Friday, August 21, 2020

When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole ARC Review


When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole
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Rear Window meets Get Out in this gripping thriller from a critically acclaimed and New York Times Notable author, in which the gentrification of a Brooklyn neighborhood takes on a sinister new meaning…

Sydney Green is Brooklyn born and raised, but her beloved neighborhood seems to change every time she blinks. Condos are sprouting like weeds, FOR SALE signs are popping up overnight, and the neighbors she’s known all her life are disappearing. To hold onto her community’s past and present, Sydney channels her frustration into a walking tour and finds an unlikely and unwanted assistant in one of the new arrivals to the block—her neighbor Theo.

But Sydney and Theo’s deep dive into history quickly becomes a dizzying descent into paranoia and fear. Their neighbors may not have moved to the suburbs after all, and the push to revitalize the community may be more deadly than advertised.

When does coincidence become conspiracy? Where do people go when gentrification pushes them out? Can Sydney and Theo trust each other—or themselves—long enough to find out before they too disappear?
I wasn't sure what to expect, but I can honestly say I think it was less about the thrill of the scare and more about the fright of the story the book is telling. When I came back to NYC to finish my undergraduate degree, I saw the effects of gentrification. I wrote a paper for a journalism class on the subject of gentrification because the effects it had on black and brown neighborhoods overwhelmed me. For example in, Harlem, where I was born and spent a lot of my free time. Instead of seeing the small mom and pop stores where I would buy my most fly gear, those same stores were replaced with stores I would typically have to go further downtown to find. It was like watching a train wreck that I couldn't stop or turn away from. When No One is Watching tells that very story in an eerily, realistic, thrilling way.

Sydney was relatable. She practically leaped off the pages, and she set the tone for the entire story. Everything that happened around her felt disheartening yet ominous. I felt an overwhelming sense of anxiety reading the story, all the while worrying about what would and did wind up happening to Sydney. That was the thrill. Not the blood and gore, not the whodunit, but watching everything happen in painstaking realistic, racist detail.

Considering Cole isn't a thriller writer, her foray into the genre is well done. It had the makings of a thriller, but with the romantic elements, we expect from the author. The "romance" in the story played into and furthered the plot. The twists were unexpected and made for a more exciting story. I had a good time with this despite the moments of anger I felt towards what I'll call the "villains" of the story.

The writing is beautiful, and the story was exciting. As a debut thriller writer, I was pleased and would be eager to see Cole do more in this genre. I loved the premise and the execution of the concept. When No One is Watching is a gripping, exhilarating tale that shines a light on the painful effects of racism on housing and in general.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam ARC Review

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Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam of the Exonerated Five
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The story that I thought
was my life
didn’t start on the day
I was born

Amal Shahid has always been an artist and a poet. But even in a diverse art school, he’s seen as disruptive and unmotivated by a biased system. Then one fateful night, an altercation in a gentrifying neighbourhood escalates into tragedy. “Boys just being boys” turns out to be true only when those boys are white. 

The story that I think
will be my life
starts today
Suddenly, at just sixteen years old, Amal’s bright future is upended: he is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and sent to prison. Despair and rage almost sink him until he turns to the refuge of his words, his art. This never should have been his story. But can he change it?

On page 77, there's a line that says, "Bail money is invisible handcuffs," and if that's true, Black anger is mine. It's a quiet/loud part of me I lug around weighed down by its seemingly present less presence. Wondering when my Blackness will get me into trouble, I didn't create.

When I finished this book, I just sat still, staring at the cursor contemplating how to summarize what the book is about and how it made me feel. Whatever I say here will be inadequate, but here's me trying.

I can honestly say the Exonerated Five was just a story, an angering story I knew little about. Then many, many years later, Ava DuVernay made a film about them. Then the story became real, and the anger that I mentioned at the beginning became something I could taste. It was like eating something sour that lingered and lingered. 

This collaboration is a light into an otherwise darkened, unvisited place-- a story that tells the truth of the disenfranchisement of young Black men. It also paints a picture of the injustices of the judicial system that doesn't give Black people the same justice it has given others. So many Black boys and men wind up in prison. The actual number would make my stomach want to retreat in on itself. 

