March 21, 2018

Top Off

It truly is the little things in life that matter.
That makes your mouth curve into a smile.
That opens your arms into a hug.
That makes you blush at a memory.
That makes you sigh in satisfaction.

Like riding with the top off to feel warm sunshine.
Like dancing to a song when no one is watching.
Like keeping a standing nails/pedi/hair appointment.
Like taking a nap daily to refresh your mind, body and spirit.
Like handwriting a love note instead of sending an emoji.
Like reading a brand new book only your fingers touched.
Like eating the last bite of a rich dessert.
Like booking a spontaneous trip just because you can.
Like self-indulging into a decadent meal on an ordinary day.
Like digging for gold with a Q-tip in your ear.
Like getting a full body and scalp aromatherapy massage.
Like treating yourself to an afternoon of whatever you fancy.
Like buying yourself a shiny new piece of jewelry.
Like finding a folded $20 bill in a pair of old jeans.
Like reading a post from your favorite blogger reminding you to appreciate the little things in life. ♠️♥️


March 20, 2018

An American Marriage

"But home isn't where you land; home is where you launch." ~ pg. 4

Newlyweds Roy and Celestial are living the New South American Dream. He is a young executive and she is an emerging artist. Neither could imagine that one argument would spiral their lives off course. Roy leaves to cool off, returns and makes up with his wife. Mere hours later, they are forced awake by authorities and Roy is arrested for a crime that Celestial knows for a fact he did not commit. Fast forward through our lovely justice system, he is sentenced to twelve years in prison.

Celestial moves forward in her career and takes comfort in the arms of her childhood friend and best man at their wedding. She struggles to hang on to the love she felt for her husband. Meanwhile, Roy's love continues to grow stronger while they are apart. After five years, Roy's conviction is overturned and he returns to Atlanta hoping to resume their life together.

It is not often I go above and beyond to spread the good word about a book. Tayari Jones' An American Marriage deserves every second of my praise. I documented my thoughts while reading through tweets and Goodreads updates. On Instagram, I posted a picture of me reading by the fire snuggled in my faux fur throw. I iMessaged my bestie in Houston and immediately recommended the book to my Chickadee, who in turn downloaded the audiobook and listened nonstop until the end. Alas, this is my official review to my bookhearts and newbies that may have missed all of my previous posts.

"Everything I do is a love letter addressed to you." ~ pg. 91

Never have I ever loved a book where I loathed the main character(s). It is usually a huge turnoff. Somehow, Tayari Jones wrote these fleshed out characters so well that my disgust for them took a backseat. I noticed a lot of people expressing dislike for Roy, the husband. I am alone in the corner because Roy was actually my favorite. I empathized with him the most. It was Celestial, the wife, that I could not stand. I wanted to spit at the pages! But hardcovers cost too much to damage intentionally.

Tayari Jones has a gift. The story of Silver Sparrow haunts me to this day and is one of my all-time favorite novels. The power of An American Marriage will linger on. It is not a book that will leave your memory easily. In fact, it could very well happen to you or another couple in real life. This is what makes the story so real and relevant. Circumstances are likely to enter any situation; it is how we handle it and how we treat others involved that helps us through. Bookhearts, find the time to read An American Marriage. I look forward to the many discussions to come. First up—talking about Roy and 'nem over good food and drinks with my Chickadee!

SIDE NOTE: Happy Anniversary to my brother and sis-in-law! You are one of my favorite Black American marriages and an example to many.♠️♥️

Title: An American Marriage
Author: Tayari Jones
Published: February 2018
Pages: 320
Edition: Hardcover
Challenge: Popsugar—My Favorite Prompt from the 2016 PRC (A Book from Oprah's Book Club)
Rating: πŸ–€ πŸ–€ πŸ–€ πŸ–€ πŸ–€


March 18, 2018

Series Sunday: A Wrinkle in Time

(Time Quintet #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 A Wrinkle in Time, the first book in the Time Quintet series by Madeleine L'Engle. Did you not realize this is a series? You're not the only one. This book begins with the famous line: It was a dark and stormy night. And so begins the classic.

