My Midnight Moonlight Valentine By: J.J. McAvoy :🕮 : | Book Tour + Review (GIVEAWAY)

My Midnight Moonlight Valentine
By: J. J. McAvoy
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Vampire Romance, Supernatural, Witches 
Rating: Liked it
Publisher: J.J. McAvoy
Release Date: May 1, 2020

 | Amazon | NOOK | KoBo |

Synopsis:

Druella Monroe is a vampire, but she hasn’t been one for long. Ever since her rebirth a year ago, she’s done her best to live a quiet, peaceful life as an art conservator and restorationist at The National Gallery of Art. All she wants is to blend in with the humans.

However that all gets thrown out the window one night while hunting in Great Falls Park, where Druella comes across a naked vampire with no memory of how he got there, or the last century for that matter. All he seems to be sure of is that she is his soulmate…and he won’t leave without her.

Book Review

My Midnight Moonlight Valentine tells a story of a newly turned vampire, Druella, who is a complete introvert. She lives alone. Works in solitude and hunts in the woods for deer in the middle of the night. However, upon one normal evening of hunting, Druella stumbles across a naked, but a ruggedly handsome vampire who tricks her into helping him after he saves her from a witch attack.

After agreeing to help the strange vampire who claims to be hundreds of years old and missing an entire century from his memories. Druella soon discovers that she and Theseus are bound to each other by something stronger than their thirst for blood.

But the romance novel and art fanatic-loner Druella refuses to buy into any of the nonsense the strange vampire she met in the woods has to say until strange things start to happen all around her—and to her all at once.

Druella is uprooted from her life and all that she has ever known and thrown into the world of magic and the politics of vampires completely unfamiliar with their customs or the culture. But it’s a good thing she has a willing, chivalrous centuries-old vampire eternal by her side to help her.

This is the third book I have read by J.J. and I think that it will hook readers who are fans of vampires/ the supernatural, magic, and romance genres. Moreover, it will be a good read for those who like to have books that are in-depth with a lot of content and background information.

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The Good, The Bad and The Boring — A Writer’s Update While Stuck Inside

Hello, Again,

I hope you’ve been well since our last meeting. This impromptu post came to mind while working on something else and decided it was the right time to give an update. Like everyone else out there trying to adjust, cope, deal, and process all that is happening in our world with COVID-19, my normal schedule has been altered. I am balancing my normal to-do list with creating school assignments and activities for my cousin while he’s out of school.

On top of that, I’m working through a family situation that involves caring for a family member and their recovery. But I won’t get into that right now. I am still writing, reading, and kicking ass–just at a bumper rate at the moment. Ironically, this is a post I drafted based on just the titles several years ago. As both a writer and a (general) book blogger, I have always found more comfort in posting my comments and thoughts on the material I read. Rather than sharing personal stories of my struggles and hard times.

Putting that all into a journal or in the thoughts and words of a fictional character I’ve created was always easier for me than to just post it here. Will I make that part of my “something new” theme here? I don’t know. I think keeping this generally a book-blog/media site is what works best for me.

It has allowed me to make a number of contacts with creative indie writers and it is still a space I feel at home with. However, that urge to share more of me with all of you and the rest of the world bubbles just under the surface. So,  a few weeks ago I applied to be a contributing content writer with Ghost Speaks. It is a powerfully open platform where writers and just normal people can share their stories with the rest of the world anonymously, under a pen name or their own.

Over there I am still G. Jacks for the pieces I’ve shared but who knows, I might submit a few things anonymously from time to time. 😏 Whether you check out Ghost Speaks because of my posts or someone else’s story I highly recommend putting in the time to read some of the pieces there. You never know, you could come across a post from a person who has or is going through the same thing you are.

With the current restrictions and limitations we are all facing, I have turned to books, manga, anime, tv shows (a few) and writing to space out my free time and remain busy. The latter has always been my strongest saving grace. For those who might be having a hard time adjusting, I wanted to close out this post with a few options to pass the time.

WAYS TO CURVE THE SOLUM BOREDOM

animals blur car close up

Photo by NEOSiAM 2020 on Pexels.com

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Butterfly By: Ashley Antoinette : 😬 : | Book Review

Butterfly
By: Ashley Antoinette
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Urban Drama, Gangs, Adult Content/ Adult Fiction, Spin-off from different series,
Rating: Wasn’t for me
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Release Date: January 7, 2020

Audible | Amazon |

Synopsis:

Butterfly is the first novel in an all new series by New York Times bestselling author Ashley Antoinette!

“Run away from the boy that gives you butterflies, he’s going to break your heart.”

Morgan Atkins had been told that phrase ever since she was a little girl and still she allowed herself to fall for the boy that made her heart flutter. After losing her first love, Morgan is terrified to love again. She’s settled for a comfortable life with a respectable man. She has everything. She’s living in the lap of luxury and although she’s comfortable, she’s bored out of her mind.

When a ghost from her past blows into town, she finds herself entangled in an illicit affair. It’s wrong, but she can’t fight the butterflies he gives her and honestly, she doesn’t want to. She can’t hide the natural attraction she feels and soon, she’s so deep involved that she can no longer tell where the boundary between right and wrong lies. Her heart is telling her one thing, but her head is saying another. Morgan Atkins has always been a spoiled girl and she tries to have it all, but when she’s forced to choose between a good man and a bad boy, someone will end up hurt. Someone just may end up dead.

Morgan Atkins has been through more tragedy than one girl can bear. Will she weather this storm? Or will the ultimate heartbreak ruin her for good?

**Reviewer note: I would like to mention a warning to readers about the contents of the book: some might be triggering. As the context includes strong adult language and mature material.**

My Thoughts

Mourning the loss of her first love, Morgan tries to move on with her life a few years after heartbreak in London with her twin toddlers, and a wonderfully caring, affectionate and wealthy man who willingly stepped up for the role as their father. She has been blessed with remarkable beauty and Morgan couldn’t hope or ask for a better life. But she isn’t happy.

She knows she should be but cannot seem to put her heart into anything but her children even after being publicly and adoringly proposed to by her boyfriend, Bash.

That is until old friends from her past life and neighborhood show up and almost as if a switch is flipped, Morgan begins to question everything about her new life.

Butterfly was my first read by Ashley Antoinette, so I didn’t know what to expect to read with this book. And I have to say it was a unique experience. The premise of the book was intriguing and gave me the impression that I was going into a story of a woman showing this huge struggle emotionally between an old love and a new one but the further I went into the book the more I realized that my assumption was off base. And it left me with a perplexed reaction to the story and Morgan’s character.

While I am certain there is a BIG audience for this story style, I do not think I fit the mold. Morgan’s character has a lot of flaws, which is usually what makes a character so interesting and entertaining

But Morgan’s actions and thoughts remained in a state of constant contradiction. Not only with matters of the heart but with her children and her struggle to just be honest with herself.

Morgan claimed in the beginning that she put her children first because they were all she had in life that mattered and because they were the last real connection she had with her the love of her life and the kids’ father, Messiah.

Yet it was this detail I felt her character never actually lived up to in the narrative. In my opinion, Morgan does Morgan in Butterfly. An instance that remains true in all her decisions from beginning to end. I don’t mind self-involved characters but since I had such a hard time figuring her character out I was hoping to feel a connection with her based on the bond she had with her kids while her love-life was all in over the place but the connection wasn’t there.

In fact, I got the impression that she was happier to be without them and reconnect with her old life and friends before she had them rather than put real thought into a future love life with them factored into it, putting Bash’s wealth and status to the side, she had other means of giving the thought serious consideration. But she overlooks it.

And while I could understand her character’s impulse to default to old habits out of habit and familiarity. Driven by this repressed need to feel like herself after not dealing with or fully processing Messiah‘s death. Just to turn around and have his children on the cusps of falling into yet another serious relationship in such a short period.

We see Morgan herself call attention to these red flags with the arrival of her old friends Asia and Ahmeek. She makes the clear as day repeatedly, noting her particular attraction to Meek as being strongly tied to her grief over Messiah and lingering feelings of her past. Therefore, because of her repression and indecisiveness, I wasn’t convinced that her feelings came from a real place unlike that of Meek’s as the two grew closer—this is just an assumption on my part with the level of internal struggling Morgan’s character has in the book, it might make you wonder too.

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Love Her Or Lose Her By: Tessa Bailey :😶: | Book Review

Love Her or Lose Her (Hot & Hammered #2)
By: Tessa Bailey
Genre:Contemporary Romance, Marriage, Therapy, Relationships, Adult Fiction
Rating: Liked it
Publisher: Harper Collins/Avon
Release Date: Jan 14 , 2020

IndieBound | Amazon |

Synopsis:

New York Times bestselling author Tessa Bailey returns with a unique, sexy romantic comedy about a young married couple whose rocky relationship needs a serious renovation.

Rosie and Dominic Vega are the perfect couple: high school sweethearts, best friends, madly in love. Well, they used to be anyway. Now Rosie’s lucky to get a caveman grunt from the ex-soldier every time she walks in the door. Dom is faithful and a great provider, but the man she fell in love with ten years ago is nowhere to be found. When her girlfriends encourage Rosie to demand more out of life and pursue her dream of opening a restaurant, she decides to demand more out of love, too. Three words: marriage boot camp.

Never in a million years did Rosie believe her stoic, too-manly-to-emote husband would actually agree to relationship rehab with a weed-smoking hippy. Dom talking about feelings? Sitting on pillows? Communing with nature? Learning love languages? Nope. But to her surprise, he’s all in, and it forces her to admit her own role in their cracked foundation. As they complete one ridiculous—yet surprisingly helpful—assignment after another, their remodeled relationship gets stronger than ever. Except just as they’re getting back on track, Rosie discovers Dom has a secret… and it could demolish everything.

My Thoughts

I thought this book was a fairly good read. There was great chemistry between the two main characters and I could feel their history and connection with one another come off of the page. But I have to be honest, it took two full-chapters for me to invest in Dominic’s character😂 .

In the beginning, I was worried we were going to see his character as this overbearing, abusive ex-military husband but I’m happy to say that that is so far from the truth. His character was more complex and emotionally shut-off than Rosie’s character after being so unhappy in their marriage for so long.

Moreover, I also enjoyed the level of insight we were able to see with Dom’s character by the end of Love Her or Lose Her even if it was just scraping the surface.

Seeing Dom and Rosie go to therapy to confront the distance and issues between them felt real and dynamic because the sessions, although started as a joke, acted as the vessel they needed to get back on track.

And guys, these two were not just husband and wife, they were each other’s best friends. It made me root for them to mend what was broken between them.

I also liked that I could just pick up this book without having to read Hot & Hammered #1 but I suspect with the way the secondary characters were set-up in this book that the other book(s) in the series likely revolved around them but didn’t spoil much of their stories.

Hands down, Dominic’s character development was my favorite in this book because of where we see him at the beginning, but I ADORED Rosie’s breakthrough in this book. No longer settling, timid, or hesitant, we get the chance to see her character go after what she wants and follow her dream of opening up her restaurant 😊.

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If I Never Met You By: Mhairi McFarlane :🤔: | Book Review

If I Never Met You
By: Mhairi McFarlane
Genre:Contemporary Romance, Friendship, Relationships, Law Drama
Rating: I liked it
Publisher:HarperCollins Publishers/William Marrow Paperbacks
Release Date: March 24, 2020

IndieBound | Amazon |

Synopsis:

If faking love is this easy… how do you know when it’s real?

When her partner of over a decade suddenly ends things, Laurie is left reeling—not only because they work at the same law firm and she has to see him every day. Her once perfect life is in shambles and the thought of dating again in the age of Tinder is nothing short of horrifying. When news of her ex’s pregnant girlfriend hits the office grapevine, taking the humiliation lying down is not an option. Then a chance encounter in a broken-down elevator with the office playboy opens up a new possibility.

Jamie Carter doesn’t believe in love, but he needs a respectable, steady girlfriend to impress their bosses. Laurie wants a hot new man to give the rumor mill something else to talk about. It’s the perfect proposition: a fauxmance played out on social media, with strategically staged photographs and a specific end date in mind. With the plan hatched, Laurie and Jamie begin to flaunt their new couple status, to the astonishment—and jealousy—of their friends and colleagues. But there’s a fine line between pretending to be in love and actually falling for your charming, handsome fake boyfriend…

My Thoughts

Hiya, guys.

I’m back again with another book review and thoughts post and today’s book is if I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane.

Highlights & Summary:😃

If I Never Met You, is a book about a successful, smart, beautiful lawyer in her mid-thirties named Laurie.

Laurie who has spent nearly two decades with the same guy, Dan, since college, lives with him and even works at the same law firm. She and her boyfriend have been in a solid, strong, and committed relationship—or so she thought. After a night out with some work friends, Laurie comes home to her committed long-term boyfriend, but he suddenly hits her with the shock of her life. He wants to break up.

Coining the reasoning behind his sudden change of heart is down to the two of them going in different directions. Laurie, thinking he might just be having cold feet (again) with planning to get pregnant attempts to talk him down like she has done several times in the past. But the longer the conversation goes on Laurie begins to realize that Dan isn’t having a midlife crisis, the love of her life (or so she thinks) is really finished with her.

Laurie is obviously devastated; they’ve been living together for so long and he has been the only person she’s ever been with intimately that her world is completely turned upside down.

Not sure how to move forward, Laurie holds onto hope that the pair could reconcile like they’ve done in the past until she realizes Dan has been dishonest about what sparked their breakup. In my opinion, that’s when things really start to get interesting in If I Never Met You.

First off, I will openly admit that the story was an ok read. More like a summer book for light reading because it doesn’t have a page-turning-can’t-press-pause feel to it. And there was a bit of predictability with the development of Laurie’s new relationship that stems from the fake-love to real-love troupe.

However, the elements that really made the story good for me were the dry humor moments in the narrative. And I liked the slow buildup of Jamie and Laurie’s relationship—this is an important thing to note here because the beginning was very slow 😂.

But the slow buildup of their relationship that expanded out from their little “deal” is what makes their chemistry and bond feel more authentic.

And because Jamie and Laurie are perceived as these two extremely different people on the outside, their interactions carried that much more of an impact as we see their lives and hearts change as the story progressed. Especially getting to see Jamie’s true character which was nothing like how Laurie and the rest of their firm perceived him to be.

Least I forget to mention the fact that McFarlane gives us a mature relationship on both a professional and romantic level with these lead characters. (Who share an age difference in Laurie’s favor). It is one that contests against more than just the issues that her ex, Dan has with the pair being together.

