Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Sin & Ink (The Sweetest Taboo, #1) by Naima Simone: Pass the Water, I'm Parched

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Sin & Ink (The Sweetest Taboo) by Naima Simone
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There's sin, and then there's literally going-straight-to-hell sin...

Being in lust with my dead brother's wife pretty much guarantees that one day I'll be the devil's bitch. But Eden Gordon works with me, so it's getting harder and harder to stay away. I promised my family—and him—I would, though.

My days as an MMA champion are behind me. But whenever I see her, with those wicked curves and soft mouth created for dirty deeds, it's a knock-down fight to just maintain my distance. "Hard Knox" becomes more than just the name of my tattoo shop. However, surrendering to the forbidden might be worth losing everything...
I'm trying to loosen the hold the top of my shirt seems to have on my throat or the haze of lust that seemed to cover this book like a looming rain cloud ready to burst. If emotional was enough of a word to describe this book; I would stop there. This book was intense. As much as the angst threatened to drown me in its overwhelming presence--I don't think I could properly articulate it.

Knox craves his sister-in-law like a drug addict craves his/her next hit. It's wrong and it’s not good for him, but it doesn't stop desire from seizing him and taking him by the throat every time Eden is in the room.

His MMA fighting days are behind him, but what he no longer fights physically, like men in the ring--he fights mentally: like his guilt and the love he harbors for his brother’s widow.

Knox’s mental tug of war results in a novel heavy in angst and blame--that later cocoons into love and forgiveness.

Obviously, romance is the most important part of this novel, but the emotional depth of the novel is what kept me reading. If you knew me at all; you’d know a novel that pulls at my emotions satisfies my Scorpion heart like a balm to a burn.

Novels that don't stray from, but dive headfirst into the emotional side of its plot and its characters--are among my favorite types of books. Books filled with angst are among some of my second favorite types.

This book is heavy handed on both. While I adored the book for this; it did feel a bit overwhelming at times. It could have been my eagerness for a conclusion. Or it could have been my eagerness to get past the angst in an effort to get to the juicy parts; that had me feeling this way. But, it all works for this book. Be prepared for a slow burn that chafes like a fresh sunburn.

However, the writing is brilliant. The similies were so perfectly written; they stirred incandescent images I felt like I could see and touch. 

I wanted to tuck some of them away for later; for use in my own writing. The pacing is torturous but perfect. Simone did everything right with Sin and Ink--and she's gained a fan because of it. She did what needed to be done.

Stroking my emotions and being a stellar writer is my Achilles heel. It's what brings me to my proverbial knees. It's the books I look for when everything else feels wrong.

This book is not perfect, but as far as the things I look for: emotion, depth, and good writing; it's damn close.

The characters backgrounds are solid as a rock--giving the story a depth that couldn’t have been achieved by lazy writing or happenstance. This novel was planned and written with a precision not many authors can achieve. Naima is a force to be reckoned with. I'm honestly both surprised and not; that I haven't heard of her before this. But, with stories like these, I’m sure I’ll hear more about her; coming from my own mouth most likely.

However, if her books are always this angst-y, I'll probably enjoy them with trepidation--fear of the emotional pulling: choosing to feast on them like a bag of chips on cheat day.

 Sin and Ink is a solid winner: with great writing, solid characters--and sex scenes that will have you reaching for a glass of water. It will have you coming back to this author for more.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

His Only Valentine (The Spies Who Loved Her Interlude) by Katrina Jackson

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His Only Valentine (The Spies Who Loved Here Interlude) by Katrina Jackson
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Kenny, the Asian-American spy, has been dating Maya, the fat Black cam model, for a few months. He used to be the kind of guy who didn’t put anything above his job and his ambition to become the best spy at The Agency. (Or second best spy, next to his idol.) But now that he’s managed to take his relationship with Maya offline, he’s finding it difficult to imagine that anything could ever be more important than coming home to her every night.

Maya can’t believe that her life is this good. Her cam channel is doing great, her savings account has a tiny bit of padding, and she has a great boyfriend who treats her like a queen and makes her blush more than ever before in her life. But she doesn’t have a great history with relationships and the upcoming fake holiday has her nervous that this is all too good to be true.

On their first Valentine’s Day together, Kenny and Maya want to make the day perfect, even when they’re forced to abandon their original plans and fly to Hong Kong to protect a foreign diplomat from a possible assassination attempt. Along the way, the two begin to realize that maybe their honeymoon phase is so good because this is what real love feels like. And it’s even better than they dreamed.

