Category Archives: Realistic

Middle School Reads for Black Girls

I hated middle school. From the moment, I walked into those doors to the moment I left. It was one of the worst school experiences I have ever had. I was/am an awkward girl. Making friends, especially within established friendships (even when I am invited to the group) is a difficult thing. I joined the volleyball team, basketball, student council, band and still never actually fit it.

So I lost myself in books and for the most part that is where I say. But the purpose of me telling you this is I noticed that every once in a while someone, on Twitter, will ask specifically for middle school reads to Black girls. It isn’t specific to what genre type but just that it is geared towards Black girls and I have been meaning to do a list on it and now I got the time :)

Listed below are some middle school reads that feature a Black girl as the main character.

Let me be honest. When I was looking up books I was disappointed in a few things.

  1. There aren’t a whole lot of books where there is a Black girl as the main characters.
  2.  There were a lot of books in which the mother left, parents were divorced and the divorce resulted in the child moving away
  3. There are a lot of trauma novels like a lot
    1. This is not to say that these stories aren’t important but these are a lot; overwhelmingly so

I was hoping to find a wide range of genres but there was a lot of trauma found. I wonder why is that. . . .

While I go ponder on that, what do you think of this list? Do you have any recommendations that should be added? Leave me a comment :)

Book Review: Salty, Bitter, Sweet by Mayra Cuevas

Blink
TBP March 3rd, 2020
320 Pages

Seventeen-year-old aspiring chef Isabella Fields’ family life has fallen apart after the death of her Cuban abuela and the divorce of her parents. She moves in with her dad and his new wife in France, where Isabella feels like an outsider in her father’s new life, studiously avoiding the awkward, “Why did you cheat on Mom?” conversation.

The upside of Isabella’s world being turned upside down? Her father’s house is located only 30 minutes away from the restaurant of world-famous Chef Pascal Grattard, who runs a prestigious and competitive international kitchen apprenticeship. The prize job at Chef Grattard’s renowned restaurant also represents a transformative opportunity for Isabella, who is desperate to get her life back in order.

But how can Isabella expect to hold it together when she’s at the bottom of her class at the apprenticeship, her new stepmom is pregnant, she misses her abuela dearly, and a mysterious new guy and his albino dog fall into her life?- Goodreads

Trigger Warning: Death, Adultery, Mourning, Drugs (ish)

Despite the trigger warnings this book wasn’t that deep and I would peg it as adorable and touching read.

I loved the cooking within this novel and the author really should have included a chapter or a page with all the recipes that were highlighted within the novel. Cooking is very important to me. Its one of those things that take so much energy out of you but in a good way. A lot of love and heart goes into cooking if you do it right and the author, Cuevas, doesn’t just use that as a foundation but it is what the entire novel focuses on. I was soaking it up.

Isabella for the most part has a one track mind and for most of the book only sees one road to her dream. There is huge character development for as sometimes our dreams take different turns and for Isabella that take some huge turns. What I love about that point in the book is she isn’t doing it because of a boy. Is there romance in this novel? Yes. Does some things happen? Yes but it is a series of events, conversations about her career that she has with other people that brings things to light. I was so happy that the boy (although amazing) was not the reason for how things play out.

The pace of the novel was slow. It moved slow and at some points you just wonder why Isabella makes things so difficult for herself sometimes. There could have been more things fleshed out within the novel such as more details about her mother and her mother’s mother. I also wanted to see more of a relationship with her father. These were the areas that could have been developed and again . . . I really wanted to see those recipes.

Overall, this was a good novel. It was inspiring.

3 Pickles

Book Review: Resurrection Girls by Ava Morgyn

AW Teen
Published Oct. 1, 2019
272 Pages

Olivia Foster hasn’t felt alive since her little brother drowned in the backyard pool three years ago. Then Kara Hallas moves in across the street with her mother and grandmother, and Olivia is immediately drawn to these three generations of women.

