Olivia “Liv” James is done with letting her insecurities get the best of her. So she does what any self-respecting hot mess of a girl who wants to SMASH junior year does. She makes a list—a F*ck It list.
Be bold—do the things that scare me.
Learn to take a compliment.
Stand out instead of back.
Now she’s got a part in her school’s musical production of Othello, new friends and the attention of three very different boys. In Liv’s own words, “F*ck it. What’s the worst that can happen?” The answer is . . . a lot. #SMASHIT- Goodreads
My biggest problem with this book is how Black girls are depicted. There seems to be a trend that if you write about a Black girl they are either the loud one, who seems to have her ish together or the awkward one that is trying to find herself. This is getting a bit too common and I was pretty disappointed to see that in this book.
Also when you as a writer have a character say something along the lines of my Black friends aren’t like me. . . there is a problem.
Although that was the biggest problem for me I felt that this book read like a diary and it was all over the place. What I mean by both of those is that there is a lot of “I did this” “I heard this” “I saw this” “I felt this” Do not get me wrong there are interactions and developing characters in the background, however, it was so much inner monologue in this book.
When I say its all over the place, it felt like the author just added so much stuff to make this book seem complicated and full of depth. There were issues in here that was unprompted and were not followed up on. Listen if you want to write a “coming of age” story in which a Black gains confidence through signing up to become part of a musical production and has conflicting feelings about the boys in her life, cool go for it. But adding issues that are not her issues for the sake of keeping a book going isn’t the move.
ALSO the romance. Its not love triangle or whatever you call it when multiple people like you, IF the main character already decided who she wants to be with AND says repeatedly that she would drop everything for this one person.
I know that this review may be look at as harsh and to be honest, I thought hard about posting this. However, I stand by my words. Will there be readers who enjoy or love this book? Of course. I am just not one of them.
Whenever something scandalous happens at Heller High, the Red Court is the name on everyone’s lips. Its members–the most elite female students in the school–deal out social ruin and favors in equal measure, their true identities a secret known only to their ruthless leader: the Queen of Hearts.
Sixteen-year-old Ember Williams has seen firsthand the damage the Red Court can do. Two years ago, they caused the accident that left her older sister paralyzed. Now, Ember is determined to hold them accountable…by taking the Red Court down from the inside.
But crossing enemy lines will mean crossing moral boundaries, too–ones Ember may never be able to come back from. She always knew taking on the Red Court would come at a price, but will the cost of revenge be more than she’s willing to sacrifice?- Goodreads
There is no way in the world this book should have been this long and ended the way it did. I needed to say that first before anything.
I liked this book. I loved the concept that Ember is going in to take down the woman that destroyed her sister’s life. Its that will they become the evil they hate quest that gets me every time and the fact that it is set in high school makes it a mix of creepy and thrilling at the same. Creepy because it reminds me of politics.
The pace of novel was going really well until about 30% of the book. It was a lot of “I’m going to get the Queen” speeches she was giving herself and it was happening so often it was becoming redundant.
Ember did a lot of complaining and less trying to find information which was another thing that was getting tiring. How you going to do all those “this is what I am fighting for” speeches but then actually don’t do anything. Waiting for information to fall on your lap is boring especially with access to things that Ember had accessed to.
In regards to Ember herself. She was okay. Her focus was the court and protecting her family and that was all she did. Did I like her? My feelings for her are indifferent. She played her role of a teenager out for revenge very well and that was enough for me.
However, this book was too damn long. There was a lot of build up for an ending that was not good. Which is a shame because what I thought was going to happen didn’t. It went real left and I liked that.
But because the author decided to focus on building the tension and the thrill it took a lot a way from the book.
I liked this book but I could have liked it way more.
As mentioned in the subject this post will contact both a book review and an interview :)
Logan’s the new boy at Cherrington Academy, a boarding school that’s promised to provide him with a safe haven away from homophobic bullies and neglectful parents. He’s left all that 2000 miles away.
What he doesn’t expect Cherrington to provide is; a bunch of friends who want to adopt him, a mysterious roommate who’s never home and a gorgeous guy with a secret crush on him.
His perfect new life begins to unravel when he discovers a web of secrets amongst his friends. Plus his roommate? Partial to blackmail. That gorgeous guy? Well, he’s taken by one of Logan’s now closest friends.
Can Logan shut off his feelings to protect his new friendships and the happiness he’s found at Cherrington Academy? Or is love really just all-consuming?- Goodreads
What can I say about this book other than how great it was. What I enjoyed the most about this book was the characters. They were well written and most importantly they had depth, they added to not just Logan’s (MC) story but to the world building and they had some development.