Meg Murry is in her attic bedroom wide awake due to the storm. She walks down to the kitchen and joins her little brother, Charles Wallace, and their mother for a midnight snack and hot cocoa. They are disturbed by the arrival of an unearthly stranger dressed in odd getup of layered patterned scarves and water-filled boots. Perhaps this wouldn't have happened if Meg's father was around. He'd been experimenting with time travel when he mysteriously disappeared. With the help of her little brother and friend Calvin, Meg sets out to rescue her father on a journey through space. Three celestial beings (Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which) lead them on the adventure.

"Oh, we don't travel at the speed of anything. We tesser. Or you might say, we wrinkle." ~ pg. 70

First of all, the new movie tie-in edition is everything! It includes An Appreciation by Ava DuVernay, director of the film, highlighting her personal ties to author Madeleine L'Engle's work. Speaking of, the last interview with the author is included. I learned we share a taste for Cream of Wheat with butter and brown sugar...yum! She also tells how hard it was to get A Wrinkle in Time published. Who would've thought? There are eight pages of full color photos from the movie. What a colorful cast it is—Mindy Kaling, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine and Storm Reid. The movie tie-in book cover is striking! I received quite a few nods of approval when reading it in public. L'Engle's Newberry Medal Acceptance Speech: The Expanding Universe ends the book.

A Wrinkle in Time is a bit different from other Disney movies in regards to roles of mothers. Think about it. The characters either lost a mother or there is no mention at all. Why? Because Walt Disney's mother died in an accident that haunted Walt with grief for the rest of his life. He blamed himself for contributing to his mother's tragic death. But in A Wrinkle in Time, Meg's mother makes an appearance within the first fifty or so pages, sticking around longer than the usual Disney story.

"It's a frightening as well as an exciting thing to discover that matter and energy are the same thing, that size is an illusion, and that time is a material substance." ~ pg. 185

Re-reading classics usually bring on the nostalgia. But I didn't remember any tidbit about this book. Perhaps because I read it so long ago that the story did not stick. Or maybe because I did not have a movie to associate with it, like most classics. So my plan was to re-read the book then go see it on the big screen. I was all geeked after watching the official trailer above. However, lots of trusted reviews claimed the movie was not so good. The visual effects seem to be overpowering the story in movie adaptation. So I'll eventually watch the movie and judge for myself but no rush. What matters is I enjoyed reading A Wrinkle in Time the second time around and will most likely continue the series.

A Wrinkle in Time is a mix of fiction, science and fantasy. The story is a classic of children's literature intended for ages 8-10. I look forward to reading it for a third time with my niece. May I suggest to all bookhearts that you share this story with the youngins in your life. It is indeed magical!

Author: Madeleine L'Engle
Published: November 2017
Pages: 256
Edition: Movie Tie-In Paperback
Challenge: Popsugar—A Book About Time Travel
Rating: πŸ–€ πŸ–€ πŸ–€ πŸ–€ πŸ–€


March 16, 2018

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.

"As Scandal's creator, head writer and executive producer, Shonda Rhimes is the series' driving force—just as she's been with another monster hit, Grey's Anatomy. Now the Hollywood powerhouse reflects on the end of the Olivia Pope saga."

~ Special Edition People Magazine: All Seven Seasons of Scandal
So Long to the Intrigue, Lust, Plot Twists, Popcorn & Olivia Pope


March 15, 2018

Closer Than You Know

"And all I had for protection were my own desperate prayers." ~ pg. 390

Melanie Barrick is a 31-year-old trucking company dispatcher living an ordinary life with a newborn baby and Professor-to-be-husband. Easy life, right? She should have listened when someone told her disaster is closer than you know. Her whole world flipped when she goes to pick her baby up from childcare only to discover he's been removed by Social Services. The nightmare grows when she gets home to see her house raided by sheriff's deputies, who found half a kilo of cocaine and drug paraphernalia stashed in the nursery. The very place her sweet baby sleeps! Melanie insists upon her innocence; she is not the "Coke Mom" the media and police make her out to be.

Meanwhile, assistant attorney Amy Kaye has been assigned Melanie's case along with coming close to solving a cold case: a serial rapist who has avoided getting caught by wearing a mask and whispering commands. He has victimized dozens of women, including Melanie.

"You know, for such a smart girl, you're kind of dumb sometimes. I think it's pretty obvious." ~ pg. 106

Have you ever read a book that keeps you reading late into the night, falling asleep in the middle of turning the page, waking up with it still in your hands? Then you turn on a light and keep reading as if the alarm clock isn't going off in a few hours? This is what I experienced in Brad Parks' Closer Than You Know. 

