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Black Star Eclipsed

Ashe and her mother, Mia, are still recovering from Ashe’s kidnapping. It’s been a long, difficult road with many twists and turns, not to mention secrets. A lot of things have gone unsaid by Mia, and for very good reasons. Ashe is quickly growing older, and her maturity is obvious in everything she does. When Ashe corners her uncle Jason and tells him that her plans for college are different from her mother’s, things begin to change for all of them. Mia struggles to face the fact she will, again, be separated from her daughter, This time, however, their separation will follow the most harrowing experience of their lives.

Black Star Eclipsed, by M.J. Jones, continues the compelling story of Mia and her daughter Ashe. Their lives are nothing short of amazing. For as much as they appear to be a typical single mother and daughter team, they are far beyond that in dozens of ways. Jones has succeeded in further developing this pair into an even stronger and more stunning set of characters. Furthering the story, Jones has added incredibly in-depth backstories and strong characters in both Jason and his wife Kierra. For seemingly secondary characters, the two are well-drawn and pull readers into the plot fairly quickly in the first chapter.

After reading the first installment in Jones’s Black Star series, I was prepared for a little more action right out of the gate. The first book featuring Mia and Ashe hit hard in the first chapters with suspenseful moments right off the bat. This follow-up story offers a lot in the way of background information, allowing both readers and Ashe to learn more about her father. Though I appreciated the attention and time given to catching readers up on the previous book and the backstories, I would like to have seen more suspense and intrigue to kick off this installment.

The dynamic between characters is a huge part of Jones’s writing. I especially enjoyed the interactions between Mia and her sister-in-law Kierra. Their exchanges are always spirited and easily relatable. For a novel that is steeped in elements of science fiction, it is nice to see characters with genuine emotions and typical relationships.

Black Star Eclipsed is engaging, psychological science fiction. The storyline is well-developed, and the characters are relatable. The overall story took a little longer to get off the ground than I would have preferred. I recommend this series to anyone who wants to explore an especially unique take on the science fiction novel.

Pages: 452 | ASIN : B09ZYQP2ZD

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Black Star

Ashe is young. She is smart. She is going places and doing great things. But Ashe is scared and has every right to be. In her area, young girls her age are going missing at an alarming rate, and no one seems to be taking the situation seriously. When she finds out she has been nominated to participate in AmeriCorps National Service Program, she is ecstatic. Her mother is a former member, and that only makes the opportunity sweeter. Ashe has what it takes to be an asset to the program, but she can’t seem to shake the fear that being away from her mother may lead her down a dark road.

Black Star, by M.J. Jones, addresses many tough and timely topics including human trafficking and racism. Jones’s main character, Ashe, is both mature and caring. She gives everything she has to the betterment and protection of others. Jones spends a great deal of time in the first chapters developing her character and drawing readers toward her. While she is portrayed as socially conscious, Ashe is also the typical teenager with interests in music and pop culture. This makes her a grounded and authentic character that is easy to empathize with.

I was honestly taken aback at the turn events took early on in Jones’s novel. I had some expectations going into the book after reading the early conversations between Ashe and her mother Mia. To say I was stunned at the sudden shift is an understatement. Jones has given readers the ideal introduction to her main characters right before plunging into the heart of the plot. I truly did not anticipate Ashe and Mia’s storyline spinning toward the science fiction genre, but Jones has managed this twist masterfully.

Not usually drawn to books written in the present tense, I was, at first, put off by Jones’s choice to present her narrative in this way. After a few chapters, however, I completely forgot any misgivings, and I realized that seeing the story in what amounts to real-time gives readers an even stronger sense of urgency when it comes to Ashe’s dilemma.

Black Star is a thought-provoking and spellbinding story and I enjoyed the science fiction elements immensely. Jones has handed readers a well-developed and well-written cast of characters within an amazing storyline. Readers across genres will appreciate Jones’s work and look forward with anticipation to the next book in this trilogy.