This story shows the power of words and thoughts and how they can either turn into hope or despair. This book was both, and it straddled the fence expertly to prove its many points. 

Amal came to life in short bursts of powerful prose. Every line tugged on my heart and yanked my face forward so I didn't miss a single line.

We meet each of the secondary characters through Amal's eyes and voice, and if it were they were a painting, they would be vivid and highly descriptive. The secondary characters added another layer of nuance, and realism to an evocative, knock out of a novel. 

Punching the Air is one of those books that read you while you're reading it. I am moved to a desire for action. I want to do more than read the book and move on.  This book reminds me of why I read in the first place and why it matters so much to me. It reminds me why words matter so much period.

The words between the two minuscule pieces of paper that hold the book together cannot contain the power within it. Hard-hitting, wise and bold, Punching the Air is a novel you won't soon forget. 

Thank you Ibi and Yusef for this story and these words.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Only One Bed Romance Anthology, Volume #1: An ARC Review

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Only One Bed Romance Anthology, Vol#1
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There's only one problem...there's only one bed.

Only One Bed Of A Pick Up Truck - Lucy Eden

Julian Harris is a world famous photographer who wins awards and travels the globe photographing world famous celebrities, history-making events, and things I can only dream of. He's also my older brother's best friend and the boy, excuse me, man, I've had a crush on my entire life. A series of unfortunate events leaves us stranded on the side of a mountain road in Upstate New York, and something about the way he looks at me makes me wonder if Jules sees me as something more than the awkward teenage girl he used to call 'Dee Dee'. 

Only One Flower Bed - Rebel Carter 

Seven years ago Grant Sinclair left his small town of Plenty, Georgia to chase his dreams of a degree, traveling the world, and owning his own business. But when Grant left home to chase after all that good, he left behind something more than good. He left behind the first man he ever loved. Remi Wilson. Now he's back and Grant won't give up on Remi. Even if the other man is hell bent on being as bitter as unsweet tea. 

The Bed Hierarchy - Lauren Connolly 

One innocent night can change the course of a life. Theo discovered this first hand when Olive Buchanan came into his world for less than 24 hours. Six years later, he still can't get over the memory of her. That's the only reason he's agreed to attend the Buchanan family's annual vacation; to prove that his best friend's little sister is not the perfect woman his mind has made her out to be. He has one week to put aside this secret obsession and move on. A task that is suddenly difficult when he finds himself getting closer to her every night...

Uplift - Renee Dahlia 

Anvita Khatri thought she knew everything about manipulating emotions. As a T.V. producer her career succeeded based on knowing how to make an audience laugh and cry. Her new project, Uplift, has her matching struggling small business owners with mentors and teaching them the skills they need. Shazza Barnett didn't expect to be widowed at twenty three, or struggling to keep her late husband's small roofing business afloat. She sees an ad for a new show that could just change her life. But it's the producer, Anvita who's overwhelming her with feelings. Feelings she hasn't had in a long time. 

In The Cards - Sarah E. Lily 

Emme is about to embark on the creative project of her dreams. But first she'll need help from Kendall, the local river guide and Emme's long time crush. What will a day on the river and a night by the fire have in store for these two women? 

Romantic Intent - A.Z. Louise 

When Mat tries to take time out to think after getting fired from her job, she ends up at a campsite with a trunkful of supplies she doesn't know how to use. A mischievous puppy and a ruined tent end up in a grudging partnership with Ryan, an experienced camper who wants nothing more than to lend a hand. But Mat isn't the best at accepting help, and she has enough on her plate without the attraction that begins to build between them. As a storm begins to brew overhead, Mat has to come to terms with much more than temptation. 

What You Need - Torrance Sené

Ness has one thing on her mind-advancing her career in real estate- but a snowstorm, one bed, and a passionate attraction to her co-worker threaten to bring joy back into her workaholic life. 

Holding On - Ali Williams 

An anxious woman and a man with a protective streak discover that sometimes taking a chance is the only thing you need to find someone to hold onto
One Bed of a PickUp Truck by Lucy Eden
Friends turn into lovers when an accident forces them to confront long-buried feelings between them.

