Spoiler Free Review: Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden

Title: Winter Counts

Author: David Heska Wanbli Weiden

Pub. Date: August 25th 2020

Genre: Adult Fiction

Format: Audiobook

Publisher: Ecco

Pages: 336pages/8 hours & 17 minutes

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“What I’d discovered was that sadness is like an abandoned car left out in a field for good—it changes a little over the years, but doesn’t ever disappear. You may forget about it for a while, but it’s still there, rusting away, until you notice it again.” – Winter Counts

Set on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, we follow Virgil Wounded Horse a local enforcer as he delivers justice. The American legal system and the tribal council can’t be relied upon for cases of rape, petty drugs, kidnapping or domestic violence. Virgil makes a living from hunting down and then beating up criminals who otherwise would go by unscathed. He’s a recovered alcoholic with a failed relationship who is the guardian of his sisters 14 year old son. He’s fair with his nephew and expects that like most teenagers, he will be tempted to experiment with recreational drugs. He has what he thinks is a fairly open line of communication with him and tries to steer him to staying focused on school. When Virgil catches wind of drug cartels making their presence known to the youth of the reservation, he is offered a job by a local politician to deliver some justice. It isn’t until his own nephew gets caught in the middle of these drug wars that Virgil begins to seek answers to a situation that just doesn’t seem right. There’s an influx of pills and heroine making their way onto the Reservation which finally calls the attention of the Feds. Cases of this magnitude typically do because there’s a vested interest. Virgil sees himself having to turn to an unlikely source for guidance, the very Lakota traditions and spiritual beliefs he so adamantly has turned his back on.

If you’re thinking of listening to the audiobook I absolutly recommend it, the narrator does an excellent job with Virgil. This is a medium paced read that is marketed as a thriller however, I didn’t really see it as such. This reads more like Crime Fiction that covers a lot of the real life issues plaguing Native American reservations. It’s a dark and heavy read with tons of content warnings that I’ll try to cover down below. I found myself unable to walk away from this story for too long and ended up finishing it in just about one sitting. Part of the reason I’ll admit is my interest in the issues many Native American’s are currently experiencing. This has now led me to add a few books to my Indigenous TBR for this year. The lack of social justice this book brings puts a giant spotlight on and brings to the forefront is something I can appreciate. This won’t be the book you’ll find any likable characters in since they’ve pretty much all taken a beating in life. However, for me it was more about the social commentary and spotlighting a serious issue within our own legal system. HIGHLY recommend and without a doubt I’d pick up the next book by David Heska Wanbli Weiden.


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Spoiler Free Review: Reaper of Souls by Rena Barron

Title: Reaper of Souls

(Kingdom of Souls #2)

Author: Rena Barron

Pub. Date: February 18th 2021

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Format: eGalley/ARC

Publisher: HarperTeen

Pages: 448 pages

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“𝐼 𝑤𝑖𝑙𝑙 𝑠𝑡𝑎𝑟𝑡 𝑚𝑦 𝑠𝑡𝑜𝑟𝑦 𝑎𝑡 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑏𝑒𝑔𝑖𝑛𝑛𝑖𝑛𝑔, 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑚𝑖𝑑𝑑𝑙𝑒, 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑒𝑛𝑑. 𝐹𝑜𝑟 𝐼 ℎ𝑎𝑣𝑒 𝑙𝑖𝑣𝑒𝑑 𝑎 𝑡ℎ𝑜𝑢𝑠𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑙𝑖𝑣𝑒𝑠 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑑𝑖𝑒𝑑 𝑎 𝑡ℎ𝑜𝑢𝑠𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑑𝑒𝑎𝑡ℎ𝑠, 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑒𝑣𝑒𝑟𝑦 𝑡𝑖𝑚𝑒 𝐼 𝑑𝑖𝑑, 𝐼 𝑟𝑒𝑙𝑖𝑣𝑒 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑠𝑎𝑚𝑒 𝑚𝑒𝑚𝑜𝑟𝑦.“

Reaper of Souls was one of my MOST highly anticipated sequels to look forward to in 2021 and I can honestly say it was worth the wait. Kingdom of Souls (My Review) introduced us to Arrah who comes from a powerful family of witch doctors but for some reason hasn’t come into her own powers. After the catastrophic events we left off in Kingdom Of Souls, Arrah finally has the gift of magic but it came about in a terrible way. Returning from exile, we see Arrah go after those who have taken her people from their tribal lands. What she soon discovers is that this is a war between the Orishas and their demon children and caught in the middle are mortals. The Character development alone was phenomenal & the world building/magic system is very richly woven and inspired by folk magic. Arrah is discovering along the way the many secrets she unknowingly carries within. A deeper connection to it all. A sort of forbidden love. A choice to make. The inevitability of it all.