Kara is particularly intoxicating, so much so that Olivia not only comes to accept Kara’s morbid habit of writing to men on death row, she helps her do it. They sign their letters as the Resurrection Girls.

But as Kara’s friendship pulls Olivia out of the dark fog she’s been living in, Olivia realizes that a different kind of darkness taints the otherwise lively Hallas women—an impulse that is strange, magical, and possibly deadly. –Goodreads
I am starting this book review off with the rating, which is 2 Pickles. This book was a hard pill to swallow because of a lot of things. Olivia isn’t grieving the lost of her brother. She acknowledges that he is gone but just like her parents, she isn’t dealing with what she is feeling. Kara comes along and offers Olivia a way out of her emotions until she has no choice but to start opening.
Here is my issue with this book. It uses Kara and her family as a clutch for why Olivia makes bad decisions. It isn’t fair to Kara. Kara isn’t a stable character not even in the least and she has a whole lot that she is dealing with, however, I can’t find it in me to say Olivia did this or is this because of Kara.
Not every family is going to be like our own and I think the author plays upon that as way to compare what should be the normal family. Olivia does things for an reaction not just because Kara has a persuasive personality.
Other than this, the book was boring. Not even writing to death row inmates add any form of intensity to the novel. It is just as a clutch with no real backing/substance. Because the book is boring. There is no real character development and even the grief seems brushed over, which is unfortunate.
Things wrapped up too easily, after everything that happened, the ending was too perfectly happy and we are good now.
I gave this book 2 Pickles as opposed to 1 because it can be good. Shoot it can be great. But it needs work.

2020 Cover Love

If you recall from last year (hehe) I did a series throughout the year called cover love to high new releases and their beautiful covers. Its 2020 and I am still keeping that ball rolling.

 

Beyond the fact that these books look gorgeous and will look absolutely stunning on my bookshelf, they sound fantastic.

What books are you looking forward to so far this year?

Book Review: A Love Hate Thing by Whitney D. Grandison

Inkyard Press TBP Jan. 7th 2020 448 Pages

When they’re stuck under one roof, the house may not be big enough for their hate…or their love.

When Tyson Trice finds himself tossed into the wealthy coastal community of Pacific Hills, he’s ready for the questions, the stares and the feeling of not belonging. Not that he cares. After recovering from being shot and surviving the rough streets of Lindenwood, he doesn’t care about anyone or anything, much less how the rest of his life will play out.

Golden girl Nandy Smith has spent most of her life building the pristine image that it takes to fit in when it comes to her hometown Pacific Hills where image is everything. After learning that her parents are taking in a troubled teen boy, Nandy fears her summer plans, as well as her reputation, will go up in flames.

Now with Trice living under the same roof, the wall between their bedrooms feels as thin as the line between love and hate. Beneath the angst, their growing attraction won’t be denied. Through time, Trice brings Nandy out of her shell, and Nandy attempts to melt the ice that’s taken Trice’s heart and being. Only, with the ever-present pull back to the Lindenwood streets, it’ll be a wonder if Trice makes it through this summer at all.- Goodreads

Jumping right into this, I can see why there is a lot of love with this book. Although I didn’t love it, I can see the love there.

My first impression of this book once I finished it was . . . it was boring. The story of the boy coming from questionable past and environment meeting the rich girl from a completely different world is nothing new. This book didn’t bring anything new to this trope. This does not mean it wasn’t an entertaining read because it was for the most part.

Nandy and Trice were good enough characters to keep the book going. But there wasn’t enough development for me to be convinced of their romance but also and most importantly to like them. I did feel there was actual growth and both Nandy’s and Trice’s turnaround was too fast to be believable. There was no build up.

This is not to say that the book was rushed because it wasn’t. There wasn’t enough depth into the book and that is why I didn’t love this novel.

It was cute but it was boring and overall predictable. Yes, I know those words are harsh but to be fair, I know there are plenty of people that will love this book. I just don’t happen to be one of them.