Verdict: Sweet with a bit of humor that ends gratifyingly. 

Only One Flower Bed by Rebel Carter
Old lovers let go of past hurts when a storm traps them in a greenhouse, and they're forced to confront their feelings.

Verdict: Angst filled, and passionate with a soft ending. 

The Bed Hierarchy by Lauren Connolly
A man is secretly in love with his brother’s best friend—but has feared an attempt at romance with her until a vacation with his best friend’s family finds him in one bed with the woman he's been pining after. 

Verdict: Laugh out loud funny, charming, and a delight—The Bed Hierarchy is a treat. (My favorite of the stories.)

Uplift Renee Dahlia

A show producer is working on a new show, and the first person on her show's pilot is a woman she finds more intriguing than she planned for. When the PA only books one hotel room; the producer forgoes bunking with her staff and instead takes a Ute ride/sleep with the beautiful widow she will do the show with. 

Verdict: This story doesn't read well. It felt disjointed and disconnected. It felt like I was tripping up trying to keep up with the romance, the dialogue, and the emotions of the characters. Not a smooth ride, unfortunately, not my favorite. 

In the Cards Sarah E. Lily
Photographer, Emme, is venturing into a new creative project, and local river guide, Kendall, is there to help her achieve it—but when only one tent is available while they’re out to take photos, long-buried crushes surface. 

Verdict: Cute, but quick. The author wastes little time grouping our pair together, which I would call instalove-y, if not because it was a short story. The connection still felt a bit rushed, but In the Cards was a cute, sort of magical story. 

Romantic Intent A.Z. Louise
Newly unemployed, grumpy Matilda is going camping, and she doesn’t have a clue what’s she’s doing. It makes matters worse when a random dog pees on her tent, making it inhabitable, even for the weekend. Not one for leaving a damsel in distress, Ryan (the dog owner) offers Mat his tent. She grudgingly accepts, and what results is a weekend escapade that results in a session of good-loving.

Verdict: Eh. I couldn’t get over how nasty of a person Matilda was. She was unforgiving, unflinching, and just gross towards Ryan, who tried his very hardest to be kind towards her. She was rude, so vulgar. When they wound up in their “one-bed” situation, I didn’t care enough to care. A shame. It had potential, but she needed to be a little less villainous. 

What You Need Torrance Sene
Real estate agent, Ness is trying to advance her real estate career, by scoping out a cabin. Along with her is Bree, bodyguard, and employee to Ness. However, when the cabin they’re scoping out only has one bed, and Ness is harboring a crush, interesting things happened. 

Verdict: Kinky, but quick to read. The overall idea was intriguing, but I wasn’t too crazy about it.

Holding On Ali Williams
First dates shouldn't be intense, but when a storm brings forth nasty memories, an anxious woman finds herself in the bed and in the arms of the man who brings her the most comfort. 

Verdict: Passionate, and very sweet. It felt like a section of a much larger story. Smooth transitions between the date, and the “one-bed” scenario, made this story feel more complete than the others—a sexy bite of a story with beautiful prose.

Final Verdict: I didn’t love all the stories, but I had some favorites. That's the deal with anthologies, it seems. I’d venture to say I’m pretty satisfied. 

Favorite Stories: One Bed of a Pickup Truck, Holding On, & The Bed Hierarchy.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Liquor & Laundry: An Erotic Novella by Tasha Don't forget the L Harrison

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Liquor & Laundry: An Erotic Novella by Tasha L. Harrison
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Hadassah Ibrahim’s high school crush is in town for his little brother's graduation and she is avoiding him like it’s her job.

The last time she saw Ahmad Williamson, she drank too much and spent the night on her knees in his hotel room doing things that still make her blush and cover her face with shame. The last thing she wants to do is relive that humiliating moment. She’d much rather spend the evening at her family’s laundromat; sweeping and mopping the floor as she reconsiders her life choices.

Ahmad Williamson is certain that Hadassah doesn’t remember that night the same way he does. 

And he’s spent every night since last summer wishing one of them had been brave enough to call. Was it just a fling for her? Was all that flirting she’d done over the years just a joke?