Rena Barron has delivered such a rich and beautifully written Fantasy where the lives of our key characters are constantly haunted by the mistakes and transgressions of their parents and ancestors. Will they choose to repeat those mistakes OR course correct for the good of their people? This story is told in multi-POV format between Arrah, Rudjeck and a third entity that for spoiler free reasons I won’t disclose. If you love character driven stories that are more slower paced with a big reward at the end, then this is absolutely a trilogy worth giving a go. Seeing as it had been some time since I had read Kingdom of Souls I would’ve loved it if there had been a Legend/Key at the very start. There are a handful of Orishas and their history is fleshed out in the first book but this follow-up goes even deeper into their history and conflicts with one another. Pacing can seem a bit off at times but I chucked that off to Arrah’s own personal journey to self realization which in my opinion was done perfectly! If you’re expecting NOT to be left reaching for more after this book, you are sadly mistaken! I cannot wait for the conclusion to this fantasy/love story💜


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Spoiler Free Review: Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor

Title: Remote Control

Author: Nnedi Okorafor

Pub. Date: January 19th 2021

Genre: Science Fiction Fantasy

Format: eGalley

Publisher: Tor.com

Pages: 160 pages

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“𝐼𝑛 𝑆𝑎𝑛𝑘𝑜𝑓𝑎’𝑠 𝑦𝑒𝑎𝑟𝑠 𝑜𝑛 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑟𝑜𝑎𝑑, 𝑠ℎ𝑒’𝑑 𝑙𝑒𝑎𝑟𝑛𝑒𝑑 𝑡ℎ𝑎𝑡 𝑝𝑒𝑜𝑝𝑙𝑒 𝑤𝑒𝑟𝑒 𝑐𝑜𝑚𝑝𝑙𝑖𝑐𝑎𝑡𝑒𝑑. 𝑇ℎ𝑒𝑦 𝑤𝑜𝑟𝑒 𝑚𝑎𝑠𝑘𝑠 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑔𝑢𝑖𝑠𝑒𝑠 𝑡𝑜 𝑝𝑟𝑜𝑡𝑒𝑐𝑡 𝑜𝑟 ℎ𝑖𝑑𝑒 𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑖𝑟 𝑟𝑒𝑎𝑙 𝑠𝑒𝑙𝑣𝑒𝑠. 𝑇ℎ𝑒𝑦 𝑟𝑒𝑖𝑛𝑣𝑒𝑛𝑡𝑒𝑑 𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑚𝑠𝑒𝑙𝑣𝑒𝑠. 𝑇ℎ𝑒𝑦 𝑑𝑒𝑠𝑡𝑟𝑜𝑦𝑒𝑑 𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑚𝑠𝑒𝑙𝑣𝑒𝑠. 𝑇ℎ𝑒𝑦 𝑏𝑢𝑖𝑙𝑡 𝑜𝑛 𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑚𝑠𝑒𝑙𝑣𝑒𝑠.“

Nnedi Okorafor’s Remote Control is an Afro futurism novella featuring a seven year old Sankofa aka The Adopted Daughter of Death as she travels down the winding roads in Ghana after a tragic accident that changed her life. Sankofa travels alone with the exception of a fox who never leaves her side for long. Wherever she goes, death follows. Her touch can destroy towns as well as grant death to those ailing or diseased. Sankofa doesn’t have many answers but she does set out to find the object that fell from the sky. In this Novella we see Sankofa grow into a woman who has learned to observe those around her. Humans deep reliance on technology and what fear can inspire in others. Our MC has experienced a deep and tragic loss before the start of her journey. She then goes on to experience trauma at the hands of strangers who either fear her or see her as a literal remote control they can wield for their own benefit. This was my first time reading Nnedi Okorafor, I found Okorafor’s writing style easily transported me to the winding roads of Ghana. I smelled the shea butter tree and cream Sankofa used on her skin. I heard the slap of her sandals on the ground and the rustle of tree leaves. There was one morbid scene that had my stomach turned inside out but it also left me in awe. I was blown away at how much was delivered in this 160 page novella and the fact that it still delivered a satisfying ending. Sankofa is a memorable character that I wouldn’t mind coming across again if the author were to revisit her story. Remote Control was my first venture into Afro-Futurism but it won’t be my last! If anything, Okorafor has awakened my interest in this genre. I look forward to reading more from this author and in fact have already hauled the Hugo and Nebula Award winner Binti trilogy🖤


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February 2021 Anticipated New Releases

Who thought February was going to be a slow publication month? THIS Gal right here! It took me by surprise when I looked at my Notes app and realized I had 22 titles listed for this month and that’s not including any of the BIG hyped up releases (lookin’ at you SJM) but I wanted to spotlight those many may have not heard about. As always, I scout out as many of the BIPOC books hitting the shelves in hopes you too will be as stoked as I am to read these new stories. Yesterday I actually finished reading one of the books on this list (The Project by Courtney Summers) and your girl is still shooketh! I also just received my copy of Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers in the mail from Book of the Month & will be squeezing it into my February “Possible Reads” If you make it to the end of this post, drop some love in the comment box. What new releases are you MOST excited for? any that aren’t listed here? Curious Bookworm here 😉


YA & SCI-FI

MUSE BY BRITTANY CAVALLARO (2/2) – YA Historical set in 1893 during the World’s Fair, we follow Claire who is the daughter of a famous genius inventor. Her father believes that her touch is what has granted him this gift and plans to use her as St. Cloud prepares for war however, Claire plans to claim her life for herself.

WHAT BIG TEETH BY  ROSE SZABO (2/2) – YA Horror/Paranormal pitched as perfect for fans of Wilder Girls this follows Eleanor who has been estranged from her wild family for some years. When an incident takes place at her boarding school she is forced to return home where she struggles to fit in with her monstrous family.

DARK AND HOLLOW STAR BY ASHLEY SHUTTLEWORTH (2/23) – YA Fantasy pitched as The Cruel Prince meets City of Bones, an Urban Fantasy set in the magical world of Toronto. We follow a queer cast of characters racing to stop a serial killer whose crimes threaten to expose the Faerie world to humans. THAT COVER!!! I’m glad this is one I know for sure will be in one of the book boxes I subscribe to *books shimmy*

ALL THE TIDES OF FATE (ALL THE STARS AND TEETH #2) BY ADALYN GRACE (2/2) – This is the sequel to All the Stars and Teeth (My Review) which was one of my favorite YA Fantasy books in 2020 & had I been able to come up with 20 faves in 2020, it would’ve certainly made the cut! Mermaids, Pirates, curses and a bad a** female heroin who trying to protect her Queendom. Amora is the unlikeable character I absolutely wanted more of, STOKED to pick this one up!