And the drama that follows in the workplace was pretty entertaining–I’m talking about you, Michael🙃🙃. Seriously, guys that guy, just…

Personal Pitfalls & Narrative Flags:😬

I want to make it clear to have this section as personal pitfalls and narrative flags as the issues I had with this book may not strike a chord with other readers or fans of this book.

From the beginning, I think that it took me a while to kind of warm-up to Laurie’s character. As I did like Jamie kind of at the start; he was charming, respectful and confident but always vulnerable around Laurie even when she wasn’t aware of it. The dry humor and witty banter structure of their back-and-forth were also things that I liked about this book.

They are elements that are close to my personality and style of interaction.

Likewise, I am not the outlandish, flashy or in your face type of person. I live in a world of sarcasm and being upfront and honest. So, I felt more in sync with her friends Emily and Nadia who by the way this book needed MORE of.

In comparison with the main lead, Laurie. My eyes glazed over the repetitive passages of her going over and over her relationship with Dan especially after it was made clear how repressive and dishonest, he had been in their relationship. I know she loved the guy, but why put up with so much of that nonsense, Laurie? Why?? 😫

Yes, obviously with a relationship as old as theirs Laurie’s character is going to have this abundance of faith in a guy but as the book progresses, those seeds of doubt that she mulls over didn’t just materialize overnight. They were there for several years while they were together, so the logical part of my brain was constantly questioning why would she ignore her instincts, you know?

While I liked the self-reflection Laurie’s character has in this book, it should not have taken Jamie to come in to tell her how powerful and special she was for Laurie to have that “aha” moment. In my opinion, this cheapens her development and character strength because she is lead there by another man while still picking up the pieces of herself from her breakup with Dan. I would have loved it so much if these two elements were kept separate in the narrative and Jamie’s effect on her only highlighted what Laurie came to realize on her own.

Second, the most notable narrative flag for me reading this book was the fact that the lead character is a POC of mixed ethnicity. And unless I am incorrect the author is not a POC, therefore, it lacks the true connection to Laurie’s character when it comes to prejudices, racial comment, stigma, and stereotypes that come with being a person of color.

I do not bring it up often, but it is an element that I will never, ever, ever be ok with and not draw some attention to it. It would be a different thing if her ethnicity was not drawn directly into the story or brought up in such a way that warrants discussion, but it does.

The points of biracial discrepancies and the prejudices on mixed-race all the way down to the texture of her hair were all brought up with Laurie’s backstory. No matter the amount of “research” pursued to pluck these anecdotes from friends’ stories, books or media outlets, etc. In my opinion, if it is something so fundamentally rooted within an entity that you cannot and will not ever have a personal experience with everyday life as a person of color.

Then it’s best not to try to write or imagine up details like that. I don’t care if you must have a co-author come in and write all those POC perspectives for you 😂 it is just something that should be avoided.—I don’t know the editors for this book and if this they even had any influence with this, but I think you get my point by now.

I have read books dealing with POC characters and non-POC authors before (Because lots of people do it) but there was just something about  the way Laurie was presented that made this notch of the narrative stick with me.

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Awaken The Dragon By: A.C. Arthur | Book Review

Awaken The Dragon
By: A.C. Arthur
Genre:Contemporary Fiction,Sci-fi, Fantasy
Rating: It was ok
Publisher: HARLEQUIN – Carina Press

Release Date: Nov 4, 2019

IndieBound | Amazon |

Synopsis:

He’s sworn to protect the very entity she was born to kill…

Next in line for the Drakon throne, Theo Masters is the most powerful half human, half dragon in the world. Royal power is the last thing he wants, however. He lives as a human and runs the Legion Security Company. But his new client—a mysterious, beautiful human from a small African village—and the unknown danger she faces may forever change the quiet life that he’s chosen.

Shola N’Gara exists to kill the dark spirit that is attempting to demolish her people. It’s her purpose and her destiny. The gorgeous protector who taunts her with his sexy voice and body is not—especially after he shifts into a magnificent black dragon with turquoise eyes.

A rise in demon activity and the brutal murders Theo’s agents have been reporting start to add up. Someone is making a play, and it’s big enough to change the course of the world as they know it. Now Shola must choose between her destiny and her heart. And Theo must decide if standing by the woman he’s fallen in love with is worth facing his father in a battle to the death.

My Overall Thoughts Were Split:

WHAT I LIKED:

Hands down, the best thing about this book is the concept of these supernatural begins and Dragonlike-demigods being in the human realm, the concept of between realms and soul identities(?!! so cool). Moreover, the fact that the characters are mainly made up of people of color and African descent with this blended incorporation of contemporary and older cultural traditions in the story represented mainly with one of the main protagonists, Shola.

All in all, it was definitely something new to me in terms of context and creativity but a lot of the time the book seemed hard to follow because key details were revealed in spotty locations or broken up by Theo and Shola’s clearly palpable, however, oddly random, sexual attraction for one another.

Romance books are still a bit of a learning curve for myself in terms of breaking down the ratio of how much context/story there tends to be in terms of the attention put towards the main couple’s relationship.  This is why I have been trying to read more of them lol,  but the attempt at these two establishing a connection that quickly with just glances felt rushed every time. If it stemmed from general curiosity or a mutual appreciation for the other’s fighter instinct perspective, for instance, then I might have been on board, but the ship seemed to sail without me.

WHAT PUT ME OFF:

While I liked the mixed elements of the supernatural world and beings coming into play within this story, by the end of the book I did not think the mixing of magic, vampires and Dragonlike-demigods/beings worked well together.

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Destination Wedding By: Jacqueline J. Holness | Book Review

Destination Wedding
By: Jacqueline J. Holness
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Drama, Friendship, Relationships, Personal Growth
Rating: It was ok
Publisher: Soon Comes Books
Release Date: Dec 3, 2019

IndieBound | Amazon |

Synopsis:

Three successful best friends in Atlanta believe they are thriving in the Black Mecca. Bossy bank executive Senalda breaks down men from business to bed no holds barred. Hip hop PR guru Jarena praises the Lord and pursues married men with equal persistence. Famous and infamous radio personality Mimi fights with her fans and for the love of her on-and-off-again boyfriend.

But when an ABC News Nightline report, “Single, Black, Female — and Plenty of Company,” asks why can’t a successful black woman find a man? The friends are suddenly hyper-aware of their inclusion in the sad statistic: 42% of black women who have never been married. Like the women in the report, they are career-driven, beautiful black women living in Atlanta who have everything — but a mate. They resolve to defy the statistic by marrying in a year and have it all by tackling their goal as a project with a vision board, monthly meetings, and more. Project Destination Wedding is born. A “happily married” best friend Whitney is a project consultant.

But as the deadline ticks closer, the women wonder if they can withstand another year of looking for love in the media-proclaimed no-man’s land of Atlanta. Senalda wrests a marriage proposal from the male version of herself, but the proposal comes simultaneously with a devastating secret. Jarena unleashes hell when her call to ministry coincides with dating her married college sweetheart. Mimi faces losing her career and jail time chasing her boyfriend and marries another man in the process. Whitney’s power couple profile plummets when her husband, a pornography addict, announces he would rather pursue photography than be an MD.

Inspired by an actual Nightline report, Destination Wedding charts four women’s journeys as they discover that love is not an experiment easily confined to a timetable.

 

My Thoughts

Despite my ill-favored thoughts on this book at the present, I do think it is a book that I will re-read in the future due to the possibility that I might be able to connect with its context on a more personal level. Moreover, I will say that the tones of the popular TV shows Sex and The City, and Girlfriends were fairly prominent in the story as we got to know the main characters, Senalda, Whitney, Jarena and Mimi, in this book better.

While I liked the concept and motivation behind this book, I could not fully get into the story. Regardless of how much we learn about each of the main characters and the struggles within their love and personal lives. I do love that this book is about these powerful, even insecure but strong-spirited women of color trying to pursue the best aspects of their lives as well as love. They are quirky, mouthy, smart, sassy and vulnerable at time, making them that much more relatable.

Besides the hook for the story’s synopsis, I remember hearing about the statistic and the primetime piece that sparked the inspiration for this book a few years back and was intrigued to read the author’s approach.

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Most Ardently By: Susan Mesler-Evans | Book Review

Most Ardently
By: Susan Mesler-Evans
Genre:Contemporary Fiction,YA Fiction, Retelling, LGBT Fiction
Rating: It was ok.
Publisher: Entangled: Embrace
Release Date: October 21, 2019

IndieBound | Amazon |

Synopsis:

Elisa Benitez is proud of who she is, from her bitingly sarcastic remarks, to her love of both pretty boys and pretty girls. If someone doesn’t like her, that’s their problem, and Elisa couldn’t care less. Particularly if that person is Darcy Fitzgerald, a snobby, socially awkward heiress with an attitude problem and more money than she knows what to do with.

From the moment they meet, Elisa and Darcy are at each other’s throats — which is a bit unfortunate, since Darcy’s best friend is dating Elisa’s sister. It quickly becomes clear that fate intends to throw the two of them together, whether they like it or not. As hers and Darcy’s lives become more and more entwined, Elisa’s once-dull world quickly spirals into chaos in this story of pride, prejudice, and finding love with the people you least expect.

My Thoughts

For me, this book was ok. I think this is the type of book for anyone not familiar or who hasn’t read Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice to be honest. Trying to be as abstract as possible here without giving too much away (as it is technically a re-telling) I will try to stick to the things I liked about the characters and the overall tone.

First, I love that the main characters include people of color and taken out of the context of this re-telling, I know that there is another book titled Pride that came out a few years ago that does the same thing, but I haven’t made it to that one—yet.

Getting back to Most Ardently, our main character, Elisa, in this book has strong opinions about those around her. But at the same time, her character came off as a bit timid and shy while around new people and in school. Her counterpart, Darcy, on the other hand, seemed to carry that same level of indifference that we expect from the archetype of the character. And while I actually expected this, I cannot be sure if that was more upsetting, getting what I expected instead of a character more relaxed, friendly and sociable.

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The Athlete Student: Sophomore Year By: Eugene D. Holloman | Book Review (ARC)

*note: cover image may no be visible to all depending on device.

The Athlete Student:  Sophomore Year
Genre:Sports, Student-life, Fiction, Quick Reads
Rating: It was ok
Publisher: Holloman House Publishing
Release Date: TBD
Goodreads | Amazon |
Synopsis:

After a rocky freshman year that included outstanding production on the field, unsatisfactory performances in the classroom, an unforgettable breakup and a suspension from the biggest game in school history – Michael “Tootie” Mayberry is ready to demonstrate growth and maturity in his upcoming college sophomore year.

However, while Tootie aims to improve upon a stellar season that made him a freshman All-American. He first has to rebuild a reputation that took massive blows stemming from a cheating scandal that landed him on academic probation. With his future of becoming a professional athlete hanging in the balance, how will Tootie respond to the increasing demands of being a student-athlete?

 

BOOK THOUGHTS:

Much like my impression of book one in this series, Athlete Student: Freshman Year two years ago, this book was a quick and easy read. And after going over my notes for book one, it left the lingering idea in my mind that these books are meant for a much younger audience than I initially remember.

Once that seed was planted it altered my take on the book and the series. With a more critical eye than before, as I tend to think of young readers like my cousin, turning the pages of this book. The thing that strikes me the most about the author’s concept is the level of insight and approach to tell a story like Tootie’s that I am sure mirrors many who grew up in similar situations like his and who live, breathe and sleep all things football just to fall victim to pressure or into a mistake that puts their (his) entire sports career, future, and life in jeopardy.

Then, having to come back to face those obstacles all over again, but have less faith in yourself or from others than they (he) did before. There are a lot of things that make me admire Tootie’s character in that sense, with his self-centered tendencies and impulsive behavior. With the book being as short as it is and not set up by establishing all the characters as book one did, it leaves me little room to discuss much without revealing key elements of the plot.

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Something New: Unguarded

erwan-hesry-WPTHZkA-M4I-unsplash FOR Something New post

 

Happy New Year, peeps!

This being the 9th day of the new year 😂, I thought it best to just rip off the bandaid before getting too far along into the month. If it has not become clear, I am generally a private person and do not post too many personal things or reflections on the site, but keeping things inside and festering is the easiest way to fall into a pit of despaair–don’t even think– [coughs]

Sorry, I had a slight Princes Bride flashback there, as you do.

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Via gfycat.com

My point being here, is that in the spirit of the New Year and the season of fresh starts and new beginnings, I have been toying with the idea of putting up new poems and shorts that have been rippling away in the corners of my mind. Some are connected to things I’ve tackled and faced recently, while others represent mere reflections of situations from my past.

And while reading is still a VERY big part of my life with the screenplays that I analyze, most of the books I have read just over the last few weeks and months have gotten a few notes on GoodReads and that’s it.

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I know, it’s terrible!

But if time will not permit me longer review posts, I can attempt to do shorter ones.

Or, like I mentioned, just venture forward with this Something New theme to keep things fresh. What do you think?

Now that this little update is over, here is my latest poem titled Unguarded.

 

The Crisp, bright, open sky

The Fading, dismal, browning Earth

Each takes me back to bittersweet memories

A Calming but broken, lightly tattered gaze

Quickening pulse pulls the blood from my face

And I blink.

They’ll be gone again, the memories, once the fog catches the sinful breeze’s eye

Free and unguarded, they dash off toward the horizon

So solid and real your hand felt in mine

Now the tips of my fingers graze only the chilled-wind and wasted time

Recalling the unyielding presence of old pine trees and the acrid aroma of burning firewood that filled up my lungs

Knowing the shifting rumble of your chest against my ear with each absent-minded hum

You held me captive in your warmth and safe in your unguarded gaze

I was a prisoner picked, plucked and stuck without the need to escape

Except, not a single truth, only deceptive lies thrived, harboring in the sweet cadence of your forevermore lullaby

Again, I close my eyes at the whistle touch of the wind grazing my face

I remember your eyes and whisper your name.

~Ungaurded by Gia.©~

 

This poem was created from a blend of details from past love interests and some embellished imagery that I wanted to use to keep the theme of elements and passage of time present in the piece.

Thanks so much for stopping by to check out the first post of 2020 🙂 Hope to see you around here again and remember to watch this space ^_^.

 

Until the next post,

Gia.

