Tuesday, August 9, 2022

National Book Lover's Day Haul

Welcome Back, Booklovers! Today is a day to celebrate the readers and their favorite books. So I'm doing something a little different on here today and telling you about the books I recently hauled. And maybe you'll find some new ones to add to your TBR.

The Davenports

The Davenports are one of the few Black families of immense wealth and status in a changing United States, their fortune made through the entrepreneurship of William Davenport, a formerly enslaved man who founded the Davenport Carriage Company years ago. Now the Davenports live surrounded by servants, crystal chandeliers, and endless parties, finding their way and finding love—even where they’re not supposed to.

There is Olivia, the beautiful elder Davenport daughter, ready to do her duty by getting married . . . until she meets the charismatic civil rights leader Washington DeWight and sparks fly. The younger daughter, Helen, is more interested in fixing cars than falling in love—unless it’s with her sister’s suitor. Amy-Rose, the childhood friend turned maid to the Davenport sisters, dreams of opening her own business—and marrying the one man she could never be with, Olivia and Helen’s brother, John. But Olivia’s best friend, Ruby, also has her sights set on John Davenport, though she can’t seem to keep his interest . . . until family pressure has her scheming to win his heart, just as someone else wins hers.

Inspired by the real-life story of C.R. Patterson and his family, The Davenports is the tale of four determined and passionate young Black women discovering the courage to steer their own path in life—and love.

Zo and the Forest of Secrets

When Zo decides to run away from home, she isn’t scared – she knows the forest like the back of her hand, after all. But, as she journeys through the once-familiar landscape, she encounters terrifying creatures and a warped version of the mythology of the island. With a beast on her heels, and a mysterious abandoned facility at the heart of the forest drawing her in, can Zo unravel the secrets of the forest before she is lost in them forever?

The Lightcasters

Twelve-year-old Mia McKenna has grown up in the darkness. It’s all she’s ever known, and she finds comfort in it. Like nearly all the cities in the Kingdom of Lunis, her home of Nubis was plunged into a forever night years ago by the shadowy Reaper King—a figure now only known in nightmares, a cautionary tale warning children to stay safe inside the tall city walls.

But all that changes when a mysterious cult storms Nubis, capturing everyone with the ability to protect it—including her parents, the rest of the umbra tamers, and their mystical, powerful creatures made of shadow and starlight.

Now, Mia and her brother, Lucas, are the city’s only hope of survival, and Mia must learn to harness her umbra taming abilities to stand any chance of saving her city and rescuing her parents. If she can’t, she’ll lose her soul, and her family, to the Darkness forever.

Someone Had to Do It

Brandi Maxwell is living the dream as an intern at prestigious New York fashion house Simon Van Doren. Except “living the dream” looks more like scrubbing puke from couture dresses worn by hard-partying models and putting up with microaggressions from her white colleagues. Still, she can’t help but fangirl over Simon’s it-girl daughter, Taylor. Until one night, at a glamorous Van Doren party, when Brandi overhears something she shouldn’t have, and her fate becomes dangerously intertwined Taylor’s.
Model and influencer Taylor Van Doren has everything…and is this close to losing it all. Her fashion mogul father will donate her inheritance to charity if she fails her next drug test, and he’s about to marry someone nearly as young as Taylor, further threatening her stake in the family fortune. But Taylor deserves the money that’s rightfully hers. And she’ll go to any lengths to get it, even if that means sacrificing her famous father in the process.
All she needs is the perfect person to take the fall…

You So Black

Based on Theresa Wilson’s (a.k.a. Theresa tha S.O.N.G.B.I.R.D.’s) beautiful, viral spoken word poem of the same name, You So Black is a picture book celebration of the richness, the nuance, and the joy of Blackness.
Black is everywhere, and in everything, and in everyone—in the night sky and the fertile soil below. It’s in familial connections and invention, in hands lifted in praise and voices lifted in protest, and in hearts wide open and filled with love. Black is good.

