Review: Let Me Hear A Rhyme by Tiffany D. Jackson

Let Me Hear a RhymeLet Me Hear a Rhyme by Tiffany D. Jackson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After Quadir and Jarrell’s best friend, Steph, is killed, the boys are in shock. Steph was the best of them, a real good guy, who was also super-talented. Why did it happen?

But as the boys know, violence doesn’t often make sense and talent certainly doesn’t protect you. The year is 1998 and in their Brooklyn neighborhood, the murders of Biggie Smalls and Tupac are still fresh in everyone’s minds.

After Steph’s funeral, family and friends gather at Steph’s Mom’s place to show their respects and remember him. Getting away from the crowd, Quadi and Jarrell head up to Steph’s room, a sanctuary to which they have never gained access to before.

Inside they find his little sister, Jasmine, also seeking solace from the crowd. Additionally, they find the room plastered with images and memorabilia of his favorite musical artists. The boys knew Steph was real into his music, but they didn’t understand the passion went this far.

While innocently poking about Steph’s room the trio discovers he had been in a studio recording. Now they have tracks they need to share with the world. They won’t let Steph’s legacy die with him. He should be remembered for his greatness.

It becomes their mission. Steph, who they dub, The Architect, will take the scene by storm, they just know it, but how the heck they gonna pull it off?

Pick it up to find out! Things get a little crazy, but this group of teens definitely have their hearts in the right place. Will it be enough? And can’t they end up in trouble for this?

Seriously, pick it up!!!

Tiffany D. Jackson can do no wrong in my eyes. This was a superbly-crafted story. She drew me in from the very start.

Her characters always have depth. It is one of my favorite aspects of her writing. It is easy to become attached to them; to the point where you are willing to fight for them, cheer them on, cry with them and celebrate their victories.

I highly recommend the audiobook as a way to take in this story. I just feel like the voice work by all three narrators amplified and energized this narrative. It was so addictive to listen to!

While this story does tackle some heavy topics, obviously as it revolves around the murder of a teen boy, it was still a fun story. Quadi, Jarrell and Jasmine have to get creative in order promote Steph’s music; it was a trip.

I will pick up anything Jackson writes. This was such a powerful story; I loved the setting of the 90s and the incorporation of the music.

It was fantastic. Jackson never fails! How’s it even possible?! I’m super excited to read more from her! I still have Grown and White Smoke to look forward to; definitely picking both of them up soon.

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Review: Walking In Two Worlds by Wab Kinew

Walking in Two WorldsWalking in Two Worlds by Wab Kinew
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Walking in Two Worlds is Indigenous author, Wab Kinew’s, YA Fantasy debut.

Set in the near future, following two teenagers, Bugz and Feng, this narrative swerves between our world and a VR-gaming world both teens are involved in, known as the Floraverse.

Bugz, an Indigenous teen, who grew up on the Rez, is shy and self-conscious in our world, but in the Floraverse, she’s strong and confident. She’s also the most powerful and popular player in the ‘Verse.

Feng is a Chinese boy, recently sent to live on the Rez with his Aunt, the new family practicioner there. Feng was forced to flee China after his online activities suggested he was leaning towards extremist sympathies.

Feng plays in the same game that Bugz dominates and is actually part of a group called, ClanLESS, who is promoting her downfall. Violently.

When Bugz and Feng meet at school, they hit it off right away. He doesn’t recognize her from the ‘Verse, as her persona there looks a lot different than she does in real life. As they build their relationship, it is finally revealed to him who she is.

He’s impressed. Instalove ensues and Feng’s loyalties are put to the test. Can Bugz overcome the odds stacked against her?

Clearly, this is an over-simplification of the plot, but I think it is best to just go in knowing you will get great representation, exciting gaming elements, eye-opening commentary on some aspects of the Indigenous experience, as well as heartbreaking examinations of social anxiety, self-confidence and feelings of being powerless, voiceless or helpless.

Certain details of this story hit me hard, but it was a mixed bag. While I genuinely appreciate the level of creativity Kinew brought to this story, including some really great current social issues, I couldn’t help but feel that Bugz and Feng played second fiddle to all of that.

It felt like they weren’t built-out as much as they could have been. Maybe it was because the book was fairly short, but the insta-love was too heavy for my taste and their personalities felt very flat. I wanted to know them more and I don’t think Kinew had the chance to really allow them any growth.

The gaming elements were quite well done. I thought it was exciting and vividly-described. Even though I knew that was a virtual reality, it still hurt my heart when events happened in the game that had a negative impact on Bugz.

