Tag Archives: Arc

Book Review: Night Shine by Tessa Gratton

McElderry Books
TBP Sept 8th 2020

In the vast palace of the empress lives an orphan girl called Nothing. She slips within the shadows of the Court, unseen except by the Great Demon of the palace and her true friend, Prince Kirin, heir to the throne. When Kirin is kidnapped, only Nothing and the prince’s bodyguard suspect that Kirin may have been taken by the Sorceress Who Eats Girls, a powerful woman who has plagued the land for decades. The sorceress has never bothered with boys before, but Nothing has uncovered many secrets in her sixteen years in the palace, including a few about the prince.

As the empress’s army searches fruitlessly, Nothing and the bodyguard set out on a rescue mission, through demon-filled rain forests and past crossroads guarded by spirits. Their journey takes them to the gates of the Fifth Mountain, where the sorceress wields her power. There, Nothing will discover that all magic is a bargain, and she may be more powerful than she ever imagined. But the price the Sorceress demands for Kirin may very well cost Nothing her heart- Goodreads

I enjoyed this book but there was a major red flag for me. This book was presented to me as #ownvoices but from the summary and from reading the book it is very clear that this book is based on a form of Asian culture.  From what I know of the author she is White and living in Japan.  So being called #ownvoices through me off by a lot.

Unless its #ownvoices for LGBTQ aspect of this novel. I am not sure. This is my first novel by this author so if anyone can provide some insight to that it would be great. Now let’s talk about the book.

I really liked it. It is unlike any other fantasy I have read and it is as romantic as it is magical.  It focuses on world building and character development.  Does action scenes happen? Yes, but not as frequent as you would think in a world with magic.  I am chalking it up to writing skills because I was invested in this story-line.

However, there is a lot of back and forth in this novel. Nothing does all of it herself and although it is for good reason, going thirty chapters of her being not sure of anything is a bit much.  Did I put this book down? Yes, actually a few times and because things didn’t just slow down they almost stopped for me. The intensiveness that I felt in the first half of the book dwindled  and the lack of “action” did not help with that either.

But beyond this, I loved the romance displayed in the novel. Nothing grows to discover what love is and what is isn’t and that is comes in different times and forms. And also Nothing is fairly entertaining to read. She is quick on her feet, curious and oddly enough very objective. I liked her.

Overall, I was surprised by this book but in a good way.

3.5 Pickles

 

Book Review | These Vengeful Hearts by Katherine Laurin

Inkyard Press
TBP Sept 8th, 2020
384 Pages

Whenever something scandalous happens at Heller High, the Red Court is the name on everyone’s lips. Its members–the most elite female students in the school–deal out social ruin and favors in equal measure, their true identities a secret known only to their ruthless leader: the Queen of Hearts.

Sixteen-year-old Ember Williams has seen firsthand the damage the Red Court can do. Two years ago, they caused the accident that left her older sister paralyzed. Now, Ember is determined to hold them accountable…by taking the Red Court down from the inside.

But crossing enemy lines will mean crossing moral boundaries, too–ones Ember may never be able to come back from. She always knew taking on the Red Court would come at a price, but will the cost of revenge be more than she’s willing to sacrifice?- Goodreads

There is no way in the world this book should have been this long and ended the way it did. I needed to say that first before anything.

I liked this book. I loved the concept that Ember is going in to take down the woman that destroyed her sister’s life. Its that will they become the evil they hate quest that gets me every time and the fact that it is set in high school makes it a mix of creepy and thrilling at the same. Creepy because it reminds me of politics.

The pace of novel was going really well until about 30% of the book. It was a lot of “I’m going to get the Queen” speeches she was giving herself and it was happening so often it was becoming redundant.

Ember did a lot of complaining and less trying to find information which was another thing that was getting tiring. How you going to do all those “this is what I am fighting for” speeches but then actually don’t do anything. Waiting for information to fall on your lap is boring especially with access to things that Ember had accessed to.

In regards to Ember herself. She was okay. Her focus was the court and protecting her family and that was all she did. Did I like her? My feelings for her are indifferent. She played her role of a teenager out for revenge very well and that was enough for me.

However, this book was too damn long. There was a lot of build up for an ending that was not good. Which is a shame because what I thought was going to happen didn’t. It went real left and I liked that.

