Friday, February 21, 2020

Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds

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Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks by Jason Reynolds
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From National Book Award finalist and New York Timesbestselling author Jason Reynolds comes a novel told in ten blocks, showing all the different directions a walk home can take.

This story was going to begin like all the best stories. With a school bus falling from the sky. But no one saw it happen. They were all too busy—

Talking about boogers.
Stealing pocket change.
Wiping out.
Braving up.
Executing complicated handshakes.
Planning an escape.
Making jokes.
Lotioning up.
Finding comfort.
But mostly, too busy walking home.

Jason Reynolds conjures ten tales (one per block) about what happens after the dismissal bell rings, and brilliantly weaves them into one wickedly funny, piercingly poignant look at the detours we face on the walk home, and in life.
I often hear it said that writers are bred, and sure you can breed some decent writers with whatever amount of work it requires, but I think the most gifted writers are born.

Jason Reynolds is the latter. He’s naturally good at writing tales that leave out all the pomp and stance, but are so well written you don't miss it.

His writing is connecting and pulling, so enthralling, every book feels like an experience you walk away from changed.

Look Both Ways is a masterful work of intertwining short stories told from the multiple perspectives of different students all from within the same zone, but at different points. Every story is unique but tightly knit like three-strand braids.

The characters transcend the pages. I felt as though I knew them. Reynolds is a master at telling the stories of Black youth, and he does so with relatable finesse.

Reynolds doesn't shy away from telling these stories in a truly and authentically way. He provides Black youth with stories they can grow up with. They are the stories that get passed on from one generation to the next.

Look Both Ways was no exception from his usual repertoire. The novel will grip you and hold you until the last page. Look Both Ways is stunning, clever, raw, and humorous. It began and ended every chapter on a high note, leaving little room for breathing. Reynolds is a true talent.

Cover Revel and Excerpt for The Bad in Each Other by Tasha L. Harrison

Sous Chef, Birdie Malone is willing to do anything to disprove the rumor "she doesn't play well with others." 
Even if it means taking a job as a line cook at a local meat and three while building a following on her YouTube channel and trying to be the superhero her five-year-old daughter Amara believes her to be. Competing in her hometown’s yearly foodie competition would definitely help. If she wins, she will finally get the position and recognition she's been desperate to receive. Even if Saxon Turner, world renowned chef and ruiner of her life is one of the judges. No one ever needs to speak about what happened between them. She can keep her secrets. 
Chef Saxon Turner is in danger of having his foodie travel show canceled after he gets caught in a dark room with the Governor's daughter. Luckily, a long time friend steps in and offers him an opportunity to judge a foodie competition and a chance to lay low until it all blows over. Maybe this time he will be able to shed the bad boy image he's carried with him through most of his life. 
Or at least he thought it would be until he saw that one of the contestants is Birdie Malone.
It's been six years since he’s seen Birdie and he’s more than surprised to find the petite, brown-skinned, talented chef competing in a small town food competition when she should be commanding a kitchen of her own. When they met, the passion between them was hotter than a pit barbecue fire and the way he left things between them when she got kicked out of culinary school is chief among his regrets. Now that she’s back in his life, he can only hope that she will trust and respect him again. 
Birdie  just wants to win the money to start her own catering business and ignore the fact that Saxon has unexpectedly become an unwanted distraction. But the passion, intensity, and creativity he inspires in her can’t be denied. Will she be able to keep him out of her bed and her head in the game? 

There are lots of things I imagined myself saying when I finally came face to face with Saxon Turner again. 

You broke my heart in ways that I never knew it could break, and I’ll never forgive you for that.
The time I spent with you has ruined me for all men. 
How are you alive? I gave my mama your hair to put a root on you. You should be dead.
How could you never look for me? 
Did you ever love me?
If you did, how could you just walk away?
I’m forever changed by our time together. How are you the same?

