Category Archives: NetGalley

Book Review: Real Men Knit by K.M. Jackson

Berkley
TBP May 19th, 2020
320 Pages

When their foster-turned-adoptive mother suddenly dies, four brothers struggle to keep open the doors of her beloved Harlem knitting shop, while dealing with life and love in Harlem.

Jesse Strong is known for two things: his devotion to his adoptive mom, Mama Joy, and his reputation for breaking hearts in Harlem. When Mama Joy unexpectedly passes away, he and his brothers have different plans on what to do with Strong Knits, their neighborhood knitting store: Jesse wants to keep the store open; his brothers want to shut it down.

Jesse makes an impassioned plea to Kerry Fuller, his childhood friend who has had a crush on him her entire life, to help him figure out how to run the business. Kerry agrees to help him reinvent the store and show him the knitty-gritty of the business, but the more time they spend together, the more the chemistry builds. Kerry, knowing Jesse’s history, doesn’t believe this relationship will exist longer than one can knit one, purl one. But Jesse is determined to prove to her that he can be the man for her—after all, real men knit. – Goodreads

I was very excited for this book. Focusing on a man who not only was adopted but is dealing with grief and knows how to knit, were topics that I was all for. But by the end of the book I was disappointed. I wasn’t disappointed because of lack of writing skills or pace but more so this book felt like a foundation to a bigger novel. So many different topics were passed over. I wanted more details in Mama Joy’s past, background information on the store, more character background and more character description.

I found it really hard to believe that Mama Joy did not teach or leave any information about how to run her business with her boys or even on paper. Kerry knew pretty much everything but it still baffled me how ‘Mama Joy did not write anything down. So that was on my mind but also the fact that the reader knows nothing about the store itself. If the author took more time to give the store a story, I would have believed this story much more.

Also character development as well as character background is pretty much non-existent. The whole issue/conflict in the novel is lack of communication. Kerry stresses so much that she is a grown woman but acts like a middle schooner throughout the entire book. I don’t understand why.

What did love about the book was the slow burn romance. I didn’t think the conflict of the novel was going to be lack of communication and more so Jesse sleeping with most of the city, so it was interesting that the author highlighted that but didn’t make that the issue. Like the author was very specific on who he slept with as well as their interactions with Kerry.

The breakout character for me was actually Jesse’s brother Damian. I really was intrigued by his hard ass and anger. I would love to read his story next.

With that being said, this wasn’t a bad book and I would recommend it as a introduction to this author. I just wish there was more added to it.

Overall,

2 Pickles

Book Review: Hollow Dolls by MarcyKate Connolly

Sourcebooks Young Readers
TBP 2020

Simone is a mind reader. She knows a great many things about everyone she meets, but she can’t seem to remember anything about her past or where she came from. After finally being free for the first time in a long time, she sets off, determined to find her home.

When she stumbles across a man with two minds inside him – the real one, shoved deep down, and one of a body walker, someone who can take over a person’s body against their will – Simone is even more eager to leave her old life behind.

As Simone dives deeper into her history, she learns truths she never could have imagined. But when those she loves start disappearing around her, Simone knows only she can stop the evil.

Set in the same fantasy world as the Shadow Weaver duology, this series starter weaves a tale of secrets, power, magic, and the long path to home.- Goodreads

I initially did not realize that this book was geared towards middle school readers. Once I discovered that fact the entire book changed for me. What I mean by that was I was wondering why was Simone acting like such a child. There is a question of time within this book that even realizing she is about 12, I was still like but. . . . this?

But anyway, Connolly, the author, did a fantastic job of getting me into the book within the first 10 pages. The magic written within this book is great and Simone is powerful as heck and would be even more powerful if she just took a moment to build her skills as opposed to hiding from them. Granted she has a big ass reason for doing that but I am hoping that within the second book she works to improve her powers.

The pace of the novel could have been better. It is really easy to lose focus on this novel as there is a lot of nothing going on. However, it does include a massive as library with rare and historic books. I was all for it. Wish there was more detail and more drama going on in the library.

But moving on. I loved how the author tied everything together. Everything made sense and fell together lovely. I just wanted more from Simone. She went through so much. So. Freaking. Much. Connolly doesn’t dip too much into what she has done, which is unfortunate because there is so much there or at least that was what it was implied.

Maybe book two will dip more into it?

The one other thing about this book is although the world building is up there and clear as day, the plot was simple and a bit predictable.

Overall,  I enjoyed this read.

3 Pickles 

Book Review: The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall

Candlewick Press
TBP May 5th, 2020
368 Pages

Aboard the pirate ship Dove, Flora the girl takes on the identity of Florian the man to earn the respect and protection of the crew. For Flora, former starving urchin, the brutal life of a pirate is about survival: don’t trust, don’t stick out, and don’t feel. But on this voyage, as the pirates prepare to sell their unsuspecting passengers into slavery, Flora is drawn to the Lady Evelyn Hasegawa, who is en route to a dreaded arranged marriage with her own casket in tow. Flora doesn’t expect to be taken under Evelyn’s wing, and Evelyn doesn’t expect to find such a deep bond with the pirate Florian.