Pages: 216 | ASIN: B09Z9FDLZ8

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Blackface

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Blackface, by Pamela D. Smith, is a celebration of African American’s success in politics, art, and culture. For the longest time, black faces have been associated with mockery, misery, pity, and everything negative. Pamela D. Smith, however, brings positivity to the words and gets readers to revisit the misrepresentation of the term. Smith is not trying to forget history but she wants readers to use these experiences to become a leader. The Author shares painful memories of African Americans, the impact slavery has had for generations, race dynamics, the struggles Black people have gone through, and how African Americans rose up, and are shining.

Smith has written a powerful and inspiring book sharing her experiences as an African American woman and asks the reader what they would do if they were in her situation. Many of the situations the author describes are some that many readers don’t face that often so this was an eye-opening read for me. I also admired that the author debunks the stereotypes given to African Americans, some of which I wasn’t even aware of.

The author writes in a conversational tone that is not out to point fingers but instead to educate us. I feel this book can be relatable to people of different races, not just African Americans. Smith inspires and provides tips on how to be a leader for yourself and how to be the best version of yourself no matter what you face in the world.

The author is honest and open with the reader and she does not hold back about what African Americans have gone through and still go through today. The author’s vulnerability is inspiring and a remarkable feature of her writing.

Every chapter in Blackface has a lesson that will benefit the reader. My biggest lessons were on how to brand and package yourself for more visibility. By creating an exemplary brand with your name, you will be able to skillfully sell whatever product or service you have, impact lives, sub-consciously mentor future leaders, and live a fulfilling life. Apart from the wise teachings, I also loved the quotable texts in various chapters. One of my favorite quotes from Blackface is ‘To become internally self-aware, we must be open-minded’. This quote is powerful and helped me change my perspective.

Blackface: An African American guide to building a personal brand, developing as a leader, and serving with excellency is an insightful look into how African Americans can grow in their professional lives. It gives a realistic look into the struggles and roadblocks that People of Color face.

Blackberries and Brandi

Blackberries and Brandi (Hope Falls Series Book Three) by author C.H. Eryl is a fiction story set in a small town in Wyoming. During the Valentine’s dance, Brandi Wright receives a proposal from Luke Austin, her boss at the Hope Falls Ski Resort. But she doesn’t share the news with her mother right away for fear that she will think this is just another mistake like the many Brandi has made in the past. Brian Walters proposes to single mom Darci at the dance, too, and they plan to marry in December, which causes her parents concern as Darci has not known Brian long. Will love be enough to carry these two couples to a happily ever after, especially when danger lurks as a past enemy reemerges into their lives?

There is an element of suspense and mystery woven throughout the story. Some hints seem to point to a particular person, but also hints that it could be someone else, which will keep readers guessing and wanting to read and find out if their suspicions are correct about who is behind the threat to Luke and Brandi. The story is told from a third-person narration, allowing readers to be fully immersed in the story and better understand the characters. The dialogue flows naturally. The drama begins immediately, making this book hard to put down. C.H. Eryl’s writing style is impressive and engaging.

I feel that things may be confusing for readers who have not read the first two novels in the collection. For example, when a character first appears in the story, there is no explanation of who they are. It seems that the author assumes readers would already know the relationships between characters. Even not knowing the back story of the characters, readers can still enjoy the mystery element and relationship building of the characters.

Blackberries and Brandi is a sweet, charming, and thrilling read that I recommend to those looking for a short romance novel. This cozy romance novel will give readers that feel-good sensation that one looks for in a quick relaxing read.

