Spoiler Free Review: The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec

Title: The Witch’s Heart

Author: Genevieve Gornichec

Pub. Date:Β February 9th 2021

Genre:Β Norse Mythology/Fantasy

Format: eGalley

Publisher:Β Ace Books

Pages: 368 pages

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πŸ–€eGalley provided by Publisher in exchange for an honest review, all quotes come from an advance copy and may not match the final releaseπŸ–€

β€œπ‘‡β„Žπ‘’π‘¦ π‘ π‘Žπ‘¦ π‘Žπ‘› π‘œπ‘™π‘‘ π‘€π‘–π‘‘π‘β„Ž 𝑙𝑖𝑣𝑒𝑑 𝑖𝑛 π‘‘β„Žπ‘’ π‘’π‘Žπ‘ π‘‘, 𝑖𝑛 πΌπ‘Ÿπ‘œπ‘›π‘€π‘œπ‘œπ‘‘, π‘Žπ‘›π‘‘ π‘‘β„Žπ‘’π‘Ÿπ‘’ π‘ β„Žπ‘’ π‘π‘œπ‘Ÿπ‘’ π‘‘β„Žπ‘’ π‘€π‘œπ‘™π‘£π‘’π‘ , π‘€β„Žπ‘œ π‘β„Žπ‘Žπ‘ π‘’ π‘‘β„Žπ‘’ 𝑠𝑒𝑛 π‘Žπ‘›π‘‘ π‘‘β„Žπ‘’ π‘šπ‘œπ‘œπ‘›. π‘‡β„Žπ‘’π‘¦ π‘ π‘Žπ‘¦ π‘ β„Žπ‘’ 𝑀𝑒𝑛𝑑 π‘‘π‘œ π΄π‘ π‘”π‘Žπ‘Ÿπ‘‘ π‘Žπ‘›π‘‘ π‘€π‘Žπ‘  π‘π‘’π‘Ÿπ‘›π‘’π‘‘ π‘‘β„Žπ‘Ÿπ‘’π‘’ π‘‘π‘–π‘šπ‘’π‘  π‘’π‘π‘œπ‘› π‘Ž π‘π‘¦π‘Ÿπ‘’, π‘Žπ‘›π‘‘ π‘‘β„Žπ‘Ÿπ‘’π‘’ π‘‘π‘–π‘šπ‘’π‘  π‘€π‘Žπ‘  π‘ β„Žπ‘’ π‘Ÿπ‘’π‘π‘œπ‘Ÿπ‘› π‘π‘’π‘“π‘œπ‘Ÿπ‘’ π‘ β„Žπ‘’ π‘“π‘™π‘’π‘‘β€œ

I’m happiest with a slower paced read that pulls me in with lush storytelling and characters I can’t help but get invested in. The Witch’s Heart will appeal to fans of Madeline Miller, Katherine Arden and Rin Chupeco. We follow Angrboda a Giantess who has lived many times over in the Ironwood. She’s been burned by Odin three times and has had her heart cut out, yet she lives. Angrboda is gifted with the magic of Seid, the ability to see the future and essentially the end of the world as the Gods know it. She lives protected and in hiding until the God of mischief Loki stumbles across her cave. This is the story of their complicated love, offspring, and revenge on the Gods who constantly play with the lives of those they consider beneath them. Angrboda is bi-sexual and there’s a beautiful relationship that develops later on in the book, slow burn *πΆβ„Žπ‘’π‘“π‘  𝐾𝑖𝑠𝑠* worth the wait! I went into this story not knowing much other than it was centered on Norse Mythology which is a subject of interest for me. I allowed myself to get swept away by Angrboda’s story and quickly found myself absorbed by these characters lives. There’s a prophecy and there are Gods behaving badly, it just doesn’t get better than that!

