Monday, December 2, 2019

The A.I. Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole Pre-Release Day Review


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The A.I. Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole
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A captivating romantic comedy with a thrilling sci-fi twist by award-winning author Alyssa Cole!

Trinity Jordan leads a quiet, normal life: working from home for the Hive, a multifunctional government research center, and recovering from the incident that sent her into a tailspin. But the life she’s trying to rebuild is plagued by mishaps when Li Wei, her neighbor’s super sexy and super strange nephew, moves in and turns things upside down. Li Wei’s behavior is downright odd—and the attraction building between them is even more so. When an emergency pulls his aunt away from the apartment complex, Trinity decides to keep an eye on himand slowly discovers that nothing is what it seems. For one thing, Li Wei isn’t just the hot guy next door—he’s the hot A.I. next door. In fact, he’s so advanced that he blurs the line between man and machine. It’s up to Trinity to help him achieve his objective of learning to be human, but danger is mounting as they figure out whether he’s capable of the most illogical human behavior of allfalling in love.

*A special thanks to the author for this copy of this audible original.*


I'll start this review off by saying I don't like audiobooks. I know, I know. Why did I agree to listen to this? Well, for one it's Alyssa Cole, how do you tell her no? But I knew from seeing it around on Twitter that this book had a dynamic cast. I mean, Regina Hall? Yes, please. I was not let down.

Trinity Jordan lives in this high-functioning building that is nothing short of being just like the Jetsons. If you don't know who the Jetsons are, you're too young to be talking to me. Lol. I tease. Anyway, Trinity works for the Hive, or she did? Life is something else, and it gets crazier when her neighbor and friend's nephew, Li Wei, moves in next door.

Not only is he hot, but he's also an A.I.

I wasn't expecting to enjoy this story or to have as much fun with as I did. In a range of the audiobooks, I've listened to, albeit a short time period (I don't think I've given fictional audiobooks more than about 10-20 mins before I shut it off. It's the voices!)—this is upper-tier audio-book quality. Between the cast which is amazing by the way and the sound effects, this was an all-encompassing auditory experience. The production of this audiobook is outstanding. They really took care to make this story as realistic as possible and cheers to them for that. 

The story itself is engaging, funny, sexy and thrilling; particularly the end bit. I thought the sexy times between A.I. and human would be awkward, but it's both sexy and endearing. Cole's attention to detail in this section was anything short of amazing. 

Her voice is solid, and it really transcends the page. Regina did her due diligence to Trinity's character and I have to stan.

I highly recommend this. You will not be sorry. Two thumbs up.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Neighborly by Katrina Jackson Release Day Review



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Neighborly by Katrina Jackson
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Heaven has been in love with her boyfriend Calvin since the day they met. The amateur boxer is perfect; kind, supportive and loving, the body of a god and sex so good she's willing to follow him any and everywhere. That's how they end up in a new town, renting half a duplex and ready to start their lives together. 

Their new apartment is perfect. Big enough to lay down roots, a backyard studio for her to work on her art, and a neighbor who inspires the naughtiest fantasies. 

Tasha and Stephen have a great life. They go to work, they come home, Stephen cooks and Tasha does the dishes. It's domestic bliss. And if there's something better than bliss, it's whatever Tasha feels the first time she lays eyes on her new tenant next door and the way Stephen's eyes glaze over in lust when she shares her fantasies. 

What are two taken women to do when the attraction is mutual, the wall between their bedrooms seems paper thin, and the men they love only want them to be happy? 

Things you need to read Neighborly:

  1. Time to read it through completely
  2. A huge glass or a jug of water
  3. A fan

Jackson does erotica like it’s her day job. Sex was the star of Neighborly, but the sensual couples were the headliners.

Heaven and Calvin were relationship goals. I hate to sound cliche, but they were. The notion of being a couple that appreciates the other without cattiness, pettiness, or silly arguments is a treat. I am team drama in the books I enjoy, but I loved Calvin and Heaven. They had an understanding and a reciprocal relationship that was as easy as Sunday morning. I’m full of cliches today, aren’t I? Calvin and Heaven loved and treated each other with so much respect and adoration. I was almost tempted to jump on social media to look for a man that could compare; almost. Let’s not get beside ourselves.

I loved the idea of them moving into their first home together and all the small details the author gave to make the story more realistic and engaging. I mean, do I need to convince y’all? If you’ve been a follower of this blog, you know I love Kat Jackson books, and this one was no exception.

Our secondary characters, Tasha and Stephen were fun. They added something to the story, a story that was already doing well on its own. It was like being offered dessert after a great meal.