His Only Valentine is an interlude in The Spies Who Loved Her series. These erotic romantic suspense stories are about sexy secret agents and the civilians who bring them to their knees. This story would make the most sense if you read Private Eye first.
 
I spent my post valentine’s day in one of my favorite places; between the pages of a Katrina Jackson novel.

Intrigue and sex met me at the door; while the romance and confessions of love bid me adieu.

Kenny and Maya are back. It's their first Valentine’s Day together. The holiday is filled with a lot of firsts for the couple.

Kenny has special plans for them. He wants to give Maya a Valentine's Day she'll never forget.

Maya hasn't had a pleasant Valentine's Day yet. But she’s ready to celebrate it with Kenny--even though he won't tell her what they're doing--much to Maya’s chagrin.

Their holiday plans are thwarted, when Monica calls him in for a job. But, he's bringing Maya on this business trip--determined to make the best of the holiday no matter what. As a result, readers are treated to sensuous sex, and spy games galore.

I don't think I'll ever tire of these characters and their shenanigans. What I love most about
this Erotica series is that its multi-layered. You not only get thirst inducing sex, but: emotions back story and a plot that's easy to get invested in.

I love Jackson for pushing the narrative that plus-sized women can be poppin', too. Everyone deserves love, no matter the size.

There's not much to say. The novel is what I've grown used to from this author: great writing, witty characters, and hot sex. You get what you paid for and then some.

I have no qualms about this book; aside from I want more. Another great from an author that has made her way on my favorites list.


Wednesday, February 13, 2019

A Real Kind of Love (Four Letter Word, #1) by Bella Jay: Where Is The Love?


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A Real Kind of Love (Four Letter Word, #1)
by Bella Jay
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Avelyn Russell didn’t do love. Never did, never wanted to and as far as she was concerned, never would. She lives her life proud to hold the title as the ‘break up queen’ and for never letting love get her caught up in being an advocate of false hope fairytales. But her extreme methods to avoid love are put to the test by the one person able to tap into her cold little heart and Avelyn has no clue how to handle it.

Dasiah Stokes - charming, handsome, and not afraid of love. The complete opposite of Avelyn and the moment he reveals his true feelings for her, she bolts leaving him to fight for their love. He’s willing to do just that - until he’s not, leaving them both to figure out if it is or isn’t the end of their love story. 

Follow Avelyn on her journey as she finds the true meaning of love.
Coming off of the high of Power I was eager to try another book from this author. 

I hate to say it, but this wasn't my favorite.

Avelyn is bitter towards love. She's scorned from the absence of her mother. She vows never to fall victim to love; like her mother and sister. However, love has a way of finding you when you least expect it. Avelyn found love; in a man named Dasiah.

Their love was full of angst, arguments, and anger. I understood Avelyn's hesitation toward love, but her anger at times felt unwarranted.

It was tough to empathize with Avelyn, but I tried.

The romance in this book, at least for the first 60-70%, is nil. The novel is less about love and more about these human beings figuring things out. They're learning to love and love properly. I like stories of growth; but I expected more romance--which I did not get. That was disappointing.

I didn't find myself as invested in the characters as I would have liked. They were okay, but it wasn't there for me.

Don't get me wrong; I still think this author is something to see. I wouldn't count her out by any means. I just wasn't as taken in with this story; as I was with Power. (I highly recommend Power. If you haven't read my review for it--check it out!)

Recommended for romance readers that enjoy their romance novels, light on the romance and heavy on character development.


Monday, February 11, 2019

Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds Arc Review: My 2nd Favorite of the Year. I'm Already Calling It.

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Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds
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Jack Ellison King. King of Almost.

He almost made valedictorian.

He almost made varsity.

He almost got the girl . . . 

When Jack and Kate meet at a party, bonding until sunrise over their mutual love of Froot Loops and their favorite flicks, Jack knows he’s falling—hard. Soon she’s meeting his best friends, Jillian and Franny, and Kate wins them over as easily as she did Jack. Jack’s curse of almost is finally over.

But this love story is . . . complicated. It is an almost happily ever after. Because Kate dies. And their story should end there. Yet Kate’s death sends Jack back to the beginning, the moment they first meet, and Kate’s there again. Beautiful, radiant Kate. Healthy, happy, and charming as ever. Jack isn’t sure if he’s losing his mind. Still, if he has a chance to prevent Kate’s death, he’ll take it. Even if that means believing in time travel. However, Jack will learn that his actions are not without consequences. And when one choice turns deadly for someone else close to him, he has to figure out what he’s willing to do—and let go—to save the people he loves.
 