Monday, August 8, 2022

The Undead Truth of Us by Britney S. Lewis

Welcome Back, Booklovers! We're getting closer to the end of summer and it's time to read the books that will transition us into the fall season.  The Undead Truth of Us has a cover that draws inspiration from The Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh. And you'll find at times this story possesses Van Gogh's same energy where you never know quite what to expect. This book was sent to me for review by Disney Books and Britney S. Lewis.

Zharie believes her mother turned into zombie before her death and she's been seeing zombies ever since. Now she's navigating life after her mother's death which includes living with her aunt who is barely around because she's busy working. And she's curious about the father who never wanted to be part of her life. With a little help from the boy who lives in the apartment upstairs she slowly finds herself reopening up to the world.

This book is best if you don't approach it as a zombie horror book. I went in thinking it was a zombie book and soon realized this wasn't a horror/fantasy book. While the book does have zombies the zombies are a metaphor for the baggage she's holding. So I adjusted my expectations to enjoy it for what is was. 

Zharie is a girl who is trying to figure things out after losing a big piece of herself. She's closed herself off from the parts of her life which include the love of dance she and her mother shared. 

Thought there is a love interest this isn't a romance. I liked that Bo encouraged Zharie to experience joy and brought her out to spend time with his friends. He let's her feel free to be open and process her emotions while being that supportive person for her. And he has some insightful thoughts about what it means to be a family.

I wish the exploration of family with her aunt and biological father would've come into play sooner in the story so it didn't feel as rushed to work through it at the end. There was so much for Zharie to talk out with both of them.

There were also parts of this that felt a little trippy as dream sequences and illusions blurred the lines of reality. This book is a quiet exploration of grief, love, family, and friendship. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

A Girl's Guide to Love and Magic by Debbie Rigaud

Welcome Back, Booklover! We are in the dog days of summer and the kids will be going back to school in a couple of weeks if they haven't started already. So A Girl's Guide to Love and Magic drops at the perfect time as the main character Cecily is starting another school year and Labor Day marks the last big celebration to end summer.

Labor Day is also Cecily's birthday and she's so excited for the West Indian Day Parade. She's got the cutest outfit picked out to match her best friend. Best of all, her influencer auntie is interviewing one of her favorite artists, Papash. The day seems to good to be true and then her aunt ends up possessed by a spirit named Ezru. Cecily enlists the help of her friend Renee and her crush as they go on an adventure around Brooklyn gathering items needed to cast the spirit out of Tati Mimose in time for her big interview.

As a Haitian-American Cecily is navigating her connection to vodou. Her aunt is a priestess but her mother wants to keep her away from it. Her best friend who is Trinidadian also has some unsure feelings about it. This book does a great job exploring all the feelings towards what is a taboo subject in Caribbean culture. Some authors might've taken the vodou concept and spun into a fantasy tale but Debbie Rigaud plays it straight. Which I appreciated because even though it seems a little magic it's not considered magic in the culture. And I like that she also used comparisons to Catholicism showing how rituals within the Catholic church are considered acceptable while similar rituals in vodou are looked down on.

There's also feelings Caribbean American children have to unpack about their culture. Especially ones who've never visited the islands or have no visited in a long time. And this book also addresses that pride for the culture while also feeling a disconnect in some ways. And I love how the older people in the community were involved in this story. Every island has their own version of Carnival and while this book touched on a few of those it also showcased the unique way they come together in Brooklyn to keep traditions alive for the next generation. And though it looks much different from the carnivals of yester-year the heart is still there.

Overall this was a fast-paced read about family, faith, friendship, and first crushes. There's a lot to love about this story especially for the Caribbean American girls who are sure to see pieces of themselves, friends, and family sprinkled throughout the story.

Friday, July 29, 2022

Platinum Diaries by K. August Rose

Welcome Back, Booklovers! I was excited to read Platinum Diaries because besides the pretty cover the blurb was giving me remnants of older YA urban fantasy. And I was intrigued by how it bring that into 2022 along with how the root-working grandmother and psychic dreams would play out. It being self published also intrigued me because of the freedom self-publishing provides to tell whatever stories without having to make it overly commercial. So I signed up to received an arc from the author for review.

