Monday, January 29, 2018

The Post in Which I Try to Review Two Books: The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis and Devils & Thieves by Jennifer Rush

The Swimmer. The Rebel. The Nerd.

All Ryan, Harley and Miles had in common was Isaac. They lived different lives, had different interests and kept different secrets. But they shared the same best friend. They were sidekicks. And now that Isaac's gone, what does that make them?

Will Kostakis, award-winning author of The First Third, perfectly depicts the pain and pleasure of this teenage world, piecing together three points of view with intricate splendour.

I think the author wrote this book with his tears--and I don't say that to be funny. This book is sad, like really sad. 

I'm not quite sure what the author's goal was here--but if it was to make me feel sad, for a person and/or persons that do not exist--mention accomplished.

A group of friends lose the one person that keeps them together--and they wander around trying to figure out both the lost of their friend--but also how they still (if at all, if ever) fit together.

 To be fair, the book is written brilliantly, and the characters are awfully realistic.

 Their feelings and emotions really come through. This is however, in my opinion, a mood read. 

While contemporaries have the tendency to be more serious, this is one of those books you need to be in the mood for--otherwise I think there won't be a true appreciation for what the book has to offer. 

Again, the characters are solid, the story moves effortlessly, its just sad, and well--it kind of brought me down--despite the semi-happy ending.

Power corrupts. Magic kills.

Eighteen-year-old Jemmie Carmichael is surrounded by magic in the quiet town of Hawthorne, New York. In her world, magic users are called “kindled,” and Jemmie would count herself among them if only she could cast a simple spell without completely falling apart. It doesn't help that she was also recently snubbed by Crowe—the dangerous and enigmatic leader of Hawthorne’s kindled motorcycle gang, the Devils’ League.

When the entire kindled community rolls into Hawthorne for an annual festival, a rumor spreads that someone is practicing forbidden magic. Then people start to go missing. With threats closing in from every side, no one can be trusted. Jemmie and Crowe will have to put aside their tumultuous history to find their loved ones, and the only thing that might save them is the very flaw that keeps Jemmie from fully harnessing her magic. For all her years of feeling useless, Jemmie may just be the most powerful kindled of all.

What I liked:
The motorcycle club aspect: As a fan of Sons of Anarchy--I love the motorcycle club culture--toss in the magic and I was sold.

The family--This was a tight familial unit--every part moved together with a purpose. Even when there was a spat, they stuck together.

The magic: Magic in books can really be enjoyable--especially when the author makes it feel tangible real the way the author does here. 

Jemmie: Although she doubted herself, she didn't let it stop her from doing what needs to be done. It's admirable.

What I didn't like: This is not really a complaint, more of a want. The romance aspect wasn't a focus, and that was okay--but more would have been nice. But, being that this is a part one--that gives the reader something to hope for, maybe more of Crowe and Jemmie? And answers from that creepy, and sort of open-ended ending.

Expect to hear more from this cast of characters--because there's definitely more to see here. 

Friday, January 26, 2018

#Pretty Boy Must Die by Kimberly Reid Book Review


A CIA prodigy's cover is blown when he accidentally becomes an internet sensation in #Prettyboy Must Die, inspired by the #Alexfromtarget story.

When Peter Smith's classmate snaps a picture of him during a late night run at the track, Peter thinks he might be in trouble. When she posts that photo--along with the caption, "See the Pretty Boy Run,"--Peter knows he's in trouble. But when hostiles drop through the ceiling of his 6th period Chem Class, Peter's pretty sure his trouble just became a national emergency.

Because he's not really Peter Smith. He's Jake Morrow, former foster-kid turned CIA operative. After a massive screw-up on his first mission, he's on a pity assignment, a dozen hit lists and now, social media, apparently. As #Prettboy, of all freaking things.

His cover's blown, his school's under siege, and if he screws up now, #Prettyboy will become #Deadboy faster than you can say, 'fifteen minutes of fame.' Trapped in a high school with rabid killers and rabid fans, he'll need all his training and then some to save his job, his school and, oh yeah, his life.


