Book Review #36: A Blade so Black

Love the cover!

STORY:36952594
In A Blade so Black by L.L. McKinney (384 pages), after a scary night in the hospital, Alice had fully-embraced her new life as a dreamwalker, fighter of nightmares, in Wonderland. Hatta’s been training her for months at night while she still manages to live as a normal 17-year-old. Well, until Hatta’s been poisoned, and everything goes up into flames.

At times, I feel like this story is over-eager. It tries to mention all the points: grief, racism, police brutality, white allies, and not fitting the stereotypical “black” mold. I would’ve liked more focus on each subject individually instead of a quick touch and go.

Despite that, I love the way the nightmares spawn from real-life fear. For example, the connection between the black girl being gunned down and Alice’s community pumping out waves of fear. I found this aspect excitingly interesting. I would’ve loved to delve more into that as opposed to the many repetitive times Alice has to deal with her mom/sneak out. They all end the same way. Alice says sorry, leaves again and has to fake text/call to fool her mom, Mom doesn’t get fooled, and Alice gets in trouble. Rinse and repeat. I don’t mind the living a secret life trope, but I wish the instances could’ve been more varied.

I enjoyed some of the cultural moments like when Alice forgot to defrost the meat for her mom (girl, how are you still alive!?! lol), the fact Alice knew she had time because her mom was at a looong church service, the AAVE, her natural hair, etc. I hadn’t thought too much about the struggle of monster fighting with natural hair. For example, Alice bout sweated out her silk press trying to kill a monster. All of that stuff is relatable to me and made me smile when I noticed it.

Anyway, this has a slow start but when the Big Bad Boss starts messing with Alice, the real fun begins.

CHARACTERS:

“I’m protecting the world. Who’d protect me? (pg 143)”

Alice is okay. We don’t really get a lot of time to spend in her head when she’s not dealing with pain, grief, or nausea haha. I like that she has a smart mouth, and she’s bold. She’s strong but still vulnerable. I love when the characters cuddle or coo over her, and when they get the heck out the way and let her run things! SN: I love her nickname, Baby Moon.

I enjoy Hatta’s wit. I know it’s cliche, but I just love hearing (reading in this case) English people say “luv.” I like him, but I don’t know a lot of his motivations such as choosing Alice.

Eh, I didn’t care too much for Alice’s friends. They aren’t that memorable and just play their roles (best friend to cover for you; 2nd love interest). I also don’t care about pumpkin spice, not even enough for a drawn-out conversation that affirms my disdain for it (sn: to me, pumpkin spice smoothies are mad nasty ._.). And every time I’ve heard someone use Aaliyah’s “Age ain’t Nothing but a Number” in an argument (jokingly or not) some foolery has always followed.

OVERALL:
If you can wait for 100 pages, then you can really decide if this story’s for you. I definitely knew I wanted to finish this because I love fantasy and diverse fiction. But I will admit I wasn’t super eager to keep reading until after that point.

I haven’t read AiW in forever, but many of the AiW references are in name only, like literally the characters names. This will either be great or disappointing depending on what you want. The originality tho does give it a lot of room to be great and distinct.

Be aware there are some cringey moments and dialogue here and there but some nice moments too!

Yes, I may have squealed at a certain kiss scene, but one day I’ll grow up and be mature when reading about kisses. BUT TODAY IS NOT THAT DAY!

Lastly, why are y’all like this? As soon as junk gets entertaining and the stakes get high, you gotta wait for book 2. :/

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Book Review #35: Pride

Yo, this book’s presentation is wonderful. I love the cover, the inside drawings, and the poems.

STORY:
(Disclaimer: So, I’ve never read Pride and Prejudice, so I’m probably oblivious to the references, parallels, and easter eggs. I’m just taking this story as it is.)

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Pride by Ibi Zoboi (258 pages) gives me a weird feeling where I like the story but not the main character. I definitely liked Zuri standing up to undisclosed Darcy family member because I can’t stand when people know how their family is but still invite you into some negativity. Despite me not caring for Zuri, it was nice to get a basically filler/slice-of-life story. There’s no real plot behind a backdrop of gentrification and prejudice and college admissions. And that’s okay. I can just understand why a story with no goal in mind might annoy some people.