Confessions slip from lips and clothes hit the floor in Liquor & Laundry.

  • high school crush
  • #BlackRomance
  • jerked chicken wings
  • steamy laundromat make out sessions
  • dirty talkin’ hero!
Gah, this book was so soft, so soft—and so good. 

One thing I admire about Harrison's novels is her seemingly innate ability to write stories that feel wholly approachable, no matter the subject. I open her books with an odd sense of comfort without having read the blurb, or the first page, even.

Hadassah has had a crush on footballer, Ahmad Williamson, since highschool. The single time they've spent outside of the friend zone is one drunken night when Hadassah gave Ahmad oral sex he hasn't ever forgotten—but the kind Hadassah regrets. Sloppy, drunk, shy oral sex.

No matter, he's back in town, and her friends are pushing her to see him while he's away from playing ball. Haddie is not down with this plan. She stays home at her family's laundromat. Little does she know, Ahmad wants to see her just as badly as she wants the same.

This book is so sweet and so very soft in all the best ways possible. The book attests to being an erotic novella, but it was so tender—and if we're honest, it's more than its sex scenes—which are super sexy, don't get me wrong.

The prose is simple and to the point. The character arcs are visible, and as badly as I wanted to push the couple together, they fell into love in the sweetest, slowest, softest, and purposeful manner. I feel so emosh thinking about the two of them. I adored the bedside manner of these two. I loved the juxtaposition between Ahmad's football position—the big brawny man, as compared to his approach to a relationship with Hadassah—where he was likely his softest. 

What a sweet story with an ending that made all of it worth reading. Liquor & Laundry is going down as one of my favorite books of the year. 

Monday, July 27, 2020

Money Devils by Ashley & JaQuavis ARC Review

Money Devils by Ashley & JaQuavis
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From the New York Times bestselling authors of The Cartel series comes a new chapter in a world that only Ashley and JaQuavis know how to bring to life.

The LaCroixs are four beautiful Haitian American women bound by money and blood. On the surface The LaCroix Group is a venture capitalist company, but underneath it’s so much more. The four sisters run long cons, targeting wealthy, prominent business figures. They have a system. Find the perfect mark, create the problem, then present the solution. For a cost…

Sutton “Sutty” LaCroix, the eldest sister and an accomplished business maven, sits on the family throne as the CEO of the LaCroix Group and is the face of their operation. No one is as good as Sutton when it comes to finding new prey. 

However, when Sutton meets West, a young, black oil tycoon--a man who represents a life she and her sisters vowed never to live--she breaks all the rules. The LaCroix sisters have a pact—to never settle down and leave roots in one place. But Sutton falls in love with his good looks, charm, and old money. This means that West is a problem. When he inducts her into a high society of opulence, power, and generational wealth, Sutton finds herself torn between the love of her life and the love of her family.
* A special thank you to the publisher for this review copy*

I could track my teenage years by the release of an urban fiction novel. I was always in Harlem standing in front of tables, exchanging dollars for plastic covered books that both wowed and excited my adolescent mind. I haven’t been back to the genre in years until now.

I’ve never read an Ashley JaQuavis novel, which surprises me considering I had to offload (see: sell) most of my urban fiction novels to make room for more books. I had over 100 urban fiction books in my arsenal, but somehow I’ve never read a book by this duo. Now that I have, I won’t turn back.

The Lacroix sisters are a group of four sisters bred into a life of crime—white-collar crime. Their father is in jail for a job slip up caused by the baby of the group, Ashton. But on the "right" side of the law is the oldest daughter, Sutton runs a PR firm that conducts its business by making of a mess of her client’s business dealings—and then getting them to hire her to fix it. The way it’s played out is seamless until love and revenge conflict/cloud their dealings. 

Let’s not waste time; Money Devils is a damn good book. The characters are off the wall. They’re unreliable, and they don’t make the wisest decisions, but that’s what made the book fun. The twists and turns were so unexpected; I had anxiety for the entire last 30 percent of the book. I was almost too nervous to finish, but I also couldn’t pull away. Money Devils is unputdownable. The prose is down to earth, but masterful it’s on purpose. No word, section, or moment is useless. 