 

 

Photos credits for this post:

*Photo by Roven Images on Unsplash
*Photo by Erwan Hesry on Unsplash

LORD OF THE SENSES (STORIES) BY: VIKRAM KOLMANNSKOG |BOOK REVIEW

Lord of the Senses (Stories)
By: Vikram Kolmannskog
Genre/Themes:LGBTQ/Gay, Fiction, Drama, Short Stories, Religion, Multi-Culture, Anti-Classism (18+)
Publisher: TeamAngelica
Release Date:  September 6, 2019

TeamAngelica | Amazon | AmazonUK

Synopsis:  A groundbreaking collection of frank, provocative short stories from gay Indian-Norwegian Vikram Kolmannskog, published to coincide with the anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexuality in India.

From the forest-fringed suburbs of Oslo to the bustling heart of Bombay; from the timeless banks of the Ganges to the never-closing nightclubs of Berlin, Lord of the Senses captures a headily contemporary sense of what it is to be queer, cosmopolitan, spiritual and sexual.

My Thoughts

~~With a combination of an extended month of unanticipated work, and several hiccups at the beginning of the school year for my cousin—this post is well overdue.~~

In terms of context and themes, Lord of the Senses does not hold any punches. The stories are straightforward, in your face, honest, revealing, open and unapologetic with a lot of the erotic material the stories cover. That’s not to say that the book needs to be apologetic or reined in. Moreover, since the stories build on this sense of caution, due to shameful (and dangerous) social judgment, the secretive means of being affectionate with their partners and the openness of these stories seem to counteract those barriers.

Trying to condense all of the themes and genres we can pick up in this book was a challenge as I did not want to spiral down any mythological or fantasy rabbit-holes, but Shredded Dates and Raven Leela were two of the main contenders for my notes on that.

And I love the simplistic bittersweetness we get from the shorts Raja, Nanima and Roger Toilet, Growing Up Queer, The Sunset Point, and The Sacred Heart. Moments and pieces from each of those just seemed to linger with me the longest as I moved on to the next story.

Lord of the Senses should not be viewed as a book entirely made up of short stories that have physically erotic scenes—even though it does—but rather, a collection of stories intent on invoking a connection of each character to the reader. Hence, another aspect I liked in this book was the different levels of (sometimes anonymous) intimacy; emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

The writer takes us on these brief journeys with each character/tale conveying these strong, open, and liberatingly potent perspectives. Some of which came directly from the deeply obscured minds of the characters, that as an outsider, I felt like I had been intruding on their private thoughts.

While organizing my thoughts to mention how the micro-detailed descriptions interlaced with the intricate sensory markers, and scenery specifics of these stories help to transport your mind to some of these places—I ended up reading this great interview with Vikram.

He brings up points on how some of the pieces in Lord of the Senses have developed from drafts over the years and through the course of the movement for equal rights for the LGBTQ community in India. In the interview, Vikram also speaks about his desire to not only have his stories tether connections to the LGBTQ community within India. But also, to straight individuals outside of the community with ties to India as a means of highlighting, as I understood it, just how similar we all are at our core.

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The Expedition by: Chris Babu | Book Review

The Expedition
By: Chris Babu
Genre: Dystopian Fiction, YA Fiction, Drama, Adventure
Rating: 3 stars
Publisher: Permuted Press
Release Date: December 4, 2018

IndieBound | Amazon | B&N |

Synopsis:

THEY SURVIVED THE INITIATION. NOW THE REAL TEST BEGINS.

Drayden and his friends thought nothing could be harder than the Initiation. Little did they know it had only been a warmup for the challenge that lay ahead.

With New America’s situation dire, Drayden and the pledges venture out into the unexplored world outside the walls, escorted by a team of elite Guardians. The group seeks to contact another civilization in what remains of Boston, but Drayden has secret goals of his own.

Dangers abound in the real world, including Aeru, the deadly superbug that wiped out humanity. While they battle the elements of a desolate landscape, a power struggle emerges within their ranks. The Guardians seem to be carrying out a covert mission themselves, and the quest turns everything they thought they knew about New America upside down.

My Thoughts

As this is a part of a series, I thought it best to separate my personal pros and cons in a generic way because some of my notes directly relate to the open-ended plots of the series. In addition to a few of the plot twists that happen in the last few chapters of this book in particular.

PROS:

Overall, The Expedition offers way more character development, action and suspense scenes than book one. It also gives the reader more in details on the secrets the Bureau wants to keep hidden from the people of New America and even a (very) few details about the main character, Drayden, mother’s exile. Drayden shows that the Initiation has given him more of a backbone and a willingness to assert himself in a position of power when going up against a few Bureau members and Guardians, even if the odds are stacked against him.

His character showing and taking initiative during their journey outside of the wall towards Boston made him more likable (in my opinion) compared to book one because he doubted himself too much and was really reserved. This, I feel was a combination of Drayden having to process what happened to his mother, best friend and the Initiation one after another. So, I thought to see him actually acknowledge this a bit in the book while going to Boston was pretty fundamental.

Of the other three who made it through the Initiation with him, I didn’t really feel there was a major shift in their characters between the two books; more like Drayden seemed more comfortable with them as a team and people he could trust. In book one, because Drayden was smart, everyone kind of leaned on him as a default. In this book, his leadership has been earned and I actually agreed that he deserved the leadership and respect that he was fighting for.

Moreover, I really liked the strength and bond present in this book among Charlie, Sydney, Drayden, and Catrice because it was something I could bank on growing even stronger facing the dangers outside of the wall. Both with the strangers they encountered along the way as well as with the group of Guardians assigned to go with them.

CONS:

In order to get to the core of this book, I was gifted book one to read also. I think that out of the two, I preferred The Expedition over The Initiation because the story has Drayden placed in the middle of an active, narrative plot that shows his character in more progressively/active manner. He is a deeply flawed character that struggles to grasp the people and situations around him. I appreciate a flawed protagonist and find it interesting when the secondary characters draw attention to the same flaws or begin to dislike the main character the same way that I do.

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When Women Ruled The World by: Kara Cooney | Review

When Women Ruled The World
By: Kara Cooney
Genre: History, Politics, Egypt, Non-fiction
Rating: 2 stars
Publisher: National Geographic Society
Release Date: October 30, 2018

National Geographic | Amazon | B&N |

Synopsis:  This riveting narrative explores the lives of six remarkable female pharaohs, from Hatshepsut to Cleopatra–women who ruled with real power–and shines a piercing light on our own perceptions of women in power today.  Female rulers are a rare phenomenon–but thousands of years ago in ancient Egypt, women reigned supreme. Regularly, repeatedly, and with impunity, queens like Hatshepsut, Nefertiti, and Cleopatra controlled the totalitarian state as power-brokers and rulers. But throughout human history, women in positions of power were more often used as political pawns in a male-dominated society. What was so special about ancient Egypt that provided women this kind of access to the highest political office? What was it about these women that allowed them to transcend patriarchal obstacles? What did Egypt gain from its liberal reliance on female leadership, and could today’s world learn from its example?

Celebrated Egyptologist Kara Cooney delivers a fascinating tale of female power, exploring the reasons why it has seldom been allowed through the ages, and why we should care.

My Thoughts:

I really wanted to dive into this book and become immersed within its promise of breaking down the ancient, political power and stance for six of Egypt’s female Pharaohs, while comparing and contrasting it to the United States’ current political landscape from the female opposition.

However, the further I got into the book, the more I felt a deviation from the promised synopsis and expectations I had for the context. As I did not think it would resonate with any forward-thinking, politically-conscious feminists interested in similarities or uniquely explicit details of these female pharaohs’ reign (as I was) that could have been seen as awe-inspiring.

On top of feeling left out of the conversation as a queer, WOC in the perspective and points made for the “female” opposition. I felt dishearten and saddened by all the negativeness toward women with the general stance of this book. I just could not bring myself to stand behind it and it was really upsetting to be so excited to read this book and to come out on the other side having not liked it.

There were a few things that I felt went wrong with the direction and overall tone of this book that each chapter continued to repeat or reword a negative (semi)dated, and de-constructive viewpoint of the female in regards to both the past and the current references of women in power. I say “semi” because there are still difficulties, stereotypes, and biases that women in politics and positions of power have to face in the present. However, I strongly felt a lack of inclusion/mention of several positives that have happened over the years. Continue reading

Why Does Bringing Awareness to & Talking About Mental illness Matter To Me?

Well over two months ago, Awarecause reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in sharing my story for a cause that was important to me. I was really surprised that they reached out to me and also really excited to take part.

I agreed to share and they sent me a promo code to purchase a necklace at a discounted price and I got it two days later. I wear my #Awarecause necklace nearly every day and as I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, I thought I’d share a longer post about it.

I was originally going to pick a pink AWARE necklace for two women in my life that I have lost to breast cancer and talk about them, but as it was meant to be a personal “your story,” I decided to purchase the mental illness AWARE necklace instead. Just that category alone is compacted with so many different variables, but I try to stick to the two that have affected me throughout my life and I hope other readers are able to connect with it as well.

I see my story as being very interconnected with so many different points of my life that it is kind of hard to pinpoint just one thing that I associate with the importance of mental illness. As a detail-oriented person and essentially a type-A personality, I am known to others as being a self-starter and so internally driven that not much of anything will leave a dent or cause me, for even a second, to slow down.

But that’s not the case—I do not think that it can be like that with anyone, ever. I am the oldest in my family, so on top of natural pressure that leaves on me to work hard, be a role model and this spearheaded, pristine example, I face my ups and my downs.

What most people may not know about me is that every day I live/fight with and adjust to a physical disability that I was born with. I can walk but my disability has its limitations, and sometimes I have worse days than others to simply make it downstairs to walk my dog but I power through it. Keeping my mental state stronger, more determined, committed and progressive over my legs and body being in so pain and discomfort that I can’t really move around is a constant struggle.

All my life it has caused me to go through such overwhelming bouts of anxiety and depression, especially when I was younger and in school. Seen as the petite girl who walked funny or was occasionally walking half the day and in a wheelchair for the rest. While I know that being handicap(able) will always have its ups and down, I also know that it shouldn’t and cannot prevent me from doing everything I set my mind on.

But not every day has been filled with unwavering gumption, assurance, and confidence. Even though I am older now, those thoughts and feelings can still weigh on my mind. I’m more fortunate than others who lose that fight every day which is another reason why I think it’s important to continue to raise awareness and bring attention to anxiety, depression, and all other forms of mental illness.

Thank you so much for stopping by and viewing this post. And huge thank you to Awarecause for reaching out and asking me to share.

 

 

 

Until the next post,
Gia J

Louisiana Catch by: Sweta Srivastava Vikram | Book Review

Louisiana Catch
By: Sweta Srivastava Vikram
Genre: Domestic Abuse, Drama, Self-Esteem, Personal Growth
Rating: 4 stars
Publisher: Modern History Press
Release Date: April 10,2018

IndieBound | Amazon | B&N |

Synopsis:
Ahana, a wealthy thirty-three-year-old New Delhi woman, flees the pain of her mother’s death, and her dark past, by accepting a huge project in New Orleans, where she’ll coordinate an Annual Conference to raise awareness of violence against women. Her half-Indian, half-Irish colleague and public relations guru, Rohan Brady, who helps Ahana develop her online presence, offends her prim sensibilities with his raunchy humor. She is convinced that he’s a womanizer. Meanwhile, she seeks relief from her pain in an online support group, where she makes a good friend: the mercurial Jay Dubois, who is also grieving the loss of his mother. Her work in the U.S. and the online medium bring the two men into her life, and Ahana learns that neither is what he seems. With their differing sensibilities on a collision course, Ahana finds herself in a dangerous situation—and she discovers a side of herself that she never realized she had.

Louisiana Catch is an emotionally immersive novel about identity, shame, and who we project ourselves to be in the world. It’s a book about Ahana’s unreliable instincts and her ongoing battle to determine whom to place her trust in as she, Rohan, and Jay shed layers of their identities.

As Ahana matures from a victim of domestic sexual abuse into a global feminist leader, she must confront her issues, both with the men in her life and, ultimately, with her own instincts. Whom can she rely on to have her best interests at heart?

 

My Thoughts

In a nutshell, Louisiana Catch centers around a woman, Ahana, who has completely lost her self. She just got out of a marriage that has caused her to break down due not only to the downward glances of those in society but also due to a secret she has never told anyone. Her ex-husband was emotional controlling and both physically and sexually abusive. The domestic abuse in Ahana’s marriage from her ex-husband still lingers around everything in her life.

And while she has the support and guidance of her strong, smart and independent mother to fall back on, that over-protectiveness and sheltered world Ahana allows her mother to place her in, only continues to hinder her. I loved Ahana’s mother; it was clear she was well respected, sweet, kind and knew her worth, but following along Ahana’s journey without her, other readers might pick up on how much influence she really had in her daughter’s life.

When we are introduced to Ahana’s character, she’s stuck at a mid-point in where she is unsure of how and in which direction to move forward in her life and unable to face or talk about her marriage and the sexual abuse.

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Journeys Of A Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Greatest Trips | Book Review

Journeys Of A Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Greatest Trips
Genre: Travel, Explore, Informative, Non-Fiction
Publisher: National Geographic Society
Release Date: October 23, 2018

  

Synopsis: Featuring 120 new destinations, this best-selling inspirational travel guide reveals 500 celebrated and lesser-known destinations around the globe, from ocean cruises in Antarctica to horse treks in the Andes. Completely revised and updated for its 10th anniversary.

Compiled from the favorite trips of National Geographic’s legendary travel writers, this fully updated, 10th anniversary edition of Journeys of a Lifetime spans the globe to highlight the best of the world’s most celebrated and lesser-known sojourns. Offering a diverse array of possibilities, every continent and possible form of transport is covered, illustrated with glorious color photographs. With 16 new pages; new destinations like Cartegena, Colombia; and updated information throughout, this timely new edition is the perfect resource for travelers who crave adventurous trips–from trekking the heights of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to mountain biking in Transylvania–and those searching for more specific experiences (the world’s top small cruises, hot new museums around the world, secrets for following in the footsteps of film and TV heroes, and more). Each chapter features stunning photography, full-color maps, and practical tips, including how to get there, when to visit, and how to make the most of your journey.

Informative and inspiring, this luxurious volume is a lifelong resource that readers will treasure for years to come.

My Thoughts:

First off, I think this book will definitely make those novice or inexperienced travelers that lack that last nudge of motivation to plan their first trip thirsty, hungry and excited to travel around the world.

The pictures in this (text)book of travel were exquisite and while I share a few photos from the book, I know that I am not doing them enough justice. Some of the pictures I chose to share with you today were places I personally wanted to visit and others were just a few that really caught my eye while perusing through the pages.

