Secrets of a Fake Fiancée

Secrets of a Fake Fiancée (The Stewart Heirs Book 4)

This is the fourth book in The Stewart Heirs series that follows the offspring of a pretty terrible businessman, Henry Stewart. At least two of these books feature children he had outside of his marriages. Morgan Young has been the assistant to Hollywood star Dane Stewart (Red Carpet Redemption) for the last year and she’s ready to reveal that she’s actually his baby sister and plans to confront their father. The problem is that she chooses an inopportune time to drop this bombshell and wasn’t prepared for the rejection and repercussions. Fortunately, Dane’s good friend, Jared Robinson is there to rescue her and has a proposal that could benefit both of them.

Yahrah St. John is one of the few Black authors that is able to transcend the Harlequin formula and give you good character development in the process. It did contain some romance tropes like the virgin and the super experienced playboy, and the poor girl and the rich guy, but the plot development behind those choices made sense.

I realized while writing this that I missed reading Fallon Stewart’s story in this series, but I’m going to go take care of this now! 🙂

Goodreads Rating: 4 stars

I received a complimentary copy of this e-book from Harlequin and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

(Im)Perfectly Happy

(Im)perfectly Happy

You would think that someone who reads as much as I do would relish having to social distance at home surrounded by (physical and electronic) books. But I’ve had a hard time picking up something to read. The last book I read, a collection of science fiction short stories, was amazing but the subject matter combined with our real life circumstances (the pandemic that shall not be named) made it difficult to concentrate. (Im)perfectly Happy is the palate cleanser I needed.

Raina is a late-night radio host who gives relationship advice and she’s just made the commitment to move in with her boyfriend and that’s all she’s able to commit to. Kara has taken (and failed) the rigorous test to be a Master Sommelier (shout out to me for getting the spelling right on the first try) three times and is taking the all-encompassing, stressful steps to take it again. But the death of her mother and lack of support from her husband have her spiraling. Nikki is the perfect suburban, stay-at-home mom with a super loving husband and cool kids. She’s also an incredible musician and singer-songwriter who gave it all up to have the life she has now. Sienna, a public defender who actually cares about her clients, has set aside her dream of running for government office in order to support her fiance in his campaign to do the same. When the women were in college, they The Brown Sugarettes Mastermind group as a way to empower themselves and keep each other focused on their goals. Now that they’re in their 30’s, Raina decides that they need to resurrect the group so that everyone can reconnect with their true desires and goals.

I loved the four distinct voices of these women and the real life, grown-up situations that the author placed them in. While a couple of the stories wrapped up a little too nicely for me, I am very happy with the journey that Sharina Harris took me on to get there. I may or may not have stayed up past my bedtime because I was so engrossed in these women’s stories. Also, shout out to a book set in the city that I live in and also my neighborhood mentioned twice!! (Yes, I kept count)

Goodreads Rating: 4 stars

I received a complimentary copy of this e-book from Kensington Books and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Read Soul Lit 2020 Days 1 & 2

Day 1 “ReadSoulLit TBR”

TBR (to be read) lists are hard for me because I read by instinct and seldom plan it. Usually in February I read an African American classic, but I still haven’t decided on one yet.

Hopefully, I will finally pick up Black Leopard Red Wolf because a friend keeps asking me to read it so we can compare. There’s lots of mixed reviews out there, but I loved his Brief History of Seven Killings and am ready to dive in.

Day 2 “Sci-Fi High”

I was about 20 pages away from the end when I took this photo. Didn’t like it as much as the first one, but I’m still looking forward to the third in the trilogy.

The Confessions of Frannie Langton

I never would have done what they say I’ve done, to Madame, because I loved her. Yet they say I must be put to death for it, and they want me to confess. But how can I confess what I don’t believe I’ve done?

In the last few years, I’ve made it a point to read very little about a book before I pick it up. If it’s before publication, I skim over the publisher’s description. If it’s after, I avoid all published reviews from professionals and laymen alike. By the time I picked up The Confessions of Frannie Langton, I couldn’t remember what it was about and was able to read it unencumbered by any outside noise.

