March 31, 2024

Series Sunday: Fourth Wing

(The Empyrean #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 Fourth Wing, the first book in the Empyrean series by Rebecca Yarros. Twenty-year-old Violet Sorrengail prepared her whole life to enter the Scribe Quandrant—a quiet safe life of books and history. But her tough-as-talons mother has ordered Violet to join the hundreds of candidates striving to become dragon riders.

Never mind that Violet's bones are brittle and her stature petite. No worries that there are fewer dragons willing to bond so cadets will kill to better their own chances. And the rest would kill her just because of her last name, like Xaden Riorson—the ruthless wingleader of the Riders Quadrant. Yet the war outside the kingdom's failing protective wards grows more deadly and Violet suspects leadership is hiding a secret. It seems the only way out of Basgiath War College is to graduate or die.

"Hope is a fickle, dangerous thing. It steals your focus and aims it towards the possibilities instead of keeping it where it belongs—on the probabilities." ~ pg. 130

I am not into fantasy. I am not a big romance reader. But I do love me some dragons. And I most certainly listen to my Bookhearts when they make a recommendation. I cannot deny I am a sucker for an awesome cover that looks good on display. So this is how the holiday hardcover edition of Fourth Wing with a stunning revamped cover, black sprayed edges, new endpages, detailed map and bonus chapters ended up in my hands. If nothing else, I thought, this book will look pretty on my bookshelf.

BAYBEEEE, once I started reading though...unputdownable! I was lost in the halls of Basgiath War College. No amount of BookTok videos prepared me for the enemies-to-lovers-to-chosen-family trope. I did not expect to fall in love with the dragons. I did not believe my heart would connect to fictional characters to the point I would shed a tear, cringe, hoot and holler. I read over 500 pages of this world that Rebecca Yarros masterfully built, stayed up many a night and still wanted more.

When it comes to Fourth Wing, it deserves every sharp point of these five stars, every curve of these five hearts! This novel is brutally good! Believe the hype. Instead of me saying more, I am going to share my live updates and favorite quotes then let you decide whether it is worth adding to your TBR. I will be waiting here to welcome you aboard The Empyrean fly or die skies.

Author: Rebecca Yarros
Published: May 2023
Pages: 518
Edition: Holiday Hardcover
Genre: Romantasy
Rating: πŸ–€ πŸ–€ πŸ–€ πŸ–€ πŸ–€

March 29, 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.

"...in grasping my pen and putting my hand to page, I felt as though I existed for the first time. I was the property of no one save myself. Therefore, I could freely give of myself to those I loved, no?"

~ The American Daughters by Maurice Carlos Ruffin 


"The egg I had for breakfast this morning didn't taste rotten, but these days, it was not always easy to know about the state of the food one ate because of the many ways merchants could mask spoiled food."

American Daughters by Piper Huguley  

March 26, 2024

Black & Irish


"Where are you really from?" ~ pg. 75

In honor of Irish-American Heritage Month and St. Patrick's Day, I read an advance copy of Leon Diop's and Briana Fitzsimons' new nonfiction book titled Black & Irish: Legends, Trailblazers & Everyday Heroes. Very quickly, I realized this was a literary gem worthy of taking notes on.

Black & Irish is an informative, beautifully illustrated book featuring people of color that are not so well-known. I learned, made annotations and did further research on a few of the Black Irish people featured. Without these legends being in the spotlight, I probably would not have known their contribution to the community. 

I am slightly disappointed by the scope of the research. Most of the people featured were from the same place of Nigeria. It was more-so a celebration of Nigerian-Irish trailblazers. I am sure there are more Black people in Ireland to be recognized.

Nevertheless, this new release is indeed a celebration of actors, athletes, icons, activists, influencers and trailblazers. The stunning addition of illustrations by Jessica Louis add vibrant color to each profile. The layout reminds me of the Rebel Girls series. I recommend Black & Irish to educators and readers of nonfiction for an inspirational read.

Happy Early Pub Day, Leon Diop and Briana Fitzsimons! Black & Irish will be available Tuesday, April 9.