The book of sectioned off into a number of categories that offers a bit of something for the travelers who seek out great places to eat, to hike, to take in the scenery, to see iconic landmarks etc. So, if your goal is to plan your trip or pick a destination based on specific parameters, Journeys of a Lifetime gives you the options of Across Water, By Road, By Rail, On Foot, In Search of Culture, In Gourmet Haven, Into The Action, Up & Away and In Their Footsteps. Going through this book brought back so many Art History memories and I LOVED it. Especially in the in Search of Culture section.

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Yeled Tov by: Daniel M. Jaffe | Book Review

 

Yeled Tov by: Daniel M. Jaffe

Genre:YA, Coming of age, mental illness, LGBT, Religion

Rating:4 stars

Release: April 18, 2018

Publisher: Lethe Press

Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis: As he’s about to turn 16 in the mid-1970’s, Jake Stein notices a prohibition in Leviticus that never caught his eye before:  “Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind; it is abomination.”  This discovery distresses Jake, an observant Jewish teen, because he’s recently been feeling increased attraction to other teen boys and men. He’s even been engaging in sexual exploration with his best friend.  In an attempt to distract himself, Jake joins his high school’s production of The Diary of Anne Frank, but falls in love with the romantic male lead, obsessively fantasizing about him.  Jake feels lonelier than ever.

The next year, while a freshman at Princeton University, Jake falls for his handsome roommate, is beset by serious temptations, and engages in a traumatic sexual encounter with a stranger.  Seeking help from God, Jake tries to alter his desires, even dates a young Jewish woman in the hopes that she can change him, but to no avail.   Jake concludes that God could never love an abomination like him, so he attempts to prove his faith by ending his own life.

After he’s saved by his roommate, Jake receives unexpected support from doctors, family, and friends, some of whom have been suspecting his secret.  With their help, Jake explores a different way of thinking about the rules of Torah and himself, and begins to consider that he might actually be a yeled tov, a good Jewish boy, just the way he is.

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How To Wine With Your Boss: & 6 Other Tips To Fast Track Your Career By: Tiffany Yarde| Book Review

How To Wine With Your Boss: & Six Other Tips To Fast Track Your Career
By: Tiffany Yarde
Genre: Advice, Social Mobility, Wine, Career Development, Non-Fiction
Rating: 5 stars
Release Date: June 19, 2018
Publisher: Prodigy Gold Books

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N|

Synopsis:

Fourteen years of working in highly competitive international corporations will teach a person a lot about relationships, politics, and the “natural order” of things. There’s no one way to the top of a respective field but there are tactics that many people employ to build trust and to make sure their hard work doesn’t go unnoticed. “How to Wine With Your Boss” teaches you about positioning, tact, and how to tool your passions.

Wine is Tiffany’s story. For much of her career in accounting, marketing, and human resources, she has used her wine knowledge to connect with people. Inside, she takes readers through the journey of how she built relationships with colleagues who didn’t come from where she came from or necessarily saw the world through her lens. She gives readers an opportunity to build professional development skills while demystifying “wine enthusiasm” and potentially helping readers gain a new curiosity on the subject. People don’t grow in isolation; they grow with other people, so join Tiffany on this wine trip through grape regions, styles, and wine parties. While on the road, she’ll share the bumps she hit, and the resilience she fostered along the way

Book Review:

 

I loved reading How To Wine With Your Boss; the author covers a ton of helpful and relevant topics from mentors to networking, confidence building, finding a professional and personal balance in life, corporate culture, micro-aggression and of course a number of useful details about wine.

With the few topics I specifically want to draw attention to from this book, I first wanted to say how great I felt every subject covered in this book was–from start to finish. Simply because Yarde offers insightful, helpful, and motivational material with a genuinely sincere and honest tone. Moreover, written in a gender-neutral manner as to not isolate potential readers, making it the perfect book to share with my brothers and all of my friends.

A Book For Everyone:

How To Wine With Your Boss should, in my opinion, go on the ultimate list of books to have/read when you are looking for something that will help you to revamp your career and professional networking approach, self-confidence, self-evaluation or you if just want a light-hearted, crash course on wine–this would be the book for you.

Whether you are an intern or a pretty “seasoned” professional in the career world, it is the kind of book you might find yourself rereading, memorizing or carrying around with you long after reading it (like I did).

On a personal level, How To Wine With Your Boss felt like the perfect book suited to my lifestyle and career as a freelancer but with the next-step-guide, I need to transition into a new career venture. Reading this book also felt like a personal journey that would have been detrimental to my twenty-three-year-old-self trying to find her way a few years ago.

Pat Yourself On The Back, You’ve Earned It:

As Yarde’s steps and proposed accomplishment journal idea definitely felt like a self-journey an eye-opener for me as she discusses how branding or re-branding yourself to put your best career-foot forward is by putting your best self forward by showcasing your gifts, skills, and passions. Which is where the accomplishment journal comes in to play as it allows you to put all of the obstacles or goals you have already conquered in front of you, on to a page, that may have gone unrealized.

And it doesn’t have to be work/career centered accomplishments but personal, little ones–even from daily, weekly and yearly to-do lists–that you put down. When I started to do this, I was amazed by how long the list and my entries became in just a short time. This practice of accomplishment journaling with the physical representation of measuring one’s worth, value and potential will stick with you long after finishing the book.

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The Athlete Student: Freshman Year By: Eugene Holloman | Book Review & Scholarship Opportunity!??

Title:The Athlete Student: Freshman Year
Genre: Sports, Student-life, Fiction
Rating: 3.5
Release Date: February 1st 2018
Synopsis:
High school senior Michael “Tootie” Mayberry has a dream of becoming a professional football player—but he faces one obstacle, COLLEGE.  Over 480,000 student-athletes like Michael “Tootie” Mayberry want to play professionally, but less than 3.5% will. They train hard, planting and watering the mental seed that tells them they will reach the pinnacle of their sport. In the process, they often pick the easiest major available, and after graduation, they pay for it.

HOW DO STUDENT-ATHLETES GET TO THIS POINT?

Join “Tootie” Mayberry as he embarks on his college career, balances the stresses of high-level performances on the field and in the classroom, and fights through other challenges student-athletes face.

 

BOOK REVIEW:

My first impression of this book was that it read like a novella because it was not an extremely long story and that it was passable for as an upper-middle school appropriate book for the most part. However, the author was able to touch on a lot of different scenarios as to how life as an athlete in school can be a huge challenge and a bit of a burden.

Such as the pressure to be good, to stand out, to stick to your guns and your passion; on top of the pressure from the media can affect you when aspects of your life start to unravel. With all that being said, I would have liked it if there were better pacing and resting periods in between each issue/obstacle that Tootie faced in this story. The reason for that is because it began to feel like everything was happening all at once the closer I got to the end and it made processing it all (and Tootie’s reactions) a bit difficult.

I think I should also mention that I am NOT a sports person by any means. Which is why I really liked the insight this book gave me about the high school to college football experience; from picking the perfect school or what might feel like the perfect school possibly feels like for athletes. As well as just how much they are pushed, both physically and mentally, in school with having such a rigorous schedule separate from the academic side of college.

Just from my personal experience, I knew and felt the pressure of the projects, test, papers, and studying. So, this book was really an eye-opener. It was also great to see the way Tootie’s s character instantly knew what college was right for him based on his personal aspirations for the future contrasted to the different ideas and expectations from nearly everyone else in his life perceived for the future. Tootie seemed to see those options as “safe” and “basic” schools, which I could really respect because he had something to prove, but at the same time, it gives Tootie a tough and maturing life lesson to learn and experience all on his own.

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Drapetomania By: John R. Gordon | Book Review w/ Author Q&A

Drapetomania; or The Narrative of Cyrus Tyler & Abednego Tyler
By: John R. Gordon
Genre: History, LGBT, M/M, Slavery, Fiction, Literature
Rating: 5 stars
Publisher: Team Angelica
Release Date: May 17, 2018
Goodreads | Amazon| B&N

Synopsis: When house-servant Abednego is sold away south, his heartbroken field-hand lover Cyrus snaps and flees the estate on which he has lived his entire life. Leaving everything he knows behind him, evading dogs and patrollers as he heads north, in the midst of a dismal swamp Cyrus receives the revelation that Abednego is his true North Star, and, impossible though it seems, he determines to find and rescue his lost lover from slavery.

Ten years in the writing, Drapetomania, Or The Narrative of Cyrus Tyler & Abednego Tyler, lovers, is an epic tale of black freedom, uprising, and a radical representation of romantic love between black men in slavery times.

A riveting, masterful work. Set against the brutalizing, material captivity meant to break the soul, that came to define the chattel enslavement of Africans in the American south, Drapetomania tells the compelling story of two men whose love for each other reimagines the erotic contours of what was possible under the whip and scrutiny of catastrophic bondage. Here is a story of love so powerful, so achingly present, it dares to consider not just the past but the future, as vital to freedom; and in doing so, defies any notion of the black enslaved body as an ugly, unpalatable thing, unworthy of the sweetness of love. Gordon’s novel enters the company of such classic works as Edward P. Jones’s The Known World, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, and Barry Unsworth’s Sacred Hunger. We will be reading and talking about this extraordinary novel for years to come.

 

Book Review:

Reading this book was such an experience for me. Each chapter, character action, the accuracy in the details, the pacing; all of it reads like an epic.  I went through several stages of what felt like a symbolic, yet temporal, metamorphosis, both emotionally and consciously, by the lives illustrated by some of the enslaved characters in this book. So, I will try to keep my notes and thoughts on the story linear with this post.

Drapetomania is broken up into three books in this novel and told in a third person perspective that alternates between the lives and experiences of the two main characters, Cyrus and Abednego. Set in the late 19th century, where bristling talk and whispered rumors of a war between the Southern plantations faction of the United States, against the industrializing, forward-thinking North. However, unaware of the truth behind the rumors of a Civil War on the horizon, Cyrus, and Abednego, two enslaved men who live and work on the same plantation, have fallen in love.

I already knew a lot about the horrible treatment, abuse and dehumanizing conditions that enslaved Africans & African-Americans lived in, but to be placed in the middle it while reading this book took a whole other form and meaning.

During my Q&A with John, (the full interview is below) I asked about certain story themes and relative messages that he placed in the narrative. And one of those was the appalling suffering of enslaved African women, which I found one of the toughest aspects of this book I found to get through. Which is why I felt the practically spiritual connection and love between Cyrus and Abednego truly represented not only the light of this book but also the feeling of hope that pulled me through the story.

In book one, we follow Cyrus, a field-hand, as he runs away from the Tyler estate several months after Abednego has been sold away. He sets out for freedom and follows the North Star while being hunted until he realizes that he is running for a sense of freedom that he has only ever felt when with his lover, Abednego. Once Cyrus understands what he is truly missing, his character is driven by that singular desire of feeling whole once more—with Bed.

The journey we watch Cyrus go on to try to track down his lover’s potential whereabouts is anything but easy, clear or hopeful, but his compulsive need to try really resonated with me. I know it will with other readers as well.

And while I felt I was kind of on pins and needles reading this book with the tension engulfing Cyrus’ situation, I enjoyed the emotional connection I gain toward his character’s personal growth from one daring escape—each more intense than the last—to the other of the many hold-your-breath peril moments he encountered.

Cyrus’ shift from relying solely on his physical abilities, to quick thinking and blending in with other enslaved individuals really brought his character to life. In book two, the perspective shifted to Abednego and I love, love, loved that I was able to see Abednego’s point of view first-hand as all the information we have up until this point was from Cyrus’ s point of view.

And while book two depicts his life after Tyler’s estate and several months before Cyrus’s escape, it brought a validation to their relationship, their love for each other and their story all at once. As at the heart of everything that unfolds in Drapetomania, it was a reminder that it is a love story of one heart beating within these two men.

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The Fox Hunt by: Mohammed Al Samawi | Book Review

The Fox Hunt
By: Mohammed Al Samawi
Genre: Non-fiction, Memoir, Religion, War,  Politics, Non-Western
Rating: 4.5 stars
Release Date: April 10, 2018
Publisher: William Marrow
Synopsis:

A young man’s moving story of war, friendship, and hope in which he recounts his harrowing escape from a brutal civil war in Yemen with the help of a daring plan engineered on social media by a small group of interfaith activists in the West.

Born in the Old City of Sana’a, Yemen, to a pair of middle-class doctors, Mohammed Al Samawi was a devout Muslim raised to think of Christians and Jews as his enemy. But when Mohammed was twenty-three, he secretly received a copy of the Bible, and what he read cast doubt on everything he’d previously believed. After connecting with Jews and Christians on social media, and at various international interfaith conferences, Mohammed became an activist, making it his mission to promote dialogue and cooperation in Yemen.

Then came the death threats: first on Facebook, then through terrifying anonymous phone calls. To protect himself and his family, Mohammed fled to the southern port city of Aden. He had no way of knowing that Aden was about to become the heart of a north-south civil war, and the battleground for a well-funded proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. As gunfire and grenades exploded throughout the city, Mohammed hid in the bathroom of his apartment and desperately appealed to his contacts on Facebook.

Miraculously, a handful of people he barely knew responded. Over thirteen days, four ordinary young people with zero experience in diplomacy or military exfiltration worked across six technology platforms and ten time zones to save this innocent young man trapped between deadly forces— rebel fighters from the north and Al Qaeda operatives from the south.

The story of an improbable escape as riveting as the best page-turning thrillers, The Fox Hunt reminds us that goodness and decency can triumph in the darkest circumstances.

 

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That’s What She Said: Wise Words From Influential Women By: Kimothy Joy|Book Review

That’s What She Said: Wise Words From Influential Women
By: Kimothy Joy
Genre: Non-fiction, Politics, Equality, Quotes
Rating:  5 stars
Release Date: April 3, 2018
Publisher: Harper Wave/Harper Collins

Synopsis:
An artist and activist committed to the empowerment of women and girls has created a gorgeous illustrated volume, blending watercolor and short biography to showcase the contributions of more than fifty influential female leaders whose words and actions are a passionate call to arms.

Distraught by the results of the 2016 election and the realization that the nation was not ready for its first female president, Kimothy Joy found herself poring over the biographies of brave women throughout history—those who persisted in the face of daunting circumstances—to learn from their experiences.

Turning to art, Joy channeled her feelings to the canvas, bringing these strong women to life in bold watercolor portraits surrounded by inspirational hand-lettered quotes. With each creation, Joy found catharsis and hope. She shared her watercolors with her online community and encouraged everyone to raise their own voices and recharge for the battles ahead.

