Monday, December 24, 2018

The Disturbed Girl's Dictionary by NoNieqa Ramos: It's a Hard One

Macy's school officially classifies her as "disturbed," but Macy isn't interested in how others define her. She's got more pressing problems: her mom can't move off the couch, her dad's in prison, her brother's been kidnapped by Child Protective Services, and now her best friend isn't speaking to her. Writing in a dictionary format, Macy explains the world in her own terms—complete with gritty characters and outrageous endeavors. With an honesty that's both hilarious and fearsome, slowly Macy reveals why she acts out, why she can't tell her incarcerated father that her mom's cheating on him, and why her best friend needs protection . . . the kind of protection that involves Macy's machete.

3.5 out of 5 stars
The Disturbed Girl's Dictionary is as disturbing as its name implies.

While in an effort not to trivialize or pretend as if teenagers don't go through hard things, I'd timidly but strongly suggest this novel for older teens. 

Macy is disturbed or is she? Forced into a life of neglect, poverty, and dysfunction--it's hard to decipher "crazy," behavior from a cry for help.

Macy's mom is as present as she is absent and her father is incarcerated. She has a best friend, Alma who's life is just as complicated as Macy's. Her other bestie, George wears a helmet and is a gentle giant.

Told in a series of chapters, some short and succinct, and some poem-like, The Disturbed Girl's
Dictionary is a hard-hitter of a novel never dallying in the sweet but delivering the truth in a harsh, and sharp tone. Some of this novel is down-right cringeworthy and eye-shutting. 

For a debut novel, the author had no qualms about telling this story with all of its real quirky craziness.

The Disturbed Girl's Dictionary though better suited for older teens is a story worth reading if not for enjoyment, but to peel back the layers of the realities like these that are normally covered or ignored.

A worthwhile gritty read not for the faint of heart.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Easy Prey by Catherine Lo: The Internet is A Nasty Place


Only three students had access to a teacher’s racy photos before they went viral. There’s Mouse, a brainy overachiever so desperate to escape his father and go to MIT that he would do almost anything, legal or not. Then there’s Drew, the star athlete who can get any girl’s number—and private photos—with his charm but has a history of passing those photos around. And finally there’s Jenna, a good girl turned rebel after her own shocking photos made the rounds at school last year, who is still waiting for justice. All three deny leaking the photos, but someone has to take the fall. This edgy whodunit tackles hot-button issues of sexting and gossip and will have readers tearing through the pages to reach the final reveal.

Three out of Five Stars
Easy prey’s story is directly relevant to its title. It tells the story of how when you prey on others, completely disregard the people you hurt, you just might become easy prey yourself. 

The internet can be a nasty place. I think many of us have experienced its nastiness in some way shape or form. Easy prey shows this in seemingly real time.

Jenna, Mouse, and Drew are paired off in law class. As a group, they must tackle the effects of the internet by reviewing a case in which a girl’s photos are posted online, and the guy gets no punishment. See, Jenna has been before and would prefer not to go there again.

This time, however, she plans to be on the right side of it, and to prove once and for all, that the girl suffering is the victim and deserves justice, even if it means she must get it by unconventional means.

What worked for this story is the fact that it comes off as very real. Most of us or have heard of someone who’s been cyber bullied-whether it is by words, or having risqué photos posted of you online. At least one or two celebrities in this lifetime have had this happen.

While the book does a good job of tackling this, by the end of it, the reader dependent upon the interpretation, could be left with a bad taste in their mouth. 

The end of the story contradicts its overall message. If its intention was shock value it did that, but in order to accomplish what was intended it caused the same harm, it fought so hard to struggle against throughout the book.

That was a hard pill to swallow, realistic, but hard. 

Overall, it’s a decent read that does more good than harm, but a more fair ending would’ve been preferred.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Loves Notes & Pulling Doubles (The Wright Brothers, #2) by Christina C. Jones Dual Book Reviews--#BlackLove

Love that says something, instead of just looking like it. 

Love you can always trust to feel like home. 

For both of them, it’s something that has always been just outside of their peripheral, something to be observed rather than experienced. A depth of feeling reserved for people who were “into” that, those with a different outlook, those more… deserving. 

Until their paths cross. 

Lines are crossed. 

And maybe the stars are crossed too, because the connection and chemistry are so off the charts that they can’t stay away from each other, can’t avoid it... even if they think they should.

Four Out of Five Stars

Christina C. Jones' books bridge the gap between African American romance readers and the traditionally published romance novel.

It goes without saying, (I'm going to say it, though) romance is not a genre that black readers (this applies to POC in general, as well) can run to, to find many characters that look or feel like them.

Christina C. Jones fulfills that need. Her characters are utterly black--and they do so without apology and gratefully without stereotype. Thank heavens, for small mercies.

In Love Notes, you meet Jules and Troy--two people broken, and embittered by their tumultuous pasts, on a journey to finding love, unintentionally. 

