Category Archives: NetGalley

Book Review: Left For Dead (DI Amy Winter #3) by Caroline Mitchell

Thomas & Mercer
Published July 8th, 2020

A victim on display. A detective on the rails.

Shopping with her sister, DI Amy Winter is admiring a Valentine’s Day window display of a perfect bride encrusted in diamonds and resplendent in lace—until she notices blood oozing from the mannequin’s mouth.- Goodreads

This is the third book to the DI Amy Winter series. I did not know this when I requested this arc on Netgalley. With that being said, you need to read at least the previous book. On top of the current murder investigation, a previous issue, that takes up 90% of Amy’s head space, is extremely prominent within this novel.  Although I enjoyed this read, I would have loved it if I read the previous novel. So go do that before reading this review and the book :)

I was sucked into this book fairly quickly. It is told in multiple point of views and it was great. It wasn’t great because Amy wasn’t a good voice to read but it was great because each perspective gave actual insight to the case and everything else that was going on. Yes, you do get the killer’s point of view and its creepy. Like he is a creep but that isn’t what made it creepy.

Beyond this the book is fast paced but it was a hard read for me because I didn’t read the previous books. When I realized this was a third, I expected there to be some reference to the previous books not chapters about them. It took away my interest and it also made the current murder seem so small.

Despite this, I really enjoyed this book. The writing style is captivating. How everything moved together behind everyone’s eye took a lot of talent.  Do I plan on reading the previous novels? Not sure. Since I know how some things end, it might not do me any good.

Overall, would continue this series.

3.5 Pickles 

Book Review: Never Look Back by Lilliam Rivera

Bloomsbury YA
TBP Sept. 1st, 2020

Eury comes to the Bronx as a girl haunted. Haunted by losing everything in Hurricane Maria–and by an evil spirit, Ato. She fully expects the tragedy that befell her and her family in Puerto Rico to catch up with her in New York. Yet, for a time, she can almost set this fear aside, because there’s this boy . . .

Pheus is a golden-voiced, bachata-singing charmer, ready to spend the summer on the beach with his friends, serenading his on-again, off-again flame. That changes when he meets Eury. All he wants is to put a smile on her face and fight off her demons. But some dangers are too powerful for even the strongest love, and as the world threatens to tear them apart, Eury and Pheus must fight for each other and their lives.- Goodreads

This is a retelling of the Greek myth Orpheus. If you don’t exactly remember here the quick snapshot is this man goes to the underworld to save the woman he loves and has to walk back above without looking back to her. If he looks back, she stays in the underworld.

I love the spin Rivera puts on this mythology. Pheus is what makes this book. He has so much life and personality. Eury is sad and depressing. She has every right to be as there is a demon trying to take her to the underworld but calling it like it is, Pheus is what brings the life, the color, the interest to this story. He as well as the plot is written very well.

The story is told through both of their point of views, which shows the difference in personality between the two. Other than my love of Pheus what I loved was the rich environment. I’m from New York, Harlem & Long Island specifically and to see the Bronx so clearly, to hear the train as Rivera describes it is freaking amazing. The writing in this book is done extremely well.

There is a low build up in the novel but it is worth it. What I would have liked to see more is the family history of Pheus and Eury. Its mentioned and pretty much brushed over at the end. I would have liked to see more of that family connection and history since he is used as a foundation towards the end of the book.

The imagery in the novel is fantastic. When it starts getting to the climax/the end of the book it is thick and rich. However, I do feel the ending was not as strong as it could have been and a bit rushed but it did give me a satisfied feeling.

The culture displayed in this novel, being Dominican/Black and Puerto Rican could have been/should have been add more beyond the music references. Again, this goes back to family history. Its mentioned but doesn’t play a whole lot of significance until the end of the novel.

Overall, this was a fantastic read. I’m a sucker for mythology and this retelling was done really well.

4 Pickles 

 

Book Review: Secret Crush Seduction by Jayci Lee

Harlequin Desire
TBP Sept. 8th, 2020
224 Pages

Aspiring fashion designer Adelaide Song wants to prove she’s more than just a pampered heiress. All she needs is a little courage—and the help of deliciously sexy Michael Reynolds, her childhood crush and her brother’s best friend.

But when her secret crush turns into an illicit liaison, Adelaide realizes mixing business with pleasure spells trouble for all her plans…- Goodreads

This is my first book by Jayci Lee and it will not be the last. What I love about this book is how straight forward the romance is. Even when “the drama” comes into the story the romance between childhood friends is true and consistent. It takes bit but both of them know what they want. The problem is should they and it isn’t because of the brother’s best friend aspect; it is way much more than that.

