Dark Paradise

Dark Paradiseby Angie Sandro

I had no idea that this was a “new-adult” mystery when I started it, but I’m glad that I picked it up. Mala Lacroix comes from a long line of women who are rumored to be “witches” in Paradise, Louisiana. The rumor is true, but Mala wants no part of it. When she comes across the body of a girl in the bayou near her home, she is drawn into the mystery surrounding the death and must confront (and use) the powers she has.

Despite how the rest of the town feels about the Lacroix women, Landry Prince has always harbored a crush on Mala. When the dead girl is revealed to be his sister, Landry becomes more drawn to Mala and together they work to find out the truth behind the murder.

I love a good mystery that includes elements of hoodoo/voodoo and this debut novel by Ms. Sandro gave me everything I needed.

4stars

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

Debbie Doesn’t Do It Anymore

Debbie doesn'tby Walter Mosley

If you read Walter Mosley for his gritty noir mysteries, don’t expect this book to be the same. While you get glimpses of that style of writing in some of the character’s development, Debbie Doesn’t Do It Anymore is one of Mosley’s departures from the genre is most known for.

Debbie is a porn start who experiences a revelatory moment on set at the exact same time as her husband dies in their home. Finding out about his betrayal and the debt he has now left her with makes her come to the conclusion that she isn’t going to do “it” anymore – she’s done with porn.

This is far from a quiet novel. Debbie has to deal with the police, her dead husband’s dangerous creditors, and her own past. But Debbie herself is written in a wonderfully subdued way, contrary to what you would expect a famous pornstar to be.

4stars

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

The 3-1-2-1 Diet

3-1-2-1 diet

 

by Dolvett Quince

I’m one of those people who watches weight loss shows like The Biggest Loser while holding a pint of ice cream or a plate of cookies. I also read a lot of diet and healthy eating books and while I don’t adhere to all of the information, a lot of it seeps into my brain somehow. Nowadays there are so many books on the market that the advice can seem to be repetitive. The 3-1-2-1 Diet sets itself apart by emphasizing the word “cheat” as a way of letting you know that the focus is making it as accessible in a real life setting.

The main premise is to “eat clean” for 3 days, cheat for 1 day, clean eating for 2 days, and then cheat for 1 day. Eating clean is basically choosing foods in their natural, unprocessed state: fruits, vegetables, proteins. Nothing out of a box or from a fast food outlet. Easy, peasy. It takes some planning, but really this is good common sense to follow. Quince includes shopping lists, money-saving tips, and options for vegetarians and vegans (which is all but ignored in most diet books). Meal plans and recipes are included along with instructions on how to eat on your cheat days. There is even a maintenance plan to follow after you’ve reached your goal.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a Biggest Loser trainer’s book without a section on exercise. Although he’s beautiful to look at, I would have preferred seeing someone other than Quince demonstrating the moves, just for some variety. I read this book last fall and while revisiting it to write this review, I’ve decided that I like it better than I originally thought. It’s one of the most comprehensive diet books that I’ve seen and would be really helpful to anyone who wants to lose pounds or just adopt a healthier way of living.

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

2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas

2 am Cat's Pajamas

a novel

by Marie-Helene Bertino

Madeline Santiago smokes cigarettes, has the mouth of a sailor, and is very serious about being a jazz singer. She’s only 9 years old, though, so each of those things can be a problem. Her mother passed away a year ago leaving her father in a depression so deep that he rarely leaves his room, so Madeline is basically on her own with help from a few people in her Philadelphia neighborhood. 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas covers just the span of one day, Christmas Eve Eve, in the life of Madeline, her teacher, Sarina Greene, and Lorca, the owner of the jazz club, The Cat’s Pajamas.

Madeline’s story was the most interesting to me and the reason that I chose to read this book. Her desire to sing the music that her parents loved so much keeps her motivated despite all of the obstacles thrown in her way. Her determination is inspiring. Moving back to her hometown after a recent divorce, Sarina is reconnecting with old friends and navigating getting back into the patterns of those relationships. Lorca is faced with losing the jazz club that has become the most important thing in his life at the expense of his son and girlfriend.