Opposite of Always is a heartfelt and stunning debut; that is worthy of all praise.

I am in love with this book; its story, and the way it made me feel.

Jack is a boy in love with a girl, that keeps dying—over and over again. 

Most importantly, he’s a black boy in love with a black girl—and the importance of that is immeasurable.

Every death is an opportunity to fall in love with Kate again. It's a chance to right wrongs, fix relationships—and to do things differently. But what happens when you start flubbing with the future, by changing up the past?

Jack is a treasure trove of humor and black boy joy. His character stumbles along in love and fruitless determination; to keep the girl that keeps slipping through his fingers time and time again. 


Kate is a girl in love with a boy--whose time gets shortened unexpectedly.

Their love is serendipitous and being able to experience it is a treat I won’t take lightly. 
Between the romance and the friendships, this reader’s heart is full to the brim.

This book is everything I’ve been hoping to find in black YA; a positive story—that allows for black joy, growth, and love to be the star. It is paramount to the catalog of black YA as a whole. It’s imperative that teens get to see more happiness, joy, and positivity with a black face at the helm. 

Aside from the novel's importance, is the writing: that is eloquent and easy-to-follow. It pulls you in and does not let go; until the book is complete.

The characters were expertly-crafted, and have found a place in my heart. I felt every word--every rise and fall. I won't forget this story. I want to hand it to every black child that passes me by so they can see, you get a love story, too--and it can be beautiful.

It's beautiful. I am a love-sick puddle of goo. The way the book deals with sci-fi (the time-traveling) while maintaining a strong contemporary voice is genius. It has earned its place as my second favorite novel of the year. 

I highly recommend it.

PS: Cheers to the author for including sickle cell disease in his novel. Most people don't talk about it, or even know what it entails. It is a disease that is prevalent in the black community--and cheers to him for how he dealt with and handled it. Reynolds, you're all right by me.



Monday, February 4, 2019

Honeydew (Southern Seduction Book One) By S. Taylor ARC Review: Put Some Respect on This Book's Name

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Honey Dew (Southern Seduction Book One) by S. Taylor
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Clarisse Jordan is a young single mother, who after the death of her fiancé, poured blood, sweat, and tears into her business, Honeydew Café, to provide for her children. A catering gig for successful and super sexy Dylan Price is the opportunity of a lifetime. But she quickly learns that Mr. Price is interested in more than her Southern cuisine. He has his sights set on her. 
Dylan has been in love with Clarisse for years and would do anything to have her—even if it means forcing her into marriage. Lucky for him, the instant chemistry between them is hotter than a mid-summer day beneath the Georgia sun. 
Yet Dylan is not completely honest with Clarisse, and when she learns the painful truth, will their love affair end? Or will they be able to find their way back to each other?
Rating Breakdown:
Characters:Related image
Writing:Related image
Romance Factor:Image result for three  star rating
Steam Factor:Related image

The exclamation of this novel as insta-love is a little off the mark. I suppose you could say the relationship part of the book happens fairly quickly, but actual declarations of love don’t come until much later.

Insta-love is more than instant attraction, or instant lust, which is more of what’s found in Honeydew’s beginning.

Clarisse is a woman on a mission to make a name for herself and her business. After the death of her fiancée, she simply wants to live her life and make sure her kids are taken care of. But, Dylan Price has other plans—plans to bed and wed her, even if the wedding comes by coercing force.

What becomes of their love was more meaningful than I expected. I was concerned by the vigilance in which Dylan pursued Clarisse, especially with it being so painstakingly similar to the book I read last week. I found that the character’s particular (very similar) attempts at courting disturbing. (The other book, not this one.) What makes the two different is the underlying respect and love that forces Dylan to forge ahead in a manner that is not necessarily becoming of him. But he seems genuine, even if his behavior speaks differently. I don’t believe in his motives, but the outcome makes up for his shortcomings.

Starting off at a point of instant attraction worked for this novel instead of against it. 

The novel is well-written and is paced really well, which is why I truly believe labeling this as insta-love is a fair warning but doesn’t give the novel what it’s due. 

Solid characters—but, I could have done with more background on Dylan and Clarisse, but the novel holds up pretty well despite a lack of in-depth back story. 

I’m pleased with this as a first-read from this author. My feelings about it are solid, and the HEA was satisfactory. A decent novel with an author worth trying.



Thursday, January 31, 2019

Give Me Something I Can Feel by B. Love


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Give Me Something I Can Feel by B. Love
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Charlie White is probably the most bubbly, charismatic, and friendly person one could ever meet. After getting a second chance at life via a new heart, Charlie vowed to make the most out of life – no matter what cards she has been given. 