Beyond the fact that the romance was straight forward, what I liked about this book was Adelaide and Michael actually working. Although Adelaide did act like a child at times, she knew her stuff and made sure she showed out. I loved the fact that both of them made sure their job would get done before they did their good. Don’t get me wrong they may have tried some stuff while on the clock but they kept it professional when it was down to it.  I liked seeing them work.

The pace of the novel wasn’t bad. It was a semi slow build up. When things began to heat up, the pace of the novel didn’t change and the tone remained the same. That sense of urgency and tension was fading about half way through the novel.

I would have liked to see more of a relationship with her Grandmother or at least more of a background of it. This could have been in the first book but as this book focused on Adelaide, I would have liked to see them more together as opposed to it popping up when the author needed a distraction.

Overall, this was a nice read and some steamy scenes.

3 Pickles

Book Review: The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
TBP Sept 1. 2020

Los Angeles, 1992

Ashley Bennett and her friends are living the charmed life. It’s the end of senior year and they’re spending more time at the beach than in the classroom. They can already feel the sunny days and endless possibilities of summer.

Everything changes one afternoon in April, when four LAPD officers are acquitted after beating a black man named Rodney King half to death. Suddenly, Ashley’s not just one of the girls. She’s one of the black kids.

As violent protests engulf LA and the city burns, Ashley tries to continue on as if life were normal. Even as her self-destructive sister gets dangerously involved in the riots. Even as the model black family façade her wealthy and prominent parents have built starts to crumble. Even as her best friends help spread a rumor that could completely derail the future of her classmate and fellow black kid, LaShawn Johnson.

With her world splintering around her, Ashley, along with the rest of LA, is left to question who is the us? And who is the them?- Goodreads

TW: Suicide, Violence

This book packs a punch. There are so many different layers in this book that I would love to see it part of a book club or a school curriculum., dissected and discussed.

The first part that stood out to me is the fact that I never see stories from a wealthy Black perspective. Ashley is basically looking from the outside in. Between only having white friends, her sister fighting the power (and probably experiencing mental health issues), her parents fighting her sister, the beating of Rodney King as well as her own experiences with police brutality AND racism, it was an experience to read the point of view of someone who wasn’t directly involved; from someone who isn’t poor and from someone whose family did everything in their power to be able to say “we’re not like them.”

Reading from this perspective was the best part of reading this book.

Ashley is an interesting character, who has her life planned out on the surface but is needing change. I wouldn’t say that the Rodney King beating is what caused the change but it accelerated it. Think of it as reading a novel that gets you captivated by a battle but that really isn’t the purpose of the novel. The Rodney King beating was the backdrop as well as the LA Riots, the killing of Latasha Harlins,  the Tulsa Massacre and other points . All of these were important because they shaped Ashley’s changing view of the world but if you are looking for Ashley to become an activist, this isn’t for you.

There were things about Ashley that I didn’t like. Things that she allowed to fit in/stay under the radar but everyone has to learn right?

The pace of the novel was slow but it was worth it. The tone was somber even when things started to look up a bit, it doesn’t exactly change. This could be due to the fact that the environment didn’t change . . . it just got quiet (sounds familiar?).

Overall, I enjoyed this book. As I mentioned in the beginning, this should be in a book club or part of a school curriculum.

3.5 Pickles

Book Review: The Ship of Shadows by Maria Kuzniar

Penguin
Published July 9th, 2020
288 Pages

Aleja whiles away her days in her family’s dusty tavern in Seville, dreaming of distant lands and believing in the kind of magic that she’s only ever read about in books. After all, she’s always being told that girls can’t be explorers.

But her life is changed forever when adventure comes for her in the form of a fabled vessel called the Ship of Shadows. Crewed by a band of ruthless women, with cabin walls dripping with secrets, the ship has sailed right out of a legend. And it wants Aleja.

Once on board its shadowy deck, she begins to realize that the sea holds more secrets than she ever could have imagined. The crew are desperately seeking something, and their path will take them through treacherous waters and force them to confront nightmare creatures and pitch-dark magic. It will take all of Aleja’s strength and courage to gain the trust of her fellow pirates – and discover what they are risking everything to find.- Goodreads

What a wildly creative book.  I love the fact that this book isn’t about a girl wanting to leave her currently life or being forced to leave her current life due to trauma. She wants adventure and unexpectedly gets a ticket to be part of an adventure.

