Wednesday, February 19, 2020

The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow ARC Review: In Which A Black Girl Helps Save the World

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BLURB
Can a girl who risks her life for books and an alien who loves forbidden pop music work together to save humanity?

Two years ago, a misunderstanding between the leaders of Earth and the invading Ilori resulted in the deaths of one-third of the world’s population.

Seventeen-year-old Janelle “Ellie” Baker survives in an Ilori-controlled center in New York City. Deemed dangerously volatile because of their initial reaction to the invasion, humanity’s emotional transgressions are now grounds for execution. All art, books and creative expression are illegal, but Ellie breaks the rules by keeping a secret library. When a book goes missing, Ellie is terrified that the Ilori will track it back to her and kill her.

Born in a lab, M0Rr1S (Morris) was raised to be emotionless. When he finds Ellie’s illegal library, he’s duty-bound to deliver her for execution. The trouble is, he finds himself drawn to human music and in desperate need of more. They’re both breaking the rules for love of art—and Ellie inspires the same feelings in him that music does.

Ellie’s—and humanity’s—fate rests in the hands of an alien she should fear. M0Rr1S has a lot of secrets, but also a potential solution—thousands of miles away. The two embark on a wild and dangerous road trip with a bag of books and their favorite albums, all the while making a story and a song of their own that just might save them both.

Review
* A special thanks to the publisher for this review copy*
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The Sound of Stars took me through a plethora of emotions, most of which always seemed outside my grasp.

Janelle Baker is a human with an inordinate passion for books. But the world has been taken over by the Illori, a non-human life force. Under their dominion, books are forbidden, as well as anything remotely artistic. Possession of these items resulted in infractions that ultimately led to death. Morris is a lab-made Illori, a disgrace to his family because of his ability to feel, and his love of music. Janelle and Morris have similar missions, but it takes a missing book to bring their worlds crashing together.

Together, Janelle and Morris are the perfect story and the sweetest song.

Without being unnecessarily verbose, I rather enjoyed this book. The world-building is chef's kiss. It's fleshed out and well-written. The reader will understand the world they're being presented, and just as easily able to decipher how it all works.

Besides the world-building, the musical and literary elements parsed throughout the story were heart-warming and engaging. As a reader, the purpose behind the lyrics and songs might seem unclear initially. Once it's explained, it adds another layer of enjoyment to the story. It showed the dedication of the author to tell an authentic story.

The one thing that I could note as a negative, and it feels weird to say, are some moments where the MC, Janelle, pointed out the discrimination against Black people from the "previous" world. In a lot of the instances, it helped to build on the backstory of the heroine. In others, it seemed a rant that didn't ground itself into the story the way they intended it. As a Black woman, this is not something I want to note as a negative, or a dislike, but it's worth noting for this review. Racism is a tough thing to experience, let alone dictate, but Dow does a fairly good job of balancing it mostly.

There is romance in the book, and though I wouldn't note this book as wholly romance, the love that eventually blooms propel the story in new directions. It also later defines the character's growth and the overall plot.

As a whole, it is a great YA that kept me completely enthralled from beginning to end. It's an outstanding debut and one I would recommend. 
I didn't see anywhere that this would be a series, but the ending left a lot of questions begging to be answered. So, I hope there's more.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Fortuna Sworn by K.J. Sutton Book Review

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Blurb
We were meant to be seductive. We were designed to lure humans in. 

Fortuna Sworn is the last of her kind.

Her brother disappeared two years ago, leaving her with no family or species to speak of. She hides among humans, spending her days working at a bar and her nights searching for him. The bleak pattern goes on and on... until she catches the eye of a powerful faerie.

He makes no attempt to hide that he desires Fortuna. And in exchange for her, he offers something irresistible. So Fortuna reluctantly leaves her safe existence behind to step back into a world of creatures and power. 

It soon becomes clear that she may not have bargained with her heart, but her very life.

Review
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* A special thanks to the author for this review copy*
*Please excuse any grammatical errors*
I adored this story. Every moment, every character, every moment of action was a treat I devoured.

Sutton has a way with characters. She not only makes the MC’s solid; she puts the same energy into the supporting characters. Her ability to pull a bunch of different characters, toss them onto a page, and get the reader invested in all of them, is some talent.

Fortuna is a Nightmare; a fantastical creature of many; in this story of the fae, goblins, and shapeshifters. She lives about as an ordinary a life as possible; except she can kill people with their fears. 

While avoiding a near-fatal end, she meets a fae, Collith. Collith wants to help her find her lost brother but at a cost. It is a cost that Fortuna is not readily willing to pay; even though she'd do anything for her brother. 