There is a lot that goes on within the novel, however, it does feel over-complicated nor does it feel as if the author threw in a lot of fluff to keep the book going. Everything connected and made sense (including the blackmail) and I am glad it did because when I read the summary I was a bit concerned about that.
I liked the pace of the novel. For most contemporaries, things tend to be drawn out due to the drama. And although there is drama in the novel, it moves very well. The romance was not bad either. But the characters, all of them, were fantastically written.
Quick Five Interview
Firstly, congratulations on your first published novel!
How was the process leading up to this moment? What positives, what difficulties did you face either writing, promoting, or publishing your book?
I think I have genuinely been so lucky with publishing that it has pretty much been an absolute ball of a time for me. I was incredibly blessed to be signed with SRL Publishing who have been the most amazing publishers to work with. They’ve listened to every idea that I’ve had for my story from the actual writing and editing of it, to the front cover and to letting me have a ridiculously long acknowledgements page. In terms of actually writing the story,
I loved it so much. The main difficulties that I faced were during the first stage of writing. I had all the ideas and an outline and character profiles ready to go, but I had no clue where to start.
Turns out the starting of it was definitely the hardest thing for me. I started writing in third person POV and about 45k words in I realised it wasn’t the right fit for my book, but I had no clue how to rectify it or change it. So instead I abandoned the book for around 7-8 months until I had a new plan and realized that I needed to move over to first person POV.
Some of the positives that I’ve faced were the absolute joy in working with my cover designer for Cherrington, Hayley is an angel and I’m always going to be so impressed with it and grateful for her! In terms of writing, damn I enjoyed every bit I can’t lie, I am so crazy that I absolutely just loved writing the book as it was my very first book baby and I just fell in love with the characters and the story.
It is noted in your bio that it was not until you moved to Canada that you were inspired to write Cherrington Academy. What exactly in that change of environment or in general inspired you?
My study abroad year in Canada in 2017/18 was exactly what I needed, without actually knowing it was what I needed. I was incredibly anxious about moving to another country for a whole year with no family and friends close by, but it was the best thing I ever did. It bought me completely out of my comfort zone which led me to feel like I could pretty much do anything. That included the book that I’d been longing to write forever.
I also thinking living in a North American style dormitory with a roommate and a dining plan and everything else that comes with that environment also really inspired the boarding school element of Cherrington Academy as it helped me to feel like I have a decent experience of living in one.
I was also just surrounded by amazing people that I became incredibly good friends with and still am even though I no longer live there. The whole environment of Canada just inspired me to be creative and really get stuck into writing Cherrington Academy.
How do you separate being a writer and a reader when you are writing your book?
This is such a good question. I feel like I have two answers for it. Sometimes I definitely think that you need to separate yourself from being a reader and a writer, especially during the editing stages as I want to be focused a lot on format, spelling, grammar, whether the story actually makes any sense.
However, when writing the story and especially when planning the story, I really do feel like being a reader and a writer is important.
As I want to be writing a book that is readable, that an audience is going to love and is actually a proper story, so I do feel like being a writer and a reader is necessary during these stages of writing my book.
Where do you see yourself as a writer in the next five years?
In the next five years I would love to have three or four books out. With Cherrington and the sequel Coming Home both coming out within the next year I definitely think that this is a good start towards this goal of at least three, maybe even four books being published.
I would also really like to have my writer website up and running, as I have dramatically failed at getting that going again this year. Another thing I’d really like to be doing more of as a writer, is writing short stories! I wrote my first one this year and submitted it to a competition and although I didn’t win, I had such a ball writing it that I’d love to write some more.
I also wrote a really random poem this year, it was very heartfelt and somewhat emotional, but again I also really loved dabbling in poetry so maybe I’ll even write some more poetry in the next five years.
Finally, what do you want readers to take with them when they finish your book?
I really hope they take my book as a little slice of life into a mid-late teen’s life. When writing this book, I really wanted it to be real and gritty and not a book that just portrayed teens lives to be fun and easy and just all about love being simple. Because it isn’t. I hope that came across; I really did. I wanted to portray LGBT characters in real situations, rather than Cherrington just being a coming out story.
I also wanted to deal with some of the stigma around male mental health and emotions and showing that there is support out there and that you should not be afraid to cry as a man or reach out for therapy.
Aspiring fashion designer Adelaide Song wants to prove she’s more than just a pampered heiress. All she needs is a little courage—and the help of deliciously sexy Michael Reynolds, her childhood crush and her brother’s best friend.