There isn’t any unnecessary pomp and stance—just straight gritty, exciting storytelling. The characters are all vividly written, and nothing feels like they have left it unsaid or unexplained. I will say this if you haven’t read the Cartel series you might miss the character references-but you can easily read this book without feeling lost.

The book ends on a cliffhanger as to be expected considering it’s a series, but the wait will be the sweetest kind of torture. 

And the romance—West was just the businessman/bad boy that I fell in love with between the many pages of the many urban fiction novels I’ve read before this. However, he also gave me the contemporary book boyfriend vibes I love so much in my romance novels. I smiled so much when he was on the page; I had to bite my lip to stop because I was embarrassing myself. Lol. He was so smooth with it. 

“Guess I’m getting old. I’m normally in bed this time of night.” -Sutton

“Lucky bed.” -West

“I told you he’s your driver. When you need him, he’ll come anytime.” -West

“But I don’t need him,” she said. -Sutton

“Yeah, but I need you.” -West

Come on; he’s smooth! 

Adding in the romance added another layer to this already multi-layered novel. It has a little of everything: Romance, intrigue, murder, hood antics. It’s everything an urban fiction novel could and should be.

Let me repeat myself for the people in the back. Money Devils is an urban fiction novel, which means there will be “street” references. Please do yourself a favor and skip this book if this is not your cup of tea. There’s no reason to judge a book because of the genre it’s in because you don't like urban fiction. However, if Urban fiction is your jam, or if you’d like to dive back in, this will be the right direction to take. Money Devils will bring you right back. This novel is a winner, and I am eager for the next addition. Two thumbs up. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

This Is My America by Kim Johnson ARC Review

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This is My America by Kim Johnson
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Dear Martin meets Just Mercy in this unflinching yet uplifting YA novel that explores the racist injustices in the American justice system.

Every week, seventeen-year-old Tracy Beaumont writes letters to Innocence X, asking the organization to help her father, an innocent Black man on death row. After seven years, Tracy is running out of time—her dad has only 267 days left. Then the unthinkable happens. The police arrive in the night, and Tracy’s older brother, Jamal, goes from being a bright, promising track star to a “thug” on the run, accused of killing a white girl. Determined to save her brother, Tracy investigates what really happened between Jamal and Angela down at the Pike. But will Tracy and her family survive the uncovering of the skeletons of their Texas town’s racist history that still haunt the present?
Fans of Nic Stone and Jason Reynolds won’t want to miss this provocative and gripping debut.  
'This is My America' is a gripping, page-turning novel of activism in motion. The book accurately depicts the injustices of the American justice system, and how it’s turned away from fairness, justice, and the concept of innocent until proven guilty. But notably, how the justice system often knowingly points towards the legal enslavement of Black people, Black men to be specific. 

At the helm of the story is Tracy, a teenager whose father is on death row with just months left until his scheduled execution. While fighting to help free him, Tracy's family is rocked to its core when her brother, Jamal, track star, and town loved, is accused of killing a white girl. As a result, Jamal is on the run leaving Tracy to fight for both her brother's life and her father's life with little time to spare. T.I.M.A is a knockout of a novel that starts with a powerful one-liner dictating the tracking of time. “Time runs my life. A constant measuring of what’s gone and what’s to come.” Time quickly becomes the enemy to the plot of this story, but it is also the thing that ends it beautifully.

Tracy’s strength in this novel, her beautiful vulnerability, and her powerful, unwavering voice pulled me into the book and what kept me around. Her position of power in this book is significant and will be meaningful to young Black women who will at some point read this book. They will see themselves as having voices, not as being voiceless, as being powerful and not powerless. I commend Johnson for using a girl as a voice of this moment, but for also making her beautifully dark-skinned. I appreciated Tracy’s character—the way she questioned everything, and the way she stuck to her guns even when the rest of the world wanted her to stop. She was a key to the story, and the author wrote her in such a way that she practically leaped off the page in realism.