Now, in this beautiful gift book, Joy has gathered her stunning illustrations and quotes and paired them with surprising, illuminating biographies of her subjects to inspire women of all ages, races, and backgrounds. That’s What She Said honors a powerful and diverse group of over fifty women—from Maya Angelou, Gloria Steinem, and Virginia Woolf to Sojourner Truth, Malala Yousafzai, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg—role models whose words and insights remind us that we must never give up the fight for a more just and equitable society.

Reclaiming the derogatory cultural barb “that’s what she said,” this stunning book celebrates strong female leadership throughout history and empowers current and future generations to find their voices and inspire change in their communities.

 

Thoughts:

Along with the ingenues idea of reclaiming a phrase that has been overtly sexualized, That’s What She Said was such a breath of fresh air. It was hard to put it down and I found myself smiling with each turn of every page. I was happy to see that there were quiet a few women I recognized in this book and even more thrilled that there were others I didn’t know much about at all.

The snapshots of their biographies and the selected quotes were all inspiring and comforting. It made me feel like I was getting to know these wonderful women personally on a level.

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I’ll Be Your Blue Sky By: Marisa De Los Santos | Book Review

I’ll Be Your Blue Sky
By: Marisa De Los Santos
Genre: Contemporary, General Fiction
Rating: 3.5 stars
Released: March 6, 2018

Synopsis: On the weekend of her wedding, Clare Hobbes meets an elderly woman named Edith Herron. During the course of a single conversation, Edith gives Clare the courage to do what she should have done months earlier: break off her engagement to her charming, yet overly possessive, fiancé. 

Three weeks later, Clare learns that Edith has died—and has given her another gift. Nestled in crepe myrtle and hydrangea and perched at the marshy edge of a bay in a small seaside town in Delaware, Blue Sky House now belongs to Clare. Though the former guest house has been empty for years, Clare feels a deep connection to Edith inside its walls, which are decorated with old photographs taken by Edith and her beloved husband, Joseph.

Exploring the house, Clare finds two mysterious ledgers hidden beneath the kitchen sink. Edith, it seems, was no ordinary woman—and Blue Sky House no ordinary place. With the help of her mother, Viviana, her surrogate mother, Cornelia Brown, and her former boyfriend and best friend, Dev Tremain, Clare begins to piece together the story of Blue Sky House—a decades-old mystery more complex and tangled than she could have imagined.

As she peels back the layers of Edith’s life, Clare discovers a story of dark secrets, passionate love, heartbreaking sacrifice, and incredible courage. She also makes startling discoveries about herself: where she’s come from, where she’s going, and what—and who—she loves.Shifting between the 1950s and the present and told in the alternating voices of Edith and Clare, I’ll Be Your Blue Sky is vintage Marisa de los Santos—an emotionally evocative novel that probes the deepest recesses of the human heart and illuminates the tender connections that bind our lives.

 

Book Review:

Without giving away too much, I’ll Be Your Blue Sky, in my opinion, was not overly dramatic or heart pounding with suspense or anything. Nonetheless, the whole story felt lighthearted, kind of whimsical and slightly reminded me of a Hallmark version of Sleepless in Seattle with a stronger family backdrop (but only for the first chapter or so.)

Although this story centered on Clare and Edith’s lives, while I was reading it the narrative felt universal to me. Clare’s quest to really find herself, parallel to Edith’s character who is so self-aware of who she is and the type of person she wasn’t, really resonated with me as I was reading this book.

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Love Unleashed: Tales of Inspiration and the Life-Changing Power of Dogs By: Rebecca Ascher-Walsh | Review

Love Unleashed: Tales of Inspiration and the Life-Changing Power of Dogs
By: Rebecca Asher-Walsh
Genre: Non-fiction, Pets, Animals, Dogs, Adoption
Rating: 5 stars
Publisher: National Geographic
Released: March 6, 2018

Synopsis: A book for dog lovers everywhere. Celebrating the amazing relationships shared with our four-legged friends, each story recounts the love of dogs and the powerful ways dogs impact our lives. In this heartwarming collection of stories, readers meet 38 incredible dogs who have gone above and beyond the job description of best friend.

Each uplifting story provides an inspiring look at the animals who change our lives. Meet rescue dogs who learn to serve others, working dogs who go beyond the call of duty, and underdogs who surmount extraordinary challenges on the road to finding their forever home. This treasury of man’s best friend features photographs and personal anecdotes from those who have been touched by the selfless love of a beloved pet.

 

Thoughts:

As a new-ish canine parent (two years this June) and a lifetime pet owner, I loved this book. Some of the stories in this book about the the dogs and their new families were sad and really hard to read because I personally feel it is impossible to not adore animals.

Moreover, ignore the unique personalities that they all have. I also loved this book for the insight Walsh gives on dogs who are given second chances. As well as for the peoples’ lives that are affected and enriched when they bond with them.

I understood how profoundly and deeply the lives of all the individuals who shared their stories in Love Unleashed felt because of the dogs (and cats too) that are in or have been in my life and how much caring for them and them carrying for me and my family has impacted our lives.

 

All of the stories in this book are wholeheartedly worth mentioning, but there were a few that really stood out for me.

Hooch, a French mastiff mix, who suffered severe abuse as a puppy which left him unable to eat or drink. Since his rescue, Hooch now works as a therapy dog for children.

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Active Memory (Mirador #3) By: Dan Wells | Review & Giveaway

book cover active memory
Active Memory (Mirador #3)
By: Dan Wells
Genre: YA, Sci-fi, Dystopia
Rating: 4 stars
Release: February 13, 2018
Publisher: Balzer & Bay
photo addtogoodreadssmall_zpsa2a6cf28.pngphoto B6096376-6C81-4465-8935-CE890C777EB9-1855-000001A1E900B890_zps5affbed6.jpg

Synopsis:
From Dan Wells, author of the New York Times bestselling Partials Sequence and the John Cleaver series, comes the third and final book in the dark, pulse-pounding, sci-fi neo-noir series that began with the acclaimed novel Bluescreen.

For all the mysteries teen hacker Marisa Carneseca has solved, there has been one that has always eluded her: the truth behind the car accident in which she lost her arm and a mob boss’ wife, Zenaida de Maldonado, lost her life. Even in a world where technology exists to connect everyone’s mind to one another, it would seem that some secrets can still remain hidden.

Those secrets rise violently to the surface, however, when Zenaida de Maldonado’s freshly severed hand shows up at the scene of a gangland shooting. If Zenaida is—or was—still alive, it means there’s even more about Marisa’s past that she doesn’t know. And when she and her friends start digging, they uncover a conspiracy that runs from the slums of Los Angeles to the very top of the world’s most powerful genetic engineering firm. If Mari wants the truth, she’s going to have to go through genetically enhanced agents, irritatingly attractive mob scions, and some bad relationships to get it.

Dan Wells’s widely acclaimed series continues with his most shocking, pulse-pounding, and visionary story yet

Multicultural Children’s Book Day | Book Review: Hanukkuh Harvie vs Santa Claus: The Chrismukkah Kerfuffle By: David Michael Slater

Happy New Year, Everyone!

I know it has been a while, but I am so happy to be back and taking part in the 5th Multicultural Children’s Book Day event and book review. Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/18) is in its 5th year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.  

MCBD 2018 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board. You can view the 2018 MCBD Medallion Sponsors here. And the 2018 MCBD Author Sponsors here. We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View all of the CoHosts here.

On To The Book:

Hanukkah Harvie vs. Santa Claus: The Chrismukkah Kerfuffle
Genre: Holiday, Religion, Interfaith, Family, Children’s Fiction
Published Date: November 1st, 2017
 
Synopsis:
Everything was going smoothly, a typical first night of Hanukkah. Or so Harvie thought! There was someone else in the house, and he had presents, too – Santa Claus! Hanukkah Harvie vs. Santa Claus is the hilarious and heartfelt story of how two holiday heroes wind up with the greatest gift of all: friendship.
 

A few months back, I was paired up with the author David Michael Slater for his book Hanukkah Harvie vs. Santa Claus. This lovely children’s book center’s its message on the existence of interfaith families and children. As the reader watches as Hanukkah Harvie and Santa Claus attempt to out present and upstage each other when Christmas Eve and a night of Hanukkah coincide with each other.

I was so thrilled to receive this book because one of my little cousins is Jewish on his mom’s side and my half of the family follows a modern Christian path. I have found a few books that put interfaith children and families into primary narrative, but this was my favorite by far. And my cousin loved it too! Although he is learning equal parts of both religions/lifestyles it is something that just is for him.

There isn’t a competition or boughts of upstaging one over the other and even while reading the book my cousin understood that and was commenting on how silly they were being. This brought a ton of laughs and enjoyment to my house and family, as well a very clear and inclusive message for children that I know other families will enjoy as well.

Lona Chang: A Superhero Detective Story by: AshleyRose Sullivan | Review

Lona Chang: A Superhero Detective Story
Genre: Mystery, Supernatural, Contemporary Fiction
Rating: (it was okay)
Release Date: September 8, 2017
Publisher: Seventh Star Press
Arc Received From Author In Exchange For An Honest Review.
Synopsis:
 When one of the world’s greatest superheroes dies in her arms, Lona Chang takes it upon herself to investigate his murder.  Armed only with a power she barely understands and a mysterious coded book, Lona begins a quest for answers that leads her down a dark rabbit hole of secrets—secrets the ancient organization known as the Guild is determined to keep hidden at all costs.

Meanwhile, when a new threat descends upon Arc City, Lona’s soulmate (and freshly minted superhero) Awesome Jones defies the Guild, dons the cape and cowl of his father and finds a group of unlikely allies. But can Awesome trust them—or himself? He’ll have to fight his own demons first if he has any hope of defending the town–and the people–he loves.

As tensions rise between the Guild, Lona, Awesome, his allies and Arc City’s criminal underground, Lona realizes that life, and the answers to its questions, are never as simple as they seem in comic books.

Book Review:

First Impression:

My first impressions about this book were that the story made me thinks about Superman and Lois Lane which and that Lona and Awesome, at first glance, seemed to be paired off pretty well. Likewise, I did like Lona’s overall character in the narrative. She’s very down to earth; if a bit too critical of herself for just being “ordinary” and a “normal” person especially because of her unique ability.

As her character is very perceptive, smart and a natural people-person. I also thought the big reveal regarding the Guild and Pythia’s secret operations under the guild’s noises. This gave the story a bit of dark theme to it which was a niche surprise in this book.

The Things I Struggled With The Most While Reading This Book:

After having read portions of the first book for a bit more context regarding Lona’s adoptive parents, and discovering the apparent instructions left behind by her birth father for his former butler and maid to adopt his daughter. It made it seem as though her adoptive parents didn’t have a choice in the matter. As if the two weren’t truly parenting her, but doing another form of service.

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Not Your Villain (Sidekick Squad #2) By: C.B. Lee | Review (+Giveaway)

Amazing cover!!!

Not Your Villain (Sidekick Squad #2)

Genre: LGBTQ+, YA, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-fi
Rating: 5 stars
Release Date: October 5 2017
Synopsis:

Bells Broussard thought he had it made when his superpowers manifested early. Being a shapeshifter is awesome. He can change his hair whenever he wants, and if putting on a binder for the day is too much, he’s got it covered. But that was before he became the country’s most-wanted villain.

After discovering a massive cover-up by the Heroes’ League of Heroes, Bells and his friends Jess, Emma, and Abby set off on a secret mission to find the Resistance. Meanwhile, power-hungry former hero Captain Orion is on the loose with a dangerous serum that renders meta-humans powerless, and a new militarized robotic threat emerges. Everyone is in danger. Between college applications and crushing on his best friend, will Bells have time to take down a corrupt government?

Sometimes, to do a hero’s job, you need to be a villain.

Book Review:

I loved this book so much that I had trouble putting it down. I feel like I talked about how C.B. Lee gives the reader a conventional and non-conventional narrative atmosphere last time, but just in case I didn’t, I think readers of this book will love,  as I did, the way theme of love and friendship are blended into the story with this amazing amount of ease that you almost forget you are reading a story.

The main characters are just so relatable. I can usually tell when I’m reading a story even if I am really into a book, but not when it comes to the Sidekick Squad series. From start to finish, the narrative incorporates a consistent and present bubble of humor, honesty, progressive relatability, acceptance, love AND excitement!

Reading this book you get so swept up in the funny, cute and friendship “aww” moments that when the action starts you’re just as shook as the rest of the characters!

At least that is how I felt. I love when books keep surprising you because it gives you the opportunity to never be bored with surprises and adventures in every single chapter.

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Unforgivable Love By: Sophfronia Scott | Review

Unforgivable Love: A Retelling of Dangerous Liaisons
By: Sophfronia Scott
Rating: 4.5 stars
Genre: Historical Fiction, Retellings, Romance,
Release Date: September 26, 2017
Synopsis:

“A dazzlingly dark and engaging tale full of heartbreak, treachery, and surprise.” – Kirkus

In this vivid reimagining of the French classic Les Liaisons Dangereuses, it’s the summer when Jackie Robinson breaks Major League Baseball’s color barrier and a sweltering stretch has Harlem’s elite fleeing the city for Westchester County’s breezier climes, two predators stalk amidst the manicured gardens and fine old homes.

Heiress Mae Malveaux rules society with an angel’s smile and a heart of stone. She made up her mind long ago that nobody would decide her fate. To have the pleasure she craves, control is paramount, especially control of the men Mae attracts like moths to a flame.

Valiant Jackson always gets what he wants—and he’s wanted Mae for years. The door finally opens for him when Mae strikes a bargain: seduce her virginal young cousin, Cecily, who is engaged to Frank Washington. Frank values her innocence above all else. If successful, Val’s reward will be a night with Mae.

But Val secretly seeks another prize. Elizabeth Townsend is fiercely loyal to her church and her civil rights attorney husband. Certain there is something redeemable in Mr. Jackson. Little does she know that her worst mistake will be Val’s greatest triumph.

BOOK REVIEW:

Unforgivable Love is a retelling of the classic Les Liaisons Dangerous, but I’m not familiar with the original story. What I do know is that this book is filled with this laid-back, passionate and vibrant imagery elegance from start to finish. The love and details of music associated with Harlem and the rippling complexity of each of the characters draw a number of favorable points for this book.

Besides being set in one of my favorite eras, I found that the cockiness of the main characters was something that really kept me hooked almost right away because their confidence and self-assurance was not only entertaining but intriguing; almost daringly pulling the reader into their games with them. Likewise, the characters brought an infectious intensity, twists and at times bits of humor in the narrative.  Like others will, I’m sure,  I really loved the well laid out social intrigue between Mae and her inner circle.