Jules character is the flip side to the playboy. She knows what she wants, and if it's casual sex? She'll have it, to hell with double standards. But, what lies beneath the playgirl-esque persona, is a woman afraid of any one getting too close.

Troy is a reformed barbershop manager, with no intentions on one night stands, or booty call hook ups. The next time he sleeps with someone, it will be with someone he's serious about. 

That is until, Jules saunters into the local bar with her too cool hairstyle, dimples and slay--throwing him and his life totally off course.

I loved Jules and Troy. Between their come up and the blooming love between them, I was completely enthralled by the budding romance, and the happily ever after that followed later. 

I always enjoy the types of romance that include characters that start off totally ignoring, and refusing to acknowledge the chemistry between them. I enjoy more so, when they finally get together.

In a laid back, slow-burn way, Jones weaved a tale of romance between two people who desperately wanted love, but felt they didn't deserve it.

I loved the photography aspect of it, I've always been fascinated with photography--the lighting, the different lenses, the whole nine. I even more so enjoyed the idea of Love Notes being a real thing, I think the overall idea of love in photography is really dope. 

I appreciated the banter, and all of the interactions between the two main characters, and all of the supporting characters as well. 

Readers will be pleased with the pacing, the down-to-earth characters, and the romance of course. 

Definitely solidifies itself as a stand out romance in a lacking genre.

All Devyn wants – besides a tall, fine husband and eventually a few babies to fulfill her “about to turn thirty, running out of time, cute black family” dreams – is to finish her yearlong internship at University Hospital. She’s excited about the experience, eager to learn, glad to help wherever she can… it should be easy, right? 

Well, it would be… if it weren’t for arrogant, know-it-all, always-got-something-to-say Dr. Joseph Wright. Devyn can’t stand him, and if his attitude is any indication, the feeling is mutual… or is it? 

Joseph doesn’t “do” doctors. Or nurses. Or patients. Or anybody else who has anything to do with the hospital, for that matter. University Hospital has infiltrated enough of his life, and the last thing he needs is a blurring of the lines between professional and private. 

… until smart, sexy, sassy Nurse Devyn Echols comes along, and stomps all over those lines. 

When you’re pulling doubles with the person you hate to want so bad… something is bound to ignite.

Three out of Five Stars

Pulling Doubles, was Grey's Anatomy, if it focused solely on gynecology--and if all the characters were black. Not as multilayered, and melodramatic, but a hospital drama nonetheless. 

Far quicker to read than my previous Christina C. Jones novels; she wastes no time getting down to it. 

Devyn, is a nurse practitioner, at an internship to complete her certification--working in conjunction with the unfathomable, Dr. Wright. 

They hate each other, but the underlying chemistry, between them is delicious. The sexual tension between the two practically jumps off the pages.

While this story moved a little quicker, and ended a bit more abruptly than my liking, it still was an enjoyable read.

Overall, Jones does a stellar job of presenting black romance that is neither stereotypical or lackluster in any way. 

She's solidified herself as the queen of black romance for me, and I can't wait to read more!

Monday, April 2, 2018

Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now by Dana L. Davis ARC Book Review

I’ve got seven days to come clean to my new dad. Seven days to tell the truth…

For sixteen-year-old Tiffany Sly, life hasn’t been safe or normal for a while. Losing her mom to cancer has her a little bit traumatized and now she has to leave her hometown of Chicago to live with the biological dad she’s never known.

Anthony Stone is a rich man with four other daughters—and rules for every second of the day. Tiffany tries to make the best of things, but she doesn’t fit into her new luxurious, but super-strict, home—or get along with her standoffish sister London. The only thing that makes her new life even remotely bearable is the strange boy across the street. Marcus McKinney has had his own experiences with death, and the unexpected friendship that blossoms between them is the only thing that makes her feel grounded.

But Tiffany has a secret. Another man claims he’s Tiffany’s real dad—and she only has seven days before he shows up to demand a paternity test and the truth comes out. With her life about to fall apart all over again, Tiffany finds herself discovering unexpected truths about her father, her mother and herself, and realizing that maybe family is in the bonds you make—and that life means sometimes taking risks.

Four Out of Five Stars
I am Tiffany Sly, and she is me.

I have to admit this book surprised me. I wasn't sure where this book was going to go, because I admittedly did NOT read the blurb for this book. 

I seen the cover, and honestly--that was enough for me. I have to pat myself on the back--because I did well. This was a great read. 

Tiffany Sly's Mom dies from cancer--and Tiffany is sent to live with the father she never met--in a totally new state. BUT, before she leaves, another man comes forward, claiming to be Tiffany's Dad. She promises to keep this secret for seven days. Seven days until he demands the DNA test, and his timing could not be worst. 

When I started reading this book, I seen so much of myself in it, I was both thrilled and frightened.

It has often been said, that African-Americans in general, don't play close enough attention to mental health. So, I appreciated this take on mental health. I appreciated the author's presentation and approach on Tiffany's anxiety. 