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: Black & Irish: Legends, Trailblazers & Everyday Heroes
Author: Leon Diop and Briana Fitzsimons
Published: April 2024
Pages: 178
Edition: Galley
Genre: Nonfiction
Rating: πŸ–€ πŸ–€ πŸ–€ πŸ–€

March 24, 2024

Series Sunday: The Good, the Bad, and the Aunties

(Aunties #3) 


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
 The Good, the Bad, and the Aunties, the third and final book in the Aunties series by Jesse Q. Sutanto. Newlyweds Meddy and Nathan are spending the Chinese New Year with family. A former beau of Second Aunt's shows up at the Chan residence with extravagant gifts hoping to rekindle. But one particular gift, included by accident, was intended for a business rival.

What follows is an entertaining story of the Aunties agreeing to return the gift, trying to retrieve it and becoming pawns. Of course it turns disastrous. It is up to Meddy to save them all. As usual, the Aunties are one-upping one another while Meddy's goal is to protect her family at all costs. 

"Not weed tea. Jasmine tea!" ~ pg. 110

I found the story to just be okay. There was no character development. Perhaps because this is the final book of the series, the author chose not to delve more into Meddy and the meddlesome Aunties. It is disappointing when a reader wants to learn more about characters but the author just doesn't deliver. It is especially disappointing when the main character is increasingly annoying throughout the formulaic story.

The Aunties series started out with a hilarious entertaining bang in Dial A for Aunties, turned ridiculously unrealistic in Four Aunties and a Wedding then ended on a meh note with The Good, the Bad, and the Aunties. Nevertheless, it will make you chuckle along the way.

Happy Early Pub Day, Jesse Q. Sutanto! The Good, the Bad, and the Aunties will be available Tuesday, March 26.

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: Jesse Q. Sutanto
Published: March 2024
Pages: 212
Edition: Galley
Genre: Mystery Romance
Rating: πŸ–€ πŸ–€

March 15, 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.

"You might think that the idea of being Black and Irish is a relatively new thing. However, Black and Mixed-Race people have been present in Ireland for centuries, some dating as far back as the 1700s."

~ Black & Irish: Legends, Trailblazers & Everyday Heroes by Leon Diop and Briana Fitzsimons; Illustrated by Jessica Louis 

March 13, 2024

Lit Tidbits: Pithy Picks XV


Hey, Bookhearts! Pithy Picks are a bookish meme created to help you quickly find books that are worth your time and coins. Just read the pithy reviews below!


Edited by: Ashley Elston
Published: January 2024
Pithy Review: Evie Porter has a loving doting boyfriend, a white picket fence with a garden and a fancy friend group. The only catch is that Evie Porter does not exist. Her anonymous boss gives her an identity and a location. It's up to Evie to learn everything about the town, its residents and her mark. This would be better suited as a short thriller or TV mini-series than a full length novel. The adaptation would be better, I bet.
Quote"It's because you're not ready to tell me the truth and I'd rather you not lie to me." ~ pg. 181
Recommend or Nah? ⭐️⭐️


Title: I Hope My Voice Doesn't Skip
Author: Alicia Cook
Published: June 2018
Pithy Review: I fell in heart with this poet's mixtape series so felt obliged to read her other works. Like a vinyl record, this collection is sorted into EP (shorter poems) and LP (longer prose and songwriting). It is heartfelt. Although a few lines spoke directly to me, this collection was not as good as her other poetry.
Quote"Tell me my eyes will clear. Tell me I will smile again. Tell me how to heal—I didn't hear you the first time." ~ 13%
Recommend or Nah? ⭐️⭐️


Title:
 Two Women Walk Into a Bar
Author: Cheryl Strayed
Published: January 2024
Pithy Review: This short memoir is about family secrets, grief and reconciliation. Cheryl's mother-in-law is given weeks to live. As the family goes through her final days, Cheryl reckons with their complicated relationship. The women accept their differences and find healing in saying goodbye. It makes you go hmmm.
Quote"But there's a spiritual component to dying. To some degree, people need to release whatever's holding them here before they can make the transition." ~ pg. 15
Recommend or Nah? ⭐️⭐️⭐️