Underneath Mae’s calculating motives and cool demeanor, there’s a girl so hungry for love that I couldn’t help but empathize with. It is clear that the loss of her closest and dearest friend, and first true love has turned Mae against the world and the core motivations behind her plan regarding her cousin comes from a place of pride, ego, rejection and old wounds that haven’t healed around her heart.

Dear Martin By: Nic Stone | Review & Reaction

Dear Martin COVERDear Martin
Genre: YA Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Social Issues
Rating: 5 stars
Release Date: October 17th 2017
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
I received this ARC in a giveaway &
it in no way affects my review or unbiased opinion of this book.

Goodreads | B&N | Amazon | B&D | IndieBound

Synopsis:

Raw, captivating, and undeniably real, Nic Stone joins industry giants Jason Reynolds and Walter Dean Myers as she boldly tackles American race relations in this stunning debut.

Justyce McAllister is top of his class, captain of the debate team, and set for the Ivy League next year—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. He is eventually released without charges (or an apology), but the incident has Justyce spooked. Despite leaving his rough neighborhood, he can’t seem to escape the scorn of his former peers or the attitude of his prep school classmates. The only exception: Sarah Jane, Justyce’s gorgeous—and white—debate partner he wishes he didn’t have a thing for.

Struggling to cope with it all, Justyce starts a journal to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But do Dr. King’s teachings hold up in the modern world? Justyce isn’t so sure.

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up. Way up. Much to the fury of the white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. And Justyce and Manny get caught in the crosshairs. In that media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack. The truth of what happened that night—some would kill to know. Justyce is dying to forget.

My Reaction:

I call this “my reaction” because it not only took me a bit to type up my review for the book itself, but also all of the thoughts, feelings and memories this book made me think of.  Although this book left my mind and heart just all over the place, I truly loved it and I am grateful I was given the opportunity to read this ARC  because it had such a huge affect on me and it is something that I look forward to sharing with my family and friends.

From the moment I started reading, I was able to connect with Justyce’s character—from his thoughts, concerns, fear and anxiousness. And his attempt at trying to make sense of himself and the rest of the world through a method inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. teachings following the fall out of his wrongful arrest. It was just all so real, raw, insightful and moving.

One of the many things I loved and appreciated about this book was the way Nic Stone keeps the narrative objective because it makes it so connectable to other readers, whether they are allies, individuals who have experienced some of the same situations Justyce has faced or others ignorant of the seriousness and dangers African Americans and other POC face every day when it comes to racism.

I pondered if I wanted to focus on the situation regarding Justyce and his arrest as being the main focal points I discussed for this book, but in all honesty, it is so much more than racial profiling from authorities. The political, inaccurate and discriminatory stories spun by a lot of the media outlets and the prejudices of people—it all just hits home.

There wasn’t an instance when I did not imagine my brothers or my uncles in situations close to Justyce’s and it shook me.  However, choosing LOVE over HATE. Recognizing that we still have such a far way to go. Accepting that we can’t do it on our own. Knowing that importance of sticking together, speaking together and moving together is the only way forward. And being strong enough to face it all head on.

Even before last week’s protest in Charlottesville, VA, I was struggling to come up with the right words for how moving and important this book is to all readers, young or old, because I was hung up on how real and close to our reality it was. Of course, as an African-American woman, it was impossible not to see my brothers or my uncles and even myself in the situations that Justyce was dealing with in this book and that become such a jarring feeling.

Aside from being raised by a single parent, Justyce and I represent two completely different worlds, but regardless, I know that a POC’s story and life is hardly ever taken into account when they are profiled, victimized or harmed. With this, I am trying to choose my words so carefully here because with the weight and present state of our world weighing down on my heart and everything just feeling so wrong and backwards these days.

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Absolutely, Almost, Perfect By: Lissa Reed | Book Review, Q&A (+Giveaway)

Absolutely, Almost, Perfect (Sucre Coeur Series #3)
By: Lissa Reed
Genre: M/M Romance, LGBTQ+, Contemporary Fiction, Rom/Com Fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Release Date: August 3, 2017
Publisher: Duet Books/ Interlude Press
Received an ARC copy from publisher in exchange for an honest review

Craig Oliver and Alex Scheff lead a charmed life. Craig is part owner of Sucre Coeur, the bakery he’s loved and managed for years. Alex is an up-and-coming Seattle photographer. Their relationship has been going strong for a year, and everything is absolutely perfect—right up until Craig receives a wedding invitation from his long-estranged brother.

As Craig grows tense over seeing his brother for the first time in years, Alex can’t control his anxiety over meeting Craig’s family. At the wedding in an English hamlet, boisterous Scottish mothers, smirking teenage sisters, and awkward ex-boyfriends complicate the sweet life they lead.

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The Lost Ones By: Sheena Kamal | Book Review

The Lost Ones
By: Sheena Kamal
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense, Mystery/Thriller Fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Release Date: July 25, 2017

 

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis: “A brave, unflinching heroine and brave, unflinching writing add up to an extraordinary debut–highly recommended.”–Lee Child

A dark, compulsively readable psychological suspense debut, the first in a new series featuring the brilliant, fearless, chaotic, and deeply flawed Nora Watts—a character as heartbreakingly troubled, emotionally complex, and irresistibly compelling as Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander and Jo Nesbø’s Harry Hole.

It begins with a phone call that Nora Watts has dreaded for fifteen years—since the day she gave her newborn daughter up for adoption. Bonnie has vanished. The police consider her a chronic runaway and aren’t looking, leaving her desperate adoptive parents to reach out to her birth mother as a last hope.

A biracial product of the foster system, transient, homeless, scarred by a past filled with pain and violence, Nora knows intimately what happens to vulnerable girls on the streets. Caring despite herself, she sets out to find Bonnie with her only companion, her mutt Whisper, knowing she risks reopening wounds that have never really healed—and plunging into the darkness with little to protect her but her instincts and a freakish ability to detect truth from lies.

The search uncovers a puzzling conspiracy that leads Nora on a harrowing journey of deception and violence, from the gloomy rain-soaked streets of Vancouver, to the icy white mountains of the Canadian interior, to the beautiful and dangerous island where she will face her most terrifying demon. All to save a girl she wishes had never been born.

 

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Like A Fly On The Wall By: Simone Kelly | Book Review

Like A Fly On The Wall
By: Simone Kelly
Genre: Contemporary, New Adult Fiction
Rating: 3 stars
Release Date: July 11, 2017

 

Synopsis:

From talented debut author Simone Kelly comes this suspenseful novel that crackles with intrigue, sex, and plenty of surprises—perfect for fans of Eric Jerome Dickey and Carl Weber.

Meet Jacques Berradi. Moroccan-born and Manhattan-raised, his genuine, sexy-smooth allure goes hand in hand with a unique gift. Since Jacques was young, he has had the ability to read peoples’ energies, communicate with spirit guides, and even catch glimpses of people’s futures. Now a professional “intuitive counselor,” Jacques’s clients pay him handsomely for his insight. Unfortunately, Jacques’s psychic abilities don’t come with an off switch to tune out the world’s noise, nor do they always provide him with easy answers; recently Jacques has begun having dark, alarming dreams about his beloved father, a Moroccan immigrant who died when he was a boy.

Meet Kylie Collins, an adventurous, Miami twentysomething who is trying to find her footing after being laid off from a cushy music industry job. When a mishap brings them together, Kylie is instantly mesmerized by Jacques’s cool demeanor and intuitive abilities, and he’s captivated by her outgoing charm and breezy good looks. Seeking to learn more about her family history—including the identity of the father she’s never known—Kylie visits Jacques’s office to gain some insight about her future, and about her free-spirited and headstrong Jamaican mother, True.

But on the night that they meet, a rolling blackout cuts off power throughout Miami. Kylie and Jacques, and a few of his clients, head to the only place in the neighborhood with enough light to see: Like a Fly on the Wall Detective Agency. There, Kylie serendipitously lands herself the perfect new job as an apprentice private eye.

As partners, Jacques and Kylie are an unstoppable duo. Can Jacques’s intuition reveal the scandalous history of Kylie’s mother and father? Will Kylie’s newfound detective skills uncover evidence about the death of Jacques’s father? And will the chemistry that charges their friendship bubble over into something much, much hotter…?

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A House Without Windows By: Nadia Hashimi | Review

A House Without Windows
By: Nadia Hashimi
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Culture, Mystery, Family, Friendship
Rating: 4 stars
Reprint release Date: May 16, 2017
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks/ Harper Collins

Synopsis:

A vivid, unforgettable story of an unlikely sisterhood—an emotionally powerful and haunting tale of friendship that illuminates the plight of women in a traditional culture—from the author of the bestselling The Pearl That Broke Its Shell and When the Moon Is Low.

For two decades, Zeba was a loving wife, a patient mother, and a peaceful villager. But her quiet life is shattered when her husband, Kamal, is found brutally murdered with a hatchet in the courtyard of their home. Nearly catatonic with shock, Zeba is unable to account for her whereabouts at the time of his death. Her children swear their mother could not have committed such a heinous act. Kamal’s family is sure she did, and demands justice.

Barely escaping a vengeful mob, Zeba is arrested and jailed. As Zeba awaits trial, she meets a group of women whose own misfortunes have also led them to these bleak cells: thirty-year-old Nafisa, imprisoned to protect her from an honor killing; twenty-five-year-old Latifa, who ran away from home with her teenage sister but now stays in the prison because it is safe shelter; and nineteen-year-old Mezhgan, pregnant and unmarried, waiting for her lover’s family to ask for her hand in marriage. Is Zeba a cold-blooded killer, these young women wonder, or has she been imprisoned, as they have been, for breaking some social rule? For these women, the prison is both a haven and a punishment. Removed from the harsh and unforgiving world outside, they form a lively and indelible sisterhood.

Into this closed world comes Yusuf, Zeba’s Afghan-born, American-raised lawyer, whose commitment to human rights and desire to help his motherland have brought him back. With the fate of this seemingly ordinary housewife in his hands, Yusuf discovers that, like Afghanistan itself, his client may not be at all what he imagines.

A moving look at the lives of modern Afghan women, A House Without Windows is astonishing, frightening, and triumphant.

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The Wisdom Of Moms & Amazing Dads by: Bridget E. Hamilton | Short Review

About The Wisdom of Moms

• Hardcover: 96 pages
• Publisher: National Geographic (March 28, 2017)

There is so much we can learn about motherhood from the animal kingdom. We can learn how to be the strong role model a child needs, like the snow leopard that teaches her children to survive and thrive on dangerous mountain slopes; to be as resilient as the hardworking sea otter mom; and to serve our communities like the pika, a rabbit-like animal native to northern climates. This is a beautiful tribute to mothers, full of adorable animal photographs and touching anecdotes that show your appreciation for all the wisdom and care that Mom provides.

National Geographic | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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About Amazing Dads

• Hardcover: 96 pages
• Publisher: National Geographic (May 2, 2017)

This fun, lighthearted book is a great way to show Dad how much he means to you. Page after page of stunning animal photographs and heartwarming stories of fatherhood in the animal kingdom showcases the bond between dads and their loved ones. This package is the best way to share words of gratitude and appreciation and express your love for the dad, grandpa, uncle, or stepfather in your life.

Stories of remarkable animal dads include:

  • Golden lion tamarins that mash bananas into a mush to hand-feed their babies
  • Wolves that enjoy playful roughhousing with youngsters of the pack
  • Foxes that bury food near the den to teach pups to hunt
  • Rheas, South American birds that not only incubate eggs solo but also serve as single parents
  • Seahorses that carry eggs in their own brood pouch

National Geographic | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

My Thoughts

I loved reading these books because they were so much fun and soo cute. I was so happy I got the opportunity to read these books because they are just the types of books I look for when it comes to my younger cousins and my friends’ kids. Each book has various animal selections that is accompanied by short antidotes, factoids, memorable quotes and beautiful pictures on every single page. Personally, I think these books would be great for story-time anywhere because the passages are so engaging. These books offer small pieces of information and glimpses into the animal kingdom with such clear, sharp pictures that it’ll make them fall in love with these books and the animals. I really think these books is a great gift to the family to enjoy; from moms and dads with their kids and grandmas and grandpas with their grandchildren. I’ve selected a few of my favorite passages from each book below 🙂

Tour Organized By:

Thank you so much for stopping by to check out this short review.

Until the next post,

Gia.

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Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever: Heaven Gave it To Me by: Nnanna Ikpo | Review (+Author Interview)

Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever: Heaven Gave it To Me
By: Nnanna Ikpo
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, LGBT, Human Rights, Cultural
Rating: 4.5 stars
Release Date: April 20,2017
Publisher: Team Angelica
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis:

Olawale and Oluwole are dreadlocked Yoruba lawyers, minority human rights activists fighting for a better Nigeria. Bisexual and closeted, Olawale has spent his adult life protecting and defending his charismatic, more evidently homosexual twin; but when the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act becomes law, they, their family, and the women who love them are caught in a savage spotlight that threatens to wreck all their lives. In the midst of this Wole and Wale must deal with an estranged convict father whose unexpected reappearance brings dark and troubling family secrets to light.

Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever celebrates the enduring power of love, desire, faith, patriotism and human rights struggle in the face of political oppression and religious prejudice in Nigeria today. It extends the literary conversation begun by Jude Dibia and continued by Chinelo Okparanta.

 

Book Review:

This book was incredible. Although largely aimed at an African audience, I recommend this book for the LGBTQI+ community; its supporters, human rights activists, and readers who enjoy moving, compelling, and resonating narratives that leave inspired conversation. The content in this book covers strong political, social, cultural, and religious oppression and life-threatening situations that contradict the early to late 2000s following the pass of the SSMPA (Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act) in 2014 time frame that the book covers.

It is impossible to fathom some of the information the author reveals about the treatment of members, supporters and suspected LGBT individuals in Nigeria, but the accounts are real. Yet, so intricately woven in between these scenes are Wole and Wale, two queer brothers who actively use their skills and connections to push a wave of hope and peace to the otherwise vastly secretive gay community that is forced even further into hiding following SSMPA.

I have mentioned before how first person narration was not always my favorite to read, but with some of the books I have read recently, I am beginning to believe that it is not exactly true. Just with the prologue discussing the attack on a gay club in Nigeria and the criminalization of the victims, the reader is given a small glimpse of how regressive, from a Western point of view; a majority of the country is still today.

With that said, it is important to note how well the author delivers not only the political and religious perspectives of ‘traditional’ Nigeria, but also the progressive, forward thinking and widely read opinions of the population. The author does not offer the stereotypical narrative of closeted homosexuals or queer men who are constantly afraid of speaking out, pushing back or fighting for what is right.