Now, let's briefly talk about the chemistry and the sex in the book. It was hot. It was damn near combustible. The book was well written, and the details were on point. It was easy to read and thoroughly engaging. Jackson’s voice is strong, and so are her stories. I highly recommended the book for erotica fans and otherwise. 



Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia Release Day Review!

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky (Tristan Strong #1)


Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame M "bomb" lia (Mbalia)
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Seventh-grader Tristan Strong feels anything but strong ever since he failed to save his best friend when they were in a bus accident together. All he has left of Eddie is the journal his friend wrote stories in. Tristan is dreading the month he’s going to spend on his grandparents’ farm in Alabama, where he’s being sent to heal from the tragedy. But on his first night there, a sticky creature shows up in his bedroom and steals Eddie’s journal. Tristan chases after it-–is that a doll?-–and a tug-of-war ensues between them underneath a Bottle Tree. In a last attempt to wrestle the journal out of the creature’s hands, Tristan punches the tree, accidentally ripping open a chasm into the MidPass, a volatile place with a burning sea, haunted bone ships, and iron monsters that are hunting the inhabitants of this world. Tristan finds himself in the middle of a battle that has left black American gods John Henry and Brer Rabbit exhausted. In order to get back home, Tristan and these new allies will need to entice the god Anansi, the Weaver, to come out of hiding and seal the hole in the sky. But bartering with the trickster Anansi always comes at a price. Can Tristan save this world before he loses more of the things he loves?
I never wanted to be a superhero as a child, but I wanted to do heroic things. Tristan Strong epitomizes the dreams of young black children who want to do and be both; be heroes/heroines and do heroic things. Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky is the Harry Potter for young black children. (A heavy claim, I know.) It is a grabbing combination of African folklore, African American history, African mythology, and the innate magic that is Blackness.

Tristan Strong just lost his best friend. His best friend, Eddie, was the peanut butter to his jelly. Eddie's journal is all that remains of their friendship. The journal is a  leather-bound book of stories, told by Eddie and Tristan’s grandmother, respectively. Tristan takes the journal with him to Alabama; where he’s sent to stay with his grandparents, to heal from the loss. While there, he encounters a sticky doll and a bottle tree. (Don’t tell Gum baby I called her a doll.) Gum Baby sneaks into Tristan's room and steals Eddie's journal. In pursuit of the doll who stole his best friend’s journal, Tristan knocks into the bottle tree—ripping a hole between his world and the Mid-pass. As a result, he lets loose a long-contained spirit.

Tristan falls into a chasm with the loud-mouthed sticky creature and finds himself in a world where haunted ships and African gods exist.

I can’t tell you all how good this book is, at least not properly, or eloquently enough. I opened the book and Tristan grabbed me by the throat, threw me and Gum Baby into his hoodie, and did not let me go until the very last page. It was unputdownable.

I rarely find books unputdownable, but I did not want to put this book down. Rich in history, contemporary language, and a teachable juxtaposition between today’s African American and yesterday’s African lay a beautiful story, worthy of being passed down; not unlike the folklores told in the story.

Tristan’s relatability, his touchable grief, and his insecurities will reach readers young and old, but specifically the youth. This book is perfectly suited for its audience and even beyond. In the story, readers are introduced to a cast of characters they won’t soon forget. Though Anaya, our witty guide, among other small but vital characters weren’t as fleshed out, I didn’t find the story lacking. With a series, there should be some expectation of “left-out details.” Later books expound on the smaller details. Hashing everything out, in the beginning, leaves little to be desired later in the series. Book one gave enough backstory to hook the reader and keep the reader.

The world is like a  multi-layered onion. The descriptions made the world leap off the page in frightening real and otherworldly detail. The descriptions of the gods, the villains, the physical spaces/lands, and the characters in all their uniqueness were one of the book’s shining spots. It brought life and color to the words making the story that much more lively and enjoyable.

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky is the book this generation's black youth needs. It shows them as heroes, gods, and heroines. It teaches Black history in a fun and approachable way. It is a beautiful piece of literature that will itself a "forever home" on any book lover's bookshelf. An outstanding and unforgettable debut. I want more, and more, and more. 

Monday, October 14, 2019

Sticks and Stones by Santana Blair



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Sticks & Stones by Santana Blair
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She thinks he’s looking for a come up.
He just thinks she’s stuck up.