I also really enjoyed the family dynamic. Though the father was in prison, the author made it her duty to make sure she didn't erase him from the story. He wasn't just a man in the background the reader never finds out about. It was important to see, and I’m glad the author allowed the reader to meet the father where he was but also allows the reader to see who he is—a Black man on the wrong side of the fence. 

I feel like I can’t fully articulate my thoughts coherently. The book rattled me in the best ways possible. My heart is both sad and full. My eyes are both dry and misty. I feel both impassioned and discouraged. This book is the change I would love to see but is also the stark reality I have to face as a Black person. 

This is My America delicately and powerfully depicts, and balances racism inside and outside of the justice system, and it will sit with me for quite some time. 

Everything about this story worked—from the romantic aspect and how it gets handled, to how the crimes unfurl. 'This is My America' is a well-written piece of literature and is one I would return to repeatedly. It's also one I will recommend just as often. An evocative, stunning, and shattering debut. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Real Men Knit by Kwana Jackson


Real Men Knit by Kwana Jackson
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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.
*As usual where it applies, a special thank you to the publisher for this provided review copy.*

The romance seemed to be a moving target in Real Men Knit. Though the hero and heroine had backstory having grown up together, which you would assume built on their already set chemistry (there wasn't any.) The romance between the pair never seemed to fit. 

The book opens up on a sad note with the matriarch of the Knit shop having died and having left her shop to her four adoptive and multiracial sons. Please do not be fooled by the cover, like I was, this is not Black romance and probably should NOT be categorized as such, but I digress. The author does not spend a lot of time on aesthetics, but she notes that the sons are of different races/nationalities.

Also at the top of the novel, is Kerry, who worked (works) part-time at the shop, and also stays on to help the sons, particularly, Jesse Strong, re-open the shop. With idle threats of bills looming, they quickly get to it. But it’s what they never get to that ruins the story.

There was no romance. There were furtive glances, but there was no chemistry between two characters who allegedly had crushes on each other since childhood. How could there be such unenthusiastic pining between two people who grew up secretly liking each other?

Kerry does a bit of internalized dialogue pining, but it stays within the recesses of her mind until about the 75-80 percent mark of the book, where she goes from being the coy, sass-less Kerry girl to this sex kitten who sets up to be the hero’s sex partner for the few remaining weeks she’s stuck in his apartment. The apartment above the knit shop because of forced proximity, which is typically my jam, but winds up being a bit of a let-down; mostly because it was the type of 360-degree change that needed a leadup. I found myself wondering if I somehow slipped into the pages of another book mid-story. 

The sex scenes which were mostly closed door, which is fine, but it did nothing to spark the already spark-less romance that even up until the last page, did little to convince me they liked each other the way the author wanted me, as the reader, to believe.

The book lacked the emotion needed to carry the reader throughout. I was for lack of a better word, bored. Real Men Knit didn't explore what could have been its strengths hard enough, and it missed its mark because of it. It was one of the more disappointing reads of 2020.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Rapper's Delight by Kenya Goree Bell

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Rapper's Delight by Kenya Goree Bell
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Tragedy separated them for twelve years…

Can they finally have the love promised?

Or will betrayal be their undoing.

Welcome to the world of The Mogul Series where the Young, Gifted and Black are met with intrigue and passion. Where fame is no guarantee of happiness but love may hold all the possibilities.

Meet Delightful Howard and FADE Carrington as they embark on a journey that promises passion as they try to reclaim what they lost in RAPPER’S DELIGHT.

FADE is the biggest rap star in the world and he has everything he ever wanted but his best friend’s sister.

Delightful Howard is coming off the biggest win any writer can imagine but she will never rest until she knows all the secrets FADE holds.

Promises were made

Now it’s time to deliver.

STOP F*cking Running.

Enter the world of The Mogul Series where smart women and ruthless men collide...

First off, a special thank you to the author for this review copy.

Let’s talk about what I liked. I appreciated the overall theme of the novel. There aren’t a lot of contemporary books that have rap or hip hop as the theme. I also liked that women were at the helm of the businesses in the story. I love seeing that “girl power” front and center. I also liked that the story followed the Friends-to-enemies-to-lovers trope. I’ve grown an affinity for Friends-to-lovers and enemies-to-lovers will always be my jam. But it’s in this attempt at the trope that the story somewhat lost me.