THE GILDED ONES (DEATHLESS #1) BY NAMINA FORNA (2/9) – West African inspired YA Fantasy, we follow a 16 year old MC who prays her blood will run red on the day of her ceremony. When it runs gold (the color of impurity) she must decide whether to stay in her village & live through the consequences or leave and join the emperors army of girls just like her. Near immortals with rare gifts who are the only ones able to stop the threat to the empire.

YESTERDAY IS HISTORY BY KOSOKO JACKSON (2/2) – I heard time travel featuring a m/m romance and decided that was all I needed to know! we have a MC who receives a liver transplant and before he knows it, is time traveling between present day Boston and 1969 where he meets his love interest. The family of the donor explains that time travel is a gift attached to the liver! Can anyone say ORIGINAL?!?! Hella intrigued!

REAPER OF SOULS (KINGDOM OF SOULS #2) BY RENA BARRON (2/18) – I have a non-spoilery review coming later this week but gahhH! if like me you loved Kingdom of Souls then this is an absolute MUST! it’s beautifully written with even more in depth unraveling of the Gods. This was an emotional rollercoaster with many twists and turns, slow to start but when it takes off there’s no getting off the ride!


YA CONTEMPORARY

LOVE IS A REVOLUTION BY RENÉE WATSON (2/2) – STOKED! a story where our female plus size black MC finds self love! Yes she does so while sorting out some lies she told her love interest who is an activist but STILL, we do NOT have enough or any self-love stories in YA. I’m READY!

FAT CHANCE, CHARLIE VEGA BY CRYSTAL MALDONADO (2/2) – Keeping on with the self-love reads, this a Latinx coming of age story where we follow a brown skinned fat MC who is done having to fit into the image everyone else has for her. Her BFF is the only one who fully accepts her for who she is but things get complicated when Charlie gets asked out by cutie in class Brian. The problem being that Brian asked Charlie’s BFF out first which now brings forth so many questions.

THE INITIAL INSULT BY MINDY MCGINIS (2/23) – First, let it be known I’ll read anything by Mindy Mcginnis! but to be blessed with a Duology is a real treat and to have it be inspired by Edgar Allen Poe? are we even worthy?!? Set in Ohio this one follows Tress & Felicity whose paths are bound to cross and it all is linked back to the disappearance of Tress Montor’s parents. Told in alternating POV’s this dark thriller sets the stage for an unraveling of a friendship that I’m sure I’ll be left reeling from.

THE PROJECT BY COURTNEY SUMMERS (2/2) – I was very lucky to have received a eGalley of this highly anticipated new book by the author of Sadie. HAUNTING AF Bookworms! SMH I have a full review coming over the next few days with a massive amount of content warnings. I haven’t read Sadie yet but after reading this book, I will absolutely read anything by Summers. If you’re interested in Cults & their inner workings as well as the emotional toll many people experience while being indoctrinated then this is a solid read. I gave it 5 stars but will save my thoughts for my review 😉

A PHO LOVE STORY BY LOAN LE (2/9) – The minute I saw this cover I thought about Tweet Cute which I adored! and then I read the synopsis & it was a no brainer, I NEED this book in my life! Really just pass along any baking/Foodie books because they offer up so much comfort. Here we have two MC’s who are complete opposites as they both work in their families respective Pho restaurants. “For years, the Mais and the Nguyens have been at odds, having owned competing, neighboring pho restaurants. Bao and Linh, who’ve avoided each other for most of their lives, both suspect that the feud stems from feelings much deeper than friendly competition.” THIS!


CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE & FICTION

IT’S BEEN A PLEASURE, NONI BLAKE (2/23) – “Of all the women and men Noni Blake has pleased in her life, there’s one she’s often overlooked–herself. After the end of a decade-long relationship, Noni decides it’s time for that to change. She’s finally going to prioritize her wants and desires and only do things (and people) that feel good in the moment.” – This bit right here had me stop dead in my tracks! Having personally seen myself embark on a similar journey, this is one I had to add to my TBR. A 30 something year old woman who sees herself starting over while traveling around the world. This promises to be hilarious and relatable, sign me up!

FIRST COMES LIKE (MODERN LOVE #3) BY ALISHA RAI – This is here solely because I’ve just started reading The Right Swipe and can already tell I’ll definitely be binge reading this series in 2021. This one promises a Catfishing story between our love interests & I’m a sucker for a good love story over the interwebZ haha! Beauty Influencer meets Bollywood Soap Opera Star…BUT WAIT! he doesn’t know who she is or rather who would use his name to woo her over the net!

MAKE UP BREAK UP BY LILY MENON (2/2) – Second chance romance trope?!?! YES PLEASE! a Las Vegas fling between two dating app developers that ends up turning into a competitive race to win a contest that if won can keep their apps afloat. “Love, romance, second chances, fairy-tale endings…these are the things Annika Dev believes in. Her app, Make Up, has been called the “Google Translate for failing relationships.”High efficiency break-ups, flashy start-ups, penthouses, fast cars…these are the things Hudson Craft believes in. His app, Break Up, is known as the “Uber for break-ups.”