The game is so much a part of her life. It is where she feels the most strength; the most like her true self. That was impactful. Well done by Kinew.

Towards the end, there were a couple of plot points that didn’t sit quite right with me; for example, an event involving ClanLESS in real life. I believe I understand the symbolism behind that being included, but it just didn’t make practical sense.

Also, I was hoping for more personal growth from Bugz. I will admit to being a little unsatisfied with her trajectory.

With this being said, this is a very good story. It’s fast-paced and I really feel like I got a lot out of it.

My hope is that this makes it into a lot of school libraries in the United States and Canada. I think YA-Readers will really relate to a lot of the topics explored within this story and the representation is so needed.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Penguin Teen, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

I had a lot of fun spending time with Bugz and shed a few tears along the way. I really hope that Wab Kinew continues to write in the YA-Fantasy space. I would love to read more from him!

Walking in Two Worlds releases tomorrow!!!

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Review: Pahua and the Soul Stealer by Lori M. Lee

Pahua and the Soul StealerPahua and the Soul Stealer by Lori M. Lee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

11-year old, Pahua Moua, is a bit of an outcast amongst her peers. Because of this, she spends her summer days babysitting her little brother, Matt, and hanging out with Miv, a cat spirit no one else can see.

That’s fine with Pahua though. Matt and Miv are her best friends, who else would she want to hang out with.

Pahua’s Dad left them, so her Mom has to work a lot, leaving Pahua and Matt home alone quite a bit. That makes Pahua sad and she frequently wonders why her Dad went away. Her Mom has never really offered up an explanation.

As a Hmong-girl, living in a mostly white town in Wisconsin, Pahua also has that setting her apart from those around her; making her feel isolated at school and in her neighborhood.

Pahua also carries a secret. She can see spirits!

One day, exploring near the local haunted bridge, she notices a little ghost girl. Pahua tries to be friendly to her, but this is no innocent appariation and before she knows it, her brother’s life hangs in the balance.

Matt has fallen into some sort of deep sleep and cannot be awoken. Pahua must risk it all and travel into the spirit realm, battling all sorts of unknown dangers, in order to try to save him.

Surprising no one, I absolutely adored this story. The Rick Riordan Presents imprint is such a gift. Giving Readers the opportunity to learn about myths, legends and cultures from around the world through engaging, action-packed, heart-warming stories is so special.

Lori M. Lee’s Middle Grade debut, Pahua and the Soul Stealer, is actually one of my favorite releases thus far and I have read almost all of them.

Pahua is an incredible character. Her spirit, determination and strength, in the face of terrifying odds, never faltered. Her love for her brother kept her going, pushing through some really difficult obstacles.

The entire story was full of the perfect mix of humor, heart and action. From the very first chapter, I was laughing and grew so attached to Pahua as her narrative played out. I listened to the audiobook and it was so well done; highly recommend that format!

I feel like I am forgetting a ton of things that I wanted to say about this, but in the end, that’s probably for the best. Everyone should go into this knowing as little as possible.

Let the fun and adventure wash over you. It’s a heck of an entertaining, soul-warming, nail-biting ride!!!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney Audio and Rick Riordan Presents, for providing me with a copy to read and review. It was so much fun!

I am looking forward to more releases in this world with Pahua and friends!!!

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Review: Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Certain Dark ThingsCertain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Certain Dark Things was originally published in October 2016, but is now being rereleased, by Tor Nightfire, with this splendid new cover!!

With vampire fiction making a bit of a resurgance and Silvia Moreno-Garcia, justly, gaining in popularity, I believe it was a smart decision. I knew the second I saw this cover that I would read it.

This noir-style story takes place in an alternate version of Mexico City, where vampires are real and everyone knows it. Please note, we’re talking dangerous, brutal vampires versus the sparkling romantic ones.

We love to see it.

Domingo is a street-kid who collects garbage to make ends meet. When he spies Atl, the most beautiful girl he has ever seen, he is immediately drawn to her.

As much as she tries to resist, Atl eventually succumbs to Domingo’s charm. Atl is on the run. She has many dangerous people looking for her and Domingo insists on helping; even though he is clueless to the ins-and-outs of the vampire world. He’d do anything to stay with Atl though.

There’s a gritty texture to this entire story. It’s violent and dangerous. I really enjoyed the overall idea and the setting; particularly, how humans and vampires live side-by-side.

For me, I feel like I needed it to be built out more to become fully invested however. It felt quite surface-level, which is fine. It’s a good story. A solid world creation, but for me, I would need a little more substance before I could say that I really enjoyed it.