I wanted to say some or all of those things, but all that came out was sputtering words full of anger tinged disbelief. Anger that grew to a white-hot ember. Immense. Consuming. God, I haven’t been this angry since…
Since the day he left me.
I couldn’t think about this now. Not now. 
Chef Ransom moved from table to table, examining everyone’s knife cuts while I tried to get myself together. I may have found the intestinal fortitude to stomach being in the same room with Saxon, but after he brushed by me on the way back to the judge’s table…
Yea, I was going to need to tap into strength I wasn’t even sure I ever had to make my way through this.
The smell of himlike woodsmoke and baked apples. Less of a smell and more like two things that made me feel at home. And what the fuck did it say about me that I felt at home with a man who literally doesn’t have a home? That made his money traveling the world in some hedonistic version of Eat, Pray, Love. A man with no roots was a man who could be trusted. Especially not with my daughter.
Our daughter. 
Chef Ranson stepped up to my prep station with his mouth set in a grim line. “Chef Malone,” he murmured.
“Chef,” I answered by way of greeting.
“These cuts are excellent, but that’s to be expected of a working line cook. I suspect you get a log of practice at this.”
It wasn’t exactly a dig, but I felt the bite in his comment anyway. I didn’t know what he knew about me, but that comment made me feel like what he did know wasn’t anything good. At the very least, he heard about my reputation for being a loud voice of descent in the kitchen, and that was enough.
“Good work,” Chef Ransom said, but his tone was almost a bit begrudging. Like he didn’t want to give me even that tiniest bit of praise.
“Thank you, Chef.”
“And I’m going to assume whatever… issue you had that made you run from this room is now under control?” He looked at me, piercing dark eyes meeting mine in order to convey some unspoken intent. 
“Yes, chef.” I dropped my gaze to the colorful little piles of veg on my station. “It was just nerves. I’ll be fine.”
“Good,” he said, then rapped on the stainless steel table before moving on the next station. 
I stared at the veg, fixated on the uniformity of the slices. This wasn’t culinary arts school or the kitchen, but keeping my skills sharp was important. 
“Students! Please help out competitors store their mise en place so that we can prepare for the next challenge! Contestants, you can take a fifteen-minute break, but you must remain in the building or in the designated smoking area.”
I stepped back from my station and looked around the room. My gaze locked on Saxon’s almost instantly. He tipped his head toward the door and raised his eyebrows, an obvious request to step outside and talk.
I shook my head and mouthed the words fuck you again because really, fuck him. No, I wouldn’t go out in the hall with him to talk. The time for talking passed six years ago when I found myself in the  Charleston Airport, a duffle bag at my feet, waiting, or a man who had already boarded a plane to the other side of the world six hours earlier. If I’d received a phone call twenty-four hours, hell, seventy-two hours later, to explain why he left me outside of the terminal with nothing but a broken promise. 
In my peripheral vision, I saw Saxon stand up. Weak ass fool that I am, I looked up at him again because I couldn’t help looking at him. My eyes loved the sight of him even though I hated him with every fiber of my being. He didn’t say a word, but his bright blue eyes pleaded with me. 
God… it was still hard to tell those blue eyes no.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Honor and Desire (Gold Sky Series, Book #3) by Rebel Carter

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Honor and Desire (Gold Sky Series Book, #3) by Rebel Carter 
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For as long as anyone can remember Seylah Wickes-Barnes has been at the side of August Leclaire, her best friend and the boy her fathers took under their wing.

Now a grown woman and looking for love, Seylah's deepest regret, and secret, is quickly coming to surface: She has been in love with August for as long as she can remember. 

For years she has been content in her role as secretary to the Sheriff's department in Gold Sky, Montana. Mostly for the opportunity to be around the men of her family, and the one who still owns her heart. But there is no denying that the woman behind the desk is far more suited to wielding a gun and keeping the peace. If only she could convince her fathers to see her in a new light, as a person worthy of a deputy's badge. 

Determined to put her past behind her, Seylah gives her attentions to a handsome new arrival. One who sweeps Seylah off her feet-quite literally. Things are almost perfect until August suddenly declares his intent to court her. Can she trust that August's affections are true and not inspired by jealousy? 