I'm no expert on anxiety, but as someone who suffers from some form of it, I can say her depiction is pretty accurate--scarily so.

Aside from that, Tiffany's character is completely relatable. Her search for her place in the world, trying to fit in, while standing out--it's a place we often find ourselves in; both as young adults and adults.

The family dynamic was initially overwhelming for both the reader and for Tiffany--but it was a perfect fit for the story--and the development of the plot. 

I won't say much about it, because I want you--the reader, to experience it on your own--with all of it's surprises, and revelations.

I will, however, briefly talk about the father. He was infuriating in his ignorance, but understandable. As a Christina, I often find the portrayal of overzealous Christians (or similar religions), frustrating. I know there are people like that, so I get it.

Anyway, the author did a good job of portraying both sides of the religious coin. 

And before I finish this review, I want to talk about Marcus--my favorite character. With a white painted face, and a dysfunctional heart--Marcus weaseled his way right into my heart. His words were few, but their impact was big. His character was wise beyond his years, and deeper than most intellectuals. His part in the book was minimal but he pushed Tiffany forward, and I absolutely loved his character. I loved him so much, I would love to see in a book by himself. 

This book was absolutely necessary in the same way the black lives matter novels are--because in the same way that we need novels that take a stance against racial injustices, mental health representation for WOC is just as important.

I appreciated this book for what it represented and for its entertainment.

The religious back and forth was a bit heavy-handed, but after a while I was able to look passed it. The story is worth it, and the characters are even more worth it. A great debut.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Hidden Pieces by Paula Stokes ARC Book Review: Issa No For Me


Embry Woods has secrets. Small ones about her past. Bigger ones about her relationship with town hero Luke and her feelings for someone new. But the biggest secret she carries with her is about what happened that night at the Sea Cliff Inn. The fire. The homeless guy. Everyone thinks Embry is a hero, too, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Embry thinks she’ll have to take the secret to her grave, until she receives an anonymous note—someone else knows the truth. Next comes a series of threatening messages, asking Embry to make impossible choices, forcing her to put her loved ones at risk. Someone is playing a high stakes game where no one in Embry’s life is safe. And their last murder.

Two Out of Five Stars
If I could describe Hidden Pieces in one word, it'd be trivial.

Awash with petty secrets, horny teenagers--and avoidable mistakes--Hidden Pieces was the last season of Pretty Little Liars--over.

While this story had a lot of potential to solidify itself as a great thriller--it was drowned out by what I felt was petty foolishness.

Embry, is keeping pieces of herself hidden, hence the title--however, her secrets, although potentially hurtful--were superficial at the surface.

*Cheating trigger ahead*

She's keeping secrets from her Mom, her best friend--and maybe even herself. Embry is in this weird space of trying to figure herself out--all the while trying to maintain some small piece of happiness for herself--which is fair, but the way it all happens is kind of wrong.

Amidst this back and forth inner angst, and secrecy--she becomes the target of a stalker--so to speak. This person, who was dubbed "Unknown," like his/her name and phone number--has decided to be the reaper. The reaper of consequences and redemption, no matter the outcome. He/she sends threatening messages, texts, and emails. She'll do as they say--or suffer the consequences.

In a very "A"-esque fashion, this person has her acting out their very whims--even if it means someone might wind up dying.

As a huge fan of this type of scenario--this is what initially pulled me into the book--but it was also the part that let me down.

Despite the fact that Embry's life is in complete shambles both figuratively, and literally--she can't seem to help herself from getting hot under the collar, and away from her clothes with her "love interest," at times I felt like--that should be the farthest thing from her mine. It's possible it was their way of coping, but it made their relationship seem frivolous and not at all worth the risks they were taking.

As for supporting characters--I don't have much to say about them as I felt their roles were superficial as well. Not that they weren't needed, but they only served as reason for Embry to both divulge and keep secrets.

I didn't feel too much of an emotional connection from Embry to them--aside from her tears...and as I am writing this--I think that was the main issue I had with the story itself. Although one is want to believe that all of this is about her protection of her loved ones--but, aside from her Mom, Embry seemed emotionless--as if acting out of survival instead of care. 

Don't get me wrong, the book is absolutely not terrible, it's just pretty meh on the scale of meh-to-great. Many of you who have issues with cheating characters--won't be pleased with this story--and although I typically, am not deterred by cheaters--this one kind of rubbed me the wrong way; because of the underlying feeling of selfishness.

Also, the big reveal--was disappointing--but I've come not to expect much from YA thrillers. BUT, to be honest, I really though the author was going to take this portion of the book, and blow me away--the wind barely moved my hair. *shrugs shoulders* Such is the life of YA mystery/thriller.

I'm not here to trash this book, but it was pretty disappointing--and I have to be honest about that. 

This book is going to work for some of you, but it's a no for me. Slated for a late summer release--it will give you plenty of time to think about, whether or not this book is for you.

I've said my piece--and I said what I said.