Title: Worst Wingman Ever
Author: Abby Jimenez
Published: January 2024
Pithy Review: A couple falls in love before they officially meet in this short romance. Holly is a hospice nurse but this time the patient is her own grandmother. Upon leaving one evening, she finds a Valentine's Day card with a freaky coupon on her windshield. Turns out it was not meant for her. The amusing mistake leads to a cute game of "Tag, You're It" and a lovely exchange of anonymous notes and acts of kindness. This story is a reminder that strangers can care and we are always meant to be where we are at the right time.
Quote"Take responsibility for your own unhappiness." ~ 72% 
Recommend or Nah? ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
⭐️


Title: Drop, Cover, and Hold On
Author: Jasmine Guillory
Published: January 2024
Pithy Review: An earthquake traps a woman inside her favorite bakery with its impossibly rude and insufferably handsome owner on Valentine's Day. In her signature style of writing, Jasmine Guillory introduces characters that are easy to like, relatable and carry on engaging banter that makes this easy to read in just one sitting eating your favorite pastry. It is a cute short story of finding love when and where you least expect it. 
Quote"Resting...smile face?" ~ pg. 23
Recommend or Nah? ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Title: Fires to Come
Author: Asha Lemmie
Published: February 2024
Pithy Review: Any short story that begins with an 8-year-old asking her Papa if he kills people, is worthy of reading in one sitting. Abandoned as an infant and raised by Italians, Carlotta has never quite fit in as the only Black person in her neighborhood. She ventures to Harlem, home of the great Renaissance, jazz and love in the air. Then the dynamics of her adoptive family shift and Carlotta has to decide where she belongs. This short story dares to defy fairness, convention and gender roles.
Quote"Everyone always does what's best for themselves. It is the oldest law of nature." ~ pg. 32
Recommend or Nah? ⭐️⭐️


Title: Fallen Grace
Author: Sadeqa Johnson
Published: February 2024
Pithy Review: Another eShort in the Amazon Original Stories Blaze collection that can be read or listened to in one sitting. Bubbles Jones is a single mother in segregated Virginia pushing back on societal prejudice, her own family's judgment, a hypocritical pastor father and the betrayal of a lover. She has a lot to escape in order to forge a life ahead for her and a newborn baby. This one packs a punch with a message in less than 50 pages.
Quote"All that singing and carrying on you do every week in the name of the Lord, and you're going to put your flesh and blood out on the street because you're afraid of church gossipers?" ~ pg. 26
Recommend or Nah? ⭐️⭐️⭐️

March 12, 2024

Black Girl IRL


"Because Black women, we deserve leverage." ~ pg. 131

Everyone around the globe knows Oprah and BeyoncΓ©. But there are regular Black women out here doing it all in real life (IRL). We handle things. We figure shit out. We speak up. We are leaders. We risk our opinions being the "voice of all Black women" at our jobs if we are the only one there. We are the regular girls wearing satin bonnets to sleep.

Gail Hamilton Azodo is the Black Girl IRL. In this new nonfiction book, she shares everything from motivational quotes, group texts with friends, work stories and advice. Most of all, she shares authentic stories of being an everyday Black woman. It is very relatable. So accurate and entertaining at times. I felt like I was in the room with her reliving experiences, saying repeatedly, "I know, girl!"

Thank you for the acknowledgment and the encouragement to being the best regular Black woman we can be.

Happy Pub Day, Gail Hamilton Azodo! Black Girl IRL is available today.

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: Black Girl IRL: Life Between the Mess and the Magic
Author: Gail Hamilton Azodo
Published: March 2024
Pages: 222
Edition: Galley
Genre: Nonfiction
Rating: πŸ–€ πŸ–€ πŸ–€

March 10, 2024

Series Sunday: Fireborne, Flamefall and Furysong

(The Aurelian Cycle Trilogy) 


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 The Aurelian Cycle trilogy by Rosaria Munda. Annie and Lee were children when a brutal revolution changed their world. It gave everyone—from the lowborn to the heirs—a chance to test into the governing class of dragonriders. Annie's lowborn family was killed by dragonfire while Lee's aristocratic family was murdered by revolutionaries. Growing up in the same orphanage forged their friendship and now Annie and Lee are competing for the top position of Firstrider in Fireborne, the first book of the trilogy.