SERENA SINGH FLIPS THE SCRIPT BY SONYA LALLI (2/16) – A story about an independent strong woman who is trying to prove to her family and many aunties that domestic bliss is not needed in order to have a happy life. We follow Serena who works at a firm in DC as she navigates friendships and reconnecting with family & even her ex-boyfriend while also trying to hold onto her own self-reliance.

HONEY GIRL BY MORGAN ROGERS (2/23) – I’m MOST Stoked for this new release and have since adjusted my expectations to understand that this is NOT a Romance. It’s more of a late coming-of age story set in NYC after our MC impulsively marries another girl while on a girls trip to Vegas. I will MOST likely be reading this book this month cause the anticipation is KILLIN me!


ADULT FANTASY & SCI-FI

WINTER’S ORBIT BY EVERINA MAXWELL (2/2) – A SCI-FI Romance featuring A M/M romance between Royals marketed for fans of Red White and Royal Blue. Early reviews have this one described as more of a Romance set against a Sci-Fi back drop which is something to keep in mind if you’re looking at this as more of a Sci-Fi focused book cause that it is not. I just got my copy from Illumicrate & can’t wait to dive in!

THE WITCH’S HEART BY GENEVIEVE GORNICHEC (2/9) – Norse Mythology I HAVE MISSED YOU! this one is pitched for fans of Madeline Miller’s Circe which I’ve shamefully NOT yet read. We follow a Giantess who falls in love with the legendary trickster Loki and conceives three “unusual children” each with a. secret destiny. Since I scored a eGalley for this one I will be powering through this one later this week with a full RTC 😉

FIREHEART TIGER BY ALIETTE DE BODARD (2/9) – A Sapphic Novella (by Tor!) pitched as “The Goblin Emperor meets Howl’s Moving Castle” Mhmm! need I say more?!? I’m READY!

THE BLACK COAST (THE GOD-KING CHRONICLES #1)  BY MIKE BROOKS (2/18) – A new EPIC Fantasy series that promises War Dragons! This is a story about two different cultures who have to come together to maintain peace. This is a multiple POV Fantasy featuring queer characters and conversation on gender roles and sexuality. This is one I have high on my TBR.

THE ECHO WIFE BY SARAH GAILEY (2/16) – Pitched for fans of Big Little Lies? why, yes! Yes I am said fan *arms extended* Martine is a genetically cloned replica made from Evelyn Caldwell’s award-winning research. She’s patient and gentle and obedient. She’s everything Evelyn swore she’d never be. And she’s having an affair with Evelyn’s husband. Now, the cheating bastard is dead, and the Caldwell wives have a mess to clean up. Good thing Evelyn Caldwell is used to getting her hands dirty. ” This honestly sounds like it would also make for a dope book to movie adaptation.


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WWW WEDNESDAYS 2/3/2021

WWW Wednesday is a meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On a World of Words and to participate all you have to do is answer the three W’s listed below. Once you’ve posted your WWW, drop a link to your post in Sam’s comments <3’s!

The questions:
1. What are you currently reading?
2. What did you recently finish reading?
3. What do you think you’ll read next?

Day 3 of a snowy wintry setting in NYC and although I’m working from home, I’m still feeling that cold air in my apartment. Cozy socks & coffee are on, my window blinds are open while I watch the neighborhood help each other dig their cars out of the snow. I also have an ongoing list of “Possible Reads” cause who am I kidding with TBR’s at this point? absolutely no one smh. February is Black History Month however if you’ve been following my blog and/or my Bookstagram for some time now, then you know I read books by BIPOC authors all year long (as one should) and promote their works. I didn’t join any of the Readathons this year since reading has been touch & go for me while I juggle life and physical fitness but my intention is to amp up my reading this month. In case you’re interested in any of these Readathons (run by some of the MOST down to earth people!) I’ll bless ya with the links here:

Black Author Readathon (Check out Steps Romance Book Talk announcement Video)

Blackathon (Check out Jesse @BowtiesandBooks announcement video)

Black buck by mateo askaripour

I’m 30% into this audiobook from Libro.fm and I’ve already had some “the audacity” moments! this is a satirical take on one young black mans shot to stardom when he gets offered a “once in a lifetime” opportunity while working as a Manager at Starbucks. Darren is 22 years old and unambitious, the former Valedictorian of his class at Bronx Science. His mother who he lives with in their family owned Brownstone in Bedstuy wants nothing more than to see him live up to his potential. Rhett Daniels the CEO of Sumwun, NYC’s hottest tech startup sees that potential and is intent on getting Darren on his team. Darren joins and from day 1 is met with some quite infuriating white leadership who dish out every single stereotype there is about black people. I’ve lost track of how many times Darren has been asked whether he’s been told by anyone that he looks like MLK or Sidney Poitier. Darren’s inner monologue has me smiling at times and other times laughing, fast paced and thought provoking this book explores race and ambition through a different lens.

the project by courtney summers

I actually had started my eGalley before getting swept up in Black Buck so it’s on a slight pause for now. I’m sure when I do pick it back up I will breeze right through it since it’s based on cults and YA Thriller/Suspense novels tend to be inhale reads for me. I’ve never read anything by Courtney Summers but I do own the Sadie audiobook I shamefully have procrastinated on starting SMH! Hopefully it’s as good as many of my bookish friends are anticipating it to be *fingers crossed*

winter counts by david heska wanbli weiden

Also a audiobook from Libro.fm that is fantastically narrated! I finished listening to this one on Sunday morning and immediately 5 starred it on Goodreads & Story Graph. Set on an Indian Reservation in South Dakota, we follow Virgil Wounded Horse a biracial Lakota local enforcer who is hired to take care of criminals when the tribal council & American legal system look the other way. Things hit close to home when his 14 year old nephew gets swept up in the middle of cartel drug wars. Virgil must find a way to get him out and get rid of these bad guys who are selling heroine & hard pills to the youth on the reservation. This was a DARK challenging read at times that is mostly character driven. I have a full review coming here on the blog next week but also have a post up on Bookstagram.