I loved the interconnected of the stories of these three along with other people in the neighborhood as everyone moves through what turns out to be a very special day. Bertine manages to tell this tale and provide enough back story without the reader getting lost. There was a section about 3/4’s in and also during the ending of the book that left me scratching my head. I wasn’t sure if it was a dream sequence or not and it really distracted me from the story and left the ending a little off to me. Aside from that, I did enjoy the book and was mostly satisfied with how events played out.

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

Time of the Locust

Time of the Locust

by Morowa Yejidé

I’ve been really good lately at picking novels to read without knowing anything about them first. The only thing I knew about Time of The Locust was that the story surrounded an autistic boy, Sephiri, and his internal life. I wasn’t prepared for any of the rest of the characters and their respective journeys or the magic realism that runs throughout.

The water world that Sephiri has created in his mind is the only thing that makes sense to him and the sea creatures that inhabit it help him to understand “the land of the air” where his mother, Brenda, and the rest of us live. Increasingly, he begins to be pulled in deeper and deeper into the water world and when he comes back he starts to sketch elaborate pictures of this place in his mind. With Sephiri’s father, Horus, serving a life sentence, Brenda is tasked with trying to raise and reach her son on her own with little or no help save an occasional appearance by her brother-in-law. But she never gives up on the hope of one day having Sephiri one day really “seeing” her and becoming reachable.

While reading this, I was really affected by how severely alone and imprisoned each of the characters were due to very different circumstances: autism, imprisonment, health issues, guilt, emotional pain. Yejidé’s beautiful and poignant writing make all of the pain that these people are in seem real enough to touch. But the magic she includes, especially in the second and third parts of the book, offer much hope in the form of love and family bonds. Time of the Locust is definitely one of the most meaningful books I’ve read in a long time.

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

Your Face in Mine

Your Face in Mine

by Jess Row

Kelly Thorndike hears his named called out by an African-American man as he is shopping one day in Baltimore. Although, the man seems familiar, he is sure he doesn’t know him. But he does. Martin was a friend of his from high school, but back then he was a gangly, Jewish kid who played in their punk band. After having “racial reassignment surgery”, Martin is now living as an African-American businessman and family man. He is ready to share his experience with the world and enlists Kelly to help him make that happen, which turns out to not be as cut and dry as he thought.

As the men get reaquainted with each other and you learn each of their backstories, including the death of Kelly’s wife and daughter, the book moves along nicely. The last part of the book the story moves to Thailand, where the organization that makes these reassignments happen is headquartered, and it lost some of my interest as it sometimes veered off into some medical jargon and even Kelly’s grad school dissertation. They wound up being germane to the story, but came off a little snoozy. What I did find fascinating was the underlining social commentary about the history of plastic surgery and how the bulk of procedures done, especially on the face, are to emulate a European standard of beauty.

Row’s writing may come off as difficult to read for some because he isn’t particularly flowery and he doesn’t use quotation mark for dialogue. The premise of being able to change your racial identity and the ramifications was enough to keep me reading.

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

A Man’s Promise

Man's Promise

by Brenda Jackson

A Man’s Promise is the next in the series about the Granger Brothers. Jace, Caden, and Dalton have returned home to Virginia after the passing of their grandfather and have each taken a role in running the family business that they avoided before. In the first book, A Brother’s Honor, Jace falls in love with Shana, a management consultant hired to help the siblings as they transition into their new positions at the company.

Caden Granger is the brother least expected to hang around and accept his place at Granger Aeronautics. As a famous musician, he prefers life on the road to sitting behind a desk. But his family needs him as they take control of their company and look into unanswered questions surrounding the murder years earlier of their mother and the subsequent imprisonment of their father for the crime. As if that isn’t enough to deal with, Caden learns some disturbing information about his ex-fiance, Shiloh Timmons, revealing why she ended their relationship abruptly years earlier on the eve of their wedding.

