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.