The only domestic disputes I get involved in are through fiction. This mystery unfolded in such a timely manner that every clue meant something. No filler. No unnecessary words. Not even a chapter to be scrapped in its 400+ pages. Despite the title, the suspense thriller was not easy to figure out right away. There is no exaggeration that this book was nearby for two days straight until I finished. Yes, that good! Where is the lie?

Title: Closer Than You Know
Author: Brad Parks
Published: March 2018
Pages: 402
Edition: Hardcover
Rating: πŸ–€ πŸ–€ πŸ–€ πŸ–€ πŸ–€


March 14, 2018

Let's Talk About Love

Meet Alice: college student, great job, fun friends and secretly asexual. She swears off relationships for good after a breakup. Why can't a girl find love without sex? Must the two go hand-in-hand? Then she experiences instant attraction to a co-worker that makes him worth the risk of heartache.

Don't judge a book by its cover. We all know the clichΓ©. Let's Talk About Love is an example. I was instantly drawn to this book because of the stunning cover: a beautiful black woman with natural hair 'fro captured in the middle of a happy moment. Perhaps snapping her fingers to a tune. Even her dress looks fab. The title is eye-catching in big purple font. Overall one of the best book covers of the year.

...Also the first book in 2018 to be shelved DNF (did not finish). I am all about fair representation so the main character's asexuality/biromance was not a big deal. But when the narrator is uber annoying? That is when I tap out. 

Title: Let's Talk About Love
Author: Claire Kann
Published: January 2018
Pages: 288
Edition: Hardcover
Rating: πŸ–€DNF


March 13, 2018

All-American Murder

"Why would he jeopardize his life to go kill somebody a mile from his house?" ~ pg. 274

Ripped from the headlines indeed! Aaron Hernandez was an all-American college athlete. He played all the sports, became the youngest player in the NFL and later played the Super Bowl. The New England Patriots extended his contract to a whopping $40 million. What fans and the NFL did not know was that Aaron Hernandez was living a secret a murderer. He was linked to a series of violent incidents and a double homicide that ultimately landed him in prison.

"Hernandez was especially fond of Patterson's Alex Cross novels." ~ pg. 271

All-American Murder is the first of James Patterson's true crime investigative books. I like that he is branching out to write about real-life thrillers with the same classic short chapter style and feel of fiction. In fact, true mysteries make the best stories! Although I did not find Aaron Hernandez's rise and fall to be a page-turner, it was still very informative and worth the read. How can you resist the true tale of a superstar whose life ended on murderer's row?

Title: All-American Murder: The Rise and Fall of Aaron Hernandez
Author: James Patterson & Alex Abramovich
Published: January 2018
Pages: 382
Edition: Hardcover
Challenge: Popsugar—True Crime
Rating: πŸ–€ πŸ–€ πŸ–€

March 11, 2018

Series Sunday: Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

(Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore #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.

"It's easy to find a needle in a haystack! Ask the hays to find it." ~ pg. 205

My Series Sunday pick is Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, the first book in the series of same name by Robin Sloan. Clay is a new hire that grows curious; his new employer is more than its name suggests. There are only a handful of repeat customers. They come in repeatedly to check out/borrow volumes.

Like any job, there are rules. Clay's shift is from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. exactly. He cannot be late or arrive any earlier. He is not allowed to browse, inspect or read the shelved volumes. And finally, Mr. Penumbra insists Clay document every little detail of the customers. What color and material coat was he wearing? Did he seem in a hurry? What was the customer's temperament when checking out the mysterious volume? How did he ask for the book? It's all strange. Clay wants answers and enlists friends to help. Surely the 24-hour bookstore is a front for something larger.

"No ISBNs here." ~ pg. 28

I was originally drawn to this book because of the title alone. A 24-hour bookstore is a bibliophile's dream! Can you imagine the awesomeness?! And of course the exclusive books are shelved way up high. Those books are not for sale; reserved for exclusive members only. At any time of day or night, there is a bookstore filled with classics and rare collections that can be reached by a competent young man's climb up a ladder.

The novel went left for a minute but I liked it overall. However, it is no need to continue the series. Perhaps the author realized this considering it is six years later and the second book has not been published. Regardless, add to your TBR for a rainy day but not if you're looking to start a new series.