Knight Carver is probably the most angry, guarded, and anti-social person one could ever meet. After losing his mother because of diabetes complications, Knight vowed to never lose another person he loved – he detached himself from the rest of his family completely. 

When Knight returns to Memphis during the NBA off season, his 16-year-old pregnant sister needs all the help she can get. Charlie’s bedside service for expecting mothers is just the help Knight and Harlem both need. 

Although he fights it, Charlie’s personality and beautiful smile immediately melt Knight’s stone heart. He refuses to let her or anyone else know that, though. It doesn’t matter how attracted to her he is, or how drawn to her he finds himself, Knight has no plans of loving someone only to have them ripped from his hands like his mother was. 

Because of their meeting, one of their hearts will be changed forever. Charlie has the chance to use her love to give Knight something he hasn’t felt in years, or allow the stress of his pessimistic attitude to damage the heart she waited anxiously for. That’s what love does, you know? It fills you with empowering strength, or makes you devastatingly weak. 

What will be the outcome for these two? 

In this book, it was less about the story and more about the meaning.
The underlying love of God and love of love and the love of one’s self makes this novel stand out.

Of course, I loved Charlie and Knight, who wouldn’t? But it’s what was weaved throughout the story that endeared the story to my heart.

Knight lost his Mom at a young age. It caused him to lose his faith, his ability to love, and it had him running from the only family he had left.

 Charlie is all sunshine and bubbles but life hasn’t always been good to her. Heart problems almost took Charlie out but by the grace of God and through a random stranger's kindness—she has a second chance at life.

With a budding business, and a heart of gold—Charlie through a teenage pregnancy captures the heart of Knight—the anti-social, gentle not-so-gentle giant—and what we’re left with is a love that will touch even the hardest heart of readers.

I liked this story—B. Love has written some decent stories, and this is no different. 

A slow-building but obvious romance, a spunky soon-to-be teen mom, and a couple dead set against love made this story enjoyable to read. 

Love that takes effort and is not easy makes for the best kind of romance novels. I’d take a hard slow build over a quick satisfactory insta-love novel any day. 

The conflict comes very close to the end of the novel—though the characters give us some push back, you don’t have to deal with a lot of useless or ongoing arguing—which is a plus in my book.

Though this is not my favorite of Love’s, it was worth reading and I feel invested enough to read Harlem’s story—which comes after this, so that’s a win.

Short version: Slow-build romance. Two bleeding hearts meet, a pregnant teen eggs the two on, familial issues lead to conflict, love brings a resolution, and a baby brings the happy ending.

Recommended for romance lovers.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Cocoa Butter Kisses Dual Review: Books 1 and 2: This Ain't It Chief

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Cocoa Butter Kisses by A. Nicole
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Sometimes in life, we tend to do things we say we'd never do. That's exactly what happened with Ava. 
Working for an arrogant, cocky man can be tough sometimes, but once they cross a line that should've never been crossed, that only causes things to get tougher. 

Ava will quickly come to her senses but there's just something about Roman that she's drawn to. Will Ava continue crossing those lines, or is her job more important?

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Cocoa Butter Kisses by A. Nicole
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Sometimes in life, we tend to do things we say we'd never do. That's exactly what happened with Ava. 
Working for an arrogant, cocky man can be tough sometimes, but once they cross a line that should've never been crossed, that only causes things to get tougher. 

Ava will quickly come to her senses but there's just something about Roman that she's drawn to. Will Ava continue crossing those lines, or is her job more important?








Rating Breakdown:
Characters:Image result for two and a half star rating
Romance Factor:Image result for one star rating
Steam Factor:Image result for one star rating

BOOK ONE

The gorgeous cover of Cocoa Butter Kisses though sensual is a cover for a story that is 
more vulgar than sexy. 

To make a short story shorter, the blurb gives the book more depth than it actually 
contained. I hadn’t even realized this story was under 50 pages, otherwise, I would have
passed. It’s very difficult to capture a story of the caliber the blurb implies in such a short 
space of time. 

Ava works at a tattoo shop with a mouthy arrogant boss—and though I like men with a 
little attitude in my books, Roman’s attitude toed the line of disrespectful a little too 
closely. Let’s be real, he crossed the line—and had no intention of turning back. 

With pick up lines that shouldn’t work on anyone, he pulled Ava into a work relationship 
she didn’t really want. Good looks and good D won her over. While that’s far from 
unrealistic it was just a bit much for me.

