Tag Archives: Arc

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: Love’s Recipe by Mila Nicks

Independently Published
TBP May 1, 2020
241 Pages

Rosalie Underwood is a broke, recently divorced single mother. After she’s forced to return to her hometown St. Aster, Louisiana, she lands a waitressing job at Ady’s Creole Café. Life’s not done giving her lemons just yet, though. Ady’s Creole Café is on the brink of going out of business. If Rosalie hopes to recover from her disastrous marriage and keep her job, she must figure out a way to save the restaurant. But the only question is how?

When Nicholas Fontaine hires Rosalie Underwood, he doesn’t expect his newest waitress to stir the pot. He was hoping to keep up the charade he’s created since his mother’s passing. Soon he realizes that Rosalie refuses to let Ady’s fail. She cooks up a plan to salvage the business—including the part where she enters the restaurant in a food competition to generate town-wide buzz.

There’s no time for butting heads. The clock is ticking and the business is tanking. Nick’s stuck teaching Rosalie how to cook the one-of-a-kind menu. Rosalie’s trying her best to learn the delicious recipes. In order to succeed, they must come together and work as a team, but brewing feelings between them only complicates matters. Is this a recipe for disaster or a recipe for love?- Goodreads

If you are looking for a light read then this is the book for you.  Very straight-forward and not as much drama as the summary makes it seem.

I enjoyed this book because it wasn’t as drama filled as most romances are. Nick and Rosalie are adults and for most of the book you see them in a actual relationship. I loved that aspect. It gets really tiring seeing two adults go back and forth with how they are feeling. But, I guess I would say, the downside of this is the conflict within this novel is resolved extremely fast. The only reason why I would that this is a downside is because there wasn’t anything else building up the story. For instance, the story lacked depth in regards to the history of the town, the restaurant as well as Nick and Rosalie’s  personal history; even Rosalie’s marriage is mentioned vaguely.

I would have liked to see more chemistry between the two as well. Despite this I enjoyed the novel and I really liked the author’s writing style.

Overall,

3 Pickles 

 

 

Book Review: Tigers, Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry

Algonquin Young Readers
Published March 24, 2020
288 Pages

The Torres sisters dream of escape. Escape from their needy and despotic widowed father, and from their San Antonio neighborhood, full of old San Antonio families and all the traditions and expectations that go along with them. In the summer after her senior year of high school, Ana, the oldest sister, falls to her death from her bedroom window.

A year later, her three younger sisters, Jessica, Iridian, and Rosa, are still consumed by grief and haunted by their sister’s memory. Their dream of leaving Southtown now seems out of reach. But then strange things start happening around the house: mysterious laughter, mysterious shadows, mysterious writing on the walls. The sisters begin to wonder if Ana really is haunting them, trying to send them a message—and what exactly she’s trying to say.- Goodreads

TW: Death

I seem to do better with heavy emotion books when there is some magic in it.  For me it makes the blow easier. This book is as heavy as it can get.  It is told through each sister’s POV and I am super thankful for that. You have Iridian, who is angry and trying to escape in her writing. Jessica, who is a walking ball of sadness and responsibility and Rosa, who is trying to be spiritual and magical at the same time. Although all of them were dripping with grief and depression, being able to read each of their POV made the book’s topic easier to read.

I can’t say that I liked any of the sisters but I enjoyed reading Iridian more. There was a very defined personality despite her grief and she was honest with what was her truth and I enjoyed reading that.

I have to say that if you are going through something right now in your life or recently went through the motions, you might want to put a pause on this. Ana’s death is described with clear imagery. You know what happen. You know the rumors around her death and you know what lead to it. If you are struggling with grief, I can’t recommend this book to you.

However, if you are not and love an emotional family read then this is for you.  Mabry, the author, does a great job telling this story. The pace is wonderful and the book is detailed. The way the magic in this novel is written is a mix of creepy and realistic. You feel it and I think that is what the author was going for.

Overall, this was a solid book that changes the way magical realism in YA is done.