Continuing on with my list of “Possible Reads” pretty much makes any of these three a contender for my next read. However, I will definitely be starting The First Sister by Linden A. Lewis next week since it is a buddy read with Melanie over @Meltotheany that I’m really looking forward to. Chances are this may change mid week since I have a couple of library holds that are looking mighty close to coming through…I’m looking at you The Right Swipe & Ring Shout cause y’all are about to throw a wrench in my reading plans haha!


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Spoiler Free Review: Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas

Title: Concrete Rose (The Hate U Give #0)

Author: Angie Thomas

Pub. Date: January 12th 2021

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Format: Audiobook

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Pages: 360 pages

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In 2017 Angie Thomas introduced us to Maverick Carter in The Hate U Give as the father of Star, Seven & Sekani Carter. In Concrete Rose we get Mavericks story on his upbringing, young adult life, and the circumstances that eventually led to him becoming a father of two at the age of 17. This was a fast paced character driven emotionally charged story. Maverick is in High School when we meet him, he’s living with his mother and his father is incarcerated. Watching his mother hold down a job to put food on the table, Maverick joins the King Lords. The same gang his father belongs to and has gained much notoriety in. This is how Maverick goes about bringing a second stream of income while being a student. Things get further complicated when a girl he slept with turns out to be pregnant with his first born. Maverick must decide whether he will continue to live life earning money on the streets seeking drugs or take an out that is being offered to him. An opportunity to get his life back on track and provide for his three month old son Seven. Working in the neighborhood store/garden, going to school and selling drugs while being a father is more than what maverick can handle. Something has to go.

We see Maverick’s internal struggle with the loyalty he feels to King, the friend who brought him into the street gang & leaving it all behind. We also see him come into his own as a young single father who has to juggle his responsibilities. I LIVED for the nurturing moments he has with his baby boy Seven. Even while feeling overwhelmed and as if he wasn’t cut out for parenthood, he never gives up on trying to get it right. Concrete Rose advocates for young black men, we simply do NOT have many (If any) books on our shelves with this representation. In many ways Maverick is healing generational trauma by choosing a different path even if it is by way of tough love from his Mom. Maverick’s mother is a beacon of light in the storm. She isn’t going to do the work of raising Seven but she’s going to make sure Maverick aka her baby, knows she’s there for support. I ABSOLUTELY LOVED to see the bond between mother and son! He may trip up a few times but his mother never gives up on him. It wasn’t an easy journey to the Maverick we meet as Star’s father, but just like Star he knows what it’s like to get caught in the middle of two worlds. If you’ve read The Hate U Give and/or watched the movie, I feel this book gives some much needed insight on the Carter family.


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Spoiler Free Review: Wings of Ebony by J. Elle

Title: Wings of Ebony

Author: J. Elle

Pub. Date: January 26th 2021

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Format: eGalley

Publisher: Simon Schuster Books

Pages: 368 pages

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🖤eGalley provided by Publisher in exchange for an honest review, all quotes come from an advance copy and may not match the final release🖤“𝐼𝑡’𝑠 𝑛𝑜𝑡 𝑗𝑢𝑠𝑡 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑏𝑢𝑧𝑧𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑚𝑎𝑔𝑖𝑐𝑎𝑙 𝑒𝑛𝑒𝑟𝑔𝑦 𝑝𝑢𝑚𝑝𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑡ℎ𝑟𝑜𝑢𝑔ℎ 𝑡ℎ𝑖𝑠 𝑝𝑙𝑎𝑐𝑒 𝑙𝑖𝑘𝑒 𝑒𝑙𝑒𝑐𝑡𝑟𝑖𝑐𝑖𝑡𝑦. 𝐼𝑡’𝑠 𝑛𝑜𝑡 𝑗𝑢𝑠𝑡 𝑡ℎ𝑎𝑡 𝑛𝑜 𝑜𝑛𝑒 ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒 𝑙𝑜𝑜𝑘𝑠 𝑙𝑖𝑘𝑒 𝑚𝑒 – 𝑏𝑢𝑡 ℎ𝑖𝑚. 𝐼𝑡’𝑠 𝑡ℎ𝑎𝑡 𝑡ℎ𝑖𝑠 𝑖𝑠 𝑛𝑜𝑡 𝑚𝑦 ℎ𝑜𝑚𝑒. 𝑇ℎ𝑒𝑠𝑒 𝑎𝑖𝑛𝑡 𝑚𝑦 𝑝𝑒𝑜𝑝𝑙𝑒.”

Wings of Ebony is a debut YA Fantasy set between the mortal world in Houston and the magical world of Ghizon. Our MC Rue has just witnessed her mother’s murder when a father she never knew comes to take her away. Rue is a Demigod. Her sister Tasha who has a different father, is not. Separated from her sister & the only home she’s known, Rue must adapt in Ghizon. She has a whole lot of bottled up emotions and she’s done holding back. On the one year anniversary of her mother’s death she breaks Ghizon law by returning to Houston to see her sister. She finds that her sister & other black & POC kids from the neighborhood have unwillingly been roped into street crime & violence. This book tackled some hard hitting issues affecting inner city youth, specifically black & POC families. Kids whose parents work long hours to survive while the neighborhood looks after one another. “It takes a village to raise a child” is a quote that comes to mind when reading Wings of Ebony and Rue loves her village. She’s angry at how the youth are portrayed whenever the news covers a shooting, and at how cops turn the other way. I was rooting for Rue, Tasha & all the neighborhood kids to take back their home. Rue is a no nonsense straight shooter who is loyal to her roots, she’s unapologetically going to take back what was once taken from her and for that alone, she is a stand-out memorable kick a** MC!