Also, I have seen smoother hate-to-love relationships, but Zuri and Darius are all right. Maybe if the length of this book had been increased I would’ve had more of an emotional connection with them. I really enjoyed Darius trying to win Zuri over in his both confident and awkward way at the diner with Carrie and Georgia. These two just needed a bit more time. I understand why Darius likes her, but why does Zuri like him if he’s everything she hates in a person? Just a little more development and I would’ve been awwing-ing at them. Not to say the pretty descriptions of long eyelashes, gentle caresses, and kisses weren’t aww-worthy. *wink*

Anyway, I liked the writing despite the many many instances of swag, stank, and hood (it’s a drinking game, guys!). The honey analogy is very cute to me.

CHARACTERS:

I loved Zuri’s family (I’m including Madrina as well). I wanted more time with her mom and papi. Janae seemed really adorable. The money-hungry and boy-crazy twins were fun too (most of the times).

On the other hand, Zuri is irritating. I’m sorry but she’s one of those people that call any black person with alternative interests outside of what society says black people can like, white. I definitely understand her valid concerns of gentrification (I’ve seen it too in my own town). But, in general, why do you feel like you have to prove something!?! She’s always assuming and questioning people! Let’s do 20 questions with you, Zuri, since you know everything. It’s sort of hinted Zuri makes quick judgments since people have judged her family all her life (like, automatically assuming they’re fatherless because her mom has a horde of kids) but not taken seriously. It’s definitely okay if she’s the type of person that hates to apologize, but she couldn’t accept this fact during a heart-to-heart conversation.

To be honest, Darius is my favorite character. I know Zuri thinks he’s uppity, but he just seems awkward to me. Like, back at the bodega, he didn’t know he was supposed to acknowledge those guys ( a big no, no in the south because you’re supposed to speak to people (especially at family gatherings)). Now, straight-up ignoring them is dumb but I think he was just… awkward. If he did acknowledge them, they probably would have roasted him but at least been open to a friendship.

Ainsley, Colin, and Charlise were kind of just there. I barely know anything about Darius and Ainsley’s parents.

Forget about Warren. He went as quickly as he came.

Carrie was weird.  You are supposed to feel a certain way about her at first, but then there’s a kneejerk change to make you feel another way. Maybe it was to show hidden depths, but it happened way too fast for me.

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OVERALL:
This is a firm 3/5 for me.

I enjoyed the New York setting, Zuri’s family, and, to an extent, Zuri and Darius’ relationship. But I just couldn’t get into judgmental Zuri. Like chick, you really do need to sit down. If someone’s looking down on you, you’re going to know, so don’t just assume.

Pride has a decent look at duality, and even though I can’t stand Zuri, I do get where she’s coming from. Let this story be a reminder that everyone (read: black people) doesn’t have to be the same or from your neighborhood for you to like them *cough cough Zuri* In addition, if you don’t want to be painted as an uppity, spineless dude, then make an effort to communicate and see things from others point of view, actually stand up for your friends and admit when you’re wrong  *cough cough Darius*

Well, those are my thoughts. If you like modern retellings of classical literature and a relatively quick read, then go for it!

Book Review 34: Rosario (Mia Keys Book 1)

Hey everyone, back with another review! I’ve been swamped with logarithms and powerpoints and a plethora of other boring, school-related things. Still, I managed to finish this today.

First of all, that cover’s beautiful! Love it.

39103341STORY:

“It’s my belief that we don’t always need to feel the heat on our hand to know the fire burns[…] Sometimes, seeing others in pain is all the motivation we need to not do, or sometimes, to do something (location 400).”

In Rosario by J. Kenyarta (ebook; less than a 100 pages), Mia Keys has just released her high school class for the day and lost her wallet. While walking home, she finds three things: her wallet, an old friend of her fiancé, Levi, and that her fiancé is in some serious trouble. Of course, all this rigamarole requires a journey to Rosario in central Argentina.

Rosario is more plot-driven than character-driven. No filler so action starts quickly.

What exactly drove Mia to go all the way to Argentina? Maybe Alejandro’s been so ingrained in her life that she just needs to see his lips move one more time or to see his eyebrow twitch before she believes he will be fine. Okay, the romantic in me is talking now.