3.5 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: A Cowboy to Remember by Rebekah Weatherspoon

With a headline spot on a hit morning show and truly mouth-watering culinary skills, chef Evie Buchanan is perched on the edge of stardom. But at an industry party, a fall lands Evie in the hospital—with no memory of who she is. Scrambling to help, Evie’s assistant contacts the only “family” Evie has left, close friends who run the luxury dude ranch in California where Evie grew up. Evie has no recollection of them—until former rodeo champion Zach Pleasant walks into her hospital room, and she realizes his handsome face has been haunting her dreams . . .

Zach hasn’t seen Evie in years—not since their families conducted a campaign to make sure their childhood friendship never turned into anything more. When the young cowboy refused to admit the feelings between them were real, Evie left California, making it clear she never wanted to see Zach again. Now he refuses to make the same mistake twice. Starting fresh is a risk when they have a history she can’t recall, but Zach can’t bear to let go of her now. Can he awaken the sleeping beauty inside her who might still love him?- Goodreads

I had read the excerpt for this book through Netgalley some months ago and was pissed because I got sucked into the book and didn’t realize that it was a excerpt. This book takes your attention instantly and you just want more.

I liked this book but I didn’t love it. I liked the fact that the author took her time to build up the characters not just Evie and Zach but everyone. It was such a relief to see that the author didn’t rush the overall story. But with that being said, this book is slow. A whole lot of nothing happens for a very long time and I am not talking about the romance. Nothing really happened and with that being said the romance wasn’t spectacular either. It was hard for me to believe Evie and Zach and that was disappointing.

However, with that being said, I loved Zach’s brother and I hope that book two is from his brother’s point of view and his love story.

Overall, not a bad beginning to a series but there needed a bigger spark and much more investment to keep things going and going as strong as the beginning of the book was.

3 Pickles

Book Review: When You Were Everything by Ashley Woodfolk

Delacorte Press
March 10th, 2020
400 Pages

It’s been twenty-seven days since Cleo and Layla’s friendship imploded.

Nearly a month since Cleo realized they’ll never be besties again.

Now, Cleo wants to erase every memory, good or bad, that tethers her to her ex–best friend. But pretending Layla doesn’t exist isn’t as easy as Cleo hoped, especially after she’s assigned to be Layla’s tutor. Despite budding new friendships with other classmates—and a raging crush on a gorgeous boy named Dom—Cleo’s turbulent past with Layla comes back to haunt them both.

Alternating between time lines of Then and Now, When You Were Everything blends past and present into an emotional story about the beauty of self-forgiveness, the promise of new beginnings, and the courage it takes to remain open to love.- Goodreads

This book was written fantastically. However, HOWEVER, it needs to be known that Cleo is not exactly the victim. Here is why.

She is a terrible friend. Layla meet new people (who weren’t that great but that is not the point) because Cleo left her alone at a party. When Layla begins connecting with these people Cleo gets extremely jealous and begins saying hurtful things to Layla, privately and publicly. She expected Layla to see that she was jealous despite these horrible things and act like nothing happen.

It didn’t work that way and through out the entire novel, Cleo repeatedly makes it seem as if it is Layla’s fault for wanting new friends. Cleo is selfish from the beginning to the novel to the end. The people that she surrounds herself with only encourage that mindset.

It is extremely possible that their friendship would have just faded out on good terms or Layla would have seen what type of friends her new friends were and just stayed isolated with Cleo but Cleo screwed up on multiple times and tried to ruin peoples’ lives.

This is not to say that Layla was the perfect angel. She didn’t give her friendship with Cleo the time it deserved and although she tried to include Cleo in her new friendship, Layla didn’t take Cleo’s word when she noticed certain things and that could be since she knew Cleo didn’t like her being with new people. Did Layla do something messed up? Yeah (ish) She did something out of her character, but I do not feel that it was THAT messed up.

As much as I hated the fact that this book glorified a selfish, entitled, vindictive girl and made her seem as if this break up was not her fault, I loved the fact that it pulled emotions from me and kept me reading. It took some time for the book to get going but once it did, it was great.

I would have loved or love to see Layla’s viewpoint. But then again, I don’t see that happening specifically if this book is based on some truth.

Overall,

4 Pickles

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: 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