Pages: 213 | ASIN : B09SK71RKD

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Black, White, and Gray All Over

Black, White, and Gray All Over: A Black Man’s Odyssey in Life and Law Enforcement by Frederick Reynolds is a fantastic memoir surrounding his tumultuous life as a black cop in Compton, California. The book deals with sensitive topics such as racism, police brutality, poverty, and crime. As a cop, Reynolds encounters horrific situations that allow him to showcase in his book the many difficulties and traumatic events that cops in America have to deal with daily. Through his unforgettable story, he invites the reader to take a look from the inside at what it’s like to work in law enforcement in one of the most crime-ridden cities of America. This well-crafted book is highly informative and brings a critical perspective on life: it’s not all black and white; there are also gray areas that are constantly being navigated and make things more complicated to understand.

This revealing memoir tells the emotional story of the author’s road to personal improvement. Reynolds describes perfectly what it was like growing up in a dysfunctional family and how he almost kept going down the wrong path as a young person. We get to see the dangerous lifestyles that many people are introduced to from an early age and how hard it is to get out of them without the appropriate support system. His job as a cop helps him build a life for himself and his family. However, this didn’t come right away. Many obstacles had to be overcome, getting to witness in the process one of the most heartbreaking and cruelest realities of the worst areas in Los Angeles County.

Reynolds tells his personal story with great detail. His descriptive writing is carried out through every chapter. From his life as a child to his eventual retirement, he gives as much context as possible to the reader, creating a complete and holistic perspective of his life. He makes sure to display the real problems and corruption that he saw while working as a cop. He also shows the reader how challenging and thankless the job of being a cop in America is. This allows him to exhibit the complex and traumatic lives people who work in law enforcement have to deal with. His detailed accounts of murders, shootings, drug deals, and gang violence were very tough to read, and it’s hard to imagine what it would be like to lead a life where such events are part of your daily routine.

Black, White, and Gray All Over: A Black Man’s Odyssey in Life and Law Enforcement is a relevant book that will help readers understand the history of racism and discrimination that this country has had. Police work is probably one of the most demanding jobs out there, and through this book, you’ll get a better understanding of all the sacrifice it takes to carry out this necessary profession. Bad people come in all genders, races, shapes, and sizes; some even wear badges, so it’s important to remain human and avoid judging too harshly those that happen to look different than us or have had the misfortune to grow in disadvantageous circumstances.

Pages: 477 | ASIN : B09JF9VB4Z

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The Black Foster Youth Handbook

The playwright George Bernard Shaw once said that youth is wasted on the young. Unfortunately, the meaning behind this world-famous quote becomes all the more tragic because most of us only realize what it truly means when it’s too late. Luckily, we have author Ángela Quijada-Banks to give the youth a wake-up call and a helping hand. Her book The Black Foster Youth Handbook can be categorized under Self-Help, and it embodies the best qualities of the genre. It’s a valuable collection of over 50 lessons sprinkled with a healthy dose of personal anecdotes, making it a surprisingly entertaining and fulfilling read. 

Written in a conversational and often-times humorous tone, it can be read and enjoyed by anyone from any background. Sure, its primary target audience is young people of color who have gone through foster care, but those who haven’t can still pick up lessons that could be beneficial. It also features brief poetic pieces by Quijada-Banks. Her unique style is undeniably charming and has a calming quality to them. 

This book tackles heavy topics like suicide, sex trafficking, and other traumas. But because it handles those topics with so much hope and understanding, the darkness of it all becomes easier to take on. With no judgment whatsoever, the pages become a safe space for anyone who has ever experienced any of the situations mentioned.  

If you’re going to read this book, the best way to do it is through a physical copy. After all, it is a handbook, so it includes questions and activities for readers to engage with. Write notes in the margins and highlight your favorite lines and pieces of advice. It’s clear that Quijada-Banks poured her soul into this book, and it’s only appropriate for you to do the same.

Whether you’ve been through the foster care system or not, chances are you won’t be entirely healed by the end of this book. Self-healing takes plenty of time and work, something you have to do mainly on your own. But don’t let that intimidate you. With a roadmap like The Black Foster Youth Handbook and a guide like Ángela Quijada-Banks, you’re getting a good head start for a brighter future.