If the cost were my heart, Collith would have it a thousand times over. I could almost picture him in my mind's eye, due to the talent of Sutton’s brilliant character development. Those long lashes and fingers are embedded in my mind, as weapons of love and mass destruction. Don't get me started on the errant curl, that rests against his forehead. *Swoon* 

The push and pull between the two MC's almost took me out. I’m hanging by a thread as the cat and mouse game continues. There are issues to address and problems that remain to be solved; as this is a series. 

I’m wholly invested in the romance aspect of the story, but I am thrilled by the fantasy part of it. There’s a rich back story that’s just been barely dug into, but it provides enough of it to capture the reader’s attention and hold onto it

This book is really good. The world in which it is based is: lush and intriguing. The characters are multi dimensional. They’re fictional but leap off the page in otherworldly realness. 

The romance is a slow burn but it tantalizes and teases; while leaving the reader begging for more (See: Me). The pacing is chef's kiss, and it’s very well written. 

I had no doubts I would like the story after trying Sutton's YA, but this, is what I needed, and I didn’t even know it.

I’m super excited to see where the series goes, and I wish I had book two already. I'm very pleased and I highly recommend it.


Monday, August 26, 2019

No More Bad Dates by Kate O'Keeffe Book Review: Romance is Not This Book's Strong Suit

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Twenty-five-year-old Sophie McCarthy’s career is virtually nonexistent, her family expects her to “do something important” with her life, and she’s totally sick of dating the wrong guys: the self-absorbed, the arrogant, the borderline criminally insane.

After she’s unceremoniously dumped during the vows at her boss’s wedding, she and her two equally disappointed-in-love best friends agree to help each other find decent guys to date. Together, they form the No More Bad Dates Pact: stop dating the wrong guys and start dating the right ones—weirdos and jerks need not apply.

When Sophie’s roommate Jason Christie—a.k.a. doctor-in-training and serial nurse-dater—joins the pact, he vows to weed out the bad ones for her. But with his rejection of every guy Sophie meets, she begins to wonder if he’s got an ulterior motive. And anyway, why does she always have so much more fun with Jason than with the guys she’s actually trying to date?

While desperately seeking her “happy for now,” could Sophie stumble into her “happily ever after?”


REVIEW
No More Bad Dates was laugh out loud funny. I laughed at almost every turn. The characters were well developed, and it’s indicative of an author who knows how to tell a story. The characters and their backstories were well fleshed out. I felt invested in both the story and the characters. But, I was disappointed with the romance aspect.

The “No Bad Dates Pact” took up too much space in the novel, leaving no room for the actual real romance to develop—which was disheartening.

I waited for the entirety of the story for the big get-together, and I wanted it to happen so bad. It was less slow-burn and more it just took too long. I really enjoyed this book don’t get me wrong, it’s solid in all the areas that mattered, except for the romance. Most readers won’t want to wait until 90+ percent for the main characters to reveal their love to each other—even if it plays out well.

Despite that, you get the standard HEA, and the ending is pretty satisfying. I just needed more romance. However, the author is worth a read. She’s a solid storyteller.

Reommended for people who like their romance with less mush.

Friday, August 16, 2019

The Last Post by Renee Carlino

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SYNOPSIS
Laya Marston’s husband, Cameron, a daredevil enthusiast, always said this before heading off on his next adventure. He was the complete opposite of her, ready and willing to dive off a cliff-face, or parachute across a canyon—and Laya loved him for it. But she was different: pragmatic, regimented, devoted to her career and to supporting Cameron from the sidelines of his death-defying feats.


Opposites attract, right?

But when Cameron dies suddenly and tragically, all the stages of grief go out the window. Laya becomes lost in denial, living in the delusion that Cameron will come back to her. She begins posting on his Facebook page, reminiscing about their life together, and imagining new adventures for the two of them.

Micah Evans, a young and handsome architect at Laya’s father’s firm, is also stuck––paralyzed by the banal details of his career, his friendships, and his love life. He doesn’t know what he’s looking for, only that there is someone out there who can bring energy and spirit to the humdrum of his life.

When Micah discovers Laya’s tragic and bizarre Facebook posts, he’s determined to show Laya her life is still worth living. Leaving her anonymous gifts and notes, trying to recreate the sense of adventure she once shared with her late husband, Micah finds a new passion watching Laya come out of the darkness. And Laya finds a new joy in the experiences Micah has created for her.

But for Laya, letting another man in still feels like a betrayal to her late husband. Even though Micah may be everything she could wish for, she wonders if she deserves to find happiness again. 