With this being said, it is a quick, fun read, quite atmopsheric and I think a lot of Readers will have fun with it. I do think it is a very solid example of Moreno-Garcia’s style. I’m a fan!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor Nightfire, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I really appreciate it!

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Review: Cazadora (Wolves of No World #2) by Romina Garber

Cazadora (Wolves of No World, #2)Cazadora by Romina Garber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Cazadora is the anticipated sequel to Romina Garber’s 2020-release, Lobizona; both part of the Wolves of No World series.

I say series, when in reality, I have no idea how many books are set to be released in this world. I’ll tell you one thing though, after the stunning conclusion to this book, there’s a heck of a lot more story left to tell!

Manuela Azul, Manu to her family and friends, knows what it is like to be different and to be judged for her differences.

As an undocumented person living in Miami, Manu was constantly under stress of detection and persecution. Unfortunately, due to her hybrid nature, Manu is also judged and persecuted within the magical world of Argentinian folklore, a great part of her heritage, as well.

Whereas the first book had quite a bit of the narrative set in our world, this volume focuses more on the magical world and Manu’s place within it.

As her new-found friend group supports and builds her up, they are simultaneously being hunted by the authorities. Manu’s very existence challenges all the rules of their culture. She’s a threat and they’ll stop at nothing to capture her and take her out. Will Manu be able to evade them and keep those she loves safe?

I really enjoyed my time reading Cazadora and overall, found it to be an improvement over the first book. The magical world, in particular, was built out so much more and I felt the stakes were truly raised for Manu.

While the fantasy elements of this story aren’t necessarily my favorite, where Garber truly excels is in capturing emotion. Manu’s situation is extremely difficult and reading her working through it, oh man, I felt everything she was feeling. She is so tough, but everyone can feel vulnerable and defeated at times.

This is an inspiring story. Manu gains strength when she realizes the causes she is fighting for are so much larger than herself.

Garber did a fantastic job of weaving real-world issues into this otherwise fantastical tale; which is true of the first book as well. Stories like this are so important. I feel like Readers, who may have previously struggled to find themselves within the stories they are reading, can find themselves here and that’s a special thing.

I would love to see more in this world, with this phenomenal group of characters. The further I go along, the more attached I am getting to them all!

Thank you so very much to the publisher, Wednesday Books, for providing me with a copy of the audiobook to read and review. Romina Garber is a star and I know she is going to continue to grow with everything she writes. I am certainly willing to go along for the ride!!

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Review: The Sisters of Reckoning (The Good Luck Girls #3) by Charlotte Nicole Davis

The Sisters of Reckoning (The Good Luck Girls, #2)The Sisters of Reckoning by Charlotte Nicole Davis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Sisters of Reckoning is the sequel to Charlotte Nicole Davis’s 2019-release, The Good Luck Girls; it’s one I have been very highly anticipating.

Truly a powerful follow-up, I felt like Davis’s writing really blossomed within these pages!

Set in the fictional world of Arketta, the action takes place close to a year after the conclusion of the first book. Please note, as this is the second book, there may be some mild spoilers within this review.

Proceed with caution.

After successfully fleeing their Welcome House, Aster remained in Arketta and has become a Lady Ghost, while her fellow Green Creek girls have now settled themselves in the country of Ferron, across the border.

With her work as a Lady Ghost, Aster continues to assist Good Luck girls to escape from their various Welcome Houses; but the progress is slow.

When Aster hears that her enemy, the despicable landmaster Jerrod McClennon, is planning to open a brand new Welcome House, as well as lower the age nationwide that girl’s will experience their Lucky Night to 13, she knows she has to do something.

It is no longer good enough to try to save one girl at a time. Aster wants to free all dustbloods from the the landmasters who oppress, abuse and degrade them.

She plans to hit them where it hurts; their money sources. Gathering up the old crew, as well as some bold new allies, Aster leads a movement, known as The Reckoners, who are willing to fight for a new system for Arketta.

Sacrifices will need to be made and the fight may be long and bloody, but Aster and friends, feel like they have nothing left to lose. They are tired, they’re frustrated, but they are not weak and they will not rest until they get the justice they deserve.

Y’all this is an impactful story. Davis did a great job of expanding and building on the groundwork that she laid in the first book.

There is a ton of thoughtful social commentary woven throughout the narrative; it’s not subtle and I appreciated that. The issues Aster and the other Good Luck Girls are dealing with are not unique to them; they’re systemic and Aster realizes they must tear down the system in order to build a new one where dustbloods can be free.

I loved watching Aster grow in confidence and leadership ability. She was still suffering from PTSD related to her time in the Welcome House and that was handled beautifully as well.

