enjoy as much. Will write about series in another post.

Continue reading

Now Listening

There has been a bit of an explosion of new album releases that I had been anticipating. Here are a few I’ve been listening to:

Pale Horses – mewithoutYou
If there is one thing you should know about me it’s that I LOVE mewithoutYou. They’re from Philly and genius. Also very weird so I understand they’re not everyone’s cup of tea. It even took me some time to warm up to them. (Spotify)

Coming Home – Leon Bridges
The long awaited debut from Leon Bridges is finally here and it’s as wonderful as expected. (Spotify)

My Love Is Cool – Wolf Alice
Another debut I am happy is finally out. I was lucky enough to get to see them at T in the Park last year and they were so great live. Loving this album and excited to see them when they play here. (Spotify)

Tiny Rewards – Admiral Fallow
Boots Met My Face will likely always be my favorite album of theirs but this new one is lovely. (Spotify)

Breathe In. Breathe Out. – Hilary Duff
Yes, Hilary Duff has a new album. I will always love her for how great Lizzie McGuire was for preteen me and she has some solid pop albums. I didn’t enjoy the first single she released for this, so was worried about the album but that song ended up not making the cut and the album is a lot of upbeat fun. (Spotify)

The Desired Effect – Brandon Flowers
Brandon Flowers loves the 80s and I’m okay with it because 80s synth pop in 2015 works for him. (Spotify)

Wild Nights – PINS
I’m all about girl bands. They’re playing Philly next week and I’m more than ready to hear some of these live. (Spotify)

Before We Forget How to Dream – SOAK
So many great debuts! Also someone else playing a Philly show soon. (Spotify)

I’m overwhelmed by all the great releases this year and could likely list a ton more albums, but these are some of the most recent ones I’ve been listening to. Hope you find something you like!

P.S. That roundup of book recs from this year I keep promising is coming! I decided since it’s just about the 6 month mark of this year (how????) I’ll have it coincide with that so the list is almost ready to go. This has been a strong reading year so far so it had been difficult figuring out how I wanted to do a list, but I think I’ve got it.

Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older

shadowshaperShadowshaper by Daniel José Older
Release Date: June 30, 2015
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Format: Paperback
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy, Supernatural
Ratingsbadass characters


The Basics
Sierra Santiago, a teen artist, notices the murals around Brooklyn are fading. And then one sheds a tear. Her grandfather who recently had a stroke finally says something coherent, except Sierra can’t figure out the meaning. Piece by piece she starts to uncover a family secret about shadowshapers and what it all has to do with the murals.

I had been looking forward to this book and was lucky enough to pick up an advanced copy at BookCon.

This book is refreshing in that the supernatural elements are so grounded in reality. The magical elements in this are cool, but it isn’t the fantasy that carries it; it’s the realistic characters running around the very real Brooklyn. There’s also a lot of Spanish and other cultural aspects that give the characters and story more life.

The characters feel like actual teens. Sometimes teenagers in books take on a very poetic nature, which definitely works when done right. But I appreciated the kids in this book being so realistic. Sierra and her friends each have distinctive personalities and Older does this without having to describe her friends all that much. How they talk and act felt more natural than in anything I’ve read in a while.

Then of course there is Sierra herself who is a wonderful heroine trying to learn something about family that was kept from her, which is relatable despite the secrets having to do with spiritual powers. She’s curious and frustrated and keeps fighting for the information she wants.

I also can’t ignore how beautiful this cover is. Not just aesthetically, but to have a WoC on the cover of a YA novel. And at that, a full faced girl that isn’t in a pretty dress.

If you can’t tell, I really enjoyed this book. The plot didn’t have quite shocking twist and turns. You could probably predict a few bits of it. However, I loved Sierra and shadowshaping world. This book had a lot of little things that were more important than the story itself.