Both Darcie and Elijah step foot onto the campus of Pembrook Academy with one thing on their minds… getting out. Darcie wants nothing more than to finish high school and know that her spot in the Ivy Leagues is secured and waiting for her.
And Elijah?
Well, Elijah just wants out.
It was never his idea to go to Pembrook in the first place and now he’s stuck spending his senior year with a bunch of kids he has absolutely nothing in common with. Then, she came along. From the moment he meets Darcie Fitzgerald, he knows she is going to drive him absolutely crazy. But nothing could have prepared him for how amazing crazy would feel.

Darcie has ninety-nine problems and Elijah Benitez is now her biggest one. He seemed to coast into her life from out of nowhere, and she has neither the time nor the patience to deal with him. But every time she tries to put a little distance between them, life shoves them closer together and Darcie finds herself in a situation far more complicated than she could have ever expected.

They’re both about to learn a few things starting with lesson #1:
Not Everything Is As it Seems
Sticks & Stones hit all the right notes, at all the right points. This is my second Santana Blair novel, and I'm now doubly impressed.

Sticks and Stones is the story of "rough-ish" twins that transfer to a new school, Pembrook Academy. This is a bougie type of school—where everyone started at the top and has no clue what the bottom is. That's where Elijah meets Darcie. He thinks she's just another stuck up princess, and she thinks he's just another bad boy on a mission. But, they both find more in the other than they could have ever expected. It gave off Pride and Prejudice vibes; so if that's your thing, there's that to look forward to.

The story is not unique in its premise, but it tackles romance, backstory, and heart rather well. The story has just enough of all of what needs to make a great story: conflicting and troublesome pasts from both ends, misconceived and conflicting emotions, heartfelt family, characters to root for, and a romance that burns and ignites the heart.

Each character was special to its purpose for progressing the plot. The plot surrounds the relationship and the development of the relationship between Darcie and Elijah. There are small little stories that happen in the book, but the most important factor is Darcie and Elijah's romantic relationship—at least that's what I got out of it. As a heavy romance reader, I'm all about the love, though I missed some heavy angst found in most (some) adult novels.

Because the characters are transitioning from their last year of high school into college(think acceptance letters, and picking the right schools) this is definitely YA, if to be technical, upper YA. It's well written, however and has the right amount of emotions without stringing the reader along with too much drama. It will hit you in the feels with every stolen kiss and sly glance. It's an enjoyable novel written by an author worth watching out for.

It gets my stamp of approval.

Friday, October 4, 2019

The Preying Pastor by B. Love

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The Preying Pastor by B. Love
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“She needed to be careful, for if you walk with the prey… you eventually become the prey.” 

Dallas Carver-Monroe has managed to live with a fairytale façade for the past ten years. Growing up in a religiously strict home caused Dallas to do whatever it took to please her parents – even if that meant marrying her high school sweetheart, Seth, right after they graduated. Dallas and Seth had a genuine connection, but she didn’t think he was the man she was supposed to spend her life with. Still, she married him to make sure they didn’t have sex and start a family without making vows before God. 

After almost twelve years of hell on earth, Dallas is tired of the happily married First Lady façade that has been forced upon her. Just when she thinks she’s about to break free, tragedy strikes, and Seth’s evil deeds and enemies become her own. Silver lining? Ra Jake. 

When Ra Jake returns home, he has only two priorities – fix things with his ex, Cree, and successfully protect the Pastor’s wife. Under different circumstances, Ra would have turned down the job. Losing his last client has caused pain to plague Ra in a way that he never thought was possible. Had it not been for a favor being owed to an old friend, Ra would have never taken on the responsibility of guarding another human being’s life. 

Upon first meeting, Dallas and Ra would rather be anywhere than with each other. As time progresses, they create a genuine bond so deep it’s hard for anyone, Seth and Cree included, to be able to reach. But the old saying is… all good things must come to an end. Unfortunately, this rings true for Dallas and Ra, and they will have to fight for their hearts and their lives before Seth’s horrible decisions rob them of both. 
I admire and appreciate Love’s ability to write spiritually based stories without being preachy while staying wholly committed to the story's spiritual message.

Dallas and Ra posses the type of love/relationship that I aspire to have one day; one that is solid in Christ and the other.

Dallas is Seth’s wife. That’s all that she’s ever known or has ever been. She went from childhood to motherhood without leaving time for herself to grow as a woman. Seth's story is pretty much the same. They grew together but never spend time focusing on their personal growth. As a result, their relationship as husband and wife suffered. Seth went from the praying pastor to the preying pastor. He drank, gambled, and cheated; leaving Dallas to tend to the children while nursing a broken heart and an impending divorce. 