What I didn’t like: Fade and Delightful were childhood friends because of her brother Justice’s relationship with Fade. They created music together, and as a result, the hero and heroine developed a “crush” type of relationship. That part is left off the page, but the heroine promises forever to our hero—and when tragedy strikes, she distances herself for twelve years. Twelve years later, they’re both operating in a place of hurt and anger. The reasoning behind their mutual anger is a little murky. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the reasoning behind Fade’s anger never felt right to me. However, considering they both lost someone dear to them, maybe rationality can't be an expected response. 

But the way he deals with Delightful because of this twelve years long anger rubbed me the wrong way, at least for a good chunk of the story. He was very curt, my way or no way—and I love a grumpy hero, but he came off more so rude than grumpy. 

The characters found themselves falling into each other’s beds more than into an exploration of their feelings, which left me feeling a bit outside of the story. I never got the chance to explore their emotional connection like I would have liked. There are anger and angst, but nothing remotely romantic, not until the very section of the book. I never fully got into their relationship dynamic, which was pretty toxic, to be honest. It felt obligatory more so than based on an emotional connection, but I think that’s because, again, they had a lot of sexual chemistry, but the feelings bit had them both flummoxed.

I wanted to love this story more than I did, but unfortunately, I did not. It had more to do with structure than writing talent, which I didn’t find lacking. However, I never deter another reader from giving a book a try. If you prefer romances that are angsty, and very heavy-handed on the sex, this will be the read for you. It lacked the emotional punch I craved.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Writer's Block by Honesty Price

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Writer's Block by Honesty Price
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Keri writes romance, well, she used to write romance since right now the words aren't flowing. In desperate need of a change of scenery and a quiet place to write, she seeks out Noah who’s secluded county home has plenty of room. The attraction is instant, but the pay-off is delayed. Will Noah be the cure for Keri's writer's block?

I adored this. The chapters and the pacing of the story followed the "beats" of a romance novel which was both fitting and clever. The beats moved a little too quickly at certain points of the book, but the author does a decent job of making sure not to miss the most important details. My only gripe is I would have loved to see this play out throughout a full-length novel, but I know beggars can’t be choosers. *shrugs shoulders* 

What worked for the novel was the humor. I laughed aloud a few times. The story itself is very playful and like shirking off your bra at the end of the day. It was easy to settle into the pace and the characters without having to forfeit too much energy.

For my first time with this author, I was impressed. There were parts I would have loved to see developed more, but considering the length of the novel, the author did enough to sell me on the characters and to get me invested in their story. It’s thoroughly enjoyable, and I had a lot of fun with it. It’s worth checking out, and she's an author to watch.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Go Deep by Rilzy Adams

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Go Deep by Rilzy Adams
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It was all supposed to be so simple.
Navaya Howard is an erotic writer in a rut. Her readers are fed up of her stale plots and Navaya can’t blame them. She’s been celibate for over a year and a half since finding her now ex-boyfriend’s side chick’s positive pregnancy test on her bathroom counter. How can she write steamy romances if she can barely remember which body parts go into the other? 
Navaya enlists the help of her best friend, Xander, to revive the inspiration that used to have her sitting comfortably at the top of her game. What happens when the sex hits deeper than either of them expected and we can deny the tender emotions? 
Navaya and Xander’s arrangement has gone far deeper than intended. 
Will their friendship and their hearts survive the fall?
I’m not new to Rilzy Adams in terms of her presence or name, but this is the first book I’ve read by the author, and I waited too long to do that. 

Let me tell you if you know me whether it be from Goodreads or my early blogging days—you know how sparingly I give five-star ratings. Not because I’m some book reviewing savant. Though considering my many years of reading and reviewing books, I like to think I know some things. My tastes aren’t as particular as people tend to think they are. I reserve five-star ratings for books that truly rock my socks off. Go Deep did just that. 