Everything happened so fast, the lingo felt dated and Roman was an asshole who deemed
 her unladylike due to her smoking habit—which is a bad habit obviously but his position
 felt more like an attack than an observation from a man who claims to be “feeling her.”

Not to mention his stances were critical and not in a way that would tempt even the
“baddest” of girls. Mentions of her lips looking ready to suck a penis, and the mention of 
them being a God-given penis sucking machine rubbed me every way but right. 

With more time, time to let the reader come to grips with the budding relationship, time to
allow the reader to understand Ava’s tough lifestyle—and just more development would 
have made this serial-style novelette more appealing. 


BOOK TWO

Book two was better. However, it maintained the same lack of depth and meaningless, 
passionless sex that we encountered in book one.

Though the writing seemed to catch up to what was expected, the characters seemed clueless to the other’s needs which resulted in a lot of sex that only served to cover the many issues that lurked beneath
  the surface of their relationship not relationship

There’s a lack of respect from Roman towards Ava—the argument about not using condoms made me cringe and would send any woman with an iota of common sense running for the hills. 

This book would have better served its purpose as one lengthy novel—but if sex on
repeat and dramatic climactic-less endings are your thing, Cocoa butter kisses will satisfy 
your every need.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Thief by B. Love: The Thief Comes Only to Steal Kill and Destroy


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Thief by B. Love
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Thief: A person who steals another person's property, especially by stealth and without using force or violence. 
Luca Kareem and Riana Santee made an exchange a little over eight years ago - a heart for a heart. 
Riana had no problem relinquishing her heart to Luca, but Luca preferred spreading his love and his body thinly to almost every attractive woman he came in contact with. After a year of warring for a place in his heart, Riana finally gives up, but when Luca leaves her, he takes her heart with him. 
Riana Santee and Herbert Jacks made an exchange a little under seven years ago - a life for a life. 
Herbert had no problem-saving Riana's life, knowing that one day, she'd be able to return the favor in the most lethal way. She'd become a heartless, emotionally detached hit-woman, stealing the hearts of men on her path just for fun. It's when Riana chooses to leave her life of crime that Herbert decides to cash in on that last lethal favor. 
When Luca and Riana's paths cross again, Riana has the opportunity to not only reclaim her heart but stop Luca's as well. There's just one problem; the Luca of now is not the Luca from back then. This Luca has the ability to not only return Riana's heart but make her love him twice as deeply with it as well. Will Riana finally receive her revenge, or will she end up losing more than she ever thought was possible because of her love for Luca Kareem? 
Rating Breakdown:
Characters:Image result for three and a half star rating
Writing:Image result for three and a half star rating
Romance Factor:Image result for four star rating
Steam Factor:Image result for three  star rating

I’ve grown somewhat used to or expectant of these emotional tales from Love. 
I love her overall penchant for emotionally charged reads that bring to the forefront, faith, 
love (relationship, friendship or paternal) and self-love.

Riana was just a girl on a path to love with a man not quite ready to give it to her. So, instead
of being led to a life of children, love and new beginning she’s left without all of that and 
a heart set on destroying men in her wake—thus creating the Femme Fatale.

Luca gave Riana his heart. He might have hurt her in the process, but she would always 
have his heart, even if he wasn’t ready to fully give himself up.

Their powerful and sometimes toxic love turned them into people they hardly
recognized and what the reader gets, as a result, is a tale of love that is dangerous, 
even deadly—one that the ending is not expected.

I liked this story, though I’m going, to be honest, I hate the word Pooh as a term of 
endearment. Give me the basics, baby, sweetheart even honey. But, Luca referring to
 Riana as his Pooh often and for me, it took some of the “punch” the lines could have had.
That’s a personal thing, if you don’t mind the off-brand nicknames then go forth 
and prosper(read).

Outside of that, I liked the emotional tug and the second chance at love this book displayed.
Secondary characters seemed insignificant in the grand scheme of the story. I can hardly
 remember them, that is outside of the sweet little girl that takes to Riana because she 
reminds her of a fairy.

Emotional, quick-moving and to the point, Thief is B. Love’s usual caliber of a novel,
 one that desires to stir up the emotions and get you excited for love and happy endings.

I loved the quotes and lyrics at the beginning of each section,  they served to further each 
chapters depth and to make the small interlude a nice place to prep for what lies ahead.

This was closer to my faves from her (Will U Still Want Me and In Due Time in terms of
characters and emotion. 

Recommended to readers that love their romance with a contemporary hood flair.