Amongst gun fights and forbidden kisses, childhood friendships mature into a love built on forever and intimate desire in this tale of friends-to-prickly-allies-to-lovers romance

Honor and Desire was well-written and fairly true to the voice of its respective period, but there was something unexciting about the story.

Seylah is a gun touting and sharp-shooting woman whose only wish is to protect the town and the people she loves. Being a woman in this position, though fully embraced by her family, is still unheard of. August, her best friend, is quietly the love of her life. Except despite their closeness, they seem doomed to remain just friends.

The strongest part of the novel aside from the easy-to-follow writing--was the family. The characters in the family, particularly her sisters, leaped off the page in their realness. 

I have to admit the cover, and not the story initially pulled me towards the novel. The author didn't rely on character descriptions. With only the mention of the curl of Seylah's hair; and the mention of a dress complimenting her complexion; there isn't concrete proof the MC was a Black woman at all. Much to my disappointment. I don't know what I expected, but I thought her being black would have turned the story in an altogether different direction.

Regarding the romance, I almost didn't expect it to happen. I wouldn't call the romance slow-burn, because there wasn't much or any build-up. August seemed so disinterested in Seylah. When she finds out just how uninterested he is, it almost sours their friendship. Once she sets her eyes on someone new, he declares his undying love for her, and they begin their courtship. There's a small period of doubt, but it lasts only but a minute.

There were plenty of sweet moments, but I didn't expect the relationship, even though it's spelled out in the blurb. I have to admit; I didn't read it, so there's that. Their relationship was grounded in inevitability rather than romance. There's no conflict between the two, even after they paired off, and I think the story needed conflict to shake things up a bit.

Carter does a good job of penning this historical romance; at times I felt pulled from the story because of the occasional contemporary language. Again, I could be off the mark due to my lack of ignorance, but there were moments it felt more contemporary than historical.

Overall Honor and Desire is a perfectly readable and engaging tale. It's rather well-written, though I found the story lacking in action and thrill. I'd be perfectly content to read more books from this author; particularly the forthcoming novels that focus on the sisters who I felt were the true stars of the novel. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Hearts on Hold by Charish Reid: Where Can I Get Me One of Them Librarians?

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Hearts on Hold by Charish Reid
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What happens in the stacks stays in the stacks… 

Professor Victoria Reese knows an uphill battle when she sees one. Convincing her narrow-minded colleagues at the elite Pembroke University to back a partnership with the local library is a fight she saw coming and already has a plan for. What she didn’t see coming? The wildly hot librarian who makes it clear books aren’t the only thing he’d like to handle.

When a tightly wound, sexy-as-hell professor proposes a partnership between his library and her university, children’s department head John Donovan is all for it. He knows his tattoos and easygoing attitude aren’t quite what she expected, but the unmistakable heat between them is difficult to resist.

And then there’s the intriguing late fee on her record. For the Duke’s Convenience… A late fee and a sexy romance novel? There’s more to Dr. Reese than she’s letting on.

John might like to tease her about her late fee, but when he teases her in other ways, Victoria is helpless to resist. Mixing business with pleasure—and oh, it is pleasure—always comes with risks, but maybe a little casual fun between the sheets is just what Victoria needs.
*A special thanks to the author for this review copy. This freely supplied copy does not affect my opinion.*Also, please ignore any typos, I don't have the patience to grammar check myself on this here day.*

This book was so effortlessly good. I want to' sign up for a class for the key to the spell of this writing sorcery. 

Victoria is tightly wound, but her knack for planning even the smallest of details has served her well. She wants to implement an internship with the local library, but the patriarchal white powers that be are giving her a hard time. Fortunately, her lists are orderly, and her plans are even neater. Meeting with the Children's librarian, John Donovan is just a part of implementing the beginning stages of her plans for approval of the program. She doesn't prepare to fall into a "situationship" with the librarian or to find love in the stacks.

This is my second book by Charish, and they both maintained a solid, well-written exploration of interracial romances in a way I've not seen done this excellently before. 

Wholly maintaining the blackness of her heroine, while having her date outside of her race, is difficult. I often see authors fumble in this subgenre, there's always (most times) a forced, unrealistic racist chasm put between the characters that hinder the book.