I know this isn’t a romance, but love’s the catalyst, right? Mia should’ve had a flashback/memory of Alejandro,  for example, if he was the one who consoled her in his arms after that incident at school or he met her in college and encouraged her to become a teacher because kids need someone like her. Then, I would have been like let’s find Alejandro! Girl, go get your man! Because there was a lack of development, I just didn’t have an emotional connection to Alejandro or Mia’s need to save him.

On the other hand, I think the story’s strength is really in its action scenes. One of the best parts is when Mia has a huge realization. It’s fast-paced and exciting to read about a narrowly-missed bullet, fun banter, and quick-thinking. Let’s go, Mia, action hero!

SN: A minor nitpick with the Spanish. Isn’t it more likely they would call Mia an estaoudinese than americana? Also, some words needed accent marks, like, sí without the í is “if” (sí=yes, si= if). They’re in Argentina, so I’m surprised there were no mentions of vos/sos.

CHARACTERS:

Mia’s definitely for justice, honesty, and non-violence whenever applicable. It’s great that she upholds integrity so highly, but just once I wanted her to have a raw reaction like cursing out Alejandro for putting her through all this. She’s just too perfect, but I suppose that’s the nature of action heroes. Like, if you walking away from explosions without a scratch, then you’re not human. I’m looking at you, American blockbusters. Back on topic, I don’t really know much about Mia besides her skills and job. It’s cool to have a soft-spoken hero that can hold her own though.

Levi’s kind of just there to guide Mia along.

Gianna was a textbook villain.

OVERALL:

Go ahead and read this!

If you need a quick read while in the doctor’s office or a novella on a rainy day, then here you go. No convoluted plotline just good action.

Review 33: Song of Blood & Stone

First, what a beautiful cover! As far as book presentation, I am impressed. The little folktales before each chapter are fun and not distracting. I even like the size of the hardcover book, the way it fits in my hands, and the slightly and purposely jagged edges.

This is a New Adult book, a change of pace from the usual YA and middle-grade I read. There are adult situations (politics, sex, sense of duty, etc) present in the book as well as this review.

36347830STORY:

“…They battled forces much more powerful than themselves. She could only hope those forces wouldn’t win” (pg 244).

In Song of Blood & Stone (Earthsinger Chronicles #1) by L. Penelope (372 pages), Jasminda is half-Lagrimari from her father and half-Elsiran from her mother, who was disowned by her family. Lagramari are treated like dirt with pronounced distaste. Jasminda, living a quiet farm life, manages to avoid most of the country people’s scrutiny until a fateful day. After going to the post office, a relatively-dying soldier in the enemy’s clothes, Jack, needs her help. This chance meeting sets many events into motion and unveils a powerful past.

Heads up. There’s an attempted sexual assault moment around pg 60. It’s really unnecessary and serves no purpose but to point out the bad guys. Also, it’s never mentioned again and has no long-lasting effects on the character who experienced it.

The story’s told through Jasminda and Jack’s alternating perspectives, which is fine. In the background, Jasminda can see visions of a past earthsong couple and her songless twin. Unfortunately, I wondered when did the visions become more compelling than the actual story. On a side note, you can notice some real-life parallels fairly easy.

Also, okay, there’s a teensy amount of cringe/ultra dramatic-ness in Jasminda and Jack’s first interaction.

“With great effort, she pulled away from the impossible temptation of his body” (pg 40).

“The intensity in his expression dissolved her creeping sorrow, bringing instead a pang of yearning.”

Concerning the romance, I’ll admit maybe Jack and Jasminda’s attraction happened rather quickly. But they’re not proclaiming their undying love, so it’s cool, right? They respect each other and think the other is very attractive. Also, some onesided dry- humping ensures until later.

“Molten longing pooled between her legs” (pg 211).

Lose his sanity? devoured his mouth? her scent driving him crazy? his hardness? is this a fanfiction!?!

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jk… Okay, I’m just poking harmless fun. I know I can’t write love scenes and it stops being cringy after a while. xD If the love scenes were hardcore with all the real names of the reproductive organs, I would be acting like a total shy kid.