Wings of Ebony will absolutely appeal to fans of Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give and Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone, written in a raw authentic voice that invokes a range of emotions. J. Elle puts a spotlight on the issues plaguing black and brown communities in cities like Houston. Families that are forced to make a choice between staying home to watch the kids or put food on the table. The concept of the neighborhood’s older grandmothers watching over the youth is a very real one that I for one can relate to having been raised by two working parents with no child care. The frustration Rue feels, her mixed feelings when it comes to asking for help from the cops is as real as it gets. I felt the author captured what inner city life looks like for a lot of working families in these neighborhoods.

This story however takes place between two worlds, it’s a Fantasy set in Ghizon AND Houston. Here is where I felt the story took some hits, the pacing was off and so the time we actually spend in Ghizon is limited. I would’ve gladly read this book if it were 500 pages if it meant that Ghizon were more fleshed out and the magic system better explained. Things take a  turn around the 65% mark for the better but by then I did feel we were rushing towards a conclusion. We get introduced to a love interest in the midst of a revolution which I personally could’ve done without OR seen it introduced in the next book. I also wish the relationship between Rue and her father was better explored, it’s understandable she has a TON of mixed emotions towards him…we just don’t see enough father/daughter relationships in books. Although I felt the Fantasy aspects of this book were a bit under developed, I honestly feel based off the last 40% that the follow up will build on what we’ve seen here. I did secure a finished copy from Barnes & Nobles which is offering bonus content I feel would be a shame to miss out on because they’re letters from Rue’s Dad & Book Lovers! I balled my eyes out!!! the letters also include some sketches that are pretty dope! 


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December 2020 Wrap-Up & Birthday Book Haul

It may be January but your girl is still sorta…kinda…celebrating my birthday! It took many years for me to love celebrating this day (December 31st) but life should be celebrated & I’m very blessed with an awesome little family and friends. December was an odd month, I felt like I was watching everyone try and reach their Goodreads goals while I accepted quietly (of course smh) that it just wasn’t going to happen. I don’t have a post going up with 2020 stats cause honestly that year is dead and gone and I have no desire to go dig it back up. However, I’m happy with the 67 books I read because of the grade A quality stories I discovered (Top 10 of 2020) and the new authors I fell in love with (I’m looking at you Silvia Moreno-Garcia & Fredrik Backman.) In the month of December I read 6 books, some of which ended up being my top faves of 2020! Now, onto some non-bookish December happenings…

I very bravely decided to made my very first Pavochon which is a Puerto-Rican style cooked Turkey!!! It was very important for me to make everything from scratch like my dad used to do and I have ZERO regrets on the turnout even if…it was a 3 day process (flashbacks oh no!) but it was also very therapeutic and FUN!!! my loved ones who are some of the TOUGHEST food critics were floored and that honestly made my birthday week. I’ve fallen in love with cooking these past 2 years and can’t wait to try out new recipes in the new year.

Promise to keep these brief since I have reviews for most of the books I read…

SUCH A FUN AGE BY KILEY REID – (Review) ✨5 STARS✨ A more timely book I could NOT have read in 2020, we follow a black young woman who is accused of kidnapping while baby-sitting for a white family in a. predominantly white neighborhood. I listened to the audiobook which had a awesome narrator! this was a rollercoaster ride for me, feeling everything from anger to hopelessness. Although this does cover some very heavy themes of racism, the author managed to weave in some humor and truly captured what it feels like to be a twenty something year old trying to figure out what to do with your life.

BLAZEWRATH GAMES BY AMPARO ORTIZ – (Review) ✨3.5 STARS✨ This was a fast paced YA Fantasy featuring a Puerto-Rican MC who is feeling displaced from the island after her parents go through a separation. There are dragons and a sort of magical olympics where the dragons and their riders compete. There’s also a villain who was formerly a dragon and is on the brink of starting a rebellion for his own gain. I enjoyed the Puerto-Rican rep I just wished there was more character development done on our MC Lana.

MERRY INKMAS BY TALIA HIBBERT✨4 STARS✨I was looking for some romance/smutty reads around mid-month after reading Fantasy & this novella hit the spot. Yes we can probably all agree that we’re tired of seeing the body boy/dark past trope however, I hadn’t read it in quite some time so it felt new! haha! Here we have Cash Evans who very much love at first sight, falls for Bailey a curvy black woman who he hires to work at his tattoo parlor. Cash invites Bailey over to his family’s home for the holidays and their romance pretty much takes off. Steamy in all the right ways!