Review

I don’t like "death" stories. The stories where either someone dies or the main character is suffering the death of a loved one. Sadness cloaks these types of stories like a wet blanket.

I was apprehensive about reading this book, but I'm glad I ignored my apprehension.

I was surprised to find that I could connect with this story the way I did. I’ve told you all before, and I’ll tell you again, I am a sucker for emotional reads. This book had emotion in droves.

Laya is happily married to Cameron. Things aren’t perfect but their shared love makes up for bad parts. She’s getting into her role as a doctor, and Cameron is still living the dare-devil lifestyle. It's this same lifestyle that takes Cameron's life, and Laya is there to witness it. Grief consumes Laya. She's leaving Cameron voicemails postmortem and leaving messages on his Facebook page. Everyone is worried about her.

Micah is in a slump. He's unsatisfied. His job doesn't pay enough, and he's not doing the work he feels called to do. Then he meets Laya. She's his boss' daughter. One look at her and Micah is a goner. He takes to her facebook page as a means of staying in touch with her. He discovers secrets about her and in an attempt to help her grieve, he oversteps.

Micah is an interesting character. He was too much and not enough, all at the same time. He was overwhelming in his approach to Laya. I wanted to chuck it up to him being love-struck, but I'm not sure. He was overbearing. He tried helping Laya overcome her grief, but she wasn't prepared for the onslaught of the emotions that came with his presence, or his attempts to help her.

I have to say though he was overbearing, the way he cared for and loved Laya was sort of cute. I liked Micah. He was instant love disguised as a man, but it worked for his character. It was  believable and worked for the story and the progression of the plot. I know a lot of readers won't like Micah's character, but I appreciated him towards the end. It brought the story full circle for me.

Laya was a conundrum. She was heavily shrouded in grief, it was a separate entity. The author handled her grief responsibly and realistically. It was a journey watching her grieve, and battle with her feelings for Micah.

The author allowed time for both characters to fully develop separately and then later, together. It was well-written. No doubt about it. This story won't be for everyone, but for those of you that like unconventional, emotional love stories--this will be the perfect read for you. The pacing of everything is perfect, with just enough drama to shake things up. Micah's sister, Melissa, is a riot. It was a pretty great read and another good one from Carlino.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Tikka Chance On Me (A Novella) by Suleikha Snyder: It's a No For Me Dawg

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SYNOPSIS
He’s the bad-boy biker. She’s the good girl working in her family’s Indian restaurant. On the surface, nothing about Trucker Carrigan and Pinky Grover’s instant, incendiary, attraction makes sense. But when they peel away the layers and the assumptions—and their clothes—everything falls into place. The need. The want. The light. The laughter. They have more in common than they ever could’ve guessed. Is it enough? They won’t know until they take a chance on each other—and on love. 


REVIEW

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I first tried Tikka Chance on Me, months ago, but found that I couldn’t get into the story. At the time I thought it was a mood thing; maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for it. But now that I’ve completed the story, I know why I couldn't finish the book. I don’t like it.

Let’s cover the backstory. Pinky works for her parent’s restaurant/bar.   She busts tables for her parents and it’s there she meets, Trucker. Trucker’s name is splayed across the stalls of the bathrooms, and his very name is a whisper across the lips of the many women he’s slept with. Pinky is smitten despite Trucker’s reputation. And it appears he feels the same. Stolen glances and an impromptu rendezvous at a Walmart parking lot find them both panting and pant-less in the back of Trucker’s truck.

This is where it goes south for me. Everything happens so fast, it’s a speedy ride straight to instant love Ville. Pinky and Trucker have a rushed and unexplained moment of hot sex in the back of a car. They have sex again and a secret gets out. There’s this conflict that brings their decisions and their feelings to a head.  I felt like I walked into a classroom mid-lesson. I was lost, in the sense that; I didn’t get what I needed to invest in the characters. Although I admired Pinky’s spunk, and Trucker’s smart mouth; the lack of depth and connection made them feel flat and left me wanting for more. There’s a lot that could have been developed, but unfortunately, that doesn’t happen.

It’s all very, “I need you,” but I don’t know why. Why did they feel like they couldn’t do without the other? What was it that made the other so memorable? You don’t get the explanation to that. It’s unfortunate.

The book is not terrible, the writing and the underlying humor and banter, if dug deeper into would have made this a solid novel. Unfortunately, there’s just instant love that’s not based on more than the idea that; because they’ve been “crushing” on each other for years—them being a couple makes sense. I wasn’t buying it.

I’m sorry, but it’s a no for me.