Brenda Jackson is one of the most prolific writers in this genre and yet I never tire of her stories. The secondary story about the murder of the brothers’ mother is as interesting as their love lives and really makes the novels more complete. Looking forward to learning more about Dalton in the next one.

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

Beyond the Velvet Rope

Beyond Velvet Rope

A Club Babylon Novel by Tiffany Ashley

I almost didn’t read this book because of the cover. It was giving me too much of a “50 Shades” vibe and, while I don’t have a problem with that sort of fiction, I was scared it was going to be bad. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad.

Thandie Shaw is an up and coming public relations and club promoter ion New York who gets the opportunity to work for the reopening of Miami’s hottest nightspot, Club Babylon. Her career is very important to her and she knows that this job will put her company on the map and open up a lot of doors. The owner of Club Babylon, Elliott Richards, is known to be hardworking and focused when it comes to his businesses, but just as diligent about his leisure time (including a playroom in his home dedicated to his time with the ladies). He is also known for not hiring women because he feels that they are too much of a distraction to him.

Of course, Elliott’s misgivings about working closely with a woman kind of turn out to be well founded. He is immensely attracted to Thandie, who despite her being adamant about keeping their relationship professional, finds herself drawn to him as well. Despite the tension between the two and the resulting very steamy scenes of the book, I only gave it 3 stars on Goodreads. Thandie’s indecisiveness where Elliott was concerned was a little frustrating and it resulted in a few scenes that could have been left out.

This is the first in series of books based out of Club Babylon and I’ll probably keep reading to see how some of the ancillary characters fare.

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

Forty Acres

forty acres

A Thriller by Dwayne Alexander Smith

Forty Acres is rightly called a thriller, because it definitely had me on the edge of my seat for most of it. Martin Grey, a young black attorney, is taken under the wing of the lawyer he recently won a huge case against. Damon Darrell is so impressed by what Martin did in the courtroom that he brings him into a close-knit group of black wealthy, successful men. When they invite him on one of their frequent white water rafting trips, he learns that it’s all a ruse to cover up their real source of recreation: slavery. A “plantation” of sorts has been created to provide black men with the experience of being called “Master” and lording over white slaves.

The men see this as sort of payback for the wrongs done to their ancestors and the ones still plaguing their people today. But none of this sits well with Martin and he quickly realizes that this is something he doesn’t want to be a part of. He also knows that leaving, once you’re accepted in, can be dangerous.

The author has a background in film and you can tell from the writing here. The narrative moves at a fast pace and there aren’t any wasted words. Forty Acres would make a great choice for a book club selection as the thought-provoking subject matter would make for good conversation. I’m hearing rumors that there may be a sequel and hoping they are true.

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

Afro-Vegan

 

Afro-Vegan

Farm-Fresh African, Caribbean & Southern Flavors Remixed by Bryant Terry

I can’t believe that I haven’t reviewed one of Bryant Terry’s cookbooks before because I have them all and really like them. In Afro-Vegan, as well as his other books, Vegan Soul Kitchen and The Inspired Vegan, Terry offers us flavorful recipes using fresh, seasonal ingredients. My favorite thing about these recipes is that each one usually comes with a story behind it, sometimes from Terry’s personal history or from the culture that inspired the dish. I tend to sit down and read these from cover to cover because the stories are so interesting. There’s also a recommended soundtrack for each recipe and sometimes a book or film mentioned, too, to make cooking feel like more like an experience.

My favorite recipe, which also seems to be an internet favorite, is the Savory Grits with Slow-Cooked Collard Greens.

(Photo by Paige Green)

(Photo by Paige Green)

Even though some of the recipes are “remixed” from traditional African and Caribbean ones, the ingredients used are easily found at your regular grocery or health food store, or a farmer’s market, if you have one near. I’m happy to add this to my growing library of vegan cookbooks and can’t wait to get cooking.

 

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.