Title: Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
Author: Robin Sloan
Published: October 2012
Pages: 237
Edition: eBook
Challenge: Popsugar—A Book That Involves a Bookstore or Library
Rating: πŸ–€ πŸ–€ πŸ–€


March 9, 2018

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.

"It was a dark and stormy night."

~ A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle 

March 8, 2018

You Can't Touch My Hair

"Phoebe Robinson c/o Haus of Fucks I Do Not Give Anytown, USA  12345" ~ pg. 93

Podcaster, comedian and now NYT bestseller, Phoebe Robinson, writes about race and feminism. Who knew being a black woman in America could be told through pop culture references and comedic essays?

Phoebe leaves no stone unturned in explaining our so-called postracial society. I could easily relate to a few essays: to being told that I "talk white" to patting my head like the bottom of a Heinz ketchup bottle when my scalp itches. Some things really are a "black thing." I especially nodded my head in agreement and laughed on the chapter about being that one black friend/co-worker that has to speak for all blacks. *gives Phoebe that #OneOtherBlackPersonInTheRoomAcknowledgementNod*

"Don't Let February Turn into a Twenty-Eight-Day Press Conference in Which You Are the One Answering All the Questions" ~ pg. 127

Unfortunately too few of the essays were just okay and a bit long-winded. I had to fight the urge to skim through getting to the good parts. Looking at other reviews, I was not the only reader that couldn't get into the book like I wanted to. The content was certainly not the issue. Perhaps the writing and overall voice? I cannot pinpoint why the book fell short but maybe her brand of comedy just isn't for me.

Title: You Can't Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain
Author: Phoebe Robinson
Published: October 2016
Pages: 318
Edition: eBook
Challenge: Popsugar—A Book Tied to My Ancestry
Rating: πŸ–€ πŸ–€


March 7, 2018

The Last Black Unicorn

"But I had to earn that respect." ~ pg. 213

How many women do you know that met Beyonce, was a Bar Mitzvah hype woman, took a shit in a pair of Jordans, toured a swamp, grew up in the foster care system and lived to tell about it in a brutally honest yet hilarious way? Let me introduce you to Tiffany Haddish, The Last Black Unicorn. Her personal essays are told through the power of laughter.

I cannot deny Tiffany's humor. She can make me literally LOL whether I am watching her stand-up comedy special, her hilarious character on The Carmichael Show, breakout star of Girls Trip, or an interview. She has the gift of funny gab. What I didn't realize was how her funny jokes stem from real-life situations that are not so funny. From being raised in foster care to being physically abused, this woman has made it through some tough shit only to smile at the end.

"As a young kid, it didn't feel like nobody cared about me or protected me (except for my grandma). It didn't feel like anybody gave two fucks about me, unless it was benefiting them." ~ pg. 57

Let this collection of essays be a lesson to women who may be experiencing similar life troubles. Tiffany's success story will shock and then inspire you. I don't know if this was her purpose in being so honest with her life, but it definitely garnered more respect. Now don't mistake my review in that this book is a downer. The overall tone is real-life comedy.

One of my fave bookhearts, Sonia Says aka Lady Bird, wrapped it up best: Expecting to laugh through the book but instead often felt hurt and angry for Tiffany. I join my bookheart in prayer that Tiffany Haddish has continued success and good health. And may the BeyHive let her live. May she continue to joke through it.

Author: Tiffany Haddish
Published: December 2017
Pages: 278
Edition: Hardcover
Challenge: Popsugar—A Book I Meant to Read in 2017 But Didn't Get To
Rating: πŸ–€ πŸ–€ πŸ–€ πŸ–€


March 6, 2018

Gun Love

"The bullets were my inheritance." ~ 67%

Who would've thought a bright yellow cover with hot pink alligator shadows would hold a tale about guns? Welp, Jennifer Clement pens a story of a resilient young girl growing up in contemporary America with its love of firearms.

Pearl lives in a car parked at the edge of a trailer park in the middle of Florida. It's the only home she knows. Just weeks after she was born, Pearl's mother ran away from home, taking with her valuables either for memories or to be sold when needed. But the most valuable thing she took is baby Pearl. Growing up in the front seat of a '94 Mercury with her mother living in the backseat was perfectly normal. Also normal was the sound of gunshots. Florida residents were the ultimate gun lovers. Some used guns to protect their family and others used guns to hunt alligators for sport. Again, Pearl knew no different.

