Tag Archives: Arc

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

Book Review: When Life Gives You Mangos by Kereen Getten

Delacorte Press
TBP Sept. 15th, 2020
208 Pages

Twelve-year-old Clara lives on an island that visitors call exotic. But there’s nothing exotic about it to Clara. She loves eating ripe mangos off the ground, running outside in the rain with her Papa during rainy season, and going to her secret hideout with Gaynah–even though lately she’s not acting like a best friend.

The only thing out of the ordinary for Clara is that something happened to her memory that made her forget everything that happened last summer after a hurricane hit. Sometimes things come back to her in drips like a tap that hasn’t been turned off properly. Other times her Mama fills in the blanks…only she knows those aren’t her memories and it is hard feeling like she is not like everybody else.

But this summer is going to be different for Clara. Everyone is buzzing with excitement over a new girl in the village who is not like other visitors. She is about to make big waves on the island–and give Clara a summer she won’t forget.- Goodreads

It is hard for me to write this review because all 208 pages was perfect.  Seriously. This book was perfect.

The moment I knew it was perfect was I loudly gasped and my jaw dropped. I felt betrayed by the shock I felt and it is hilarious thinking about it but I wasn’t expecting this book. I wasn’t expecting the curiosity and the heart that came from this book.

I freaking loved it. The pace was on point. The imagery had me thinking I was about to experience a storm myself. The tone of the novel moved with the plot i.e. it wasn’t monotone or boring. Clara was relatable as well as her family.

Everything about this novel was so on point that I have no idea how I am going to read after this.

Overall, highly recommend this read.

5 Pickles

Book Review: Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai

Avon
Published April 1st, 2020
400 Pages

One minute, Katrina King’s enjoying an innocent conversation with a hot guy at a coffee shop; the next, a stranger has live-tweeted the entire episode with a romantic meet-cute spin and #CafeBae is the new hashtag-du-jour. The problem? Katrina craves a low-profile life, and going viral threatens the peaceful world she’s painstakingly built. Besides, #CafeBae isn’t the man she’s hungry for…

He’s got a [peach emoji] to die for.

With the internet on the hunt for the identity of #CuteCafeGirl, Jas Singh, bodyguard, friend, and possessor of the most beautiful eyebrows Katrina’s ever seen, comes to the rescue and whisks her away to his family’s home. Alone in a remote setting with the object of her affections? It’s a recipe for romance. But after a long dating dry spell, Katrina isn’t sure she can trust her instincts when it comes to love—even if Jas’ every look says he wants to be more than just her bodyguard…– Goodreads

This is my first book by Alisha Rai. I would like to note that this is the second book to her Modern Love series. Although they are separate stories with references to the first book, I did feel like I should have read the first book. When I was reading, I felt like I was missing something and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. With that being said, I probably would have found this more enjoyable if I would have read the first book.

But moving forward this book was cute. Although at times seeing Jas and Katrina act like middle school kids was frustrating, I enjoyed the slow build. If you aren’t interested in slow builds, you will not like this book because it is slow.

I liked Jas way more than I liked Katrina and it is not because she has so much going on. She is just boring. Adorable but boring. Jas was not only attractive, he was talented, spoke three different languages, had depth but was comfortably simple. I adored him and loved the fact that I was able to read from his point of view.

Beyond Katrina being stale, I am just going to say reading about her or Jas having sex was extremely uncomfortable for me. Not because I don’t read sexual activity in books but because it felt forced and it felt like the author just put it in there to appease the masses. It didn’t feel genuine at all. It read like the author was uncomfortable writing it.

*sigh*

But overall, this wasn’t a bad read. It was okay, cute (ish). It would have been nice if Katrina had more personality and if there was more chemistry.

2 Pickles

 

Book Review | Saving Ruby King by Catherine Adel West

Park Row
TBP June 16th 2020
352 Pages

When Ruby King’s mother is found murdered in their home in Chicago’s South Side, the police dismiss it as another act of violence in a black neighborhood. But for Ruby, it’s a devastating loss that leaves her on her own with her violent father. While she receives many condolences, her best friend, Layla, is the only one who understands how this puts Ruby in jeopardy.