CHARACTERS:

“Do what you think you can’t” (pg 24).

I understand that Jasminda’s been pretty beaten up in life dealing with prejudiced country and city folk, but she’s a little bland. It’s like she just reacts to her surroundings but doesn’t have strong feelings about it. (ex: oh, I have to protect myself? pull out knife. we can’t be friends? cries…)

Jack is okay. Just okay.

My favorite characters had to be Yllis and Oola.

You know who was really interesting that I wanted to see more of? Grandad! Vanesse and the other Elsiran family members too. I also want to know more about Jasminda’s family, her daddy and the twins.

OVERALL:

I don’t know.  Everything just wrapped together too nicely. Not a lot transpired in this book for the longest. The bulk of the story is world-building, Jack and Jasminda, and some visions. Of course, it’s understandable being the first book of a trilogy (?).

Yes, insta-love is present. He’s her whole heart after a week and two sex sessions? I’m assuming more relationship development happens offscreen since Jack knew about her aunt, and I don’t remember that conversation (possibly forgot or skimmed over it).

The entire earthsong story and power is my absolute favorite part, so I muddled through the star-crossed lovers drama and whatnot. The female deity and folklore are equally interesting parts as well. If you’re into fantasy in general, I recommend it. If you’re seeking action or slow-burn romance, look elsewhere.

STILL, I’mma rock with it to book 2. Somehow I think since all the expository, world-building writing’s out of the way, we can get into the real meat of the story. ^^

2.5 stars out of 5, but let’s round it up to 3!

Thanks for reading!

Book Review 31: When Dimple Met Rishi

 “She’d seen what his soul was made of. And she liked it” (pg 367).

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When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon (380 pages). First, I really liked the cover (and the controversial “iced coffee” back cover) and the rom-com flare though I’ve to say I got tired of the constant kissing. You have to drizzle kisses into a story like sprinkle cheese, not too much. On another note, I just loved Dimple’s name; it’s so cute.

There’s not much focus on the actual coding that takes place (it’s lampshaded by Dimple herself). Instead, living up to parents’ expectations, back-and-forth with Dimple/Rishi, and a dance contest takes up the bulk of the book. If you don’t mind the lack of coding, you will probably enjoy the non-linear plot.

Also, I was amazed at YA fiction characters communicating about sex before having it, and even putting it off to a later date.

CHARACTERS:
Disclaimer: Yes, we know Dimple “took over too much”, can’t keep her fists to herself, and basically played yo-yo with her relationship. And thought she was a special snowflake. It’s understood.

Dimple is a brash character that still is likable in some portions of the book. It’s really hard to pull off characters like her because they usually come off as edgy jerks. However, that’s not entirely the case here. If some of her narrative thoughts could’ve been tweaked a little, I think more readers would have liked her.

Rishi is a cinnamon roll. It’s super-refreshing to have a male (romantic) lead, in a genre filled with angsty bad boys who can’t communicate, that speaks his mind and is kind in a gentleman sort-of-way. I actually wanted him to find another girl who suited him better. Dimple, of course, wanted the best for him, but she forced him to make decisions often.

OVERALL:
I didn’t hate this story. I rather liked some of the details and descriptions and diverse characters. Whoa. That’s a lot of “d” words. Anyway, I don’t feel as strongly as others, so I recommend you read it. 3 stars/5.

[SPOILERS START HERE]

Continue reading “Book Review 31: When Dimple Met Rishi”

Book Review #28: Calling My Name

33829748Aye! I’m always excited for new fiction with black leads!

STORY:

“‘You can’t control everything, Taja,’ Daddy says in a soft voice, eyes closed to the sun.

‘I know, Daddy. But I can control a lot.'” (pg 227).

Calling My Name by Liara Tamani (384 pages) explores Taja Brown’s life. It is something of a fictional biography of a young, African-American girl growing up in a conservative Christian background from childhood to adulthood. Of course, you can expect first kisses, periods, and dealings with f*boys.

I think it is a good read if you enjoy “slice-of-life/coming of age” stories. However, the writing is so flowery that I get confused often.

I can emphasize with Taja’s upbringing as I have grown up in a Christian home as well though my parents weren’t overbearing with our faith.