But when her secret crush turns into an illicit liaison, Adelaide realizes mixing business with pleasure spells trouble for all her plans…- Goodreads
This is my first book by Jayci Lee and it will not be the last. What I love about this book is how straight forward the romance is. Even when “the drama” comes into the story the romance between childhood friends is true and consistent. It takes bit but both of them know what they want. The problem is should they and it isn’t because of the brother’s best friend aspect; it is way much more than that.
Beyond the fact that the romance was straight forward, what I liked about this book was Adelaide and Michael actually working. Although Adelaide did act like a child at times, she knew her stuff and made sure she showed out. I loved the fact that both of them made sure their job would get done before they did their good. Don’t get me wrong they may have tried some stuff while on the clock but they kept it professional when it was down to it. I liked seeing them work.
The pace of the novel wasn’t bad. It was a semi slow build up. When things began to heat up, the pace of the novel didn’t change and the tone remained the same. That sense of urgency and tension was fading about half way through the novel.
I would have liked to see more of a relationship with her Grandmother or at least more of a background of it. This could have been in the first book but as this book focused on Adelaide, I would have liked to see them more together as opposed to it popping up when the author needed a distraction.
Overall, this was a nice read and some steamy scenes.
Ashley Bennett and her friends are living the charmed life. It’s the end of senior year and they’re spending more time at the beach than in the classroom. They can already feel the sunny days and endless possibilities of summer.
Everything changes one afternoon in April, when four LAPD officers are acquitted after beating a black man named Rodney King half to death. Suddenly, Ashley’s not just one of the girls. She’s one of the black kids.
As violent protests engulf LA and the city burns, Ashley tries to continue on as if life were normal. Even as her self-destructive sister gets dangerously involved in the riots. Even as the model black family façade her wealthy and prominent parents have built starts to crumble. Even as her best friends help spread a rumor that could completely derail the future of her classmate and fellow black kid, LaShawn Johnson.
With her world splintering around her, Ashley, along with the rest of LA, is left to question who is the us? And who is the them?- Goodreads
TW: Suicide, Violence
This book packs a punch. There are so many different layers in this book that I would love to see it part of a book club or a school curriculum., dissected and discussed.
The first part that stood out to me is the fact that I never see stories from a wealthy Black perspective. Ashley is basically looking from the outside in. Between only having white friends, her sister fighting the power (and probably experiencing mental health issues), her parents fighting her sister, the beating of Rodney King as well as her own experiences with police brutality AND racism, it was an experience to read the point of view of someone who wasn’t directly involved; from someone who isn’t poor and from someone whose family did everything in their power to be able to say “we’re not like them.”
Reading from this perspective was the best part of reading this book.
Ashley is an interesting character, who has her life planned out on the surface but is needing change. I wouldn’t say that the Rodney King beating is what caused the change but it accelerated it. Think of it as reading a novel that gets you captivated by a battle but that really isn’t the purpose of the novel. The Rodney King beating was the backdrop as well as the LA Riots, the killing of Latasha Harlins, the Tulsa Massacre and other points . All of these were important because they shaped Ashley’s changing view of the world but if you are looking for Ashley to become an activist, this isn’t for you.
There were things about Ashley that I didn’t like. Things that she allowed to fit in/stay under the radar but everyone has to learn right?
The pace of the novel was slow but it was worth it. The tone was somber even when things started to look up a bit, it doesn’t exactly change. This could be due to the fact that the environment didn’t change . . . it just got quiet (sounds familiar?).
Overall, I enjoyed this book. As I mentioned in the beginning, this should be in a book club or part of a school curriculum.
Marva Sheridan was born ready for this day. She’s always been driven to make a difference in the world, and what better way than to vote in her first election? Duke Crenshaw is do done with this election. He just wants to get voting over with so he can prepare for his band’s first paying gig tonight. Only problem? Duke can’t vote.
When Marva sees Duke turned away from their polling place, she takes it upon herself to make sure his vote is counted. She hasn’t spent months doorbelling and registering voters just to see someone denied their right. And that’s how their whirlwind day begins, rushing from precinct to precinct, cutting school, waiting in endless lines, turned away time and again, trying to do one simple thing: vote.
They may have started out as strangers, but as Duke and Marva team up to beat a rigged system (and find Marva’s missing cat), it’s clear that there’s more to their connection than a shared mission for democracy.- Goodreads
TW: Death of a Sibling
If there wasn’t a more timely book currently out there right now, I don’t know where it is. This book is important. It focuses on the importance of voting BUT it also focuses on the importance of who you surround yourself with, race, trauma, stereotypes and community.
This is the first book I’ve read by Colbert and I was pleased with it. It packed a bigger punch the summary makes it seem and I was expecting the different issues that written. I guess I should have assumed given the fact that this is a political novel (so to speak).