The first half of the book not a whole lot happens. The author takes the time to build up the characters, the allure of the ship and legend that Aleja was reading right before she unknowingly embarked on the journey.  This slow build up is worth it because once things get going you sucked back into the world.

However, there were things that I was logging for within this novel. This is about a band of pirates. Although they considered themselves a bit of Robin Hood, there wasn’t a lot of pirate stuff going on. They were a crew looking for something that was rightfully the Captains’. When I say that I wanted more pirate stuff, I don’t mean a bunch of backstabbing. What I mean is more looting and fighting.

Also I would have loved more details on the the legend. The author does a good job adding information to fuel the legend but not enough about it. It was a little vague and brushed over. I would also like to point out there is a Mummy reference and at that point I knew what I would rate this book.

Overall, I really liked this book and looking forward to the next one.

4 Pickles

Book Review: Mayhem by Estelle Laure

Wednesday Books
TBP July 14th 2020
304 Pages

It’s 1987 and unfortunately it’s not all Madonna and cherry lip balm. Mayhem Brayburn has always known there was something off about her and her mother, Roxy. Maybe it has to do with Roxy’s constant physical pain, or maybe with Mayhem’s own irresistible pull to water. Either way, she knows they aren’t like everyone else. But when May’s stepfather finally goes too far, Roxy and Mayhem flee to Santa Maria, California, the coastal beach town that holds the answers to all of Mayhem’s questions about who her mother is, her estranged family, and the mysteries of her own self.

There she meets the kids who live with her aunt, and it opens the door to the magic that runs through the female lineage in her family, the very magic Mayhem is next in line to inherit and which will change her life for good. But when she gets wrapped up in the search for the man who has been kidnapping girls from the beach, her life takes another dangerous turn and she is forced to face the price of vigilante justice and to ask herself whether revenge is worth the cost.- Goodreads

TW | Suicide, Rape, Domestic violence, Drugs, Murder, Abuse

Before I begin my review, I would like to note that the author addresses the difficult topics within this book in a letter to the reader. When I began reading this book, I wasn’t expecting the topics, I listed, to be so prominent in this book. I honestly didn’t know there would be these many trigger warnings.  I hope that if you do decide to read this book, understand that the magic within this book does not cover, hide or brush aside these traumas. 

Now my review. This book was drawn out to oblivion. I struggled with connecting with Mayhem because although she is in a time of her life where everything changes, she doesn’t exactly practice what she preaches. What I mean by that is she wanted family. So being back at the family home was the opportunity to do so but she didn’t dig deep into the family history, ask the right questions or even push for the information she needed to know. Yes, she did find out what she needed but to know but that was it. Even at the end of the book there was still so many things that could have been said about her family history. There was so many things that Mayhem could have known but she was solely focused on what was in her face.  I mean she is from a list of women who can use magic to save the day. There was so much to learn.

However, I loved how flawlessly the author was able to blend the magical aspects of this book with everyday life.  It was written extremely well and she made it made sense. But when I talk about the magic, I have to also talk about how there was not enough detail. Yes, you know how the family came to retrieve that magic, you know what it does to you but it is mentioned in the book that Mayhem’s aunt did a lot of research and looked up as much information as she could to collect for the next generation. This was not focused enough in the novel. This should have peaked Mayhem’s interest but it didn’t.

But overall, the book was slow and drawn out. There wasn’t enough care for details, creativity in creating this magic world or depth within the surrounding characters. Also the romantic interest had no chemistry. It just happened.

I would read this author again because I love to growth.

2 Pickles

Book Review: Grimworld: Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock by Avery Moray

Our Street Books
TBP: Nov.1st 2019
160 pAGES

Every day, thirteen year old Henry Bats has his usual bowl of Sugar Slugs, helps tend Cobalt Sidewinders at Frank’s Peculiar Pets, and keeps to himself with his comic book collection. Just your typical day in Grimworld, where the sky is always dark and shadows lurk in the streets.

What’s not typical is a suspicious Nightspook luring Henry into a cemetery in the middle of the night with the promise of a prized comic book. The Nightspook steals part of Henry’s lifespan with a pocket watch, which begins counting down to his death. Henry is running out of time, and the pocket watch won’t stop ticking…- Goodreads

Let me start off by saying that this was an extremely creative read that I strongly believe middle school readers would enjoy. . . as long as they are into the creepy stuff.