Their closeness is tested when Layla’s father, the pastor of their church, demands that Layla stay away. But what is the price for turning a blind eye? In a relentless quest to save Ruby, Layla uncovers the murky loyalties and dangerous secrets that have bound their families together for generations. Only by facing this legacy of trauma head-on will Ruby be able to break free.- Goodreads

TW | Incest, Rape, Abuse, Violence, Murder

This book is heavy. It is emotionally draining heavy piece of literature that I have no idea how the author was able to write it and I hope that she is okay.

And honestly, I wish I can stop the review there. Not because this wasn’t a good book. It was good. Different point of views, which means you got the full story, its messy (good messy), its deep and it gives everyone and thing a voice.

History goes deep, especially history with secrets and while reading this book all I can think about is this someone’s truth? If it is, dang. Not only was I invested in this story, my heart and emotions was completely wrapped into what was going on.

This book isn’t just about Ruby or Layla. It goes way further than that. Its excellent writing to add so much without feeling like the book is dragging or overly complicated.

This is a good book but if you are not emotionally strong enough, then do no read this book. If you are, good luck.

4 Pickles

Book Review: You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria

Avon
TBP July 7th, 2020
384 Pages

After a messy public breakup, soap opera darling Jasmine Lin Rodriguez finds her face splashed across the tabloids. When she returns to her hometown of New York City to film the starring role in a bilingual romantic comedy for the number one streaming service in the country, Jasmine figures her new “Leading Lady Plan” should be easy enough to follow—until a casting shake-up pairs her with telenovela hunk Ashton Suárez. 

Leading Ladies don’t need a man to be happy. 

After his last telenovela character was killed off, Ashton is worried his career is dead as well. Joining this new cast as a last-minute addition will give him the chance to show off his acting chops to American audiences and ping the radar of Hollywood casting agents. To make it work, he’ll need to generate smoking-hot on-screen chemistry with Jasmine. Easier said than done, especially when a disastrous first impression smothers the embers of whatever sexual heat they might have had. 

Leading Ladies do not rebound with their new costars. 

With their careers on the line, Jasmine and Ashton agree to rehearse in private. But rehearsal leads to kissing, and kissing leads to a behind-the-scenes romance worthy of a soap opera. While their on-screen performance improves, the media spotlight on Jasmine soon threatens to destroy her new image and expose Ashton’s most closely guarded secret.- Goodreads

I too had an obsession with American soap operas. However, One Life to Live was my favorite one of all time and it was because of three men;  Antonio (Kamar de los Reyes) and Cristian (David Fumero) Vega and Todd Manning (Roger Howarth). The Vega brothers were everything to me. I live to watch their stories and Todd. . . he was a mess but a mess with a soft heart.

This book. . . made me remember all of that.

First let me say how well this book was written. Not only do you get both Jasmine and Ashton’s point of views but you also read the show; basically you are seeing reading two stories at the same time. So you’re getting a bang for your buck.  The transitions are clear and smooth. The writing is engaging, extremely detailed without the drag and there is a balance of color and culture. What I mean by that is the author is trying to tell a love story and within that love story give you a glimpse of the culture while not stressing the politics of the culture. Honestly it was refreshing. I say that with no insult. I say that because its nice to read a diverse book without a struggle. We see it all the time in books by Black authors, Hispanic authors and any non straight, white authors. This book was refreshing.

Jasmine and Ashton have pure, makes sense chemistry. There is an instant attraction that wouldn’t say is lust.  But they are grown adults (with baggage) that responsible (ish). There are definitely some drama within their relationship but it doesn’t happen as sudden as other romances.

Beyond their chemistry, Jasmine and Ashton were great characters with their own personalities that were different from each other but complimented each other.  They didn’t allow their individuality to change or shape their relationship. I love that. Too often you see someone in a relationship trying to be someone different because of the person they are with.

Both of them experience growth, not just at the end but also as you read. Also the author makes reference to their past growth (at least on Jasmine’s end).

I loved this novel and have every intention of buying a physical copy for my library.

Overall,

4 Pickles

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