There is a fair amount of dialogue in this story which is something I personally enjoy. I’ve seen some reviewers say they were a little thrown off by the dialogue being a bit more modern in comparison to the world it’s set in…honestly, the witty banter between all of the characters is what made this book super entertaining and endearing. Angrboda herself is someone who has lived a few times over and as such she is NOT in any way old fashioned. As a matter of fact she’s quite the opposite! Angrboda is all accepting, she loves who she wants to love and is quick to look you in the eye and ask why you’d assume she preferred one gender over another for her lovers. She’s simply a character I hope to never forget! now, I didn’t think we’d get much from Loki but I was pleasantly surprised by how Gornichec wrote this character. Loki is a multi-faceted character who is very comfortable with his sexuality and wishes only to never be controlled and/or know what the future has in store. We also got an amazing line-up of side characters in Angrboda & Loki’s children but I won’t speak on the why’s since that would be spoilery. Overall, a new favorite for me this year and a mood changer. I’d say this is a medium paced book with lots of character development, witty banter and YES! ROMANCE for the WIN! πŸ€—


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Spoiler Free Review: Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden

Title: Winter Counts

Author: David Heska Wanbli Weiden

Pub. Date:Β August 25th 2020

Genre:Β Adult Fiction

Format: Audiobook

Publisher:Β Ecco

Pages:Β 336pages/8 hours & 17 minutes

GOODREADS | BARNES & NOBLE | LIBBY (My Referral Link)

β€œWhat I’d discovered was that sadness is like an abandoned car left out in a field for goodβ€”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:Β Rena Barron

Pub. Date:Β February 18th 2021

Genre:Β Young Adult Fantasy

Format: eGalley/ARC

Publisher:Β HarperTeen

Pages:Β 448 pages

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β€œπΌ 𝑀𝑖𝑙𝑙 π‘ π‘‘π‘Žπ‘Ÿπ‘‘ π‘šπ‘¦ π‘ π‘‘π‘œπ‘Ÿπ‘¦ π‘Žπ‘‘ π‘‘β„Žπ‘’ 𝑏𝑒𝑔𝑖𝑛𝑛𝑖𝑛𝑔, π‘‘β„Žπ‘’ π‘šπ‘–π‘‘π‘‘π‘™π‘’, π‘Žπ‘›π‘‘ π‘‘β„Žπ‘’ 𝑒𝑛𝑑. πΉπ‘œπ‘Ÿ 𝐼 β„Žπ‘Žπ‘£π‘’ 𝑙𝑖𝑣𝑒𝑑 π‘Ž π‘‘β„Žπ‘œπ‘’π‘ π‘Žπ‘›π‘‘ 𝑙𝑖𝑣𝑒𝑠 π‘Žπ‘›π‘‘ 𝑑𝑖𝑒𝑑 π‘Ž π‘‘β„Žπ‘œπ‘’π‘ π‘Žπ‘›π‘‘ π‘‘π‘’π‘Žπ‘‘β„Žπ‘ , π‘Žπ‘›π‘‘ π‘’π‘£π‘’π‘Ÿπ‘¦ π‘‘π‘–π‘šπ‘’ 𝐼 𝑑𝑖𝑑, 𝐼 π‘Ÿπ‘’π‘™π‘–π‘£π‘’ π‘‘β„Žπ‘’ π‘ π‘Žπ‘šπ‘’ π‘šπ‘’π‘šπ‘œπ‘Ÿπ‘¦.β€œ

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)Β 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 readΒ Kingdom of SoulsΒ 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 storyπŸ’œ


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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 πŸ˜‰


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 BYΒ  ROSE SZABO (2/2) – YA Horror/Paranormal pitched as perfect for fans ofΒ 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 asΒ The Cruel PrinceΒ meetsΒ City of Bones,Β 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 toΒ *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 RENΓ‰E 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 ofΒ Sadie.Β 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 πŸ˜‰

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.”Β 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.” –Β 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 β€œGoogle 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 β€œUber 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 πŸ˜‰

FIREHEART TIGER BY ALIETTE DE BODARD (2/9) – A Sapphic Novella (by Tor!)Β 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)Β  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. ”Β 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 byΒ Sam @ Taking On a World of WordsΒ 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 BookstagramΒ for some time now, then you know I read books by BIPOC authors all year long (as one should)Β 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 ofΒ 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”Β 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 @MeltotheanyΒ 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:Β Angie Thomas

Pub. Date:Β January 12th 2021

Genre:Β Young Adult Contemporary

Format: Audiobook

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Pages:Β 360 pages

GOODREADS | BARNES & NOBLE | AMAZON | LIBRO.FM (MY REFERRAL LINK)

In 2017 Angie Thomas introduced us to Maverick Carter in The Hate U GiveΒ as the father of Star, Seven & Sekani Carter. InΒ Concrete RoseΒ 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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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.)Β 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) ✨5Β 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) ✨3.5Β 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 – ✨5Β 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) ✨5Β 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 πŸ˜‰

THE INVISIBLE LIFE OF ADDIE LARUE – (REVIEW) ✨5Β 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 @ChaptersweloveΒ *heart eyes*Β safe to say I’m set for some good reads for the next couple of months *shimmy shimmy*Β 


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Spoiler Free Review: Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Title: Such a Fun Age

Author:Β Kiley Reid

Pub. Date:Β December 31st 2019

Genre:Β Realistic Fiction

Format:Β Audiobook

Publisher:Β G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Pages:Β 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.