When I began reading this book, I wasn’t sure where it was going at first but then things started going not only deep but dark and I was all over it. Granted the author tried to make it a bit whimsical with the random characters but boil down to it this is a pretty dark story. It isn’t even the fact that  the Nightspook itself is creepy its everything that happens after Henry realize part of his lifespan is gone.

The pace of the novel was engaging and although it is a lot of running around and being shot down a few times, I was invested in the story from beginning to end. Henry was just perfect. An extremely smart kid, who not only was thinking of himself but for others.

There is one character within this novel that I thought was fantastic and was worked so well within this novel. The author did a really good job with this characters role.

This is a short review I know but I can’t keep going or I would be giving a lot a way. Overall, this was a surprising read that I was a but unsure about when I first started. But I am looking forward to book two and I hope it is as creepy as the first.

4 Pickles

.

Book Review: The Oddmire, Book 2: The Unready Queen by William Ritter

Algonquin Young Readers
TBP June 2nd, 2020
272 Pages

Human and goblin brothers Cole and Tinn are finding their way back to normal after their journey to the heart of the Oddmire. Normal, unfortunately, wants nothing to do with them. Fable, the daughter of the Queen of the Deep Dark, has her first true friends in the brothers. The Queen allows Fable to visit Tinn and Cole as long as she promises to stay quiet and out of sight—concealing herself and her magic from the townspeople of Endsborough.

But when the trio discovers that humans are destroying the Wild Wood and the lives of its creatures for their own dark purposes, Fable cannot stay quiet. As the unspoken truce between the people of Endsborough and the inhabitants of the Wild Wood crumbles, violence escalates, threatening war and bringing Fable’s mother closer to the fulfillment of a deadly prophecy that could leave Fable a most Unready Queen.- Goodreads

William Ritter is one of my favorite writers. If you haven’t taken the time to read the Jackaby series, you need to.  It is a young adult fantasy mystery and it is fantastic.

This book, The Unready Queen is a good follow-up to the first read.  Not as great as the first one but extremely solid with character development, family (and family boundaries) and plenty of magic. But also what should be noted in this book is how humans suck. *shrugs* it is what it is.

The book is a slow build. For sometime there is only vague hints that something big is about to happen and the foreshadowing within this novel was great.

What I loved most about this read was the world building i.e. the Wild Wood. Ritter has a way of telling magic. There are details that show a care in research and an appreciation in nature. I was completely involved in this world that when he described where the city, I was over it LOL

I also love the growing pains that are exhibited within this novel. Tinn and Cole are becoming much more different and their goals are shifting. Not saying good verses evil but they are growing up and technically have different form of lives even though they are together a lot.

I love seeing their dynamic.

Fable is an interesting character and I say that because she is a mix of a rebellious teenager (although she is not a teenager), naive child, and extremely powerful being. Her desire for knowledge is refreshing because no one else seems to want to know things. They just do.

Ritter stresses the differences between Humans and those of the Wild Wood.  The baseline of wanting to live in peace is their common goal but other than that the moral ground is completely different.  It didn’t take much for the Humans to want to “get rid” of the begins in the Wood. It didn’t take much for them to want to destroy everything.  I was so frustrated.

But overall, I enjoyed reading this novel. There will be a third one and I look forward to that.

3 Pickles

Book Review: The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant

Knopf Children’s
TBP June 2nd, 2020
464 Pages

In the violent urban jungle of an alternate 1828 Paris, the French Revolution has failed and the city is divided between merciless royalty and nine underworld criminal guilds, known as the Court of Miracles. Eponine (Nina) T years ohénardier is a talented cat burglar and member of the Thieves Guild. Nina’s life is midnight robberies, avoiding her father’s fists, and watching over her naïve adopted sister, Cosette (Ettie).

When Ettie attracts the eye of the Tiger–the ruthless lord of the Guild of Flesh–Nina is caught in a desperate race to keep the younger girl safe. Her vow takes her from the city’s dark underbelly to the glittering court of Louis XVII. And it also forces Nina to make a terrible choice–protect Ettie and set off a brutal war between the guilds, or forever lose her sister to the Tiger.- Goodreads

I dnf this book at 53%. I tried. I really did but this book is all over the place and I am surprised (I shouldn’t be) that an editor allowed the book to go to the presses in its current state.