FOREVER WILD (THE SIMPLE WILD #2.5) BY K.A. TUCKER – ✨5 STARS✨ I almost feel like this should’ve been a part of Wild at Heart which would’ve then made that a 6 star read. K.A. Tucker novellas really pack in a ton and this was no exception. My fave characters did Christmas and the in-laws in Alaska…PERFECTION! more Calla & Jonah is always a good thing but this time we get backstory on Roy! yea I know, our fave curmudgeon has a past & here we get to see more of him and his happy ending *smiles*

ANXIOUS PEOPLE BY FREDRIK BACKMAN -(REVIEW) ✨5 STARS✨ Simply BEAUTIFUL! I adored this cast of characters & seeing them offer each other sage advice while they remain hostages in a botched bank robbery. The less you know, the better with this book! just bring a box of Kleenex 😉

THE INVISIBLE LIFE OF ADDIE LARUE – (REVIEW) ✨5 STARS✨ FINALLY! a V.E. Schwab book I ADORED start to finish. This book was heartbreaking and yet (hate to use this word again but…) BEAUTIFUL! I lost count of the times I teared up seeing Addie grow hopeful at the possibility of finding love and having that person remember her. Addie has made a deal with good ol’ Lucifer, in exchange for a somewhat immortal life she will surrender her soul when she tires of living. Of course, a deal with Luc doesn’t come without stipulations. Gahhhh! I LOVE THIS BOOK SO MUCH!


 

Blessed with SUPER AMAZING thoughtful friends! these are the books I received for my birthday and Christmas from Taylor @NerdNarration & Lourdes @Chapterswelove *heart eyes* safe to say I’m set for some good reads for the next couple of months *shimmy shimmy* 


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January 2021 Anticipated New Releases

Hello Bookworms! I decided to try something new (to me) here on the blog since I always have a running list going on my phone of anticipated new releases. It helps me be more aware of what’s coming out in the publishing world even though I don’t particularly like or stick to TBR’s. I debated this past weekend on whether this post should be quarterly or monthly and with the help of a friend decided monthly would be best. The reason being that I read across many different genres and a quarterly list would look Nanas & would probably end up missing a few titles that slip through the cracks. I’m a little late this month since I was unsure on the format but in the future these posts will go up the last week of the month in anticipation of the following months titles. January is typically a slow month in books seeing as we’re gearing up to be overwhelmed with ALL the books come February and I do mean ALL the books haha! So without further ado…


YA & MIDDLE GRADE

LORE BY ALEXANDRA BRACKEN (1/5/2021)-Putting aside the fact that this cover is STUNNING & will make anyone do a double take…this book features Athena the Goddess of wisdom, war and crafts aka my favorite of them all! as punishment for a past rebellion, nine greek Gods are forced to walk the mortal earth while being hunted by ancient bloodlines. Our MC has turned their back on said world until a wounded Athena crosses her path. This one is coming in one of my book boxes & will MOST def be a book I read in February.

ANGEL OF GREENWOOD BY RANDI PINK (1/12/2021)- Historical YA inspired by the Greenwood Massacre of 1921 in Tulsa aka Black Wall Street. We follow two teens with  opposing views on how black people should handle conflict & racism. Isaiah is a follower of WEB Du Bois & believes black people should rise up and claim their place as equals. Angel is a follower of Book T Washington and believes black people should take a slow peaceful approach w/out forced conflict. Things change when a white mob storms their community destroying the town and leaving its residents displaced.

CONCRETE ROSE (THE HATE U GIVE #0) BY ANGIE THOMAS (1/12/2021)- The prequel to the The U Give, here we get the story of Maverick Carter (Starr Carter’s Dad) and how he came to be a young father.  For Mav, life hasn’t been easy but he tries to juggle school and becoming a young dad while also making money on the streets as apart of a gang. Son of a former gang legend, Mav is left to care for his family while his mother works two jobs and his dad is in prison. He’s offered a chance to leave street life behind and go straight but it proves to be much easier said than done. This is Mavericks story of becoming the man we later see in The Hate U Give. STOKED! black men as a whole are under represented in books, Mav is a fictional father I absolutely loved when I first met him on the page!

BE DAZZLED BY RYAN LA SALA (1/5/2021)- After reading and really enjoying Reverie by this author, I knew to keep an eye out for future works. Dubbed as Project Runway goes to Comic con! this a queer m/m YA Contemporary with a MC who loves creating, bedazzling, sewing, stitching, pattern making etc. when he enters a Cosplay competition in hopes of winning a sponsorship. The problem is that his ex boyfriend has also entered the competition and unresolved feelings still linger when they’re partnered to work together! SIGN ME UP!

WINGS OF EBONY BY J. ELLE (1/26/2021)-A debut fantasy about a black teen from Houston Texas who witnesses the murder of her mother on her doorstep. She’s then separated from her sister by her father and whisked away to an island of magic wielders, Rue is half God/half human. On the anniversary of her mom’s death she wants only to return to Houston and see her sister. When she does, she finds that Evil has taken a hold of the black kids in her community and forced them into crime and violence. Rue must tap into her ancestral magic to try and save her neighborhood before the Gods burn it to the ground.

ROMAN + JEWEL BY DANA L. DAVIS (1/5/2021)-What if Romeo & Juliet got the Hamilton treatment? Yea that’s about all I needed to read to know I want to to read this tbh. Our MC Jerzie wants so badly to land the lead role in what is Broadway’s hottest new show featuring a diverse cast of characters and “modern twists” on the play. She ends up however, being cast as the understudy and also falling for the male lead. The problem is, the mega star who has been cast as the star lead has also set her eyes on him. DRAMA! haha!

AMARI AND THE NIGHT BROTHERS BY B.B. ALSTON (1/19/2021)- Quinton Peters who is living in low-income housing has received two full scholarship offers to Ivy League schools when he mysteriously goes missing. His 13 year old sister Amari wonders why it’s not made a bigger deal. When she discovers a suitcase in Quinton’s closet with an invitation for her to go to a summer tryout at the secretive Bureau of Supernatural Affairs she decides to answer. In search of answers on Quinton’s disappearance, Amari discovers a world of mermaids, dwarves, yetis, magicians and a weredragon as a roommate. Mari must compete against some of the nation’s wealthiest kids who’ve known about the supernatural world all their lives. This just sounds like it’s going to a be a fun time!