My only slight criticism would be somewhere in the middle, it began to feel a little drawn out. The pace decreased a bit and some of the circumstances felt repetitive, but overall, this is an incredible continuation to this story and I loved the ending!

If you haven’t picked up The Good Luck Girls yet, you really should. It would be the perfect time to binge the two back-to-back!! I personally would love to see more from Davis in this world.

A hearty thank you to the publisher, Tor Teen, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. Davis is so talented and I definitely plan to pick up anything she writes!!!

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Review: She Who Became the Sun (The Radiant Emporer #1) by Shelley Parker-Chan

She Who Became the Sun (The Radiant Emperor, #1)She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Initially, I was going to think on this for a bit before writing my review, but I am just going to do it. Bite the bullet, say what I have to say and no doubt, tick a couple of people off along the way.

She Who Became the Sun was one of my most anticipated releases of the Summer. I fully expected to give this one 5-stars. Unfortunately, that’s not the experience I had with it.

The first 25%, I was hooked. We meet a young girl, a peasant of the Central Plains of China, who adopts her brother’s identity after he tragically dies in order to enter a monastery as a young male novice.

More importantly, Zhu Chongba, her brother was fated for greatness and she plans to take that greatness for herself. She will make her fate a choice, instead of a chance.

The last 25%, I was so engaged. There’s a lot of action, brutal deceptions and pivotal moments that tied me right back into the story.

The central portion, however, was a mixed bag for me. I couldn’t focus, my eyes kept glazing over; to be honest, I was bored.

I felt like a ton was happening, while simulataneously nothing was happening. Trust, I understand this makes zero sense, but it’s how I felt.

With my slight disappointment out of the way, I will say that Parker-Chan’s writing deserves all of the stars.

Their ability to create a beautiful sense of place, evoke strong emotions with their characters and seamlessly incorporate multiple perspectives into one linear narrative, is top notch. I did feel like I was in 14th-Century China.

Additionally, I enjoyed the exploration of gender identity and gender fluidity. With both Zhu and Ouyang, a eunuch general in the Mongol army, their gender identity was a large part of the development of their characters over the course of the story.

Obviously, I am giving this book 4-stars. I clearly enjoyed it. Even though I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as I expected, it’s still a really good start to a series.

Although I am not sure how many books The Radient Emperor series is slated to be. I will definitely be continuing on.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity and am confident a ton of Readers will love this one!

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Review: Flash Fire (The Extraordinaries #2) by T.J. Klune

Flash Fire (The Extraordinaries, #2)Flash Fire by T.J. Klune
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars **

Flash Fire is the second book in T.J. Klune’s trilogy, The Extraordinaries. Set in the fictional town of Nova City, this novel takes place in a world where Superheroes are real.

They’re called Extraordinaries, have secret identities, wear costumes, save the day and sometimes cause a lot of damage. They’re worshipped, they’re feared and they’re a constant source of mystery and rumor.

Nick Bell is a Extraordinaries superfan and the author of their most popular fanfic. He also struggles with ADHD, the loss of his Mom and with maintaining a open relationship with his Dad.

One major plus is that he now has the Superhero boyfriend of his dreams. However, with new Extraordinaries arriving in Nova City, including powerful new villains, and hormones raging like never before, life is suddenly more complicated than ever.

Nick and his friends, Seth, Gibby and Jazz, must team up to protect Nova City from these evil forces, all while trying to figure out their regular teenage life stuff and PROM!!

I had so much fun returning to Nova City and this incredibly lovable cast of characters. Klune writes with such intention and that can definitely be felt within these pages. It filled my heart with so many emotions.

While this is set in a world with fantastical elements, there are also so many relevant contemporary topics explored. I personally enjoy that mixing of real-life with the fantastical. It’s a novel you can sink your teeth into.

Even though I enjoyed this story throughout, particularly Klune’s continued witty writing and Nick’s character growth, I don’t think I enjoyed it quite as much as the first book.

For me, this was a pretty solid 4-star read for the majority of the book. I was really enjoying it, but not in love.

Then, the ending. The freaking diabolical cliffhanger ending that left me with my jaw on the floor and my head screaming, I NEED THE NEXT BOOK!!!

Well played, Klune. This is a fantastic series. It’s funny, it’s heart-warming, it’s full of action and uncomfortable teenage moments. I am so excited to see what happens in the next book. I can’t imagine how this series is going to end.

Obviously I am hoping for a happily ever after…

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor Teen, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

I am in love with these books and am really looking forward to the final installment!

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Review: First Comes Like (Modern Love #3) by Alisha Rai

First Comes Like (Modern Love, #3)First Comes Like by Alisha Rai
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

First Comes Like is the third companion novel in Alisha Rai’s Modern Love series.

