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 move...is 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.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Dread Nation (Dread Nation, #1) by Justina Ireland--A "Quickie" Review

Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville—derailing the War Between the States and changing America forever. In this new nation, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Reeducation Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead. But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.

But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose. But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies. And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.


3 1/2 out of five stars
What a read. This book grabs you in a choke hold, and does not let go until the very last page.

Reminiscent of Alice in Zombieland, Dread Nation is the Walking Dead, immediately post slavery.

Jane McKeene, is a black girl during the most difficult of times. Although slavery has been abolished, the negro is no more accepted than they were before. 

Educated in the art of killing the dead, Jane is a force to be reckoned with. With sass, that is unmatched--Jane quickly became one of my favorite characters.

I admired her zest, and her unwavering bravery. Despite the circumstance, Jane stood up for what she believed in, and fought to the very end for both herself, but every other person that was mistreated before and after her.

Although this reads like a historical fiction, the tone--and the feelings the novel incites is very timely, and very now. 

The characters are easy to root for, and so very easy to follow along with. The plot itself is intriguing--but by the end, I felt like there was more to see--and I can see why this will be a series, and I have a feeling it's going to be an exciting series. 

For the romance lovers, there's not much in that department--but I do believe, there will be more of it in book two--and it's something to look forward to. 

All in all, the book reads well, is well-written, and is filled with gore and excitement. If you love the walking dead, a little bit of history--and a lot of sass, this book is for you! 

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles Book Review

When Marvin Johnson's twin, Tyler, goes to a party, Marvin decides to tag along to keep an eye on his brother. But what starts as harmless fun turns into a shooting, followed by a police raid.
The next day, Tyler has gone missing, and it's up to Marvin to find him. But when Tyler is found dead, a video leaked online tells an even more chilling story: Tyler has been shot and killed by a police officer. Terrified as his mother unravels and mourning a brother who is now a hashtag, Marvin must learn what justice and freedom really mean.
Tyler Johnson Was Here is a stunning account of police brutality in modern America.

Tyler Johnson Was Here--did not come to be politically correct, or racially ambiguous. Tyler Johnson came to tell an ugly truth, and made no qualms about sharing its blackness, in it's raw and true form.

Tyler Johnson Was Here is an experience I found both realistic and painful. It wasn't very verbose--or even eloquent for that matter. But, it was well-written and specific in it's story telling.

Tyler Johnson was here is about a set of twins, Tyler and Marvin. Marvin and Tyler go to a party--a shooting ensues, and Tyler goes missing. Only to later find out, Tyler was killed by a cop on his way home.

An accurate depiction, of the current race-related police brutality issue--that has plagued the African American community for some time.

What works for this novel, is not that it has some predestined plot, with very specifically placed characters--what works is that it's real.

In that regard, the story works for telling an otherwise unheard of story in a real way. Teenagers, and adults alike will feel the pangs of Marvin's grief in ways that will shatter and change you. As authors continue to approach this subject both cautiously, and incautiously, readers will be changed.

Readers will get to know each character, in an intimate way, allowing for a deeper, more intimate connection with the author, the characters and themselves. The book is genius for the fact that it will tug the heart strings--but most importantly, it will open your eyes.

As I'm finally sitting down to right this review, another unarmed black man was killed--and it's a story I feel completely confident and saddened to say won't change, until the world does. Until the world, truly understands that black lives matter--not specifically because we/they are black but in spite of it.

So many reviews talk about how much better THUG was in comparison to this book, because it was more fleshed out--and had better writing.

Please allow this novel to stand on it's own two feet--because it's strong enough do so--despite it's flaws. 

THUG was good for what it was good for, but Tyler Johnson Was Here, is not meant to simply be a good novel--that people can have cups of tea, and quietly argumentative discussions of and over.

This book is the gritty version of that novel's story , the version I think people need to hear. The truth in all it's ugliness. The truth hurts but it must be told.

Let me also briefly touch on the "romance," aspect of this novel.

I am literally taking the heaviest of sighs, because I read a review that called the romance insta-lovey, and they totally missed the mark here.

Yes, there is romance that blossoms, but the initial companionship is a shared relationship based on grief. There was an understanding among the characters--loss and the feeling of being misunderstood. It was more about Marvin finding someone he could rely on for comfort, that wasn't in his immediate circle. It wasn't about love, and falling in love immediately.

Again, Tyler Johnson Was Here is a needed story. It's realistic, it's raw and unfiltered. It's not THUG.

No matter which you prefer, focus on what's important here--and that is the black lives matter movement, and the validity, and importance of black lives in general.

Read it, because it's important, because you want to--don't look to it for comparisons--and that's all.