May 17, 2024

First Lines Friday

Celebrate Asian-American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month!



First Lines Friday is a bookish meme hosted by Literary Marie. I encourage all of my fellow book bloggers and bookhearts to play along.
  • Grab your current read(s).
  • Share the first line(s).
  • Include the title and author.

"New year, new me. Isn't that the phrase? When you're Asian, you have the opportunity to experience that twice a year."

~ Peking Duck and Cover by Vivien Chien

May 12, 2024

Series Sunday: Caraval

(Caraval #1) 


Series Sunday is a bookish meme hosted by Literary Marie. I encourage all of my fellow book bloggers and bookhearts to play along.
  • Read an installment of a series.
  • Share your review/recommendation below.
  • Include the title, author and series name.

My Series Sunday pick is Caraval, the first book in the series of same name by Stephanie Garber. Isla de los Sueños is the island of dreams. Caraval is a special invite-only performance that blurs the lines of fantasy and reality. Sisters Scarlett and Tella are whisked off to Caraval with the help of a mysterious sailor. Soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Legend, the mastermind organizer. This season revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her is the winner.

"The story could have ended there." ~ pg. 306

Ya think?! The story started off so strong. I was intrigued with the idea of magic and sisters claiming independence. I was empathetic toward the sisters domestic abuse situation and rooting for their escape. I am on a fantasy genre kick right now so was eager to try this recommendation. Bookhearts, you know I am a sucker for a series!

Shortly after beginning the novel, my excitement dulled. The game lasts five days so the chapters are broken down by days. I soon found myself counting down to the end of Caraval—the book and the fictional game. The characters were not so interesting after all but more juvenile and selfish. The author threw in unnecessary details to build suspense but it only distracted from the plot. What started as a great premise ended in a disappointing read.

There was no positive representation of men in the novel. They were all manipulative and abusive in some kind of way. The author herself says every good story needs a villain, but Caraval very much gave "man hate" vibes. How do you manage to make every male character a villain? I want to ask the author, "Who hurt you?"   

I am not going to continue the series. I am not even slightly interested in what happens next, the lame cliffhanger or the characters' fate in this trilogy. To be quite honest, I would have DNF'ed this book at page 50 if it weren't the April selection in the new Sistah Speak: Sistahs Be Readin' Book Club. While some enjoyed this novel, most did not. Caraval is not for all.

Please visit 
www.patreon.com/sistahspeak if you are interested in joining the Sistahs Be Readin' Book Club. ~Sistah LM

Title: Caraval
Author: Stephanie Garber
Published: September 2016
Pages: 361
Edition: eBook
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 🖤 🖤

May 10, 2024

First Lines Friday


First Lines Friday is a bookish meme hosted by Literary Marie. I encourage all of my fellow book bloggers and bookhearts to play along.
  • Grab your current read(s).
  • Share the first line(s).
  • Include the title and author.

"If I leave this house, it will be in handcuffs."

~ The Housemaid by Freida McFadden 

May 8, 2024

Some Soul to Keep


"Watched to see how everybody did their loving. I have been doing it now all my life, and I can tell you...it is a lesson and a[n] education to watch the way different people love, or don't love, other people. In families, between men and women, parents and children, everybody. I studied them all." ~ 74%

Some Soul to Keep is a collection of long short stories exploring the presence and absence of love. With her narration and vivid description of Black characters, J. California Cooper brings moving stories of Black family life.

First published in 1987, Some Soul to Keep features five (5) short stories that are long in length and meaning. In true JCC style, there are troubled characters telling their story in such an intimate way that they garner sympathy and readers' attention. Although I found only two of the five stories extremely interesting, there is one character that will stick in my head long after I've closed this advance copy and a central theme of Black love.

If you are new to J. California Cooper's work, do not read Some Soul to Keep first. While it is written in her signature style, it is not a good enough representation of her fine talent. She earned Black Playwright of the Year in 1978 and the American Book Award so I suggest reading some of her other works first. Return to Some Soul to Keep when you have a better sense of her moral message.

Happy Early Re-Pub Day to the late great J. California Cooper! Some Soul to Keep will be available Tuesday, June 11.

Disclaimer: An advance copy was received directly from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions are my own and would be the same if I spent my hard-earned coins. ~LiteraryMarie

Title: Some Soul to Keep
Author: J. California Cooper
Published: June 2024
Pages: 190
Edition: Galley
Genre: Black Lit
Rating: 🖤 🖤

May 7, 2024

The Townsend Family Recipe for Disaster


"You don't measure love." ~ pg.64

Mae learns what happens when things go south. She always wanted to connect with her estranged Black family in the South, growing up picturing relatives that looked like her, crowded dinner tables, bustling kitchens and traditional family barbecues. The same barbecues that kept her late father returning every year but mysteriously leaving her behind. 

As Mae's wedding draws closer and no one from the Townsend family responding to the invitations, she decides to head South. What she finds is a family in disaster and grief, a long-standing grudge, secrets and a lost food recipe. 