Seth was a bad guy in that he never respected his marriage or his relationship with his children. But bad guy or not he was not a bad person. He was a struggling man of God, and people often forget that being a Christian doesn’t levitate you to a position that disregards you from the human experience. Christianity doesn’t beget otherworldliness in the way people expect that it does.

Seth had a lot of growing up to do and he accomplished that, but unfortunately for his marriage, it came too late. 

Dallas was a sweetheart. She was light in an otherwise dark situation. I think Love does that often and well. She often pens flawed characters that are light in the darkness. She’s mastered that well.

And what can I say about, Ra? Ra was… everything. He was masculinity as we’ve come to know it. He was assertive yet gentle. He was a man’s man so to speak. I admired his strength and solidity. Ra is a street guy that grew into something more. I liked his character a lot.

The love story and the backstory that grew in the book captivated me and didn’t let go until I got to the very last page—which I dreaded. I didn’t want this story to end.

The characters were solid and realistic. The story was engaging. I was very pleased. The pacing was longer than I’ve known some of Love’s books to be, but it was perfect for this story.
The Preying Pastor was an enjoyable story; that hit all the right notes. 

Friday, September 27, 2019

Burning Out and Saying What I Want

Hello All,

The last couple of weeks have been rough for me personally. Life has a way of taking you to the ring sometimes and leaving you no time to prepare. While, I am always prime to fight—sometimes, just sometimes, I would love to be left the eff alone.

Hence this post. Call me what you want; a menace, a hater, ugly whatever. I've heard it all before, and honey sticks and stones... When I decided to review books out loud, it literally stemmed from a place of unemployment. I thought what can I do while I am looking for work so I'm actually doing something? A lightbulb goes off, duh review books. I've always been an avid reader, so it just clicked and made sense. I've been reviewing books for about 7 years now.

I've always had a keen eye but along the way, through my studies, and through this reviewing thing I've learned about the structure of novels, plots, nuances, character arcs, etc. I know my shit. Period. It took me a long time to give myself credit for that. But, I know my shit.

I think that's why those that respect me value my opinion. Because when you get a book review from Jazmen, it will be honest but it will be constructively critical where necessary. I never sit in front of my computer with malice intent. I'm a tell it like it is type of person. That's who I am and I am okay with that even if some of you are not. 

I have read countless books for people, tirelessly without asking for any compensation. Going inside and outside of my way to promote books I love, while marketing people get paid to do what I'm doing for free. Because I am passionate about this ish.

When I started Literally Black, I wanted to do what I was already doing on a grander scale for Black people. Point blank period. I wanted to see Black literature get the due it deserves, it's why I spend(spent) my days reading, reviewing and promoting Black literature. It is completely selfless.

But what I did not prepare for was to not feel that same support from my people. Let's be real, black bloggers are at a disadvantage. We're black and we want to be heard. Just the idea of that has some people shaking in their boots. (See non-POC) To have to fight for a position from the non-black community to my own is an exhausting feat.

What I didn't expect is to get review requests, review the books and not even get a thank you while watching these same authors flank to non-POC, like the very answer to their success lies in their hands. And, you know what, maybe it does. But, guess what don't let social media fool you, white people still have a problem with us (you).

What I also didn't prepare for is to have mute reviews on Goodreads just so I didn't have to wade through the people telling me I'm missing the point, people questioning my blackness, people telling me I'm wrong here and there and on and on because someone is butt hurt about the one review that's actually honest. Goodreads is for readers. AGAIN, Goodreads is for readers. Don't come for me if I didn't send for you. If I want smoke, I'll show up with the fire.

Don't get me twisted. I'm SUPER grateful to the people this does not apply to. You support me and other black reviewers and bloggers tirelessly. I see you and if I could give you something tangible as thanks I would. You see what the world wants to ignore. Because of you, we (black bloggers/reviewers) matter and remain relevant; at least to you. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU. 

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Just this very morning, I had to give someone the Nene Leakes, because they felt I missed the point of their friend's book. Whoever you are, I know your friends with that author. Why are up at 5 am reading reviews about a book and getting bothered by it? I mean, I have to laugh. I don't expect people to agree with everything I say. That's not realistic. However, how do you manage to be bothered about something you can simply ignore?

 But that was the last straw. I am officially burning out. I will not keep defending my point of view. I won't. I will Nene Leakes, I said what I said you to death. I will say what I want how I want. Because that's my business.