Still, unfortunately, the narrative of an ultra-conservative character usually isn’t that fun.

One of my favorite parts is when Taja feels guilty for reminding her father about a promised birthday present. That is a really relatable moment when you first feel “child guilt” because you know your parents don’t have the money but you want something.

Also, I realized mid-way through the story that this is set somewhere between 80’s-90’s. Some of the references are dated like them listening to Johnny Gill. Chile, who out here listening to JG?

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Okay, okay… I’m one of those people. XDsoul train life of new edition GIF by BET

A few days ago I was just listening to Johnny Gill’s old Arsenio Hall performances. (yes, I know the gif is from Soul Train).

CHARACTERS:

Not too many characters were memorable. I enjoyed the glimpses we saw of Taja’s family and would have liked a bit more beyond her mother always disciplining her.

Taja is cool, but she is very whiny and a bit annoying in her narrative.

Naima, Taja’s younger sister, is a character that I wished we could have seen more of. Unlike Taja, she’s more sure of herself. Taja and Naima’s sister relationship is barely displayed save for a few conversations in their older years.

Damon, the older brother, was okay. I like how he tried to overcompensate for his thinning headline at 15.

OVERALL:

This isn’t a book I would necessarily read again, but it is nice experiencing Taja’s adolescence with her.

Mini Review: #8 Not Now, Not Ever

33602144It’s been a million years or at least a frozen period of time since a review.

College has really turned up (not turnt up; there’s a subtle difference :p) the difficulty level in some classes.

Anyway, this review is based on the ARC (Advance Reader Copy), which I won in a Goodreads giveaway. This book comes out November 21st!

Also, I have never seen/read Much Ado about Nothing so even though this is a retelling of it, I was new to it all… 😛

STORY:

“I took in a breath so deep that it burned the back of my throat, killing a sob before it could start. I could taste the eucalyptus baked into my sweater” (pg 90).

Perhaps, not the best quote to start a review with, but it embodies the wonderfully quirky vibe of this book well. Also, I really love the trivia/language/sci-fi bits that are constantly present.

The premise of  Not Now, Not Ever by Lily Anderson (320 pages) is about a teen going to a genius camp with elimination games as a way to win a scholarship to her dream college. This college is important for Elliot Garboche to take control of her destiny instead of being pigeonholed into to enlisting in the army like her mother or becoming a lawyer like her father and step-mother desire her to be. Of course, Ever can’t let her overbearing family members know her true intentions to break away from the mold, so she lies and goes to the camp under the guise of Ever Lawrence. Getting into the camp was easy but staying is harder than ever!

The romance is in the background and any progress between Ever and Brandon is slow. Depending on who you are, that might be a great quality this story exhibits. For me, I don’t mind the slow start and the focus on the camp itself, but the romance isn’t aww-worthy (i.e. no fangirling moments).

Well… The first kiss scene was incredibly cheesy, but the line, “He smiled. ‘I really like you, Elliot” warmed my little young adult heart.

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CHARACTER:

This book has some nice diversity considering the genius camp has contestants from every race and background. For example, the main character Ever has significant Creole ancestry.

Eh, my first impression of Elliot (better known as Ever) was a bit prickly. I thought she was a little combative against a counselor named Cornell in their first meeting. Throughout the story, lowkey Ever needed to mind her own business. What’s it to you that someone didn’t solve a Rubik’s cube? Anyway, she was mad intrusive and a bit judgemental, though the latter is a very common realistic trait she wasn’t a character that I actually liked. I think the reason that particular personality trait turned me off is because I try my hardest not to assume things about people (despite it being a knee-jerk human behavior).

However, I like that Ever was very confident about herself especially being a tall girl who did martial arts and loved sci-fi books, especially Octavia Butler.

The rest of the cast never really stood out to me. I’m sure others will connect with the quirky, competitive array of characters, but I was not personally invested in them.

OVERALL:

“Do you ever miss things before they’re over?” (pg 174)

It’s certainly worth a read. Not Now, Not Ever is also a fun way to learn a bunch of cool trivia with a tiny bit of mystery and romance.

The ending also had a good dash of realism because sometimes YA-fiction, in general, can end either downright angsty or too fairytale happily-ever-after-ish.