Friday, December 2, 2022

Jump in by Shadra Strickland

Welcome Back Booklovers! I'm often looking for picture books for my nieces and nephews and when I find them I wanna share them with the world. So Bloomsbury sent me an arc of a new picture book that has officially been nephew approved.

Jump In! is a book that through beautiful illustrations highlights a community at play on a warm summer day. The kids are outside jumping rope like how my friends and I used to as a child. Even some of the elders in the neighborhood jump in to show off their moves! We need more picture books like this one where Black kids can just be.

Monday, November 28, 2022

A Valentine for Christmas by Reese Ryan

Welcome Back, Booklovers! If you've been reading WOC Read for awhile you've probably come across one of my Reese Ryan reviews. She's one of those authors I always keep an eye out for. And if your looking for something for the grown folks she delivers.

Chandra and Julian meet on a plane where Chandra is terrified and we get a very cute moment with him comforting her. Both are headed to the small town of Magnolia Lake to meet up with family members they haven't spent time with in awhile. After a couple of run ins the two decide that while they're both in town they might as well make the most of it.

This series is a spinoff of The Bourbon Brothers series where we followed the Abbott family. It was nice to see them make cameos in this book as we got introduced to their long lost cousins The Valentines. Abbott "Ray" Valentine has purchased and plans to renovate a vineyard originally owned by his family and he's attempting to get his children on board. And because it's our introduction to them we get a fair amount of the Valentine siblings in this story. Chandra is the eldest daughter who had to take on a mother figure role for them so they're all fiercely protective of her. Just like the Abbott family readers will fall in love and love to hate some of them. 

Chandra and Julian were more on the cusp of age gap then actual age gap. He's 30 years old and she's 39 years old. But the way a big deal was made out of it you'd think she was 49 years old. I understand what was attempting to be done with the age gap but they were too close in age. 

I also wanted some holiday spirit. Harlequin had Christmas in the title but Christmas only got a passing mention on page. This truly could've been set during any time of the year.

There was some conflict that came in towards the end where I wasn't really a fan of the execution because it was rushed. I think if it would started a little bit earlier it would've gone over smoother.

Overall Chandra and Julian's chemistry kept me reading. Reese Ryan is very good at writing grown and sexy and sexy characters. And I'm excited for Naya's book and hope it's next!

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

The Scourge Between Stars by Ness Brown

Welcome Back, Booklovers! For November I needed a book that was a change from my normal reads and I've been really trying to get into more sci-fi books and the blend of sci-horror along with the shorter length was enough to get me to pick up The Scourge Between Stars. Thanks you to Tor Nightfire for sending me an arc.

After failing to colonize another planet the remnants of that mission have been wandering through space with hopes of returning back to Earth. Starvation seems like their biggest threat until a mysterious alien species infiltrates their ship Calypso, and starts causing death and destruction. First mate Jacklyn must assume captain duties and figure out how to keep the rest of the ship alive.

I was beginning to wonder if I'm just not an SFF novella person because it's been awhile since I read once I enjoyed. However this pulled me in. It felt like a full length novel in the right way. It's an approachable sci-fi read with a set up that felt real. I think the author's background in astrophysics helped. It's a simple concept that's been done before but Ness Brown manages to hit the right levels of emotion while not solely relying on atmosphere to carry the story. And the ending leaves you with a sense of hope while leaving room for much more.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Interview with Author A.J. Locke

Welcome Back, Booklovers! I'm welcoming back author AJ Locke to WOC Read with some updates on her current and upcoming projects and some helpful writing advice.

Does it get easier writing a series after the first book where the world is set up or do you find it more challenging?

It’s a mix of both, to be honest. I love continuing a series when I’ve already done the heavy lifting establishing my characters and world building. It makes certain things easier because you get to build on things, you can still add new things, and it’s great to get back into the heads of characters you already know well. But it can also be challenging because you want to keep each book in the series fresh and interesting in its own way, you don’t want to repeat storylines, and you want to make sure you’re continuing to develop your characters and the ups and downs of their interpersonal relationships well. I enjoy writing series because it’s a lot of fun to keep expanding your world, deepening your lore, and giving your characters new challenges.

How do you decide if a new story idea is worth pursuing?

A lot of times I get interesting ideas and I might jot them down and make some notes, but the interest doesn’t always last. When something really takes hold to the point where I’m writing scenes in my head, I know it’s something I need to spend some time with. I’ll start figuring out characters and plot, and seeing if there is something there I can create an entire story around. I’m solidly “team plotter” these days, so if I’m able to take an idea all the way to an outline, that seals the deal.

I noticed you put little nods to Caribbean heritage in your stories. Would you ever write a full out Caribbean inspired fantasy?