Even with the threat of danger ever present in this book from beginning to end, Nnanna Ikpo presents his readers with the most realistic and relatable account of contemporary, queer Nigerian men doing what they can to make a difference for their community in the best way they know how.

Told mainly through Wale’s eyes, the reader experiences a strong complexity when it comes to the gay community because his character is bisexual. Wale stands behind his and his brother’s cause and work, but seems to often find himself struggling with his sexuality because on a deeper level he feels he’s a hypocrite. While at the same time knows that if he does not play the role of the heterosexual male just fighting for human rights of Nigeria’s minorities, real change may never come.

It is also clear that Wale is motivated by his love for his twin brother, Wole. Though focused on Wale, the author does a wonderful job of painting the clear lines that distinguish the two brothers, regardless of how forward thinking and similar they both are.

Wale seems to have a stronger resolve throughout the narrative than Wole about their decision to keep their sexuality a secret, but at times the author gives the reader a small glimpse of the sadness that lies just beneath Wole’s upbeat and outgoing personality that Wale is always attuned to. Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever: Heaven Gave It To Me, presents a story about love, family, life, hope, equality, community, politics, religion and culture that is so immaculately structured it was difficult to put it down.

One of the moving things about this book, and I could have interpreted it wrong, was there seemed to be a theme of forgiveness with this sense of determination to keeping forward projected with Wale’s perspective. Almost an ambiguous way of expressing that love and perseverance will eventually win-out over hate.

Each chapter opens and closes with a letter or an email and closed with a poem that signifies this ever-continuous foreboding sense of optimistic love and loss that pulls the reader into the chapter.

Like me, I think readers will fall in love with the way Nnanna Ikpo keeps the discussion on human rights consistent and open throughout this book. Connected to Wale’s deep love and pride for being Nigerian, a Christian, and a bisexual man who even, in the end, holds on to the possibility of a better future where there will be change leaves us all hopeful.

 

 

Author Interview:

First off, thank you so much for allowing this brief Q&A. I deeply appreciate it. Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever is a truly wonderful book.

Thank you. I am glad you enjoyed it.

Please correct me if I am wrong, but the title itself, Fimí sílẹ̀, which is referenced in the book, roughly translated from Yoruba means “leave me alone.” What was your inspiration behind the title?

Your translation is in order. The first inspiration for the title was the popular hit track ‘Olufunmi’ by my all-time favourite boy-band Styl-plus, and reflects a longing to explore my Yoruba roots.

I guess my next question counts as a broad, creative writing process question in regards to the book. One of the key shifting points in Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever was the passing of the SSMPA in early 2014, so was that when the concept for the story came to life or were you already writing the book? If so, how long did completing the book take?

The basic premise of Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever came early in 2013. In my initial thoughts, the story would, among other things, be written predictively to show how ugly things could get if the bill became law. Months into writing the first draft, SSMPA was enacted. My anger at this hugely affected the rest of the writing and rewriting process. Our final draft of Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever emerged in December 2016. Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever took roughly four years.

How were the poems at the end of each chapter inspired?

While pieces like ‘Eka aro my love’, ‘Beni Perhaps’ and ‘Oremi Alhaji’ were inspired by personal experiences of real people and places, occasionally even scenarios from Nollywood films, others arose from the independent evolution of the plot and characters in Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever and their interaction with each other.

Do you have a favorite character or scene from this book? Or a least favorite?

This is a difficult question. The plot and characters in Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever were carefully crafted to capture and evoke multiple symbols, ideas, thoughts, dreams and places both real and imagined. All the characters have their merits (and demerits) and are not in competition with each other – and should never be made to be so. Every part of Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever was thought out and deliberated upon by me and informed by others, some of whom were unconsciously part of the creative process. As such I do not have a favourite character, scene, or least favourite one. They are all important parts of Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever’s big picture, and I think necessary.

The book is so rich with character depth and complex narrative layers that keep the reader emerged in the story as the layers slowly unravel. Therefore, I was curious about how much inspiration you took from real life for some of the characters and the strong discussions that take place in this book, i.e. the discussion that takes place at K.U. between the faculty members and Wale and his students for example.

Thank you! Real people and their dynamics in learning and working spaces may differ in form but are substantially similar everywhere, so in Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever, I simply dragged all these people from the several real spaces I have had access to, dropped them into fictitious classrooms and offices and let them deal with each other. Creativity, imagination, editing and rewriting helped me to layer and colour debates.

Do you have any advice for other aspiring Nigerian writers or just writers of the LGBT community who might want to share their stories and continue to bring awareness to the rigid system struggle they are battling?

It is often tricky to advise other writers, even when our primary aim is the same or similar. We have our varying methods, contexts and journeys, and often are strangers to each other. What I have is not so much advice but a salutation, and cognisance of the fact that our work is important and more than that, necessary. And because our art is mostly ‘queer’ and therefore subversive, it may attract more hostility than acclaim. It may not change the world – at least not hugely – but it will not leave it the same, inshallah.

 

Nnanna also runs a personal blog, Letters To My Africa here and you can also follow him on twitter.

This book was truly amazing and even with this review, I do not think I give it enough justice. It is highly recommended. Thanks so much for stopping by and checking out my review for  Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever: Heaven Gave it To Me.

Until the next post,

 

Gia.
Other piece(s) to check out I found that related to some of the perspectives in the book: Tell Me Where I Can Be Safe

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The View From The Cheap Seats by: Neil Gaiman | Review

The View From The Cheap Seats
By: Neil Gaiman
Genre: Non-fiction, Writing, Essays, Short Stories,
Rating: 3.7 rating
Publisher: William Marrow
Re-release Date: May 15, 2017

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis:

The New York Times bestselling non-fiction collection, now in paperback, from the author of American Gods, now a STARZ Original Series.

An enthralling collection of nonfiction essays on a myriad of topics—from art and artists to dreams, myths, and memories—observed in #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman’s probing, amusing, and distinctive style.

An inquisitive observer, thoughtful commentator, and assiduous craftsman, Neil Gaiman has long been celebrated for the sharp intellect and startling imagination that informs his bestselling fiction. Now, The View from the Cheap Seats brings together for the first time ever more than sixty pieces of his outstanding nonfiction. Analytical yet playful, erudite yet accessible, this cornucopia explores a broad range of interests and topics, including (but not limited to): authors past and present; music; storytelling; comics; bookshops; travel; fairy tales; America; inspiration; libraries; ghosts; and the title piece, at turns touching and self-deprecating, which recounts the author’s experiences at the 2010 Academy Awards in Hollywood.

Insightful, incisive, witty, and wise, The View from the Cheap Seats explores the issues and subjects that matter most to Neil Gaiman—offering a glimpse into the head and heart of one of the most acclaimed, beloved, and influential artists of our time.

 

Book Review:

I enjoyed this book because the selections were so vast and progressive. Neil covers topics linked to movies, films, music, books and several other topics that range in a tone of positivity and objectivity, with an imaginative progression, even with the subjects he has less love for than others. I knew going into the book that I would read about pieces of his life and learn more about how he perceives the world, but I can honestly say that what I liked most about reading this book was the way the essays and notations were engaging, light-hearted, funny and engrossing. It was kind of inspiring, at times to read and feel his optimism.

I selected a few articles in this book that I knew I wanted to read and ended up just freely getting caught up in others. For most readers who pick up this book, whether a fan of Gaiman or not, I think this collection will have the same effect. I’d recommend this book for book enthusiast who also likes to get caught up in books that offer layered content without anything complex or overbearing. It’s a good book to have on your shelf to pick up to read at any time and it would make a great road trip book as well.

 

 

About The Author:

Neil Gaiman is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Neverwhere, Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, Anansi Boys, The Graveyard Book, Good Omens (with Terry Pratchett), The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains; the Sandman series of graphic novels; and the story collections Smoke and MirrorsFragile Things, and Trigger Warning. He is the winner of numerous literary honors, including the Hugo, Bram Stoker, and World Fantasy awards, and the Newbery and Carnegie Medals. Originally from England, he now lives in the United States. He is Professor in the Arts at Bard College.

Find out more about Neil at his website, find all his books at his online bookstore, and follow him on FacebooktumblrTwitterInstagram, and his blog.

 

Tour Organized by:

 

Thanks so much for stopping by for this tour. Be sure to continue to watch this space this week 🙂

Until the next post,

Gia

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I Still Remember by: Priya Prithviraj | Cover Reveal

Today is the cover reveal for I Still Remember by Priya Prithviraj. This cover reveal is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours. The cover is designed by Angela Jose of The Crafty Angels.

I Still Remember

I Still Remember
By Priya Prithviraj
Genre: Contemporary Romance/ Coming-of-Age
Age category: Young Adult
Release Date: May 14, 2017

Blurb:
How do you forget someone you’ve loved once? Ji-woo dreams of becoming a writer and is back in college giving it a second shot. But then Weon-gyu, her first love, comes back into her new life. Will she give up on her dreams or will she write them a happy ending?

Goodreads  |   Amazon

 

Priya Prithviraj

About the Author:
Priya Prithviraj writes poems which appear in journals such as Eastlit and the New Plains Review. She also writes about books, writing and publishing on her blog. She tweets at @priyaprithviraj. You can find and contact Priya Prithviraj here: Website | About Me page | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram

 

Giveaway Info:
There is a cover reveal wide giveaway for the cover reveal of I Still Remember. Three winners will each win an e-copy of I Still Remember by Priya Prithviraj!

For a chance to win, enter the rafflecopter giveaway, click here.

 


banner Lola's Blog Tours

This cover reveal is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours. The cover is designed by Angela Jose of The Crafty Angels.

Thanks so much for checking out I Still Remember‘s cover reveal.

Until the next post,

Gia.

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The Autobiography Of Malcolm X by: Malcolm X, Alex Haley | Review

The Autobiography Of Malcolm X
By: Malcolm X, Alex Haley
Genre: Autobiography, Non-Fiction, History, Religion
Rating: 4 Stars
Release Date: October 12, 1987

Read in February For Social Justice Book Club

Synopsis:

Through a life of passion and struggle, Malcolm X became one of the most influential figures of the 20th Century. In this riveting account, he tells of his journey from a prison cell to Mecca, describing his transition from hoodlum to Muslim minister. Here, the man who called himself “the angriest Black man in America” relates how his conversion to true Islam helped him confront his rage and recognize the brotherhood of all mankind. An established classic of modern America, “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” was hailed by the New York Times as “Extraordinary. A brilliant, painful, important book.” Still extraordinary, still important, this electrifying story has transformed Malcolm X’s life into his legacy. The strength of his words, the power of his ideas continue to resonate more than a generation after they first appeared.

My Thoughts & a Book Review:

My work lately has made leisure reading nearly impossible, so if I’m not reading scripts, I’m reading books that have pre-scheduled post dates already on my calendar. With that being said, I wanted to make sure I shared my thoughts and notes on books I’ve already read, but do not have reviews.

It might be the effects of what is happening now in our country but I thought about sharing this review first. It is the book the Social Justice book club read in February for Black History Month, but I am a strong believer in not needing a set reason or particular event to have to discuss, approach or learn about the strong and powerful constricting social-economical and racial discrimination trouble millions face every single day here in the US and around the world.

It’s actually one of the reasons I do not take part in the diversity spotlight or diversity bingo phenomenon that seems to have popped up on social media lately. I think discussing diversity and social issues is important and more people should take part in it. However, I do not like the idea of it being integrated into pop-culture and desensitized like some sort of trend.

It is a discussion and topic that should be had every day, all the time and should be taken seriously. For the fact of the matter is that the themes of dystopian/alternate worlds in fiction seemed to have seeped into our reality and sometimes it is kind of difficult to predict what might happen next.

I didn’t know much about Malcolm X before reading this book. Not many relatives or people in my life talked about him, but I’ve always known about him. I guess some people don’t often discuss him because of the radical and “extreme” perspective he had.

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Prelude To Insurrection: A Legends of Tivara Short Story (Dragon Songs Saga) by: J.C. Kang | Book Review

Prelude To Insurrection (Dragon Songs Saga)
Genre: High Fantasy, Epic Adventure, Mythology
Rating: 4 stars
Release Date: May 3, 2017
Publisher: Three Moon Press
I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis: Only an orphan half-elf spy can avert a rebellion before it starts. Jie’s superior senses have made her the perfect lookout. Now, as the adopted daughter of the Black Lotus Clanmaster, she wants to prove her pointed ears aren’t a liability when she’s tasked to infiltrate a rebel lord’s castle. In this prequel novelette to Songs of Insurrection, Jie must decide between her duty to the emperor and her sense of compassion toward the downtrodden. No matter her choice, it will have explosive consequences for her, the realm, and the upcoming war.

My Thoughts:

By now, my love for Jie’s character and the Dragon Songs Saga is no secret. So I was excited to see that J.C. brought us this Legends of Tivara short  and how well this short story tied into how we are first introduced to her character. Engaging narrative riddled with Black Lotus infiltration and action, equally balanced with small bits of humor strapped against an impending siege with Jie in the middle. What more could you ask for?

While a standalone story, reading this prelude before the series gives readers a greater insight into some details of Jie’s personality as well as parts of her past that we don’t read much about until later in the series. Though immensely skilled, perceptive and tactful, Jie’s character is also funny and hides a deeper layer of empathy that most don’t see. I might just be overly fan-girling but I stand by my statement ^_^. This short story was great and is highly recommended.

Thanks so much for reading, guys. Prelude To Insurrection is out now, so go check it out 🙂

Until the next post,

Gia.

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The Day I Died by Lori Rader-Day | Review

The Day I Died

By: Lori Rader-Day
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: Psychological, Thriller, Mystery, Contemporary Fiction
Release Date: April 11, 2017
 Synopsis:
From the award-winning author of Little Pretty Things comes this gripping, unforgettable tale of a mother’s desperate search for a lost boy.Anna Winger can know people better than they know themselves with only a glance—at their handwriting. Hired out by companies wanting to land trustworthy employees and by the lovelorn hoping to find happiness, Anna likes to keep the real-life mess of other people at arm’s length and on paper. But when she is called to use her expertise on a note left behind at a murder scene in the small town she and her son have recently moved to, the crime gets under Anna’s skin and rips open her narrow life for all to see. To save her son—and herself—once and for all, Anna will face her every fear, her every mistake, and the past she thought she’d rewritten.