Book two, Flamefall, centers around power and punishment. The dragonlords are eager to reclaim their city. The Firstrider is charged with leading the war and enforcing the government's rationing program. It is up to Annie, Lee and new character Griff to decide who and what to fight for.

Furysong is the sparked conclusion with Annie and Lee once again fighting for their lives and for each other. Griff is facing an execution and new character Delo has to follow his family or surrender to his conscience. There is a new revolution threatening to burn homes and whole cities. This book is the ultimate test of loyalty, love and sacrifice.  

"I know how it feels, to reach for a life you can't have and try to fit it over your own body like a borrowed coat." ~ pg. 408 Furysong

Le sigh. It is better if I review this trilogy as a whole instead of separate books. Mainly because I am still undecided on final thoughts. Did I like it? Did I hate it? Did it make sense? Was it good? Was it bad? How was the ending? All of these questions and no firm answers. But don't worry...no spoilers!

I do not usually read fantasy. Yet BookTok peer-pressured me into reading romantasy. I was searching for a series to fill the void after reading Fourth Wing and Iron Flame. I wanted to continue riding the wave of dragonriders, revolution, war, enemies to lovers angst, squads and sparring. I needed to read more about dragons. And I am a sucker for a series with beautiful covers. So after reading the sample, I bought the trilogy in hopes it would live up to the quiet hype.

"It's strange how you can fight your way to a door, even through it, without thinking about what lies on the other side." ~ pg. 160 Fireborne

I started Fireborne with a strong side-eye. It was so familiar with the same terms and setting as The Empyrean series. I double-checked the publication date to see which author copied whom. To my surprise, this series was published first. I read on and quickly realized the similarities stopped and these things were standard for dragonrider lingo.

The Aurelian Cycle missed the theory factor. There was nothing for me to mull over or try to figure out. Yes, there were minor plot twists but nothing jaw-dropping. For the most part it was predictable. Very easy reading with little interpretation or reading between the lines. Perhaps because it is written for young adults. But half the fun of reading is theorizing what will happen and how it will be revealed across the lifespan of a series. Not even the cliffhangers were enough.

I have a love/hate relationship with the main characters in The Aurelian Cycle. Antigone is the underdog. From the very beginning, odds were against her. She was not supposed to win. She was not the vision that government wanted. It was frustrating at times when she would fight for her life then just hand over power to less deserving. I would talk to the book like, "Girl, you are worthy!" Meanwhile, Leo is the guy everyone rooted for and wanted as representation. Yet he let secrets of the past and love blind him. "Dude, get your mind right!" is what I would roll my eyes saying. 

"The funny thing about overhearing a betrayal is that it makes your own impulse to come clean evaporate." ~ pg. 279 Flamefall

The author did a good job of balancing screen time and narration with characters like Power, Griff and Delo. I like how each book introduced a new point of view adding layers to the story and enhancing the setting of different locations. Not too many authors can masterfully write multiple points of view—even within a chapter—and Rosaria nailed it. 

I just wish dragons played a bigger role. Instead, they were just a mode of transportation. A means to get from point A to point B like a regular 'ole car. The only inkling into the minds or personalities of the dragons were spillovers few and far between.

But my major gripe is carrying characters that should've been killed off too many times to count. I get it; every story needs a villain. But come the fuck on. So many lost opportunities just to leave a bad character in the story was frustrating to read. I was two seconds away from throwing the whole series in the trash if certain characters didn't meet a certain demise. 

The politics and other themes such as chosen family, loyalty and the caste system are what set this trilogy apart from others in the genre. In fact, romance played a backseat. This is what kept me reading until the end. It's a good thing I binged this series as a buddy read because had I read it upon its publication, and alone, I would have hesitated to make it through. So did I like it? Yes and no. The Aurelian Cycle is a good placeholder. Do I recommend it though? Hmmm, I'll let you decide.

Title: Fireborne
Author: Rosaria Munda
Published: October 2019
Pages: 432
Edition: Paperback
Genre: YA Fantasy
Rating: πŸ–€ πŸ–€

Title: Flamefall
Author: Rosaria Munda
Published: March 2021
Pages: 483
Edition: Paperback
Genre: YA Fantasy
Rating: πŸ–€ πŸ–€ πŸ–€

Title: Furysong
Author: Rosaria Munda
Published: August 2022
Pages: 482
Edition: Paperback
Genre: YA Fantasy
Rating: πŸ–€ πŸ–€ πŸ–€

March 8, 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.