Even at novella length, Adams gave us a complete romance that lacked nothing. It was full-bodied like a glass of wine. It was one harmonizing song that rose and fell where it needed to. The characters were fully developed without any unnecessary hoopla. The pair just worked. Their story was oddly comforting. I’ve come to appreciate the friends-to-lovers trope a bit more than I have before. Go Deep is a perfect friends-to-lovers tale that combines sexual satisfaction with equal parts of emotional satisfaction. I smiled at the cleverness the entire time. I’m sad it had to end. This story was thoroughly pleasing, amusing, sexy, and wholly gratifying. Rilzy has made a fan out of me, and I’ll be back for more.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert


Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert
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Talia Hibbert returns with another charming romantic comedy about a young woman who agrees to fake date her friend after a video of him “rescuing” her from their office building goes viral...

Danika Brown knows what she wants: professional success, academic renown, and an occasional roll in the hay to relieve all that career-driven tension. But romance? Been there, done that, burned the T-shirt. Romantic partners, whatever their gender, are a distraction at best and a drain at worst. So Dani asks the universe for the perfect friend-with-benefits—someone who knows the score and knows their way around the bedroom. 

When brooding security guard Zafir Ansari rescues Dani from a workplace fire drill gone wrong, it’s an obvious sign: PhD student Dani and ex-rugby player Zaf are destined to sleep together. But before she can explain that fact, a video of the heroic rescue goes viral. Now half the internet is shipping #DrRugbae—and Zaf is begging Dani to play along. Turns out, his sports charity for kids could really use the publicity. Lying to help children? Who on earth would refuse? 

Dani’s plan is simple: fake a relationship in public, seduce Zaf behind the scenes. The trouble is, grumpy Zaf’s secretly a hopeless romantic—and he’s determined to corrupt Dani’s stone-cold realism. Before long, he’s tackling her fears into the dirt. But the former sports star has issues of his own, and the walls around his heart are as thick as his... um, thighs. 

Suddenly, the easy lay Dani dreamed of is more complex than her thesis. Has her wish backfired? Is her focus being tested? Or is the universe just waiting for her to take a hint?
*A special thank you to the publisher for this review copy.*

If I had only a small number of words to describe Take a Hint, Dani Brown—I would say it was uproariously funny, realistically romantic, and warm like a hug from a toddler or a fresh cookie out of the oven.

I’m not typically one for “cinnamon roll” heroes. I have nothing against them. I just like my romance difficult and dramatic, but I find “soft” romance has its place in my otherwise preferred emotionally heavy romance library.

 I won’t get into much about the details of the story. I think the blurb does a good enough job of that. But I will talk about what I enjoyed. I know a lot of readers don’t find the value in indecisive or emotionally unavailable heroines—or those that can’t seem to find steady ground to stand on when it comes to emotions. I would have said something of the same years ago—but as someone not fully comfortable with emotional displays of affection, or sometimes even the private ones, I can understand it. I’m still learning that, so there’s absolutely room for fictional characters to do the same.

Love is tricky. It’s not as cut and dry as most of us try to make it. I think the best kind is the kind of love you have to work for. That's where Dani was. Hurt from some past relationship and internally wanting to fix it, but instead of doing so, dealt with it by avoiding it. There’s nothing wrong with that. When things don’t look like we expect, some of us avoid it. Fictional or otherwise.

I appreciated the author’s handling of Dani’s character. She was at times insufferable but writing her that way kept her rooted in reality, at least for me. I think if things continued to go so “perfectly” there would be no room for the character arc, which we know is essential in storytelling. But I very much appreciated that the couple didn’t spend a lot of time making us fall head over heels over the idea of them only to fall out repeatedly over stupid things. Considering Dani’s character, their “fallout” was perfectly suitable. It didn’t need to be totally reasonable.

Zaf, on the other hand, was almost perfect, but not too perfect. He had his flaws, but like Danika, he grew throughout the story. I loved the peeks of his culture, which I thought was handled delicately.

I rather enjoyed this couple. I thought the way they stumbled around the crush that honestly started their story was heartwarming. I laughed out loud a bit—which if anyone knows me knows is a monumental feat. Are there flaws? Sure, but I think that speaks to the characters' intended flaws and not at all a reflection of the writer herself.

The book's charm thoroughly entranced me. It was a treat for my eyes. It's worth the hype.