In this installment we follow Jia Ahmed, roommate of Rhiannon and Katrina, the stars of the first two novels.

Jia is a successful Beauty Influencer with hundreds of thousands of followers. Having been in that space for quite a few years, it is starting to feel stale for her. She dreams of one day owning her own make-up company.

She’s so focused on her career that it surprises her when she starts to fall for a man who begins DMing her.

The man in question is Dev Dixit, a successful actor from a powerful Bollywood family. They’re basically royalty.

Dev has recently moved to the United States to try to take his career in a different direction. He wants to be free from the shadow of his family; to forge his own path.

When Jia hears of a party she knows Dev will be at, she decides it is finally time for them to meet in person. They have been messaging for so long, but when she mentions meeting, he generally redirects the conversation.

Jia is ready to take matters into her own hands, but when she approaches Dev at the party, he acts like he has no idea who she is.

Jia is horrified and embarrassed. She flees the party like Cinderella at the ball, leaving a dumbfounded Dev in her wake.

From there we watch as the truth behind Jia and Dev’s online interactions comes to light.

When the tabloids begin covering their relationship, portraying it in a more intimate way than is true, the two develop a scheme to save face.

Thus an adorable Fake Dating trope develops. Bringing both of their families into the fray, ups the stakes for both Jia and Dev.

I know I’m in the minority opinion, but this was actually my favorite in the series.

I found it so refreshing to read a Romance following a different cultural perspective than my own. I loved all the characters and arc of Jia and Dev’s relationship. It left me swooning.

I really enjoyed both Jia and Dev’s perspectives and again, appreciated how Rai portrays her characters working through real-life issues with family, career and even self-confidence.

I think it makes her characters feel more complex, real and easy to relate to. I have felt that way with all three books in this series.

As far as the steam factor goes, there’s not much here; some, but not a lot. I feel like if you go into this, seeing Alisha Rai’s name on the cover, and think the steam train is about to roll into the station, you may be disappointed.

However, if you arrive looking for great character work and are willing to sit back and soak up the feels as an adorable intimacy is built outside of the bedroom, you could enjoy this as much as I did!

The audiobook is fantastic as well, definitely recommend that. In short, this was great. I really enjoyed my time spent with this story.

I would absolutely pick up future works from Rai!

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Review: The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris

The Other Black GirlThe Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

The Other Black Girl is a super smart debut and would make a great freaking movie. I really enjoyed this!

It’s hard to categorize what exactly this book is. While it felt like Horror to me, I’ll settle for describing it as Speculative Fiction with a Thriller twist.

Nella Rogers is an editorial assistant at Wagner Books and the only black employee in that position. Wagner was her goal publishing house. She worked damn hard to get where she is and continues to every day.

No matter how hard she works, however, Nella is still subject to daily microaggressions in the workspace. Regardless, she knows she needs to go along to get along, as they say.

When Harlem-born, Hazel, is introduced to her as a new colleague, Nella is shocked. Another black girl?

This could be fun. She’s never had this before. Maybe she’ll finally have someone willing to back her up when she tries to change the status quo a bit.

While Hazel seems nice at first, there’s something about her Nella just doesn’t trust.

Almost as soon as Hazel begins at Wagner, she’s suddenly the office darling, while Nella gets pushed more and more to the sidelines. Why doesn’t Hazel have to put in the same amount of time at the bottom that Nella did?

Nella is confident that she is damn good at what she does. She knows it isn’t that. So, what is it? Why is everyone so smitten with Hazel?

Then Nella begins to receive threatening and mysterious messages telling her she needs to leave Wagner entirely. Is Hazel behind this, or someone else?

Nella begins to investigate Hazel and makes some shocking discoveries that put her entire future in danger.

If that doesn’t have you intrigued, I don’t know what will!

I loved how Harris framed this story. What starts out feeling like a very tame, contemporary analysis of the U.S. publishing industry quickly evolves into something so much more than that.

As the Reader, you go through it with Nella. I felt everything she was feeling: confused, frustrated, scared, desperate and a whole host of other emotions. Is she being paranoid, is she correct? It is a ride!

It’s sinister, ominous, riddled with a sense of dread and I must say, unpredictable. I couldn’t have predicted this ending in a million years.

I would recommend this to everyone, but particularly if you enjoyed Alyssa Cole’s, When No One is Watching, you should for sure pick this up.

It had that same dark tone, laced with biting, relevant social commentary throughout. A stellar debut. Zakiya Dalila Harris is definitely an author to watch!!!

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