"Reading was my first addiction. When I tell people this today, they laugh and nod as if they understand, as if they too are part of a secret book-addict society whose greatest crime is staying up late, a flashlight under the covers, compulsively reading page after page."

~ The Many Lives of Mama Love by Lara Love Hardin 

March 5, 2024

Sisters with a Side of Greens


"Life is like a roll of toilet paper. You think you have so much left until you get down to the last few squares." ~ 4%

What do you get when you mix two strong-willed sisters, a grudge, a misunderstanding, a dream deferred and perfectly seasoned fried chicken? Sisters with a Side of Greens. In this new novel, sisters Rose and Marvina haven't spoken in years—not since Rose sent Marvina $40 to register their business and Marvina spent it on something else. 

Fast forward; Rose is retiring from the post office and Marvina's services of cooking fried chicken dinners for the church fundraiser is no longer needed. Still wanting the dream of opening a restaurant, Rose shows up on her sister's doorstep unannounced for their mama's special spice mix recipe and hopefully a way to turn their mama's legacy into a profitable future.

"Though the spice ingredients had not all come together yet, their scents intermingled in the air. A prelude to glory." ~ 52%

Sisters with a Side of Greens is recommended for fans of Terry McMillan, Kimberla Lawson Roby and Southern fiction. It is a family drama with the right amount of conflict and hope. At times, the story was slow with unnecessary dialogue that I was tempted to gloss over but not enough to quit reading. 

Author Michelle Stimpson provided enough backstory that led to a plot that actually made sense. I understood the character's actions better. I stayed invested in the relationship between sisters Rose and Marvina. I rooted for them and hoped for a happy ending. Without giving the story away, Sisters with a Side of Greens has a satisfying end!

Happy Pub Day, Michelle Stimpson! Sisters with a Side of Greens is now available.

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: Sisters with a Side of Greens
Author: Michelle Stimpson
Published: March 2024
Pages: 367
Edition: Galley
Genre: Grown Chick Lit
Rating: πŸ–€ πŸ–€ πŸ–€

March 3, 2024

Series Sunday: This Could Be Us

(Skyland #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.

"So hard to turn away from that warmth when you've stood out in the cold." ~ 8%

My Series Sunday pick is This Could Be Us, the second book in the Skyland series by Kennedy Ryan. We revisit Skyland, one of Atlanta's most desirable communities. One minute, Soledad is having dinner with her husband and three daughters and the next minute, FBI agents are at the front door arresting her husband for embezzlement. This is literally just the beginning.

The domestic goddess now has to provide for her daughters, keep a roof over their heads and food on the table, while fighting an attraction to a man she shouldn't want but cannot resist.

"Soledad hermosa. Beautiful solitude." ~ 52%

First of all, take a minute to drool over the book cover. Full of vibrant colors, flower sketches and a brown girl with natural hair. It exudes confidence. It gives grown woman fiction. It is eye-catching on a bookshelf, be it physical or digital. You can practically hear it saying, "Pick me up! Read me! Get to know me!" The book cover most certainly caught my attention.

This Could Be Us begins with tension that builds and lingers along each page until it bursts like sunlight. Kennedy Ryan expertly weaves themes such as honest parenthood, raw emotions, transparency, truly amicable divorce and self-love. Most importantly, the author raises awareness on autism through two minor characters and handles the close-to-home subject like a pro.

I cannot recommend this new release and series enough. Jump on the bandwagon if you're not already buckled up. For those who read Before I Let Go, welcome back to Skyland. Bookhearts, you are in for a delight! 

Happy Early Pub Day, Kennedy Ryan! This Could Be Us will be available Tuesday, March 5.

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: Kennedy Ryan
Published: March 2024
Pages: 400
Edition: Galley
Genre: Romance
Rating: πŸ–€ πŸ–€ πŸ–€ πŸ–€

March 1, 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.

"In the winter of 2009, my husband found me crying over my secondhand IBM ThinkPad. "

~ If Only I Had Told Her Author's Note by Laura Nowlin