Reading this one reminded me just how much I love the male perspective. I just really do. Something about it. 

Anyway, #prettyboymustdie was right up my alley. I very much love espionage, hacking and spies...especially if it's teens--because you don't expect it. So the book, definitely had that going for it. 

It was also pretty action-packed from the very beginning. The author wasted no time getting right down to it. 
Before I fully dive into what I liked about this book--let me briefly talk about what the book is actually about. 

#PrettyBoyMustDie follows, Peter--who is an African-American teenager, and also a CIA operative/prodigy. He's apart of this section of the CIA that was created by one of the higher ups. It was pretty much created to give Peter a space to use the skills, they sought after him for. He's young but he's useful for his strength and hacking skills. The CIA sends Peter to this uppity, guarded private school to help on a mission. While on this mission, he makes some mistakes that threaten his already precarious position with the C.I.A. He makes a friend--and even falls for someone. That's a no-no--and now someone's taken it upon themselves to make him a celebrity and almost completely blow his cover. His good looks--have just made him #prettyboy--and he's gone viral.

Don't be dismayed--I think it sounds pretty silly. Like oh yeah, you're so good looking you're viral--but it works in this story.

What I liked:
Again, the main character--the male perspective is fitting and Peter is really likable. You can almost forget he works with the CIA, because he's such a regular kid--in the ways that matter. He's really kind--and although it works against him in the story, it makes him endearing to the reader.

Bunker--Peter's, should not be his best friend, best friend. Peter's in the CIA and on a mission--he shouldn't be getting close to anyone. It leaves that person at risk--and it makes Peter weak. But, I can honestly see why it was hard for Peter to stay away--even though Bunker didn't make it easy for him to stay away if he wanted to. Bunker was so loyal--and just a sweetie. I really enjoyed his character and his companionship to Peter.

Katie--she was tough. Ballsy. I loved her style--and I liked the dynamic between her and Peter--and even with some of the other characters. I could almost hear in my head as I read her POV. I really enjoyed that. She was lifelike in my mind.

The characters really come to life, and it easily reads in a cinematic tone.

What I didn't like:The action drags. I mentioned that the action happens from page one--and this is perfectly fine and makes since for the genre--but I kind of felt like we could have more than one thing happen in this book. It kind of felt like the big moments happened, pretty early on and just kept on until the story ended.

I'm not sure if I'm making sense, but I hope you understand what I mean. I definitely felt like I was watching a movie, but I also felt like I had reached the climax a little too early on.

I would've liked for something else, major to happen in the later half--and although it kind of did--it was still too solidly connected to the things that were already going on.

The good thing is it didn't hinder my reading in anyway--it's just something I would've added to the story.

I really enjoyed this book, it wasn't a hands down winner, but it was fun--and provided a lot of thrill. I would recommend it. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Wild Bird by Wendelin Van Draanen Book Review--It was Okay, or Whatever.

3:47 a.m. That's when they come for Wren Clemens. She's hustled out of her house and into a waiting car, then a plane, and then taken on a forced march into the desert. This is what happens to kids who've gone so far off the rails, their parents don't know what to do with them any more. This is wilderness therapy camp. 

The Wren who arrives in the Utah desert is angry and bitter, and blaming everyone but herself. But angry can't put up a tent. And bitter won't start a fire. Wren's going to have to admit she needs help if she's going to survive. 

In her most incisive and insightful book yet, beloved author Wendelin Van Draanen's offers a remarkable portrait of a girl who too a wrong turn and got lost--but who may be able to find her way back again in the vast, harsh desert.

Wren's only fourteen but she's already done enough to land herself in bootcamp. She's smoking and drinking. She's stealing, keeping secrets--and even selling drugs.

She's angry and acting out. Her parents have had enough and they sign her
 up for a wilderness boot camp for misbehaving teens. It's there that she discovers the root of her anger--and truly finds her self.

This was a pretty decent coming of age story--one that wasn't necessarily compelling but was fairly interesting.

Wren is fairly likable. Yes, she does some bad things but she repents and makes it right. 