SCI-FI & FANTASY

REMOTE CONTROL BY NNEDI OKORAFOR (1/19/2021) –“She’s the adopted daughter of the Angel of Death. Beware of her. Mind her. Death guards her like one of its own.” An African Futurism Novella that features a MC named Fatima who has a fox companion she walks alone searching for answers on the object that fell from the sky changing her forever. STOKED to have a eGalley I’ll be reading tonight!

PERSEPHONE STATION BY STINA LEICHT (1/5/2021)-Dubbed as being for fans of The Mandalorian and Cowboy Bebop will pretty much get anyones attention! a Queer Sci-Fi space opera that takes place in a backwater planet called Persephone station where a bartender named Rosie serves two types of people: Those of the criminal class and those who seek to employ them. When Angel an ex marine and head of a semi-organized crew of criminal bent on doing the honorable thing gets hired by Rosie, she sees herself up against an army. The Serrao-Orlov Corporation is a corporation set on exploiting Persephone Station until met with Angel & crew. THAT COVER & PREMISE!!! ❤


fiction & romance

THE PROPHETS BY ROBERT JONES JR. (1/5/2021)- “A singular and stunning debut novel about the forbidden union between two enslaved young men on a Deep South plantation, the refuge they find in each other, and a betrayal that threatens their existence.” I received an ALC copy from Libro.fm that I’m pretty stoked to get to just from listening to the sample audio.

THE EX TALK BY RACHEL LYNN SOLOMON (1/26/2021)- hate to love romance? seems so. Shay, a producer for her Seattle public radio realizes things have gotten pretty stale on the air and the show needs a new concept.  Her newest colleague Dominic who has just attained a masters program in journalism thinks he knows all there is to know about radio. The idea is born to have exes come on the show and deliver relationship advice. Their boss decides they’re PERFECT to host the show since they already despise each other. This sounds innnnneresting haha!


What are some of the january titles you’re most looking forward to hitting the shelves? drop a comment down below & as always, happy reading <3’s!


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Spoiler Free Review: Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Title: Such a Fun Age

Author: Kiley Reid

Pub. Date: December 31st 2019

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Format: Audiobook

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Pages: 310 pages

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In the middle of the night, white blogger Alix Chamberlain and her husband are experiencing a crisis in their home. They call their African American babysitter Emira asking her to come over and take their baby girl Briar Chamberlain for a walk to distract her while they handle the events that have transpired in their home. Emira who is off the clock and at a friends birthday party decides to do this favor for her employer. While walking through the local supermarket in the Chamberlain’s neighborhood with 2 year old Briar, things quickly take a left turn. We have what we now have come to call a “Neighborhood Karen” raise what she thinks are concerns for the safety of Briar to the security guard at the market. It’s quickly implied that a white child wouldn’t be out late at night with a black girl who claims to be said child’s babysitter. One thing leads to another and Emira sees herself accused of kidnapping Briar and isn’t allowed to leave until contact is made with her employer. THIS BOOK!!!! WOW! I was NOT prepared for the rollercoaster of emotions I sat and listened through. This most certainly was a read-in-one-sitting type of book. I felt all things from anger to empathy to disgust watching Emira navigate through the racism and microagressions in her life.

“I don’t need you to be mad that it happened. I need you to be mad that it just like… happens.” – Such a Fun Age

Emira is 25, the age where many find themselves wondering what to do with their life. She isn’t sure what path to take career wise or even what her skillset is really valued at. We see her sort of just go with the flow of things while Alix Chamberlain adopts this really weird obsession with all things Emira. Alix is a white woman who at one point in her life decided to change her name to make herself sound more sophisticated. She’s made a career of writing eloquent persuasive letters that in turn get her free products to review. Alix belongs to this circle of women who are very judgmental and toxic towards one another. This character literally got under my skin, she had this really awkward way of going about making sure Emira sees her as different than most white women. She becomes obsessed with trying to befriend Emira al the while Emira is very aware that they could never be friends. Alix would never treat Emira like she treats her own wealthy friends from New York. There are moments where Alix finds herself both surprised and embarrassed at being taken aback at hearing Emira using words in her vocabulary that don’t align with her listening to rap music. She acknowledges to herself that it shouldn’t come as a surprise since Emira is a college graduate but still she harbors these thoughts. Bookworms! this book will have you shaking your head but the truth is we all know an Alix in real life.

There’s so much to unpack in this book but at its core it’s a book about racism, microagressions, social class, parenting and racial fetishization. These characters seriously had me back and forth with my feelings when it came down trying to figure out if their actions/thoughts were ill intended or not. The idea of the white savior comes into play from the very start when Emira’s white employers are called before releasing her and then continues all throughout.  There were a few twists that I didn’t see coming and seriously had me eyes wide open with anticipation at what could come next. While there are very serious hard hitting themes that play center stage, this book never once felt preachy yet (actually some parts were fun as odd as that may sound) it managed to give a huge SMH at the ignorance Emira had to deal with. The writing invoked emotions that go hand in hand with what 2020 brought to the surface.  A more satisfying ending I did not read in all of 2020, a read I’ll never forget. Kiley Reid’s debut is simply phenomenal! One of my Top 10 of 2020 that I will continue to recommend to all my friends!


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