Tag Archives: book review

Book Review: Secret Crush Seduction by Jayci Lee

Harlequin Desire
TBP Sept. 8th, 2020
224 Pages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Pickles

Book Review: The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed

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

Los Angeles, 1992

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

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

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

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

TW: Suicide, Violence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.5 Pickles

Book Review: The Ship of Shadows by Maria Kuzniar

Penguin
Published July 9th, 2020
288 Pages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 Pickles

Book Review: The Way To His Heart: Unexpected Love Book 2 by Genesis Woods

M Squared Publications
Published Nov. 9th, 2019
158 Pages

They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but for Chef Bellamy Jones, it’s going to take a little more than a soul food infused crepe suzette to catch the man of her dreams or catapult her career to the next level.

When a very popular and well respected food critic visits Bellamy’s restaurant to critique her ingenious take on French cuisine, she soon questions her love for all things culinary after the infamous Ren Phillips less than stellar review on her food is released for the world to see.

A chance run in between the two not only explodes into a TMZ worthy headline, but it also sheds some light on a sweet little treat Bellamy thought she’d never have to share with anyone else but herself.- Goodreads

I sat on doing this review a few days after I read it. And normally, I don’t show the rating before the end of the review but I have to start there.

This book gets 4 Pickles

I loved this story but its too damn short. The author is able to tie everything together, build interest in not only Bellamy and Ren but all surrounding characters. But everything was in short bursts. I wanted to see more of how their relationship developed as opposed it it just happening. I wanted to know more about Bellamy’s relationship with her mother, Ren’s relationship with his father because everything was written so freaking well even the food.

What I loved about this book, what I truly loved was the diverse characters. Not talking about race. But Bellamy has a sister that is full blown comic book nerd and a best friend who is professional public relations specialist. Each of them are their own person and they only help to ground and agitate Bellamy. I loved their dynamics but I also loved how everything just made sense. Bellamy wasn’t a bitter woman still upset at what happened. She was focused and in need of love (as well as Ren).

My review seems a bit short but that is fine because other than the fact that this book was too short, I love everything about it. As a note, I didn’t read the first book of the series but at no point did I feel like I had to. I have every intention of reading the rest of the series.

So again, my rating . .  overall,

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

Book Review: The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Pickle