β€œI 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 andΒ 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. Β 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. Β 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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Spoiler Free Review: Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

Title: Anxious People

Author: Fredrik Backman

Pub. Date:Β September 8th 2020

Genre:Β Contemporary Fiction

Format: Audiobook

Publisher:Β Atria Books

Pages:Β 341 pages

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My First Backman!!!

I’ve been hearing about Fredrik Backman’s curmudgeonly characters and tear jerker story lines for a few years now but decided to end 2020 with seeing for myself. Whelp! no lies detected Bookworms, this book broke me and left me sobbing tears of happiness? sadness? I still don’t know. I opted to listen to the audiobook after hearing many rave reviews on the narrators performance, this I can also attest to. I also think this is the type of book you want to walk in blind to as I did. From the very start we are thrust into a botched bank robbery and our MC is the perpetrator who in an effort to escape stumbles into an apartment open house. What our MC finds is possibly the worse group of hostages ever but for the reader it proves to be a good time haha! Yes, there is humor all throughout which does a nice job of balancing out the more hard hitting conversations between these hostages. We meet a retired couple who seek fixer uppers in an effort to find common ground in their stale marriage, a lesbian couple who are about to have their first child even though they can’t seem to agree on much, a wealthy woman banker who has been consumed by wealth so much so that she’s lost touch with humanity and love and a 87 year old woman who could not be less fazed by the gun wielding bank robber. This is a story about every day people trying their best to get it right but oftentimes discovering that the road is paved with many bumps along the way. It was beyond eye opening and heartwarming to see how human empathy can really make those differences that set us apart seem really minuscule in the grander scheme of things.

CW: Suicide, suicidal thoughts, depression, death of a loved one, infidelity, divorce

Zara, Roger, AnnaLee, Roe, Julia, Estelle and our MC aka the Bank Robber are some of the MOST unforgettable characters I’ve come across in fiction. Each one of these characters left their mark when sharing insight on their lives, the wins and the losses. There are secrets, love affairs, grief, sadness, fears that all get laid out on the table in the nooks & tiny closet of this small apartment. I predict Fredrik Backman will become one of my favorite story tellers of all time simply because I love character driven stories and he so masterfully creates people who you can connect with on a soul level.Β This is the type of book you should go into blindly & allow yourself to get wrapped up in. I guarantee that in no time you’ll be deeply invested in each of these characters stories. Backman is an author I’ll be revisiting in 2021, I’ve already secured a copy of A Man Called Ove from my library but I have a feeling I will be buying myself a copy real soonΒ πŸ™ŒπŸ½


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Top 10 Books of 2020…

Not Lilly starting 2021 with a Top 10 of 2020? *side eye* this post should’ve gone up last week but your girl was enjoying her birthday shennanigans haha! Hello Book Lovers & Happy New Year! I originally was aiming for a Top 20 0f 2020 however as I’m sure many of you can relate to, I found I read a lot less this past year than I ever have. So, instead of reaching to deliver a Top 20 I decided to go with the books I have ZERO hesitations reaching for on my shelf. These are titles that invoked a range of emotions and/or left me with new and memorable characters I’ll be thinking about for quite some time. I would also love to see your favorite books of 2020 posts, drop those links down below <3’s!


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TAKE A HINT, DANI BROWN BY TALIA HIBBERT (SPOILER FREE REVIEW)Β This book will forever go down in the books as having the MOSt swoon worthy couple EVER! I fell head over heels for both Dani & Zaf who are complete polar opposites that compliment each other. Dani is a daughter of Oshun, a witch who is fiercely independent & closed off to the idea of love. Zaf listens to romance books, helps youth males shed toxic masculinity through his foundation, and worships the ground Dani walks on. Sexy AF couple GOALS Bookworms!