"If a man gives his woman a gun it's because he really trusts her." ~ 18%

Gun Love had the chance to be something so great. And maybe it is to some early readers. However, its greatness was lost on me. The beginning of the book was interesting. I'd never read about a character that basically didn't exist (no birth certificate, no identification, no home address, etc.) Nor had I read a book that mentioned guns like it was nothing. But when a third main character entered the picture, I was lost in the sauce of a lyrical writing style. The author was more concerned with writing metaphors and prose than developing the characters in a flowing story. It was a disappointing read.

Nevertheless, Happy Pub Day to Jennifer Clement! It is quite an accomplishment to publish a novel. Just because I didn't like it doesn't mean the next reader won't either. Gun Love is now available.

Disclaimer: This book was received directly from the publisher for review purposes only. In no way does it influence my review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and would be the same if I spent my hard-earned coins.

Title: Gun Love
Author: Jennifer Clement
Published: March 2018
Pages: 288
Edition: Galley
Challenge: Popsugar—A Book About or Involving a Sport
Rating: πŸ–€


March 4, 2018

Series Sunday: You Won't Know I'm Gone

(Black Angel Chronicles #2) 

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.

"The scar tissue around my heart flares, its stitches pull tighter." ~ 63%

My Series Sunday pick is You Won't Know I'm Gone, the second book in the Black Angel Chronicles series by Kristen Orlando. Last we saw of main character Reagan Hillis, she had gone rogue to rescue her kidnapped parents. Not following rules cost her an automatic ticket to training academy. But becoming a Black Angel is the only route to avenging her mother's killer, Torres. She will never find him without the agency's help or security clearance. Now Reagan fights between being her true self or an alias.

When I say I root for the main character aloud...I am not exaggerating. While turning the ePages, I am rooting like Arsenio Hall for badass Reagan Hillis. This second book was just as good as the first. Suspense was built slowly. It was not that predictable. And I legit feel invested in Reagan's journey to be an official Black Angel.

Listen, I LOVE THIS SERIES! I cannot even compare it to an existing series. Black Angel Chronicles is in its own lane. Nothing like Allegiant. Not even close to Hunger Games. It kinda sorta reminds me of the old television series starring Jessica Alba called Dark Angel, but not really. My point is Kristen Orlando has created a realistic YA thriller series that adults can enjoy too. Need I say more? Just read it.

Author: Kristen Orlando
Published: January 2018
Pages: 320
Edition: eBook
Rating: πŸ–€ πŸ–€ πŸ–€ πŸ–€ πŸ–€

March 2, 2018

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.

"There are two kinds of people in the world, those who leave home, and those who don't."

~ An American Marriage by Tayari Jones 


March 1, 2018

Love, Hate & Other Filters

"No time for sentimentality." ~ pg. 45

In this debut young adult (YA) novel, an American-born Muslim teen named Maya Aziz copes with Islamophobia, cultural divides, and feeling torn between worlds. Her parents rather Maya attend University of Chicago close to home and be paired with a suitable Muslim boy. But Maya wants to attend NYU, pursue film and fall into like with a boy of her own choosing.

Finally a book featuring an Indian Muslim girl as the main character. I'd never read one before so was really looking forward to Maya's point of view. Her parents seemed to be a fair representation and the Indian food described was mouth-watering. But Maya's thoughts of romance is eye-rolling. What she deems important as a teen is a bit naive. Are young people really this one-sided? Are they clueless to bigotry in this world? This character could have so much depth but instead was disappointing.

Love, Hate & Other Filters is a good idea but the dialogue and writing was too basic. I can usually follow along without boredom while reading other YA novels but this one screamed for teen readers only. I stuck it out until page 53 before marking it DNF (did not finish). Back to the library it goes!

"And for those who bear the brunt of hate because of the color of their skin, or the sound of their name, or the scarf on their head, or the person they love; for those who are spat upon, for those who are told to 'go home' when they are home: you are known." ~ pg. 278

In the Author's Note, Samira Ahmed addresses the readers. She wrote this book out of love and hope. Having lived in New York on 9/11, she bore witness to Islamophobia, grief, and violence. But she also saw people rise up and be resilient. Meaningful message but the story itself didn't do it for me. Too much fluff!

Title: Love, Hate & Other Filters
Author: Samira Ahmed
Published: January 2018
Pages: 278
Edition: Hardcover
Rating: πŸ–€