But because the author decided to focus on building the tension and the thrill it took a lot a way from the book.

I liked this book but I could have liked it way more.

Overall,

2.5 Pickles

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: 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: The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert

Disney-Hyperion
TBP July 7th 2020
304 Pages

Marva Sheridan was born ready for this day. She’s always been driven to make a difference in the world, and what better way than to vote in her first election?
Duke Crenshaw is do done with this election. He just wants to get voting over with so he can prepare for his band’s first paying gig tonight.
Only problem? Duke can’t vote.

When Marva sees Duke turned away from their polling place, she takes it upon herself to make sure his vote is counted. She hasn’t spent months doorbelling and registering voters just to see someone denied their right. And that’s how their whirlwind day begins, rushing from precinct to precinct, cutting school, waiting in endless lines, turned away time and again, trying to do one simple thing: vote.

They may have started out as strangers, but as Duke and Marva team up to beat a rigged system (and find Marva’s missing cat), it’s clear that there’s more to their connection than a shared mission for democracy.- Goodreads

TW: Death of a Sibling 

If there wasn’t a more timely book currently out there right now, I don’t know where it is. This book is important. It focuses on the importance of voting BUT it also focuses on the importance of who you surround yourself with, race, trauma, stereotypes and community.

This is the first book I’ve read by Colbert  and I was pleased with it. It packed a bigger punch the summary makes it seem and I was expecting the different issues that written. I guess I should have assumed given the fact that this is a political novel (so to speak).

The romance was so far behind that I don’t actually consider it a romance. Duke and Marva have a mutual interest but I am not sure its chemistry. The fact that voting brings them together is fantastic and I love it. But if it wasn’t for the fact that Marva’s boyfriend was selfish and exhibited allyship fatigue (-_-) she would have paid Duke no attention.  However, I liked the fact that there was willingness to try because not everything has to be insta love and things can take time to grow.

The pace of the novel was great. The entire book was detailed without feeling like a run own. And going back to its timeliness. . . this book is important and not just because it stresses the importance of voting but also what someone can do for their community outside of them voting.  It was touching and thought-provoking.  It makes you think.

Overall, I liked this book and would recommend it.

3 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

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Book Review: Lakewood: A Novel by Megan Giddings

Amistad
TBP March 24th 2020
288 Pages

When Lena Johnson’s beloved grandmother dies, and the full extent of the family debt is revealed, the black millennial drops out of college to support her family and takes a job in the mysterious and remote town of Lakewood, Michigan.

On paper, her new job is too good to be true. High paying. No out of pocket medical expenses. A free place to live. All Lena has to do is participate in a secret program—and lie to her friends and family about the research being done in Lakewood. An eye drop that makes brown eyes blue, a medication that could be a cure for dementia, golden pills promised to make all bad thoughts go away.

The discoveries made in Lakewood, Lena is told, will change the world—but the consequences for the subjects involved could be devastating. As the truths of the program reveal themselves, Lena learns how much she’s willing to sacrifice for the sake of her family.- Goodreads

I was disappointed in this book. There is really no other way to say it. I love the fact that this book tackles a topic that in my experience a lot of Black families have discussed and that is participating in research studies. Growing up my family was straight against it. There were reports of organ robbing, Black women being sterilized, or their DNA being stolen. From selling your eggs to participating in a sleep study, I found that my family was not the only family that was completely against any form of research study, no matter how much it cost.

Because of this, I was extremely interested in the book and I was fully invested into the book until about 30% in when it started to fade. I completely understand that this book has a lot to build on (and trust me it was building) but you can’t start at a high and the drop. By 30% of the book things should be at least picking up not going on a down slope.

There is a lot of repetition in this book and there is suppose to be this nagging fear even as Lena agrees to do the study but it never comes. The big shock factor was really there. But speaking of Lena, girl has no personality and I was confused by her. What I was confused about was not why she wanted/needed to do this study but she reacted to things in the weirdest way. She was socially awkward, angry, frustrated and confused her own freaking self most of the time. There was nothing connecting me to her in a way that I can say that I feel for her. Because I actually didn’t.

I wish there was more drama, more personality from Lena, more suspense and just way more going on.

Overall,

2 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