Reid is an expert in not doing this. She never ostracizes her heroines and maintains the relationships (see: Black girlfriends) that are lacking in most IR novels. She expertly weaves aspects of the characters' careers into the books without weighing the book down with strenuous details.

Not only that, the books are hot without even trying (boffum). She maintains the heat of the sex; without being vulgar or chaste. This is difficult to do. Her books are clever and captivating. I didn't want to put the book down and I didn't. 

The writing is superb and effortless in its delivery. The conflicts are mature and fitting to the character's journeys. I honestly can't say anything bad about this book.

Reid is now an auto-buy author, and I am thrilled to see what she comes up with next. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Sweet Talkin' Lover (A Girls Trip Novel) by Tracey Livesay


Sweet Talkin' Love (A Girls Trip Novel) by Tracey Livesay
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Tracey Livesay delivers the first novel in her sexy new series about lifelong friends and unforgettable love stories.

When everything is on the line, surrendering completely to love is your only choice…

Marketing manager Caila Harris knows that the road to success in the beauty industry doesn’t allow for detours. She’s forsaken any trace of a social life, working 24/7 to ensure her next promotion. When grief over her grandfather’s death leads to several catastrophic decisions, Caila gets one final chance to prove herself: shut down an unprofitable factory in a small Southern town. But as soon as she arrives in Bradleton, she meets one outsized problem: the town’s gorgeous mayor.

Wyatt Bradley isn’t thrilled about his nickname, Mayor McHottie. He’s even less happy to learn that his town might be losing its biggest employer. If he has to, he’ll use some sneaky tactics to get Caila on his side. Yet even as he’s hoping she’ll fall for Bradleton, he’s falling too—right into a combustible affair that shakes them both with its intensity.

Two stubborn people, torn between loyalty, ambition, and attraction. But when you’re willing to give it your all, there’s no limit to how far love can take you…
*A special thanks to the publisher for this review copy. This freely supplied copy does not affect my opinion.*

I think I have a thing for small-town romances. I rather enjoy the tight-knit community, even the gossip mongers that cause trouble where it's not needed.

I wasn't too sure how I would feel about Caila with her hard-headed, have to work every second of every day, type A personality. But I enjoyed her strength and resolve to be the best woman she wanted to be. I think that's admirable, even if she isn't real.

I liked Mayor Wyatt Bradley immediately. I could almost hear his drawl in my head—and I think I liked it. He was an upstanding guy who deserved to be dubbed Mayor McHottie for more reasons than just his looks.

I really enjoyed this book, more than I expected actually. It had all the elements I enjoy in a romance; slow-burn, banter, and respective differences. They were different without being assholes about how different they were from the other.

The book is warm where it needs to be, it's spicy in all the right places. The couple was very mature, despite the impending doom that loomed over their heads for most of the novel. The writing is straight-forward and easily relatable. It's a perfectly good novel, and I look forward to the next book in the series. I hope we get to see what's going on with Caila and Wyatt in future books.

It's one of the few IR's that are done well. Highly recommend. 

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Forbidden Promises (Jackson Falls, #1) by Synithia Williams ARC Review


Forbidden Promises (Jackson Falls, #1) by Synithia Williams
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What do you do when you want the one person you can never have?Get in and get out. That was India Robidoux’s plan for this family visit. But when her brother needs her help with his high-profile political campaign, India has no choice but to stay and face the one man she’s been running from for years—Travis, her sister’s ex-husband. One hot summer night when Travis was still free, they celebrated her birthday with whiskey and an unforgettable kiss. The memory is as strong as ever—and so are the feelings she’s tried so hard to forget.

Travis Strickland owes everything to the Robidoux family. There’s nothing he wouldn’t do for them—his divorce could never change that. Still, he has one regret. Impulsive and passionate, India always understood him better than anyone else. And the longer they work together on the campaign, the more torn he is. Coming between her and her sister is out of the question. But how can he let love pass him by a second time?
*A special thanks to the author for this review copy. This freely supplied copy does not affect my opinion.*

If I could describe this book in one word, it'd be heartfelt. Williams really captures and hones in on the emotional compass of the reader. While this is a romance, I found it to be less romantic and more heart-tugging.