The Black Foster Youth Handbook: 50+ Lessons I learned to successfully Age-Out of Foster Care and Holistically Heal is a memoir, self-help book, and handbook all wrapped into one. Written for those in and aged out of foster care, this book is also helpful for supportive adults such as foster and resource parents, case managers, Guardians ad litem, therapists, and social workers.

Pages: 396 | ASIN : B08CJB8CM9

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They Only Wear Black Hats 

They Only Wear Black Hats by Edward Izzi is a modern crime novel that will grab readers right from the title. The title successfully generates the right amount of curiosity, and relevance while maintaining a theme that can be seen throughout the major sequences in the novel.

This gripping story begins in a high school setting and the language can give readers the illusion of a contemporary breezy read. Soon however readers will realize its anything but a cozy mystery novel. This captivating story wastes no time in lettings the readers know that it’s going to be a dark and intense journey filled with toe curling twists and heartbreaks.

This thrilling story is fast paced with the murders of many young children containing explicit descriptions of their mutilation and death. Detective Palazzola grows frustrated with the lack of convictions on these murder cases yet has no recourse for the problem. One night he learns of the secret group called the Archangels. They step in when the law has failed to enact justice for the victims. A single black bowler hat left at the scene of each vigilante killing, the only clue to what is going on. This vigilante group however has vowed to put an end to anyone that tries to stop them from their mission of enacting justice to the victims.

The plot is enthralling, and the flow is brilliant with concise chapters that keeps you invested and intrigued throughout. The narration is also nonlinear and shifts from the perspective of Detective Palazzola to an omniscient third person narrator. The surprising story gives you small but significant details about each victim in such a way that you feel the sadness and root for justice to happen.

They Only Wear Black Hats will keep readers of suspenseful crime mysteries hooked from the opening lines. Those that want a fast-paced thriller will not be disappointed.

Pages: 333 | ASIN : B09LQ9JPP1

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Black Matilda

Black Matilda (Matilda Series Book 3) by [Jon Gray Lang]

Black Matilda is the third book of the enthralling science fiction Matilda Series by Jon Gray Lang. The crew of the Matilda is back, and this time each of the members of the crew have no choice but to split up after the kidnapping of Luli Qing. Following new hints, Captain Jacquotte Delahaye, Galena, Anton, Derain and Barney travel all throughout Consortium controlled space in pursuit of those that took their friend, trying to save her from the unknown danger that she’s in. This sends each of them on a riveting adventure that will keep the readers’ attention through every new chapter.

Many deep spacers have been disappearing, now Luli is missing too, and no one is sure what’s really going on or who’s behind it all. This series of events end up showcasing the incredible loyalty that each member of the Matilda crew have for one another, and how deep their friendship truly is. Each new chapter presents a new part of the mystery, a new riddle, a new hint, which keeps the suspense throughout the book high and makes for an incredibly gripping science fiction story. The undeniable connection between the members of the crew only makes things better, as there’s a real fear about what could happen to them.

The writing style is descriptive and engaging the narration has a quick pace. The author writing is fluid, allowing for a smooth reading experience which is a prefect match for a space adventure story that is constantly moving in a sci-fi world that is rich and imaginative. The constant travels through space, fights between crews and the resolution of enigmas are a never-ending reward for the reader, whose entertainment is prioritized all throughout the book. Incapable of putting it down, I devoured chapter after chapter, eager to find out what would be the destiny of Luli and the rest of the crew.

The characters, as expected, are well developed and their unique personalities shined through in this book, and their perseverance in rescuing their friend and helping each other during this mission made them even more enjoyable to read about. The way the book ended has left me excited for the next one in the series, I can’t wait to find out what will be the next quest for the characters that I have learned to love.

Black Matilda is yet another exciting space romp full of twists and turns that will not disappoint, the ideal match for those who have a true passion for science fiction.

Pages: 315 | ASIN: B08R2VQMPH

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