Nina (Black Cat) joins the Thieves Guild after her father sells her sister.  But before she joins she is set to steal an item that no one. . . I mean no one has been able to steal. From that moment one she is considered the best thief there is. Here is the first red flag. How? All the author mentions is that her father took her out of assignments. She is nine. She is accepted into the guild with no information no story-line of any form of training. This is crazy because the author makes mention to Nina’s nine year old self on more than one occasion.  The author completely skips any form of build up with Nina’s career as a thief.

The second red flag is that she is able to pull off another big heist to save her adopted sister. At this point in the book, she has pretty much forgotten how to save her biological sister. She did attempt once to save her and almost got her behind handed to her but shockingly enough in the hard streets of Paris a random stranger takes pity on her and saves her from getting beat down.

The third red flag is the pace of the novel and the transitions. One moment Nina is 9 years old next she is 16 (I think. The author doesn’t exactly specify). I almost thought I was reading a different pov. The transition into older Nina aren’t good. The book moved too fast and due to that there was a lot of key details missing in the first half of the book.

I wanted to like this book, which is why I read to 53% because I was going to stop at 20%. There is good foundation but there are too many questions the author chooses not to answer. And also that whole troupe of a character just being amazing without any work is a lot of crap.

1 Pickle

Book Review: Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth

John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Published April 7th, 2020
432 Pages

A decade ago near Chicago, five teenagers defeated the otherworldly enemy known as the Dark One, whose reign of terror brought widespread destruction and death. The seemingly un-extraordinary teens—Sloane, Matt, Ines, Albie, and Esther—had been brought together by a clandestine government agency because one of them was fated to be the “Chosen One,” prophesized to save the world. With the goal achieved, humankind celebrated the victors and began to mourn their lost loved ones.

Ten years later, though the champions remain celebrities, the world has moved forward and a whole, younger generation doesn’t seem to recall the days of endless fear. But Sloane remembers. It’s impossible for her to forget when the paparazzi haunt her every step just as the Dark One still haunts her dreams. Unlike everyone else, she hasn’t moved on; she’s adrift—no direction, no goals, no purpose. On the eve of the Ten Year Celebration of Peace, a new trauma hits the Chosen: the death of one of their own. And when they gather for the funeral at the enshrined site of their triumph, they discover to their horror that the Dark One’s reign never really ended. – Goodreads

Sigh.  There is a spoiler ahead by the way.

This book had me in a fit of rage and it was all because of Sloane.

She is a selfish, self-centered, rude, ungrateful, entitled, does not acknowledge anyone’s pain but her own, does not care about the lives she ruins or the consequences, AND is in a “relationship” with a Black male that she does not care to understand OR even empathize with.

Sloane is the definition of a Becky and she made me literally upset. But I am not done yet. Going to her “relationship” with her Black boyfriend, Matt. She acknowledges that he, even after defeating the Dark One with her, experiences racism. She acknowledges the fact that he uses positivity and kindness to deal with the racism. However! She can’t stand him for it. She gets upset when he goes talks to teenage Black girls at an event. She starts a fight and uses the racism towards him (that came after HE came to stop her) as a reason why she reacts the way she does sometimes.

AND she isn’t even in love him. They are together 10 years. She is in love with another member of the group (like just call it what it is) but he does not have any sexual advances towards her.  Matt has both but she uses Matt for sex even while she talks about how he doesn’t really know her or understand her like the other dude does.

Sloane is trash. It is rare for me to hate a character but I hate her.

I understand PTSD. I understand not wanting to fight again. I understand trying to carve a piece of privacy when you are known for something you don’t actually want to remember. BUT NONE OF THIS IS GROUNDS FOR YOU TO BE A SHITTY PERSON.  She isn’t even a good friend. She resents her “friends” for not sitting in a dark hole with her and trying to move on with their lives the best way they can.

There is no getting past her. There is no “yeah the main character is horrible but the world building yadda yadda yadda.” There is none of that.  What makes this book “different” is the fact that it tells a story of what if the chosen ones had to do it all over again. But if you really think about it is not much different then reading a book two to a series that has another battle to go through. Because that is what this book feels like is a book two in which the main character turned out to be evil.

Overall, I tired to finish this book but when I put it down and picked it back up, I would get upset. It is a interesting read and I completely get that characters take a life of their own but Sloane made me uncomfortable and it made me think how much of this character is like the author or someone she knows.

For the sake of Goodreads, I have this listed as a 1. But for the sake of my site, this book gets no rating.