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Symphony Of Fates (Dragon Songs Saga #4) by J.C. Kang | Book Blast

Hello Again, Book-Peeps:

Before we get into the weekend, I have a quick little post for ya! It’s the fourth and final book in the Dragon Songs Saga by JC Kang,  previously known as The Daughter Of The Dragon Throne, re-release book-day today! ^_^  Symphony of Fates takes readers on the final journey of Princess Kaiya as she fights to protect and restore the realm she loves. This historical, mythological, epic-high fantasy/adventure, sorcery fiction series is one you’re gonna want to jump into.  Here’s a bit about Symphony Of Fates:

Kaiya escapes her ordeal at the hands of the Teleri Emperor, only to return to a homeland beset by enemies on all sides, and crumbling from within.

As a teenager, she quelled a rebellion with the Dragon Scale Lute. As a young adult, she vanquished a dragon with the power of her voice.

Now, robbed of her magic by grief, Kaiya must navigate a web of court intrigue to save the realm before it falls. Only she can lay claim to the Dragon Throne on behalf of her unborn sons—whether the father is the lover who perished rescuing her, or the hated enemy who killed him.

In the final story in Kaiya’s saga, she must rally a nation, repel invaders, and prove to the world why her family alone holds the Mandate of Heaven.

And now… The moment we’ve been waiting for…

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Every Wild Heart By: Meg Donohue | Book Review

Every Wild Heart

By: Meg Donohue
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Drama, Family
Rating: 3.5 stars
Release Date: March 14, 2017
Synopsis:
From USA Today bestselling author Meg Donohue comes a mystery, a love story, and a mother-daughter tale about two women on a precarious journey to uncover their true selves.

Passionate and funny, radio personality Gail Gideon is a true original. Nine years ago when Gail’s husband announced that he wanted a divorce, her ensuing on-air rant propelled her local radio show into the national spotlight.

Now, “The Gail Gideon Show” is beloved by millions of single women who tune-in for her advice on the power of self-reinvention. But fame comes at a price. After all, what does a woman who has staked her career on being single do when she finds herself falling in love? And is the person who is harassing her in increasingly troubling ways a misguided fan or a true danger to Gail and her daughter, Nic?

Fourteen-year-old Nic has always felt that she pales in comparison to her vibrant, outgoing mother. Plagued by a fear of social situations, she is most comfortable at the stable where she spends her afternoons. But when a riding accident lands Nic in the hospital, she awakens from her coma changed. Suddenly, she has no fear at all and her disconcerting behavior lands her in one risky situation after another. And no one, least of all her mother, can guess what she will do next…

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Dishing Up The Dirt By: Andrea Bemis | Cook Book Review

By: Andrea Bemis

Genre: Cook Book, Farming, Food & Drink Recipes, Farm Life, Non-Fiction
Release Date: March 14, 2017
 
Synopsis:

Andrea Bemis, the creator of the popular farm-to-table blog Dishing Up the Dirt builds on her success with this beautiful, simple, seasonally driven cookbook, featuring more than 100 inventive and delicious whole-foods recipes and dozens of color photographs.

For Andrea Bemis, who owns and runs a six-acre organic farm with her husband outside of Portland, Oregon, dinners are inspired by what is grown in the soil and picked by hand. In Dishing Up the Dirt, Andrea offers 100 authentic farm-to-table recipes, arranged by season, including:

Spring: Honey Roasted Strawberry Muffins, Lamb Lettuce Wraps with Mint Yogurt Sauce, Spring Harvest Pizza with Mint & Pea Pesto, Kohlrabi and Chickpea Salad

Summer: Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Biscuits, Roasted Ratatouille Toast, Kohlrabi Fritters with Garlic Herb Cashew Cream Sauce, Farmers Market Burgers with Mustard Greens Pesto

Fall: Farm Girl Veggie Bowls, Butternut Molasses Muffins, Early Autumn Moroccan Stew, Collard Green Slaw with Bacon Gremolata

Winter: Rutabaga Home Fries with Smokey Cashew Sauce, Hoisin Glazed Brussels Sprouts, Country Girl Old Fashioned Cocktails, Tumbleweed Farm Winter Panzanella

Andrea’s recipes focus on using whole, locally-sourced foods—incorporating the philosophy of eating as close to the land as possible. While many recipes are naturally gluten-free, dairy-free, or vegetarian, many others include elemental ingredients like bread, cheese, eggs, meat, and sweeteners, which are incorporated in new and inventive ways.

In short essays throughout the book, Andrea also presents an honest glimpse of life on Tumbleweed Farm—the real life of a farmer, not the shabby-chic fantasy often portrayed—offering fascinating and frequently entertaining details about where the food on our dinner tables comes from. With stunning food photography as well as intimate portraits of farm life, Dishing Up the Dirt allows anyone to be a seasonal foodie and an armchair farmer.

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The Drifter By: Christine Lennon | Book Review

The Drifter
By: Christine Lennon
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Mystery
Rating: 2.5 stars
Release Date: February 14, 2017
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis:

Megan Abbott meets M.O. Walsh in Christine Lennon’s compelling debut novel about a group of friends on the cusp of graduating from college when their lives are irrevocably changed by a brutal act of violence.

Present Day…

For two decades, Elizabeth has tried to escape the ghosts of her past…tried to erase the painful memories…tried to keep out the terrifying nightmares. But twenty years after graduating from the University of Florida, her carefully curated life begins to unravel, forcing her to confront the past she’s tried so hard to forget.

1990s, Gainesville, Florida…

Elizabeth and her two closest friends, Caroline and Ginny, are having the time of their lives in college—binge watching Oprah, flirting for freebies from Taco Bell, and breaking hearts along the way. But without warning, their world is suddenly shattered when a series of horrific acts of violence ravage the campus, changing their lives forever.

Sweeping readers from the exclusive corners of sorority life in the South to the frontlines of the drug-fueled, slacker culture in Manhattan in the ‘90s and early ‘00s, when Elizabeth is forced to acknowledge her role in the death of a friend in order to mend a broken friendship and save her own life, The Drifter is an unforgettable story about the complexities of friendships and the secrets that can ultimately destroy us.

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Dances Of Deception (Dragon Songs Saga #3) by J.C. Kang | Cover Reveal (+Book Sale & Giveaway)

Heya, Fellow Book Enthusiasts:

How’s this week been treating ya? Swell? Maybe not so swell? Well, I have some fun news to share with you today. Remember the series I read and reviewed by J.C. Kang? Previously know as The Daughter Of The Dragon Throne, now the Dragon Songs Saga, is a historical, mythological, epic-high fantasy/adventure, sorcery fiction series.

J.C. reached out and told about a book re-launch party happening today, 10AM-9PM over on Facebook.  This launch party will include giveaways, author takeovers, and more! It is definitely something you don’t want to miss.

I have even more good news to for the #TGIF trend today. A cover reveal for book 3 of the Dragon Songs Saga, Dances Of Deception. In case you’re new to the series, here’s a bit about Dances Of Deception:

The world knows Kaiya as the Dragon Charmer.

After vanquishing the Last Dragon with the power of her voice, all she wants is to return to a quiet life of anonymity. Instead, the Emperor tasks her with an onerous task: negotiating with the aggressive Teleri Empire for the extradition of her cousin, who tried to murder the imperial family and usurp the Dragon Throne.

The mission reunites her with her childhood friend Tian, now an assassin-spy who loathes killing. He is no longer the adorable, gullible boy from her memories, any more than she is the adventurous, sweet girl from his. Instead of rekindling nostalgia for a youthful innocence they both yearn for, their reunion ignites a mutual hatred.

When the Teleri Empire breaks off negotiations, Tian must help Kaiya escape. Orcs, Ogres, and enemy soldiers stand between them and home, and their volatile relationship could get them captured… or killed.

And now… The moment we’ve been waiting for…

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Bleeding Earth by: Kaitlin Ward | Review

Bleeding Earth

By: Kaitlin Ward

Genre: LBGT,  G/G Romance, YA, Contemporary, Fantasy, Horror Fiction

Rating: 3.5 stars

Release Date: February 9, 2016

Publisher: Adaptive Books

I received an ARC of this book forever ago from the publisher in a giveaway.

Synopsis:

Lea was in a cemetery when the earth started bleeding. Within twenty-four hours, the blood made international news. All over the world, blood appeared out of the ground, even through concrete, even in water. Then the earth started growing hair and bones.

Lea wants to ignore the blood. She wants to spend time with her new girlfriend, Aracely, in public, if only Aracely wasn’t so afraid of her father. Lea wants to be a regular teen again, but the blood has made her a prisoner in her own home. Fear for her social life turns into fear for her sanity, and Lea must save herself and Aracely whatever way she can.

Book Review:

With blood oozing out of the ground,soon filing the streets, taking over life as the world knows it, and turning people into mean, and aggressive scavenging mobs, I thought Bleeding Earth was a interesting choice to post a review on for Valentine’s Day. In my own, quirk of ironic humor, I chose this YA, horror book centering on this young, lesbian teenager with this secret girlfriend as my “token” romance piece for this lover/couple fest holiday.

Besides the enjoyment reviewing a mainly horror driven book for Valentine’s Day, I was really excited to finally crack open this book. I am not a natural horror book reader so I really excited that I could get through this book pretty easily. The content of the blood and the rapid urgency of it’s danger and affect on the entire world was pretty difficult to get through at times, but the author does a great job of tampering some of the gorish details by means of filtering the spiral of civilization through the ever hopeful, love sick and wildly observant eyes of Lea.

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Dragon Springs Road By: Janie Chang | Book Review

Dragon Springs Road
By: Janie Chang
Genre: Historical,  Contemporary Fiction, Chinese Folklore, Coming of Age, Fantasy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Release Date: January 10, 2017
Synopsis:

From the author of Three Souls comes a vividly imagined and haunting new novel set in early 20th century Shanghai—a story of friendship, heartbreak, and history that follows a young Eurasian orphan’s search for her long-lost mother. That night I dreamed that I had wandered out to Dragon Springs Road all on my own, when a dreadful knowledge seized me that my mother had gone away never to return . . .

In 1908, Jialing is only seven years old when she is abandoned in the courtyard of a once-lavish estate outside Shanghai. Jialing is zazhong—Eurasian—and faces a lifetime of contempt from both Chinese and Europeans. Until now she’s led a secluded life behind courtyard walls, but without her mother’s protection, she can survive only if the estate’s new owners, the Yang family, agree to take her in.

Jialing finds allies in Anjuin, the eldest Yang daughter, and Fox, an animal spirit who has lived in the courtyard for centuries. But Jialing’s life as the Yangs’ bondservant changes unexpectedly when she befriends a young English girl who then mysteriously vanishes.

Murder, political intrigue, jealousy, forbidden love … Jialing confronts them all as she grows into womanhood during the tumultuous early years of the Chinese republic, always hopeful of finding her long-lost mother. Through every turn she is guided, both by Fox and by her own strength of spirit, away from the shadows of her past toward a very different fate, if she has the courage to accept it.

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Diverse Books, Social Justice & Intersectional Feminism | My Semi-Set 2017TBR List

semi-set-reading-list-2017

Happy Friday, fellow readers:

This is will be a short, update post on things I’ll try to cover, share and just discus on the blog this year.  After going back and forth over a list of topics, authors, genres and overall information I’ve been wanting to really submerge myself in with this new year, I decided to just put together a semi-set TBR list for the year.

One that showed specific authors’ works I wanted to read this year; my desire to read more books by female authors, my goal to read more work written by women from around the word that have been translated (WIT) on top of a personal desire to incorporate (generate) more discussion and content on my blog in regards to intersectional feminism and social justice. 

I had a full page and a half of books I looked up to check out when I found the Social Justice Book Club in the beginning of January, and I was convinced I was using up some sort of luck I had stored over the years when Bina from Wocreads created a post about her desire to create a non-fiction based diverse study group. Now when I said I screamed, I screamed! I freaked (then angered) my entire family, but it was worth it. ^_^ And now is definitely the time for the select books and reading material that’s already been lined up. 

As the year progresses, this list may (and by that I mean will) grow. I’m trying to keep an order with the list but I don’t really see myself sticking to the order I set now because I usually go for material that peaks an interest in the moment.  I do have books I have chosen to read around certain parts of the year, but like I said things can and will change.

This list below will not include material for Social Justice book club or the Diverse Study Group material but might reflect similar materials.

G. Jacks TBR 2017 Book List
And in keeping up with my attempt to fill my personal book shelf with not only non-fiction books, intersectional feminism books and books that bring even broader level of cultural content that I am both familiar and not familiar with in works of fiction and non-fiction. I will attempt to read larger portions of work by select authors. This list I’ve compiled thus far is short but just the same, I feel it’s a good place to start.
1) Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
2) Toni Morrison
3) James Baldwin
4) Audre Lorde
5) Alice Walker
6) Julia Alvarez
7) Mayra Santos Febres
8) JhumpaLahiri
Thank you so much for reading and checking out this semi-permanent TBR list for 2017. Have any suggestions for more books or authors? I’d love to hear them. If you’re interested in either the book club or group that I mentioned here today, I highly recommend that you check them out. ^_^
divstgrsocial2bjustice2bbook2bclub
 Until the next post,
Gia.

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Juliet Takes A Breath by: Gabby Rivera | Review

Juliet Takes A Breath
By: Gabby Rivera
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: LGBTQ+ fiction, YA,Contemporary, Feminism
Release Date: January 27, 2016

All of the women in my life were telling me the same thing. My story, my truth, my life, my voice, all of that had to be protected and put out into the world by me. No one else. No one could take that from me. I had to let go of my fear. I didn’t know what I was afraid of. I wondered if I’d ever speak my truth.” – Juliet Takes a Breath.

Synopsis:

Juliet Milagros Palante is leaving the Bronx and headed to Portland, Oregon. She just came out to her family and isn’t sure if her mom will ever speak to her again. But Juliet has a plan, sort of, one that’s going to help her figure out this whole “Puerto Rican lesbian” thing. She’s interning with the author of her favorite book: Harlowe Brisbane, the ultimate authority on feminism, women’s bodies, and other gay-sounding stuff.

Will Juliet be able to figure out her life over the course of one magical summer? Is that even possible? Or is she running away from all the problems that seem too big to handle? With more questions than answers, Juliet takes on Portland, Harlowe, and most importantly, herself.

Book Review:

I think the problem I had with writing this review was the fact that there was so much I wanted to say, so much that this book says, so many people out there in the world who I think needs to read and those who have simply ached for a book like this. If I could quote this entire book in this review right now, I would. As Raging Flower was to Juliet’s character, Juliet Takes A Breath will be to me.

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