I liked the fact that this book is a young adult romance that stars Black characters. It highlighted two types of families, touched on ancestry and adoption. It also touched on class and focused on social status. I liked these parts of the novel. Just wish the characters had more life to them and those points I mentioned above weren’t fillers.

Overall, when I sat and thought about it. This book has a very specific target group and it isn’t Black women or people in general. It was basic and didnt deliver the romance.

2 Pickles

Book Review: Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett

Knopf Books for Young Readers
TBP Oct. 29, 2019
288 Pages

Simone Garcia-Hampton is starting over at a new school, and this time things will be different. She’s making real friends, making a name for herself as student director of Rent, and making a play for Miles, the guy who makes her melt every time he walks into a room. The last thing she wants is for word to get out that she’s HIV-positive, because last time . . . well, last time things got ugly.

Keeping her viral load under control is easy, but keeping her diagnosis under wraps is not so simple. As Simone and Miles start going out for real–shy kisses escalating into much more–she feels an uneasiness that goes beyond butterflies. She knows she has to tell him that she’s positive, especially if sex is a possibility, but she’s terrified of how he’ll react! And then she finds an anonymous note in her locker: I know you have HIV. You have until Thanksgiving to stop hanging out with Miles. Or everyone else will know too. 

Simone’s first instinct is to protect her secret at all costs, but as she gains a deeper understanding of the prejudice and fear in her community, she begins to wonder if the only way to rise above is to face the haters head-on..- Goodreads

What I loved about this book is that it touches upon well focuses upon a topic that is rarely discussed. Children who are born with HIV do not really get a chance to tell their story. The only person that I can think of IRL prior reading this book is Hydeia Broadbent. I feel like this book was inspired by her.

This book is a great conversation starter and it is full of information, strength and some adorableness.

Simone is such a cutie. For a 17 year old, she is one of those girls that hold onto her innocence for dear life. It makes absolute sense why she is pretty sheltered; like she has HIV and has had it her whole life. It just gets too much as you keep reading the book. Like the author lays it on pretty thick. But she was genuine and I love the fact that the author was able to convey this.

The romance within this novel is A+. Miles and how he initiated their dating had the biggest smile on my face. Their emotions aren’t teenagers who are high on hormones. There is development in their relationship, its tested and there is value in Simone and Miles as more than just a couple. I thought it was great.

Here is what I didn’t like about the book. It was predictable. From the moment, Simone received the note, the reader or at least already knew what was going to happen. It really was not hard to figure out.

That was really the only thing about this book that I couldn’t get past . . . oh I lied. I hated the fact that Simone’s parents did not have any boundaries. What grown as man is going in to the GYN appointment with their 17 year old daughter? Like I get it, it was her first time going HOWEVER, there are several lines crossed by those parents and I was not feeling it.

Overall, a good read. I would recommend it.

3 Pickles

Book Review: 100 Days of Sunlight by Abbie Emmons

Self Published
TBP: August 7th 2019

Terrified that her vision might never return, Tessa feels like she has nothing left to be happy about. But when her grandparents place an ad in the local newspaper looking for a typist to help Tessa continue writing and blogging, an unlikely answer knocks at their door: Weston Ludovico, a boy her age with bright eyes, an optimistic smile…and no legs.

Knowing how angry and afraid Tessa is feeling, Weston thinks he can help her. But he has one condition — no one can tell Tessa about his disability. And because she can’t see him, she treats him with contempt: screaming at him to get out of her house and never come back. But for Weston, it’s the most amazing feeling: to be treated like a normal person, not just a sob story. So he comes back. Again and again and again.