Going forward, I will limit severely the number of review requests I take on because it's obvious some of you have me messed up. If you are a fave this DOES NOT apply to you. Inudate my inbox with your written goodness. However, if you request a review from me, please understand the chances I will love and hate the book are the same. If you want me to lie or write up some general mess, there are several book tour hosts that will provide this service to you. 

If you want constructive truth, I got you. Otherwise, there are exits to your left and your right. Escape and delete.

I'm sure some people will roll their eyes at this, but you know what so what. It needed to be said. Don't think for one second I haven't talked to several black bloggers and reviewers who don't feel the same. Show us some damn respect. Or catch these hands or whatever Aretha Franklin said.

Good day and Happy Friday, God is still good.

Peace.

Jazmen



Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Healing Hannah's Heart by Preslaysa Williams


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Healing Hannah's Heart by Preslaysa Williams
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Hannah Hart may have been burned by the breakup of her rocky marriage, but the ambitious Afro-Filipina model has big plans for her future. Her stunning looks and flawless skin provide the opening she craves to become a celebrity in the fashion world. Then an arsonist’s match brings Hannah’s world crashing down around her.

While Hannah recovers from her burns, she is forced to accept help from the last person on earth she wants, her estranged husband, Jake Hart. Jake isn't ready to give up on their marriage. The return of Jake's teenage son from a one-night stand had been the catalyst for their breakup. Can Jake help both the son who resents his abandonment and the woman he still loves? He can do nothing about the scars on her skin, but can he heal Hannah's heart?
As she struggles to rebuild her life from the ashes of her shattered dreams, does Hannah have the courage to give Jake a second chance? And is the world ready for a differently-abled model who will redefine what it means to be beautiful? 
I sat on my feelings for Healing Hannah's Heart for a while because I wasn't sure how to encapsulate my feelings for this book. I wanted to be eloquent and not sound like a raging maniac. However, even after all of that time, though my feelings are not as strong—I still do not and will never like this book.

I try not to make everything about race but with the portrayal of black women; it gets my hackles up to see us portrayed stereotypically. AAVE is a part of our culture, but it is always blatantly obvious when an author is using it to portray a character's blackness; as opposed to something that is inherently a part of their everyday vernacular and or lifestyle. That's what Hannah was(is) to me. The author is a black woman and I am not using this space to question her blackness, but her character reads false. I could tell by how the words were used and then spoken. Like, if someone spoke Spanish, you can tell the difference from someone who has spoken it for a long period of time, compared to someone who is just learning. The blackness of one’s character is not determined by how many aint’s or periods they can fit in a paragraph or a sentence. Don’t use it as a determining factor for blacknessas for me and my house, it won't be well received.

The son (the illegitimate child) has these barber cut designs in his hair, tattoos, and the clothes to boot. He read like the gang banger he wound up being. Though the understanding is that he’s a troubled kid due to the lack of a present father, I would have just as quickly believed it simply based on his actions—and found no need for the stereotyped exterior.

Also, the race card was played like a bad hand in this story. It wasn’t unbelievable by any means but it doesn’t seem believable at the same time. As a black person, in this world, race will play a role in our lives no matter what we do—but if you're going to discuss it, do it with care, not with the reckless abandon of someone seeking to grab a certain audience.

Even aside from that, I could not stand Hannah. She was rude and judgemental. She was basically that way to almost every single person who crossed her path. From her mother down to the son her husband had. She made that man forgo a relationship with his child because she needed to be more important to him—and in no way, shape, form or fashion could I get behind this ideology.

Not to mention the beginning of the book was a tailspin I got caught up in and could not find my way out of. I don't claim to know a lot but I don't hear of many gym fires. The author too easily set up the one thing that would hinder the character's development and the thing that would progress the plot. I mean I can't imagine being in a gym pedaling away, walking away momentarily, and the whole thing going up in flames---and then getting caught in said fire.

It was laughable. I literally laughed because I couldn't believe it. I knew from that point the story wouldn't go well. I was not wrong. The MC is awful and though everyone around her tried to do right by her, "her burns" hindered her from moving forward. While I don't doubt going from a swan to an ugly duckling would put many a people into a funk, she was funky long before she became a model burn victim. It served her right for treating her plus-sized model friend like trash because she was a plus-sized model. Who by the way forgave her far too quickly and easily than she deserved.

Hannah does make a turn around at about 95-100% percent, but by then I gave up on her because even with that swift and too late change, I do believe she's still an asshole.

The characters were dreadful. The representation was poor. The plot was boring and the story itself needs restructuring. I won't say I'm able or unable to make this assessment but it's going to be a complete no ma'am for me.