India is back home for a short stint. She has no intention of staying, however, her family ropes her into another familial obligation.

But once she's done helping with her brother's campaign, she's gone. However, she never planned to bump into Travis again after that tumultuous summer night. She never planned for all the feelings she tried to bury to come back up, but isn't that how love works?

Let me start off by warning you, this might rub some of you the wrong way. With India dating her sister's ex-husband, there might be some disdain there. But once you get into the story and understand the series of events, you might reconsider. The way it's all handled is respectable and admirable.

What I liked most about the book is the backstory. Of course, I wanted the pair to hook up because that's what we're all here for. But Williams does a good job of setting up the world and the family involved. You get a true sense of all the characters losing none of the momentum.

Like I mentioned at the beginning, the story tugs at the heartstrings before it brings the characters together. Before it allows anything to develop fully, it allowed for the backstories to blossom and make sense to the reader. That's so important because a baseless romance is not as fun as one that takes the time to do the groundwork.

There's not a lot that goes on in terms of "action," but I found the book hard to put down. There's a lot of familial drama and resistance between the couple, but it's perfectly paced. It marks all of its points and it does so well.

This will be a layered familial drama series and I think readers will find themselves immersed in Williams's easy-going writing and the slow-building romance.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable read and will make a perfect addition to any romance lover's shelf.

Monday, February 3, 2020

The Lamar St. Jon Experience (The Follow, #3) by Eliza David

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The Lamar St. Jon Experience (The Follow, #3) by Eliza David
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This third installment of The Follow series chronicles the journey of one of its’ most enigmatic characters, celebrity heartthrob Lamar St. Jon. 

And he is saying goodbye to stardom for goodat least, he hopes. 

Boasting a successful career in modeling, television, & film, Lamar leaves the glitz of celebrity behind to find his own way – without the paparazzi and online buzz surrounding his elusive persona. Then he meets Giovanni ‘Gi’ Hughes: a self-proclaimed ‘Renaissance Negro’ by day and a strip club bartender by night. The unconventional Gi shows quiet Lamar a side of New York the reluctant star never experienced as a national heartthrob. Lamar finds himself immersed in Gi’s bohemian scene, enamored with his carefree spirit and defiant nature. Soon, the two handsome creatives find themselves tangled in a passionate affair. 
The moment Lamar starts forgetting about his turbulent superstar past, his estranged parents come barreling back into his life after coming into financial ruin. When they beg him to step back into the spotlight for a quick buck, Lamar has to choose between stepping back into his old role for his family and forging a new life for himself with Gi.
*A special thanks to the author for this review copy. This freely supplied copy does not affect my opinion.*

I'm still learning to walk away from books when I'm not enjoying them for whatever reason. I always give books until the very last page to win me over. Sometimes that works. But to be honest, mostly, it doesn't. This is one of those books that I should have walked away from. 

But let's discuss what it's about first. Lamar St. Jon is a world-renowned actor. He has been since he was a child, but now he's tired of the "life." He's tired of acting and pretending to be something he isn't. Mostly, he's tired of pretending to be a heterosexual man. In steps Giovanni, who is this outspoken poet—who's not afraid to walk in his shoes proudly. 

I appreciated the juxtaposition between the two because it gave the story a sense of realism it needed. However, the romance didn't quite do it for me. Mostly because I felt like the pair fell into the relationship rather quickly without fully understanding what it would mean for one to date the other. Before really getting to know each other. It kind of just happened, but it didn't feel like kismet. They fell into each other when they most needed it, but it still didn't pull me in. 

I think the author does a fairly good job telling this story; telling this "coming out" story, but because the romance lacked, I trudged through the rest. 

Overall, I appreciated the internal family struggle, the found family, and the artistry. I just don't think this is the story for me, but I'm sure there are readers better suited for the story, it just isn't me.

If you like your romance less spicy and more structured with a dash of seriousness, this is perfect for you.