Book Reviews

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“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.”

– James Baldwin
Latest Posts:
  • Book Review — Last Call (Murder on the Rocks #2) by Cathi Stoler

    Rating: 4/5

    Genre: Fiction, Murder Mystery, Amateur Slueth

    Bar None, set in the heart of New York City, is an edge-of-your-seat mystery that features It’s New Year’s Day and Jude Dillane, owner of The Corner Lounge, is cleaning up after last night’s celebration when she discovers the body of a man with a knife through his heart in the dumpster out back. She recognizes the victim immediately—it’s Michael Bevins, younger brother of her customer and neighbor, Art Bevins. Devastated, Jude becomes even more horrified when she learns that Michael is the latest victim of the New Year’s Eve Serial Killer whose horrible crimes stretch back more than twenty years. Determined to find this monster, Jude risks her life as she gathers evidence that leads her closer and closer to the killer and the staggering truth that he may be someone very close to home.

    Via the Publisher

    I was so excited to dive back into the world of Jude Dillane and The Corner Lounge. The second book in the “A Murder on the Rocks Mystery” series did not disappoint and is even faster-paced than the first in my opinion. We are reintroduced to Jude post-New Year’s Eve, after a night of serving drinks to celebrating patrons when she finds the dead body of one of those patrons in the dumpster outside. It turns out this murder is similar to previous NYE murders throughout the years and is the work of a serial killer aptly named the New Year’s Eve Serial Killer. Jude unwittingly gets swept up into the investigation because it was her chef’s knife that was used as the weapon and the killer keeps sending her threatening messages that assume she saw something.

    I was frustrated with Jude and some of the reckless situations she put herself into, but it’s not her fault that someone was targeting her. One thing that nagged me was how easy it was to shake the FBI security detail. I imagined that he would have been out of sight, out of mind but still keeping an eye out.

    What I love about these novels is the setting– the explanations of the food and drinks, the descriptions of the customers, and the New York scene are so fun. You also have characters like Jude, Sully, and Eric who are real– they are frustrating, headstrong, compassionate, and lovable. I can’t wait to read more of the series!

  • Book Review — Somebody’s Daughter: A Memoir by Ashley C. Ford
    • Genre: Memoir
    • Published by: Flatiron Books: An Oprah Book, MacMillian Audio
    • Publish date: June 1, 2021
    • Number of pages: 242 pages
    • Author’s website: http://www.ashleycford.net/
    • Support local! Buy the book on BookShop!

    For as long as she could remember, Ashley has put her father on a pedestal. Despite having only vague memories of seeing him face-to-face, she believes he’s the only person in the entire world who understands her. She thinks she understands him too. He’s sensitive like her, an artist, and maybe even just as afraid of the dark. She’s certain that one day they’ll be reunited again, and she’ll finally feel complete. There are just a few problems: he’s in prison, and she doesn’t know what he did to end up there.

    Through poverty, puberty, and a fraught relationship with her mother, Ashley returns to her image of her father for hope and encouragement. She doesn’t know how to deal with the incessant worries that keep her up at night, or how to handle the changes in her body that draw unwanted attention from men. In her search for unconditional love, Ashley begins dating a boy her mother hates; when the relationship turns sour, he assaults her. Still reeling from the rape, which she keeps secret from her family, Ashley finally finds out why her father is in prison. And that’s where the story really begins.

    Somebody’s Daughter steps into the world of growing up a poor Black girl, exploring how isolating and complex such a childhood can be. As Ashley battles her body and her environment, she provides a poignant coming-of-age recollection that speaks to finding the threads between who you are and what you were born into, and the complicated familial love that often binds them.

    -Flatiron Books

    Rating: 5/5

    Memoirs have to be one of my favorite genres to read and Ashley C. Ford tells her story and her family’s story with grace and respect for the people and places she’s writing about. At the same time, she holds a critical lens to explore her experiences in a way to both heal from and honor the memories.