THE INVISIBLE LIFE OF ADDIE LARUE BY V.E. SCHWAB (SPOILER FREE REVIEW)Β I allowed myself to get swept into this Historical Fiction story of a girl born way ahead of her times. Addie seeks to escape a life of domesticity she will certainly be tied to when married off by her parents. A prayer made at night and heard by the wrong God grants her the chance to strike a deal. Immortality of sorts, her soul to be rendered to Lucifer once she tires of it. The deal is made with stipulations, Addie will not be remembered by anyone once she is out of sight even if for a few minutes. This book had me up at all hours of the night thinking about the footprints we leave behind. Yes, I absolutely was left heartbroken at the very end.

SUCH A FUN AGE BY KILEY REID (RTC) This was my last read of 2020 thanks to my good friend Taylor at NerdNarration who gifted me a copy. I also listened to the audiobook which delivered an A+ performance. I can’t think of a better time to have read this book than in 2020, the year that many were forced to take off their rose colored glasses and see their own internalized racism and microagressions. Told in dual POV we follow Emira who is a young black woman working as a sitter for a white family. Emira is asked to do the family a favor and take their little girl for a walk (in the middle of the night) while they sort through some things at home with the police. Emira is then approached by a neighborhood Karen at the Supermarket and accused of having possibly kidnapped the child in her charge. It’s not meant to make you comfortable, it’s one of those reads I’ll never forget.

ANXIOUS PEOPLE BY FREDRIK BACKMAN (RTC)Β I went in blind to this book and honestly feel like this is the BEST way to go in! I listened to the audiobook which starts off with a bank robbery gone wrong but also in the BEST of ways LOL smh. I have yet to write my review but that’s because I loved it so much and don’t feel I can do it justice. All I will say is that in 2021 I will be making my way through Fredrik Backman’s books.

MEXICAN GOTHIC BY SILVIA MORENO-GARCIA (SPOILER FREE REVIEW)Β HAUNTING AF! Also the book that has sent me on a “MUST buy all Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s books”Β quest #noregrets This Gothic Noir story transports you to High Place, a sort of mansion where Noemi our MC has arrived in search of answers. Noemi’s cousin who has married and left to High Place has been sending Noemi strange letters that are concerning. Is she ill or are there nefarious acts afoot at High Place? This was a ride! I didn’t expect where it took me but I was engrossed in the atmospheric setting nonetheless. This is not just horror written for the scare factor, there are also themes of eugenics and colonization weaved into this story that speak to Silvia Moreno Garcia’s level of craft.

INCENDIARY BY ZORAIDA CORDOVA (SPOILER FREE REVIEW)Β I actually laughed out loud when I started typing for this one simply because I would NOT call it a night until I read the last page of this book. I remember my boyfriend giving me that look and the scream/jump I gave when I read the last line…Yeah it was a cliffhanger! the MOTHER LOAD of all cliff hangers at 2am smh! I love Zoraida Cordova and found that compared to the Brooklyn Brujas trilogy, I much prefer the older side of YA writing delivered in this book. Set during the Spanish Inquisition in a Fantasy world where magic is deemed a disease, we meet Renata who can steal other peoples powers. She is taken at a young age and weaponized until she matures into a young woman and crosses over to the rebel side. A more twisty YA Fantasy I haven’t read in a long time & the crew of characters will be a hit for those who enjoyed Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo.

LOBIZONA BY ROMINA GARBER (SPOILER FREE REVIEW) This one raised the bar for me when choosing YA Fantasy to read. I was blown away by how Romina Garber managed to portray the feelings of displacement felt by many young immigrants. Our MC Manu is caught between two worlds, an immigrant from Argentina living in hiding in Miami Florida she stumbles into a world of magic. Witches, werewolves, a magical school with their own sport paired with important themes of gender identity and immigration Β made this one an absolute favorite of the year!

HOUSE OF BLOOD AND EARTH BY SARAH J. MAAS (SPOILER FREE REVIEW)Β I picked this one up on release day which was back in March before the country shut down and all ish hit the fan to be quite honest. SJM provided the escapism I so desperately needed at the time. By now we all know what to expect when reading a book by SJM, characters you can’t help but get invested in & a compulsivly readable plot. Do not read the synopsis on GR if you plan on reading this book! it’s super spoilery and you’ll be robbing yourself of the heartbreak everyone else experienced who didn’t read the synopsis. Angels, Fae, Wolves and a lovable Fire Sprite who loves watching Fangs & Bangs…mhmmm it’s exactly what you’re thinking LOL!


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