It’s 1826, and Frannie awaits trial in London for the murder of her employer and his wife. She claims that she doesn’t remember anything about that night. This book serves as her account of the events of her life that led her to this point, interspersed with the testimony of witnesses and those around her. From her childhood as a slave on a sugar plantation in Jamaica where she’s groomed to be an assistant to her master as he works on his scientific race theories, to her new life in London, where Frannie is set to work for one of her master’s colleagues.

Confessions covers a lot of ground: slavery, the plight of women, love, sex, class, science. I remember being only a quarter way through the book feeling like I’d already read an entire novel. The good thing about that is the story unfolds in a way that you rarely see coming. The bad news is that around the middle, it seemed like it was taking foreeeever to get through, because there’s so much introspection and details. I was getting anxious to finally find out what happened that fateful night.

Covering so many things did slow down the book a bit, but I still learned lots and am glad I stuck through it. It’s always enjoyable to read a novel about slavery and it’s effects that feels like a fresh perspective.

Goodreads Rating: 3 stars (really 3 1/2)

I received a complimentary copy of this e-book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Everyday People: The Color of Life – a Short Story Anthology

Over the years I’ve developed an appreciation for short stories. I used to resent not having the ending and knowing what happened. Now I can enjoy them from a different place. I’m enjoying not knowing the full stories. Because that’s how life is.

Everyday People is a collection of fourteen short stories by a diverse group of writers of color. While the work can be considered contemporary fiction, the writing spans several different writing styles, experiences and points of view. It’s almost impossible to choose a favorite, but A Sheltered Woman by Yiyun Li is very close. A Chinese woman works taking care of newborn babies and helping their breastfeeding moms. She doesn’t stay past the time she is needed, moving on to another family when the babies are a month old. Her current employer, however, is finding it difficult to accept her new role as a mother.

Other favorites include High Pursuit by Mitchell S. Jackson (something about it just felt like ‘home’), Wisdom by Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond, and The Kontrabida by Mia Alvar. A great bonus at the end of the book is a Reading List of Contemporary Works by Women, Nonbinary, and Transgender Writers of Color/Indigenous Writers. It’s a very comprehensive list covering many genres that I will revisit again and again.

Goodreads Rating: 4 stars

I received a complimentary copy of this e-book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

New Release Tuesday: Intercepted

I’m so not a fan of any sports at all, except when the players are characters in romance novels. It can get so messy and entertaining, you know? All the traveling and groupies and wives and childhood sweethearts, etc. add the perfect amount of drama. I was reluctant to read Intercepted because it’s Alexa Martin’s debut book, but I read her bio and it said she was married to a former NFL player, so I dove in.

Marlee Harper has been an NFL girlfriend for 10 years. Longer than usual for most. Her boyfriend Chris is the quintessential football player. Big house he doesn’t need. Flashy car. He makes Marlee join the player’s wives group, the Lady Mustangs, even though they see her as “just a girlfriend”. Of course she has nothing in common with these botoxed, mean girls but she endures it because she loves Chris and wants to support him and his career. He’s under extra stress right now because the team is bringing in a new quarterback and apparently that means something to wide receivers. Who knew? *shrugs* Anyway, this new hotshot quarterback, Gavin, just happens to be a man from Marlee’s past. Chris and Marlee break up, for totally unrelated reasons, and she swears off professional athletes forever. Gavin doesn’t care about that, though, and seems hellbent on changing her mind.

This was such a fun book to read. Alexa Martin has written a hilarious, sexy novel filled with lots of insider football tidbits. The scenes where Marlee attends the Lady Mustang meetings with thealone are worth picking Intercepted up. Writing this review makes me want to read it all over again and I can’t wait for her next book in the The Playbook series, Fumbled, due out Spring 2019.

Goodreads Rating: 4 stars

I received a complimentary copy of this e-book from the First to Read program and the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Barracoon

This is a difficult book to review. On the one hand, the author was a brilliant storyteller and I greatly anticipated the release of this book. But, on the other, maybe this didn’t deserve a full length publication. It feels more suited to a magazine article or a series of them.