I would absolutely love to. It’s always in the back of my head to write a fantasy novel set in Trinidad and Tobago. We have a lot of amazing folklore I would like to explore. I know the right idea is going to find me one day.

What can we expect from Magic Legendary, Magic Rogue?

Ooh, what I can say that’s not too spoilery! Well, we are going to see Penn grow into her magical power, which is something I’m excited about. We’ll get to see some of the magical elements from Magic Dark, Magic Divine on the page, as well as some new things. With the way MDMD ends, I think readers should expect the world around Penn to be a bit different, and that was a lot of fun for me to play with. There are also some interesting things going on with Callan, Toji, and Gideon that sets up challenges for them if the series continues. 

Why did you decide to try Kindle Vella?

It just kept coming back to me that I wanted to try it. I was intrigued by the idea of publishing a story in serial format. I thought it would be interesting to see what kind of audience my stories might reach. Can’t know until you try, right? So when I finally got an idea for a story I felt would work on that platform I took it as a sign that it was time to jump in.

When you post stories on Kindle Vella do you write the entire story ahead of time or do you start with some of it and write as you go along?

I write the entire story ahead of time. Even though I outline, my ideas always evolve as I write, so I might establish something in episode one that I change my mind about in episode ten, so if I’ve already published episode one, it would make it a very frustrating process for me. It works much better to complete the story, edit it, fix plot holes, incorporate new ideas, flesh scenes out, etc, before I publish.

Was this your first venture into self-publishing or have you self-published in the past?

This is my first solid venture into self-publishing. Self-publishing can be very daunting so I’m glad for a platform like Vella where you can put your story out there bit by bit.

Would you ever republish your Reanimation Files series?

Yes! There are four books in that series, and I hope to continue it, so I am going to get them back out there. I already had a new cover made for Affairs of the Dead that's really lovely. I was hoping to re-publish Affairs this year, but other projects took precedence, and before I put the books out again I want to give them a refresh. I wrote Affairs of the Dead about ten years ago, so there’s something to be said about reading it today and seeing ways I can bring the manuscript up to my current writing style. But I have realized that it is easier to write a new project than it is to revise an old one! So refreshing Affairs of the Dead has been slow going, but I have been working on it. I want to say I will definitely get it re-published in 2023. Fingers crossed. 

How do you balance working on multiple writing projects at once?

Only recently have I been able to work on multiple things at once without feeling overwhelmed, and that’s because I’ve gotten better with time management. It’s as simple as saying I’ll spend the first two weeks of the month on project A and the last two on project B and stick to that so I can make progress without feeling pulled in too many directions. If I’m on deadline for something it makes me feel as though that’s the project I have to focus on over others, but I’ve been able to work things out in a manageable way. 

Any other projects you want to talk about?

I am really excited about the book I just finished, which is an historical fantasy heavily inspired by Wuthering Heights. Hopefully that will be a project I can share good news about one day. I’m in the final stretch with Legendary/Rogue edits and that’s coming out in April. And I’m also publishing two stories on Vella, The Vanish Witch and Elemental Inferno, and I think I’ll be putting more work out on that platform in the coming months. 

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Somebody That I Used to Know by Dana L Davis

Welcome Back, Booklovers! Honestly October was feeling kind of slumpy and I didn't end up reading much. But then I started reading this book on the second to last day of the month that renewed my fervor for reading.

Dylan lives in Iowa but yearns for the day she can leave her small town and move to New York. She knows Julliard is her destiny. It's the only school she applied to and if she practices violin hard enough she can nail that audition. What she doesn't expect is her childhood best friend turned R&B superstar, Legendary to come back into her life after years of ignoring her. Legend has gotten himself into some trouble and was placed under a conservatorship so he makes a deal with Dylan to grant her a place to stay for her Julliard audition if she helps him prove to his mother that he's still the same boy she used to know.

It was refreshing to read a story that felt like it was written for Black teens. While the Black girl was the only Black girl but it wasn't the gist of the entire story and time wasn't spent exploring her being the first or suffering through microaggressions on every page. When race was addressed it felt more for the Black girls who are growing up in very white environments vs trying to teach white readers something about race. Dylan is a transracial adoptee and the struggles with growing up with a family of a different race is so well done here. Her family loves her fiercely and she loves them but sometimes she feels out place when people stare at her when they're out together. Dylan wears colored contacts and extensions to fit in and she's struggling to feel pretty especially compared to the gorgeous Instagram models Legend surrounds himself with.

Dylan loves classical music. But her love of classical music isn't used to set her apart from the other girls. Instead she and Legend use their love of music to collaborate and create a very cool audition piece blending old styles with new. Readers follow along as they rekindle their friendship and discover new things about themselves. The romance in this book is slow- burn but well paced enough to keep you turning the pages. 

About Me

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Lover of food and lore. I'm always looking to get lost in my next adventure between the pages.