Being the newbie in the family, Mae steps up and volunteers to host a barbecue four days before her wedding. Most importantly, she hopes to win favor and figure out the recipe of her deceased grandmother's famous mac n' cheese for the prized dish. What a task!

Author Shauna Robinson says her goal was to write the book she wanted to read. Job well done! This novel satisfied the goal from a reader's perspective too. It might have been a slow burn but it was a complete story that left no plot stone unturned. I wish the pace was a bit quicker but came to realize this is the best way for family drama to be told and fully fleshed out to a satisfying ending.

The Townsend Family Recipe for Disaster is the first book I've read by Shauna Robinson but certainly will not be the last. I recommend for local book clubs to read and for audiobook listeners as they cook mac n' cheese for barbecues this summer.

Happy Early Pub Day, Shauna Robinson! The Townsend Family Recipe for Disaster will be available Tuesday, July 2.

Disclaimer: An advance copy was received directly from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions are my own and would be the same if I spent my hard-earned coins. ~LiteraryMarie

Title: The Townsend Family Recipe for Disaster
Author: Shauna Robinson
Published: July 2024
Pages: 257
Edition: Galley
Genre: Family Drama
Rating: 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤

May 5, 2024

Series Sunday: Think Twice

(Myron Bolitar #12) 


Series Sunday is a bookish meme hosted by Literary Marie. I encourage all of my fellow book bloggers and bookhearts to play along.
  • Read an installment of a series.
  • Share your review/recommendation below.
  • Include the title, author and series name.

"We knock on doors and stir the pot and muck things up and hope something rises to the surface." ~ 17%

My Series Sunday pick is Think Twice, the 12th book in the Myron Bolitar series by Harlan Coben. I cleared a weekend for this. All I needed was my fully-charged Kindle, a kettle of loose tea in lieu of YooHoo, homestyle chicken with egg noodles and iPhone set to DND. Do I really need to say it was well worth it? 

🗣️ MYRON BACK!!! It's been a minute since Harlan Coben graced us with a Myron Bolitar novel—eight (8) years to be exact. Coben picked up the pen not missing a beat with these characters, the suspense, the plot twists and dialogue. Let me tell you more.

"Your relationship with this guy is what the kids today call toxic." ~ 38%

In this new installment, years have gone by in the fictional world too. Former basketball star Myron Bolitar has reopened MB Reps, an agency for sports players and celebrities. Win is still a successful financial advisor. Myron brings in the money; Win invests it. They are brought together when FBI agents waltz into their skyrise office demanding to know the whereabouts of an old client with personal ties. 

Greg Downing died three years ago leaving behind a wife (Myron's ex) and a son (biologically Myron's). So how was his DNA found at the scene of a double murder? With the help of Esperanza, now a named partner at a bold new law firm, Myron and Win fly private investigating and looking for either a former client or a clever serial killer.

"You do love your moral dilemmas." ~ 64%

I have so missed the camaraderie between Myron, Win, Esperanza and Big Cyndi. They are my fictional co-workers in my head. Their banter, wit, vocabulary and trust just lifts off the pages for a reader's escape. Reading Think Twice was like a school reunion. We've aged but still got it! 

Followers of the series are in for a fast-paced treat. But no worries if you are new to Myron and 'nem; Think Twice has enough backstory that it can be read as a standalone. I cannot recommend this entire series, especially Think Twice, enough.

Happy Early Pub Day, Harlan Coben! Think Twice will be available Tuesday, May 14.

Disclaimer: An advance copy was received directly from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions are my own and would be the same if I spent my hard-earned coins. ~LiteraryMarie

Author: Harlan Coben
Published: May 2024
Pages: 278
Edition: Galley
Genre: Mystery
Rating: 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤

April 23, 2024

The Many Lives of Mama Love


"I scan myself for inner strength, but all I sense is a faint pulse." ~ pg. 124

Soccer mom Lara Love has a secret: she funds her heroin addiction by stealing her neighbors' credit cards. While dropping sons off at school, she quickly learns which moms leave their wallets on the front seat, who leaves doors unlocked and when the mail arrives. So no one expects the police to show up at her million-dollar home in a perfect cul-de-sac to arrest Lara and her husband.

Lara is convicted of 32 felonies. As an inmate, she learns jail is a class system with a power structure. She finds her lane bringing love and healing to her fellow inmates. Jailhouse politics aren't so different from PTA meetings. When she is released, she follows her writing dreams and becomes a ghostwriter all while learning to forgive herself, navigating life on probation and overcoming the shame of her past.

The Many Lives of Mama Love: A Memoir of Lying, Stealing, Writing, and Healing has been on my TBR for months. It moved up in rotation when Oprah selected it for her Book Club. There were many jaw-dropping moments. Like Lara being air-shanked by a green Jolly Rancher. The pull of addiction. Her journey of earning trust. It is a well-told memoir with elements of shock, truth and triumph. 

Title: The Many Lives of Mama Love
Author: Lara Love Hardin
Published: August 2023
Pages: 319
Edition: eBook
Genre: Memoir
Rating: 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