Cudjo (Kossula) Lewis arrived in America in 1859 on what is thought to be the last ship to carry enslaved Africans, the Clotilda. As part of her work as a cultural anthropologist, Zora Neale Hurston was sent to interview him for Carter G. Woodson’s Journal of Negro History. Through a series of casual visits at his home, Hurston is able to hear a rare first hand account of what it’s like to be sold from everything you’ve known and forced into a whole new way of existence. Slavery is abolished less than 7 years later and now Cudjo and the others who came over on the Clotilda are in the unique position of being free in a country where they’re considered foreigners, even by the African-Americans they worked alongside.

It’s easy to see why Hurston was chosen for this assignment, as she was able to relate to Cudjo in a familiar yet respectful way, allowing him to tell his story in a way that felt comfortable for him. I learned a lot, but I felt like the meat of the story was less than I expected. There’s a lengthy introduction that gives backstory surrounding the history of the area where Cudjo was born, the sailing of the Clotilda, and Hurston’s efforts to get this work published. I would have preferred this as an afterward, because it was a little exhausting to read before actually getting to the book. It made Cudjo’s words seem over too quickly.

As a student of African-American history, I recommend Barracoon because of its importance to the canon of Zora Neale Hurston. But I finished wanting more.

Goodreads Rating: 3 stars

I received a complimentary copy of this e-book from Edelweiss and the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Midyear Reading Check-In

As far as social media is concerned, I spend the most time on Facebook (because I’m not a millennial), then Instagram (because I need to know what millennials are doing), and finally Goodreads.

In addition to keeping track of and rating the books I’ve read, Goodreads allows me (a true introvert) to interact with authors and likeminded readers. You can win books, join virtual bookclubs, find out about upcoming releases and even buy books. It’s a dream.

Every year they sponsor a reading challenge to help support you to read more if you’re someone who works better with concrete goals.

This year I set my goal as 125 books and as of today, I’ve read 64 which is 51% there.

Seems like a lot? If you’re reading War and Peace type books, yes. But I read a variety of books including romance, which I can usually finish in a few hours.

Some stats:

  • Of the 64 books I’ve read, 56 were romance novels.
  • Of those 56 romances, 32 were independently published and most were better than the ones put out by traditional publishers.
  • I gave the top rating (5 stars) to 5 books so far this year: When They Call You A Terrorist, A Brief History of Seven Killings, The Wanderer, Children of Blood and Bone, and Fire Shut Up in My Bones.
  • I rarely give romance books 5 stars, but The Wanderer made the cut. Nia Forrester is a great writer.
  • Fortunately, I didn’t give any book I’ve read this year under 3 stars. Three stars means “I don’t consider this book a waste of time, but…meh”
  • I gave the recently released Zora Neale Hurston book Barracoon 3 stars. #sorrynotsorry

So that’s it so far in my reading year. According to Goodreads, I need to read 3 books a week to remain on track to meet my goal. Let me go do that.

Click here if you want to be my friend on Goodreads.

Is This Thing On?

It’s ridiculous how bad I am as a book blogger. Especially since I am great as a book reader. And I was also a really good bookseller.

But writing/blogging and I don’t get along so well. If you ever invite me out to lunch, dear reader, I will gladly sit with you for hours and discuss everything I’m reading, have read, or hope to read soon. Not just because your feeding me (because you will have to pay for lunch; it’s not in my budget), but because I could TALK about books all day. Writing all day? Nah…

Maybe I’m intimidated by all the great writing I’m exposed to. Maybe I don’t think I’m as good as other bloggers. Maybe I’m lazy. Maybe I don’t have time for a blog.

All of those things are false, of course. I’ve read enough self help books to recognize “negative self talk” when I hear it. Recognizing it is easy, fighting it is harder. But I must try. I’m not a bookseller anymore, but I’m still an avid reader and I need to share with others – the good and the bad.

So let’s try this again, shall we? I’m going to read something then I’m going to tell you what I thought of it. Sometimes I will force you to drop what you’re doing and go buy a book. Other times I will invite you to join me as lament having to give up on a book (and maybe it’s author, too). And I’ll continue to try and find my authentic review voice that I hope you will enjoy reading.