Tessa spurns Weston’s “obnoxious optimism”, convinced that he has no idea what she’s going through. But Weston knows exactly how she feels and reaches into her darkness to show her that there is more than one way to experience the world. As Tessa grows closer to Weston, she finds it harder and harder to imagine life without him — and Weston can’t imagine life without her. But he still hasn’t told her the truth, and when Tessa’s sight returns he’ll have to make the hardest decision of his life: vanish from Tessa’s world…or overcome his fear of being seen.- Goodreads

I don’t really read contemporary especially contemporary romances. However, I won’t lie this cover and the title really caught my attention and let me just say this book was so freaking adorable.

Seriously adorable and I loved so much about this.

Tessa is feeling it; as she should. She is a hermit that doesn’t go out often and when she does unfortunately, she gets into an accident that makes her blind for a 100 days. The fact that she may get her sight back doesn’t exactly help because it is a big MIGHT and she doesn’t have much faith in things right now.

Enter Weston and he is determined to make sure Tessa doesn’t fall down a dark hole because he knows that it is a very easy thing.

One of the most important parts of this book that I loved is the fact that it is told in both of their point of views AND you also get to read about Weston’s past first hand. It was just raw honesty. I appreciate the author taking the time and care to dig into Weston as opposed to making this book only about Tessa.

Speaking about that. I strongly believe that this book favors Weston more than Tessa. Yes, she is a focal point but something about the way the author writes, the digging of Weston’s past nothing in me believes this book is about Tessa but about Weston and how he helps someone overcome the darkness growing inside him and how he pretty much does the same for himself.

But out of everything I read, the best part of the book was the ending. It broke my heart. It really broke my heart and Weston is perfect. He is such an adult for a 16 year old well actually all the surrounding characters appear to be older than they actually are.

Overall, this was a good book and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

4 Pickles

Book Review: The Afterwards by A.F. Harrold (Illustrations), Emily Gravett (Illustrations)

Bloomsbury Children’s Books
TBP: March 19, 2019
208 Pages

Ember and Ness are best friends, completely inseparable. Ember can’t imagine what life would be without Ness. Until Ness dies, in a most sudden and unexpected way. Ember feels completely empty. How can this even be real?

Then Ember finds a way into the afterworld-a place where the recently dead reside. She knows there must be a way to bring Ness back, so she decides to find it. Because that’s what friends do: rescue each other. But the afterworld holds its own dangers. How far will Ember go to make things the way they were again?

Paired with enchanting illustrations from Emily Gravett, A. F. Harrold’s powerfully woven tale explores the lengths we go to for the people we love. -Goodreads

This book was generally hard for me because I recently experienced a death in my family that is taking time to find peace with. I began this book knowing what it was about but not fully understanding that it will come with some emotional investment.

You feel for Ember. You feel for Ember because she is anyone that ever wanted someone to come back. It isn’t that Ember doesn’t understand death, because she does. When she finds that there is a way to bring Ness back, she won’t accept death and that makes the difference with how the book is presented.

There are two parts within this novel that chocked me up. The beginning and towards the end. In the beginning you are in the present looking back. At no point within the novel do you feel that you are looking back in the past. You know you are but the author did a fantastic job making you feel as if everything happening is in the present that you forget what happened in the beginning until the end.

The end . . . I can’t say much because it would give away so much. But what I can say is Ember has one of the best character developments I have seen in quiet awhile. I am extremely glad that she keeps her innocence. She doesn’t let what has happened change her in a way where she is no longer the same person. She changes yes but she isn’t 13 going on 30. I appreciated that on so many levels.

The pace of the novel was fantastic. You are invested within the novel because of the emotional aspect of it and that is more than enough to keep you going. At no point did I feel the book was moving too slow or there wasn’t enough going on. The illustrations matched the feel of the each chapter and if you are a crier you will.

Ember deals with a lot within this novel and it isn’t just the death of Ness that does it. The afterward shows her something that she didn’t know she wanted and how she handles it, makes you wonder where she gets the strength from.

Is this a hard read for a child as in too sad? Maybe; it depends on the child. But as an adult I can see this as a book to help children letting go.