    Although I did not grow up in Indiana, my father’s side of the family is from Muncie (where Ball State University is located) and Gary, Indiana. Many of them still live there and pre-COVID pandemic, I visited for “Back to Muncie” where families all come back for grilling and catching up. Driving through Muncie, you can feel the impact that the closing of auto companies had. There’s a sense of abandonment and poverty. At the same time, especially during the summer, you can drive slowly through the streets with your window down honking at, nodding at, or even stopping to chat to friendly neighbors. I could picture Ford’s upbringing in Fort Wayne and found some similarities between her family and mine.

    As the title implies, the heart of this story is Ford as a daughter of a woman with a lot of love and fear that manifests in ways that aren’t typical to the “mother” as popular media portrays mothers to be and a father who has been incarcerated for most of Ford’s life. Throughout, the memoir, we learn about Ford’s sexual assault, finding her voice, and exploring her sexuality. This a stunning and powerful memoir that I hope others enjoy as much as I did.

    Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to know!

  • Book Review — Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

    “I’m so excited to be publishing ’Ace of Spades’– a love letter to queer Black teenagers who feel powerless and alone finally finding their voices,”

    Àbíké-Íyímídé

    The tome is described as a high-octane young adult thriller that serves as “a blistering exploration of the barriers that Black students face when they aspire to things that come easily to their white classmates.”

    KARU F. DANIELS

    When two Niveus Private Academy students, Devon Richards and Chiamaka Adebayo, are selected to be part of the elite school’s senior class prefects, it looks like their year is off to an amazing start. After all, not only does it look great on college applications, but it officially puts each of them in the running for valedictorian, too.

    Shortly after the announcement is made, though, someone who goes by Aces begins using anonymous text messages to reveal secrets about the two of them that turn their lives upside down and threaten every aspect of their carefully planned futures.

    As Aces shows no sign of stopping, what seemed like a sick prank quickly turns into a dangerous game, with all the cards stacked against them. Can Devon and Chiamaka stop Aces before things become incredibly deadly?

    -Feiwel & Friends

    Rating: 5/5

    Please note that although I do not reveal the ending, this review may allude to things that could be considered a spoiler.

    Jordan Peele set the bar high with “Get Out” and we are seeing a cultural shift where anything in the horror genre that covers topics of racism is understandably being compared. (This of course is a much-welcomed shift from the history of Black characters in the horror genre. See Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror.) The comparison of this novel to Get Out is well placed, but I would argue that Àbíké-Íyímídé creates something unique as well. Peele opened the gate of taking the history of eugenics and racism in the United States and turned it on its head in Get Out, Àbíké-Íyímídé does the same by using an experience that many Black people and other people of color have experienced in school and added a thriller/horror element to it. There is a particular scene in the novel that brings up similar feelings of dread and then relief that we feel at one of the scenes at the end of Get Out.

    Horror Noire (2019) poster.jpg

    Those that have had the experience of being “the only or one of the only” Black people in their school or classroom will understand the feeling of isolation, dread, and otherness that this can bring. This impacts our mental health and can even impact our performance in school. For anyone who grew up learning about the crimes committed against Black bodies from your family; some that seem to sound like conspiracy theories until you find out they are true (okay some are conspiracies, but you can’t fault them), and reading about Henrietta Lacks, the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, and everything described in “Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty” by Dorothy Roberts will be able to figure out or at least have an inkling of what is going on in this book. For me, as soon as I saw the Get Out reference, who was being targeted, and the first few instances of the “attacks” I immediately figured it out. This does not make the book any less thrilling or engaging.

    At the heart of this, you have two teens trying to not only figure out who they are but also trying to make something of themselves. It’s all too relatable and I would have been invested in anything with characters like Chiamaka and Devon to be quite honest! They are complex and you can’t help but admire them. Adding the horror of the anonymous Aces, the twists and turns, the dread of not knowing who to trust— makes the book all the more suspenseful, amazing, and truly a piece of work that I will be recommending for years to come.

    Finally, I would be remiss not to mention, that I, like the author, went through a period of time where I was obsessed with Gossip Girl. The glitz, glamor, and drama were unlike anything I personally experienced and I’m grateful that on top of the horror genre we also get a little bit of the GG, XOXO-ness thrown in.

    Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to know!

  • Book Review — While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory

    Two people realize that it’s no longer an act when they veer off-script in this sizzling romantic comedy by New York Times bestselling author Jasmine Guillory.

    Ben Stephens has never bothered with serious relationships. He has plenty of casual dates to keep him busy, family drama he’s trying to ignore and his advertising job to focus on. When Ben lands a huge ad campaign featuring movie star Anna Gardiner, however, it’s hard to keep it purely professional. Anna is not just gorgeous and sexy, she’s also down to earth and considerate, and he can’t help flirting a little…

    Anna Gardiner is on a mission: to make herself a household name, and this ad campaign will be a great distraction while she waits to hear if she’s booked her next movie. However, she didn’t expect Ben Stephens to be her biggest distraction. She knows mixing business with pleasure never works out, but why not indulge in a harmless flirtation?

    But their lighthearted banter takes a turn for the serious when Ben helps Anna in a family emergency, and they reveal truths about themselves to each other, truths they’ve barely shared with those closest to them.

    When the opportunity comes to turn their real-life fling into something more for the Hollywood spotlight, will Ben be content to play the background role in Anna’s life and leave when the cameras stop rolling? Or could he be the leading man she needs to craft their own Hollywood ending?

    Berkley Books

    Rating: 3.5/5 stars (rounded up to 4 on Goodreads)

    Jasmine Guillory is back or it may be more appropriate to say, “we are back in the world of Jasmine Guillory!” I love this series. Not only has it provided me with diverse relationships and characters, they are also light, easy-to-read, sexy, and romantic.

    Ben works for an Ad agency and lands a big spot running the ad campaign featuring the beautiful actress, Anna. The characters develop an immediate rapport that quickly develops into more. As they learn more about each other and open up more and more, both have to decide what they truly want and what matters to them most.

    The novel follows in the same vein as Guillory’s other stories. This time we get to see Theo’s brother, Ben, in a romantic kerfuffle. We also get a few ‘hellos’ from past characters– Theo, of course, and his girlfriend Maddie. The brotherly humor is one of my favorite parts. Nik and Carlos also make a guest appearance. That being said, I do think this book could be read as a standalone. In fact, this book felt so redundant to other books in this series that I almost wanted to read this book fresh.

    Overall, I will continue to read this series as long as they keep coming out. This one just wasn’t my favorite.

    • Steamy
    • There is an open dialogue on mental illness with a main character who has anxiety and main characters who go to therapy
    • I liked that both love interests had their own issues to sort through and sub-plots that didn’t necessarily involve the other. Made of a more interesting and dynamic story.
    • Jasmine Guillory’s characters are starting to sound so alike in their thought processes and their conflict resolution. I know they are brothers, but Ben and Theo’s inner thoughts sounded like the same person to me, but when we first met Ben in The Wedding Party he seemed different. I guess that’s the point of getting to know a character better, but I don’t know.

    Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to know!

  • May Wrap-Up and June To-Be-Read (Hopefully)

    I read 19 books this month, which is so many! I was honestly shocked when I reviewed my Goodreads and counted them. I really got sucked into YA books this month and they easier for me to read quickly.

    As a summary, below are the books I read in May!

    Romance
    YA Fiction
    YA Fiction
    Fiction
    YA Fiction in verse
    Poem
    Cookbook
    Thriller Fiction
    YA Fiction
    Romance Fiction
    Mystery Fiction
    Poetry
    Non-Fiction
    YA Fiction
    Thriller Fiction
    YA Fiction
    Romance Fiction
    Fiction
    Poetry
    Essays

    These are books I have on my shelves that I want to try to get to in the month of June!

    For “Wild Child – Sommerville”‘s Book Club
    YA Fiction, Dark Academia
    For Roxane Gay’s “Audacious Book Club”
    Thriller
    For the “People Who Read Darkness” Book Club
    YA Fiction

    Have you read any of these books? I’d love to know what you thought of them! What are your hopefuls for June?

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