The romance was so far behind that I don’t actually consider it a romance. Duke and Marva have a mutual interest but I am not sure its chemistry. The fact that voting brings them together is fantastic and I love it. But if it wasn’t for the fact that Marva’s boyfriend was selfish and exhibited allyship fatigue (-_-) she would have paid Duke no attention. However, I liked the fact that there was willingness to try because not everything has to be insta love and things can take time to grow.
The pace of the novel was great. The entire book was detailed without feeling like a run own. And going back to its timeliness. . . this book is important and not just because it stresses the importance of voting but also what someone can do for their community outside of them voting. It was touching and thought-provoking. It makes you think.
Overall, I liked this book and would recommend it.
After a messy public breakup, soap opera darling Jasmine Lin Rodriguez finds her face splashed across the tabloids. When she returns to her hometown of New York City to film the starring role in a bilingual romantic comedy for the number one streaming service in the country, Jasmine figures her new “Leading Lady Plan” should be easy enough to follow—until a casting shake-up pairs her with telenovela hunk Ashton Suárez.
Leading Ladies don’t need a man to be happy.
After his last telenovela character was killed off, Ashton is worried his career is dead as well. Joining this new cast as a last-minute addition will give him the chance to show off his acting chops to American audiences and ping the radar of Hollywood casting agents. To make it work, he’ll need to generate smoking-hot on-screen chemistry with Jasmine. Easier said than done, especially when a disastrous first impression smothers the embers of whatever sexual heat they might have had.
Leading Ladies do not rebound with their new costars.
With their careers on the line, Jasmine and Ashton agree to rehearse in private. But rehearsal leads to kissing, and kissing leads to a behind-the-scenes romance worthy of a soap opera. While their on-screen performance improves, the media spotlight on Jasmine soon threatens to destroy her new image and expose Ashton’s most closely guarded secret.- Goodreads
I too had an obsession with American soap operas. However, One Life to Live was my favorite one of all time and it was because of three men; Antonio (Kamar de los Reyes) and Cristian (David Fumero) Vega and Todd Manning (Roger Howarth). The Vega brothers were everything to me. I live to watch their stories and Todd. . . he was a mess but a mess with a soft heart.
This book. . . made me remember all of that.
First let me say how well this book was written. Not only do you get both Jasmine and Ashton’s point of views but you also read the show; basically you are seeing reading two stories at the same time. So you’re getting a bang for your buck. The transitions are clear and smooth. The writing is engaging, extremely detailed without the drag and there is a balance of color and culture. What I mean by that is the author is trying to tell a love story and within that love story give you a glimpse of the culture while not stressing the politics of the culture. Honestly it was refreshing. I say that with no insult. I say that because its nice to read a diverse book without a struggle. We see it all the time in books by Black authors, Hispanic authors and any non straight, white authors. This book was refreshing.
Jasmine and Ashton have pure, makes sense chemistry. There is an instant attraction that wouldn’t say is lust. But they are grown adults (with baggage) that responsible (ish). There are definitely some drama within their relationship but it doesn’t happen as sudden as other romances.
Beyond their chemistry, Jasmine and Ashton were great characters with their own personalities that were different from each other but complimented each other. They didn’t allow their individuality to change or shape their relationship. I love that. Too often you see someone in a relationship trying to be someone different because of the person they are with.
Both of them experience growth, not just at the end but also as you read. Also the author makes reference to their past growth (at least on Jasmine’s end).
I loved this novel and have every intention of buying a physical copy for my library.
I hated middle school. From the moment, I walked into those doors to the moment I left. It was one of the worst school experiences I have ever had. I was/am an awkward girl. Making friends, especially within established friendships (even when I am invited to the group) is a difficult thing. I joined the volleyball team, basketball, student council, band and still never actually fit it.
So I lost myself in books and for the most part that is where I say. But the purpose of me telling you this is I noticed that every once in a while someone, on Twitter, will ask specifically for middle school reads to Black girls. It isn’t specific to what genre type but just that it is geared towards Black girls and I have been meaning to do a list on it and now I got the time :)
Listed below are some middle school reads that feature a Black girl as the main character.
Let me be honest. When I was looking up books I was disappointed in a few things.
There aren’t a whole lot of books where there is a Black girl as the main characters.
There were a lot of books in which the mother left, parents were divorced and the divorce resulted in the child moving away
There are a lot of trauma novels like a lot
This is not to say that these stories aren’t important but these are a lot; overwhelmingly so
I was hoping to find a wide range of genres but there was a lot of trauma found. I wonder why is that. . . .