Soon the unlikely pair set in motion a wild escape that will free a captured mermaid (coveted for her blood, which causes men to have visions and lose memories) and involve the mysterious Pirate Supreme, an opportunistic witch, and the all-encompassing Sea itself.- Goodreads

There is a lot going on in this novel but happily enough the author broke down this book into different POC and sections. I loved that because it shows skills as a writer.

There is a lot of character building in this novel and it stresses the fact that not everyone is who/what they seem. I liked Flora. For everything that she had to do in order to live, to help her brother and Evelyn, she was honest with herself and that is oddly hard to fine in Young Adult books.  Flora was realistic with her environment and what she needed to do but she open minded and I liked that.

Evelyn, however, was alright. She was the typical I am not your average rich person. She played her role really well but there was nothing ground breaking about her. The aspect of this novel that I really enjoyed was the mermaid/the sea. I love magical stories even with realistic situations to them. I would have loved to see more history and details in this particular part of the story but I was entertained.

The pace of the novel was good. There were painstakingly slow moments, where nothing at all was going on but it was worth it. This is my first read by this author and I am looking forward to see what else she has in store.

Overall,

3 Pickles

Book Review: Music from Another World by Robin Talley

Inkyard Press
TBP March 31, 2020
304 Pages

It’s summer 1977 and closeted lesbian Tammy Larson can’t be herself anywhere. Not at her strict Christian high school, not at her conservative Orange County church and certainly not at home, where her ultrareligious aunt relentlessly organizes antigay political campaigns. Tammy’s only outlet is writing secret letters in her diary to gay civil rights activist Harvey Milk…until she’s matched with a real-life pen pal who changes everything.

Sharon Hawkins bonds with Tammy over punk music and carefully shared secrets, and soon their letters become the one place she can be honest. The rest of her life in San Francisco is full of lies. The kind she tells for others—like helping her gay brother hide the truth from their mom—and the kind she tells herself. But as antigay fervor in America reaches a frightening new pitch, Sharon and Tammy must rely on their long-distance friendship to discover their deeply personal truths, what they’ll stand for…and who they’ll rise against.- Goodreads

I loved how this story was written. I have a thing for letters and for the most part I feel that there is much more honesty when a story is written through letters.

With that being said, this is an emotional read. Tammy and Sharon both have a lot going on and also (because this book is historical fiction) does discuss the Gay Rights movement in San Francisco.  Despite the history and the letter writing style of the novel it does start off a bit slow and for a moment I was wondering where the author was going with the story.  What I mean by this is I wasn’t sure if it was going to the route of these two being together (I mean yeah that is the obvious) or if it was going to be a self-discovery. Granted this is a self-discovery book but there was several different ways the book could have went as opposed to the relationship route (I’m not saying that this is an issue).

The book focuses on Tammy and Sharon but has some strong characters that pull some deep emotions and makes you sympathize with each of the girls. Given the fact that this is taking place in 1977 and it was during this movement, I would have liked to see more diverse characters. When you talk about San Francisco and you talk about the anti-gay movement, I feel like there should be diversity and not just diversity in sexual preference.

The flow of the novel is great and the author put a lot of heart into this. I liked Sharon and that is because she was a bit more sure of herself than Tammy but they worked really well together and I freaking love pen pals.

Overall, powerful story and good read.

3.5 Pickles

Book Review: Hearts on Hold by Charish Reid

Carina Press
Published Feb 3rd, 2020

Professor Victoria Reese knows an uphill battle when she sees one. Convincing her narrow-minded colleagues at the elite Pembroke University to back a partnership with the local library is a fight she saw coming and already has a plan for. What she didn’t see coming? The wildly hot librarian who makes it clear books aren’t the only thing he’d like to handle.

When a tightly wound, sexy-as-hell professor proposes a partnership between his library and her university, children’s department head John Donovan is all for it. He knows his tattoos and easygoing attitude aren’t quite what she expected, but the unmistakable heat between them is difficult to resist.

And then there’s the intriguing late fee on her record. For the Duke’s Convenience… A late fee and a sexy romance novel? There’s more to Dr. Reese than she’s letting on.

John might like to tease her about her late fee, but when he teases her in other ways, Victoria is helpless to resist. Mixing business with pleasure—and oh, it is pleasure—always comes with risks, but maybe a little casual fun between the sheets is just what Victoria needs.- Goodreads

I don’ know how else to describe this book other than one of the sweetest romances I have read thus far. It was adorable from beginning to end. I love the way it builds. I love the fact that John knew what he wanted but at the same time was comfortable enough to let Victoria come to the point he was at. She was frustrating to read. It was like talking with the smartest dumb person in the room. Not only does she need therapy but she also needs to learning how to relax (which thankfully she does a bit in this book).