Her family dynamic was pretty interesting. The parents seemed pretty disappointed in Wren--but as characters, they were pretty quiet. That's actually kind of weird, but I think the author wanted to make the story more about Wren's development outside of her family. 

The sister is pretty holier than thou--and she doesn't seem, not at first, to want to even find out what's going on with Wren--but she does eventually come around. So, there's that. 

The younger brother seems to be the only one that doesn't necessarily seem to think the worst about Wren.

Wren had one best friend, whose name escapes me at the moment--but she was a really bad friend. She started Wren on her path to destruction--then stood back and watched her burn. 

Looking at it from this angle, it's no wonder Wren wound up where she was. 

The camp--I liked the camp overall. I know Wren is forced here--but I definitely felt it was more helpful than harmful. They were supportive--without being enabling. The characters were pretty solid here, and the way they handled the different teens and their situations was actually pretty smart.

Overall, I liked the idea behind the book, I just think the execution was pretty, okay, at best. Wasn't a winner for me, unfortunately. HOWEVER...

This book tackles strong and important messages--and it will appeal to teens coming-of-age. I think it's a great read for teens overall, and is better suited for a younger audience. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Calling My Name by Liara Tamani Book Review

"Taja Brown knows her place and the restrictions within her conservative and tight-knit African American family, but she suddenly feels left behind watching her friends go through a world of firsts — from kisses to boyfriends to everything in between. But everything shifts when Taja falls in love for the first time. Tamani creates a raw, relatable, and eloquently-told coming-of-age story about finding your place, beliefs, and identity." --- BuzzFeed 

I can hear the voices of some of the greatest African American writers echoing in the voice of
Liara Tamani's debut novel, Calling My Name.

Reading Calling My Name had me reminiscing not only on some of those books I've read, by the aforementioned authors--but reminiscing of my childhood and adolescent years.

I found pieces of my childhood in this story, and it made the story that much more enjoyable for me.

In this coming-of-age tale, Taja Brown, seemingly struggles with her religious beliefs, and the realities she feels her family, simply doesn't get.

A blend of familial obligations, and realistic situations--Calling My Name was a story, the reader and myself won't soon forget.

With lyrical, poetic, and downright gorgeous writing, Calling My Name was a stellar debut.

Taja Btown is young, and she's just trying to figure life out--outside of what she's already been told. Taja's family, is a church family. The mother and father are apart of the church--and they're faithful to their religion. Taja struggles with committing to what she's committed to her entire life, and always feeling like there's more--more than what's she's been taught.

All the while exploring this, we get to know who Taja is, as she does the same. It was completely realistic and absolutely relatable.

I felt like I got it, because the exploration of ones self is something we all do at some point--and I enjoyed watching Taja do the same.

While religion was a heavy portion of the family's lives--and although it thoroughly dictated who they were and how they moved as a people--I definitely loved the way the parents were painted.

Dedicated, good-hearted people with realistic and non-harsh expectations of their children.

The son, is pretty much a play boy, but he does go off to college and attempts to make something of himself. Taja, eventually does the same. The overall picture is positive and it was wonderful.

Now let's briefly talk about the romance--because well we're all (some) looking for the romance. Or, maybe that's just me?!

Anyway, there is a little bit of romance but it is so realistic some of you may find yourself displeased. There's no slow burn or push and pull. It just kind of happens. Inevitably. Realistically.

It kind of just happens to you, and it was real. So be prepared for that. You won't be swooning but you'll be nodding your head in agreement.

With that aside it is a coming-of-age story--so there's not a lot of action. But it reads so well and so beautifully you won't miss it.

Without being too verbose--this is a solid debut. It was beautifully written and good reading. I'd definitely recommend it, and highly so!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Love on The Highlight Reel by Christina C. Jones--#blacklove

First impressions don’t have to be everything. 

But second, third, fourth impressions create a reputation, and those are hard to break. In the public eye, where everybody is tuned in to your every move, and behind the scenes, where certain people are privy to the real you… or at least what they perceive you to be. 