Sayra has started a new school year and is upset when she's booted from her assigned parking space in favor of returning school golden boy Conrad Bishop. Conrad has returned after an accident and wears white gloves and is adverse to touch. His strange behavior is alarming but makes him even more popular at school. He and Sayra are enemies due to past incidents which include him accidentally pushing her down the stairs. One night Sayra has a dream about a mysterious man being murdered that shakes her to her core. Sayra's dreams always come true. Determined to prevent it from happening Sayra enlists the help of her best friends and grandmother. 

I thought the stuff with the family was done very well. Sayra has a connection to her grandmother who is also gifted. Her grandmother is a root work practitioner who offers her guidance throughout the story. Her parents are very involved trying to understand her dreams as well as keep her safe. Even though they clashed at times they were always able to talk it out and you could feel the love between them.

Sayra has a serious case of not like other girls going on which is a remnant of older YA that needs to stay in the past. She's not like the other girly girls at her school because she fixes cars. Well it's talked about how she enjoys tinkering with cars. We mostly see her on her bike or riding around with others since she can't drive her car to school every day. She's not wealthy like them because her parents are a doctor and an author.  And doesn't like to wear makeup like the other girls.

And speaking of makeup she just puts on some gloss and puts a little effort into her hair and transforms into some sort of goddess on earth the boys at school can't resist. After hearing so much about how awkward her height is and how the boys don't pay her attention the switch flips and suddenly every boy and some grown men are waxing poetic about how stunning she is.

There's plenty of drama to keep this story moving as they try to prevent the murder. Though sometimes the story slows down a little too much in favor of showing the day to day at the school. Despite some pacing issues at some points where it just seemed like the mystery was being dragged out I was mostly satisfied by Platinum Dreams. That is until around the 95% mark where the sole Black boy character we're introduced to and barely got to see on page was unnecessarily thrown under the bus with some harmful stereotypes. Sayra goes to very white private school. Readers are told multiple times that there's only 11 Black kids in the entire school. In a book with a lot of bad white characters and equally favored ones it was a strange decision.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

The Sevenfold Hunters by Rose Egal

Welcome Back, Booklovers! I'm not usually a sci-fi girl but I spent the past weekend in fictional London at Carlisle Academy where things aren't exactly what they seem. This series starter lured me in with hints of mystery surrounding an elite school and promises of alien hunting. I received an arc from Page Street of this unique debut.

The Sevenfold Hunters is a dual pov YA sci-fi that follows Artemis and Abyan, two girls from similar parts of London who've been living very different lives. 

Artemis has been living a fairly normal life up until a few months ago when her boyfriend was killed after they were attacked by the Nosaru on an outing. Since then she's been trying to unravel the mystery surrounding Carlisle Academy which appears to be an elite private school with a stricter admissions process than Oxford and Cambridge.

Abyan and the rest of her crew are still grieving the loss of beloved teammate Jared who was killed by the Nosaru, vampire like aliens. As if Abyan needed one more reason to be out to destroy them. Losing a teammate was bad enough but now school administration is pushing her team to move on and has brought in newbie Artemis as a replacement. 

While there are some hints of  romance it was refreshing that romance didn't overshadow the rest of the story. Friendship shines in this book with the Sevenfold being a tight knit team finding themselves torn apart after Jared's death. Readers often get told characters are friends in books with large casts but we don't always see those relationships played out well on page. The Sevenfold banter with each other on a day to day basis and we see the ways in which the team is disconnected because of their grief. Newcomer Artemis finds it hard to fit in with the crew because they don't like that she's replacing Jared and they're even more suspicious when they find out she's his ex girlfriend. It doesn't help that she's terrible at fighting and she's discovering new things about herself.

As much as I love a loud badass sometimes it's nice to see a protagonist with quiet strength which we see here with Abyan. She's an elite fighter but doesn't constantly have to shout it from the rooftops, which makes her an ideal leader for the crew. Though she has her moments where her own agendas get in the way of missions there's a realistic fallout from that.

I will say the fights felt a bit breezed through when they faced off with the Nosaru and I wanted to linger a little bit more to really feel the impact. But the revelations at the end of this book have me ready to see how the Sevenfold are impacted in book 2 and this was a solid start the series.

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. https://ko-fi.com/mswocreader