But I liked Victoria because I was able to relate to her and her mask in the workplace. For some people they don’t use it/need it but others such as myself cannot be the same person inside of the office as they are outside. It was refreshing to see that I am not alone in this (I know I’m not but it was nice to read).

The author touches about the topic I mentioned above as well as ADHD, being a teenager and being Black. I would have liked to see more times when Victoria was herself. I felt that she was herself around John but she wasn’t her complete self. When she was with her friends their interactions are we comfortable. What I mean to say is  she interacted with other Black females in what appeared to be her real self. Do not get me wrong. Friends are going to see a different side of you than your lover is and that is fine. But it felt like she was wearing a mask with John even at the end.

There was something missing to connect her and John but I am not exactly sure if I can word it right.

But other than that, the author must have known that I have a thing for Vikings because John was *insert chef’s kiss*

Overall,

I liked this book a lot.

4 Pickles

Book Review: The Wrong Mr. Darcy by Evelyn Lozada and Holly Lörincz

St. Martin’s Griffin
TBP June 9th, 2020

This book is considered a modern spin on Pride and Prejudice.

Derick Darcy comes from a very wealthy family and decided to become a basketball player. This makes Hara feel as if he didn’t earn his spot on his team but used his influence to get there. Hara is a struggling sportswriter from a small town that has a secret of her own.

This book is better than The Perfect Date and that is saying a lot. However, before you even think about picking up this book, it has to be known that there are so many triggers in this book and they go as follows

  • Suicide
  • Miscarriage
  • Discussion of abortion
  • Violence
  • Abuse

I was surprised to see so much of that in there so a trigger warning would have been nice. But moving on. I thought the subtle references to Pride and Prejudice was great. It was very clear that this book used the theme of poor girl hating the rich, rich guy being skeptical of the poor, but they fall in love anyway and I was cool with it. The authors didn’t lay it on thick nor was it so blunt that it would make you roll your eyes.

What I liked about the book was the gross reality of being a woman in the basketball/sports industry. It was an insight into, what I believe is Evelyn’s world, and it was hard to read. The story has a better beginning, middle, and end. It made sense and the romance seemed very believable. There was more care in crafting this story. And I thought the sex scene was pretty good.

What I didn’t like about the book was Hara. Her dislike for Derick was unreasonable and she was rude like all the time. Derick had every right to be skeptical. He was a rich basketball player that was dealing with women who were only after his pockets. Was he rude? Sure was. However, not as rude as Hara.

I liked the book. I was surprised I liked the book. Other than me not liking Hara, I did feel that they through a lot in this book and a lot of it was left to hang dry. What I mean by this is there was no solution or ending to certain issues that Hara and Derick experienced. I had a lot of questions even reaching the end of the book. Speaking of ending, it was okay. I would have liked to see something more but it wasn’t a bad way to end the book.

Overall, it looks like the authors took their time with this one and that is showing growth as writers.

3 Pickles

Book Review: Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi

Tor
TBP Jan. 21st 2020
176 Pages

Rooted in foundational loss and the hope that can live in anger, Riot Baby is both a global dystopian narrative an intimate family story with quietly devastating things to say about love, fury, and the black American experience.

Ella and Kev are brother and sister, both gifted with extraordinary power. Their childhoods are defined and destroyed by structural racism and brutality. Their futures might alter the world. When Kev is incarcerated for the crime of being a young black man in America, Ella—through visits both mundane and supernatural—tries to show him the way to a revolution that could burn it all down. – Goodreads

This is the first book I read by Onyebuchi. I know its horrible because he the author of War Girls and Beasts Made of Night. But I picked up this book because I love adult fantasy novels that incorporate real life issues.

The book is told in two perspectives, Ella and Kev. At first this was a little confusing not because of any transition but because of why. We start off with Ella as a child pre Kev and discover her power which is called The Thing. Instantly, I’m into it. When Kev comes around I am still into it because it comes at one of the turning points in American history.

But after the first five chapters, the book lost me and I couldn’t find the point/purpose of the story. Ella becomes a background and Kev is the focus for a while. Therefore, origins of her powers, any detailed information about her powers other than some things she can do isn’t mentioned at all. She becomes a shadow as well as her powers in 90% of the book and it was disappointing. There was no development of Ella and her powers and Kev wasn’t that like-able of a character. He became a product of environment even though he had a sister that literally could do anything. Again, disappointing.

The book focuses so much on environment that I could not find what was the point of the story? Was the point to show that even with super powers as a Black American your life will suck due to not only systematic racism but overall racism? But if that is the case, why not do anything with the super powers to show that?

The book had me lost. I was bored. There was no character development. Kev was a baby. Ella had no personality and was depressing and NEITHER of them tried to get to know their mother.

Overall, nah

1 Pickle