Jordan Johnson is a man under pressure – from his teammates, fans, family, and the one person who wants to see him succeed as badly as he wants it for himself. He’ll do whatever he has to in order to not let anyone down… and maybe find an unanticipated connection along the way. 

Nicole Richardson is a woman with a purpose – prove herself worthy of her place in a male-dominated field. Fiercely competitive, wielder of tough love and motivation, and terrible at dealing with things outside of her control. Between making sure the players are thriving, and coping with a changing family dynamic, a relationship isn’t even on her radar. 

Denying their chemistry would be a waste of words, but giving in isn’t an option. 

A season on the line. 

Reputations at stake. 

The threat of seeing their personal lives played out on the evening highlights. 

With all of that swirling around them, Jordan and Nicole have to decide if it’s worth the effort to make the play… or take a knee. 

Love Belvin and Christina C. Jones collaborate on a series of football romance, staring two football greats who so happen to be in for the biggest play of their lives: for their hearts. Quarterback, Trent Bailey, and wide receiver, Jordan Johnson, give their all out on the green. But what happens when the two friends encounter true love? 

Take on Connecticut Kings’ finest and journey through their discovery of developing themselves as men, and exploring love. 

In my absence, I have read a handful of books--(not too many)--none too noteworthy--well aside from Bad Mommy by Taryn Fisher--which I thought was pretty well done. 

Aside from that, nothing has really been doing it for me. Not to mention the fact, that I just found reading to be more than I could sign up for--for the last couple of months (okay, more than a couple). Which is saying a lot, considering I considered myself for a while (see:forever) as a heavy reader. But, to be honest, life and all it's ugliness (and beauty) took me away from reading. It was either reading or life, and life made the choice for me. 

*Deep breath* I say all that to say I hope to spend more time reading this year--and enjoying and savoring books in the way that I used to--which leads me to Love on The Highlight Reel.

Love on the Highlight Reel is what I've been missing and didn't even know it. 

Positive, realistic black love. I know, don't make this a race thing, Jazmen. But it is a race thing--but in a good way. 

There's not a total lack of presence of black love in New Adult--not if you're really looking for it. But it's not among the popular titles that we see regularly--and that needs to change. (We'll save that argument for later. )

Love on the Highlight reel broken down to it's tiniest bits is typical New Adult. Typical New Adult second chance romance. However it's just a bit more than that at it's core. It's positive, it's real--and it's exactly what I needed and wanted from a book.

We've all read the sports trope in New Adult--once one did it well--we got a whole bunch more trying to do the same.

But what I liked its the dynamic between the two love interests. Nicole "Cole" Richardson, was the one pulling the strings, doing the work and being an all around Girl Boss bad ass. Nicole helped run her father's football team the kings. Alongside her brother but they managed different players--differently.

It was just black people doing their thing and I was all. "Yasssss!," and so here for it. 

The love interest, Jordan Johnson--was for all intents and purposes the star player. Cole, and he dated back in college--but things fell apart as they aged--and as Jordan became an NFL player--not for reasons superficial or surface--but because things just happen like that sometimes. 

But, of course neither of them could fight what was always there--love.

What works for the romance aspect of the book-- On the part of Cole, was the struggle to be a proud and competent business woman--while still pursuing a romance that she wanted to have but didn't want to be judged for. And Jordan's pursuit of her--relentless pursuit in a respectable way that both honored and treasured Nicole--without being too "Me Man. You Jane." Macho foolishness. It was that dynamic that worked against them--but also brought them closer together. And it's a treat for the reader to see how that all works out.

The football part of it wasn't too overwhelming but it actually left me with a little sports excitement--and I don't even do football.

The book is very well-rounded in the way it deals with romance, and sports. It's actually pretty fun if you allow yourself to get into it--and I did.

I know I mentioned race--but it's not all about that. I mean I'm black--so of course I enjoyed having the book be about a black couple. But, any person of any race, can and will enjoy this book--because it's just really good reading. 

This is my first book by this author--but I can promise you--it won't be my last,  because honey--this right here is good reading--and who doesn't need another couple to ship--or a book boyfriend to drool over?