While I go ponder on that, what do you think of this list? Do you have any recommendations that should be added? Leave me a comment :)
Professor Victoria Reese knows an uphill battle when she sees one. Convincing her narrow-minded colleagues at the elite Pembroke University to back a partnership with the local library is a fight she saw coming and already has a plan for. What she didn’t see coming? The wildly hot librarian who makes it clear books aren’t the only thing he’d like to handle.
When a tightly wound, sexy-as-hell professor proposes a partnership between his library and her university, children’s department head John Donovan is all for it. He knows his tattoos and easygoing attitude aren’t quite what she expected, but the unmistakable heat between them is difficult to resist.
And then there’s the intriguing late fee on her record. For the Duke’s Convenience… A late fee and a sexy romance novel? There’s more to Dr. Reese than she’s letting on.
John might like to tease her about her late fee, but when he teases her in other ways, Victoria is helpless to resist. Mixing business with pleasure—and oh, it is pleasure—always comes with risks, but maybe a little casual fun between the sheets is just what Victoria needs.- Goodreads
I don’ know how else to describe this book other than one of the sweetest romances I have read thus far. It was adorable from beginning to end. I love the way it builds. I love the fact that John knew what he wanted but at the same time was comfortable enough to let Victoria come to the point he was at. She was frustrating to read. It was like talking with the smartest dumb person in the room. Not only does she need therapy but she also needs to learning how to relax (which thankfully she does a bit in this book).
But I liked Victoria because I was able to relate to her and her mask in the workplace. For some people they don’t use it/need it but others such as myself cannot be the same person inside of the office as they are outside. It was refreshing to see that I am not alone in this (I know I’m not but it was nice to read).
The author touches about the topic I mentioned above as well as ADHD, being a teenager and being Black. I would have liked to see more times when Victoria was herself. I felt that she was herself around John but she wasn’t her complete self. When she was with her friends their interactions are we comfortable. What I mean to say is she interacted with other Black females in what appeared to be her real self. Do not get me wrong. Friends are going to see a different side of you than your lover is and that is fine. But it felt like she was wearing a mask with John even at the end.
There was something missing to connect her and John but I am not exactly sure if I can word it right.
But other than that, the author must have known that I have a thing for Vikings because John was *insert chef’s kiss*
It’s been twenty-seven days since Cleo and Layla’s friendship imploded.
Nearly a month since Cleo realized they’ll never be besties again.
Now, Cleo wants to erase every memory, good or bad, that tethers her to her ex–best friend. But pretending Layla doesn’t exist isn’t as easy as Cleo hoped, especially after she’s assigned to be Layla’s tutor. Despite budding new friendships with other classmates—and a raging crush on a gorgeous boy named Dom—Cleo’s turbulent past with Layla comes back to haunt them both.
Alternating between time lines of Then and Now, When You Were Everything blends past and present into an emotional story about the beauty of self-forgiveness, the promise of new beginnings, and the courage it takes to remain open to love.- Goodreads
This book was written fantastically. However, HOWEVER, it needs to be known that Cleo is not exactly the victim. Here is why.
She is a terrible friend. Layla meet new people (who weren’t that great but that is not the point) because Cleo left her alone at a party. When Layla begins connecting with these people Cleo gets extremely jealous and begins saying hurtful things to Layla, privately and publicly. She expected Layla to see that she was jealous despite these horrible things and act like nothing happen.
It didn’t work that way and through out the entire novel, Cleo repeatedly makes it seem as if it is Layla’s fault for wanting new friends. Cleo is selfish from the beginning to the novel to the end. The people that she surrounds herself with only encourage that mindset.
It is extremely possible that their friendship would have just faded out on good terms or Layla would have seen what type of friends her new friends were and just stayed isolated with Cleo but Cleo screwed up on multiple times and tried to ruin peoples’ lives.
This is not to say that Layla was the perfect angel. She didn’t give her friendship with Cleo the time it deserved and although she tried to include Cleo in her new friendship, Layla didn’t take Cleo’s word when she noticed certain things and that could be since she knew Cleo didn’t like her being with new people. Did Layla do something messed up? Yeah (ish) She did something out of her character, but I do not feel that it was THAT messed up.
As much as I hated the fact that this book glorified a selfish, entitled, vindictive girl and made her seem as if this break up was not her fault, I loved the fact that it pulled emotions from me and kept me reading. It took some time for the book to get going but once it did, it was great.
I would have loved or love to see Layla’s viewpoint. But then again, I don’t see that happening specifically if this book is based on some truth.
Making and breaking your favorite reads since 2017