Overall,

3 Pickles

Reads Revisited: Miracle’s Boys by Jacqueline Woodson

Speak
Published June 8th, 2000
144 Pages

Nothing is like it used to be. If it were, Mama would still be alive. Papa wouldn’t have died. Thirteen-year-old Lafayette’s older brother, Charlie wouldn’t have done time at a correctional facility. And oldest brother Ty’ree would have gone to college instead of having to work full time to support the three of them.

If things were the same, Lafayette wouldn’t be so full of questions, like why Mama had to die, why Charlie hates him so much now, and how they’re all supposed to survive these times together when so much seems to be set against them.- Goodreads

Once upon a time Nickelodon use to have better content on their channel. It was here that I was first introduced to Miracle’s Boys. It was a six part mini series that featured Pooch Hall, Sean Nelson and Julito McCullum.

I would like to mention that I had a crush on Sean Nelson as well as Pooch Hall. I admire their acting and plus they are really good to look at.

Check out the trailer below.

After finishing the series, which was fantastic acting from beginning to end. I found that it was a book and a book by Jacqueline Woodson none the less. I read it instantly and it became a classic for me.

As an adult re-reading this book, you realize how much sadder it actually is. Paying attention to things not said, you’ll see three boys (I loosely use this term) who are grieving the lost of their mother but are not speaking about it, feeling the absence of a father, although he has been dead for sometime now, struggling to do what is right, when it is very obvious they do not want to but most importantly struggling to make their mother proud.

The book is a quick read but had an impact. In this day and age, there are a lot of books about losing parents and struggling to be “normal” mostly from a girl’s point of view, which is why this book stands out because it is about three growing boys trying to make it and not disappoint their mother.

The world building makes you feel like you are there. The imagery is so imprinted in your brain that as I write this I can see Lafayette watching the room, see Charlie’s anger and hear Ty’ree’s frustrations as well as disappointment. Its deep and the story is still relevant today and that is why I still like it.

My only concern with this book and the series as well as it just sort of ends. There is a unspoken truce or for the lack of better term communication between the brothers that gives you the impression that everything is going to be alright but then when you think about it things can wrong too. I wanted more of a confirmation and although the ending wasn’t bad, it didn’t hit that spot.

Overall,

4 Pickles then and now

 

Book Review: in her mind by Phoebe Garnsworthy

Self Published
Published 2017
215 Pages

Elke Sinclair doesn’t care to fall in love.

And life for the 25-year old in Bondi Beach is as chilled as it sounds.
Her days are filled with fun parties and good friends, while she soul searches for a career that she’s passionate about.

But it only takes one person to change all of that.

When Elke meets Lincoln, a dangerously sexy foreigner, she believes that he is her destiny and that the universe has sent him to her for a reason. As Elke falls madly in love, an unhealthy obsession for perfection begins, and it overtakes her friendships, her goals and even her sanity!

Will Elke find herself before it’s too late? 
Or will she remain the fool forever? -Goodreads

*short review and maybe a harsh review*

I didn’t like Elke. She was a spoiled brat that met someone who turned her out and she couldn’t be an adult about it. She spent her time in the beginning of the complaining how she doesn’t have her life together but lacks the motivation to do anything, so she keeps complaining and then latches onto someone that makes her blood boil.

Do not get me wrong being in love can be rough but being in love for the first time as an adult is something I may not wish upon anyone. Elke took it to the extreme but after completely the book that is her personality. She knows nothing about balance and I’m not exactly sure if she learns this at all.

I wasn’t sucked into the world, although I could see it clearly. The author did a good job describing and shaping this world but it was nothing new. The world was hipsters, fairly wealthy people in California; who have particular tastes and who love to drink, party and have sex.

The book didn’t have any grit, anything I can hold on to and say wow. I didn’t relate to Elke or the surround characters. I thought she was selfish, self centered and needed a kick in the butt. What happens to her sucks, but it didn’t change how selfish she was.

Overall,

Zero pickles