A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney – A Black Retelling of Alice in Wonderland and the Struggles of Being a Teen

Text: A Blade So Black, L.L. McKinney. Image: A Black teen with natural hair, holding a dagger in both hands, wearing a red jacket.
Blurb:

The first time the Nightmares came, it nearly cost Alice her life. Now she’s trained to battle monstrous creatures in the dark dream realm known as Wonderland with magic weapons and hardcore fighting skills. Yet even warriors have a curfew.

Life in real-world Atlanta isn’t always so simple, as Alice juggles an overprotective mom, a high-maintenance best friend, and a slipping GPA. Keeping the Nightmares at bay is turning into a full-time job. But when Alice’s handsome and mysterious mentor is poisoned, she has to find the antidote by venturing deeper into Wonderland than she’s ever gone before. And she’ll need to use everything she’s learned in both worlds to keep from losing her head . . . literally.

CW’s review:

I was pleasantly surprised by A Blade So Black, and I had so much fun reading this book! A Blade So Black is a brilliant retelling of Alice in Wonderland led by a Black-American teen, and is about the struggles of straddling the responsibilities of two worlds, protecting and doing your best for the people that you love, and the pressure of being a heroine with immense responsibility.

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Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds – A Movie-Ready John Green-esque Novel

Text: Opposite of Always, Justin A Reynolds. Image: A black male teen (left), sits across the stairs from a black female teen with natural hair. Above the stairs are the same teens, their legs pressed against each other, the image cut off above their knees.

Blurb:

When Jack and Kate meet at a party, bonding until sunrise over their mutual love of Froot Loops and their favorite flicks, Jack knows he’s falling—hard. Soon she’s meeting his best friends, Jillian and Franny, and Kate wins them over as easily as she did Jack.

But then Kate dies. And their story should end there.

Yet Kate’s death sends Jack back to the beginning, the moment they first meet, and Kate’s there again. Healthy, happy, and charming as ever. Jack isn’t sure if he’s losing his mind.

Still, if he has a chance to prevent Kate’s death, he’ll take it. Even if that means believing in time travel. However, Jack will learn that his actions are not without consequences. And when one choice turns deadly for someone else close to him, he has to figure out what he’s willing to do to save the people he loves.

Joce’s Review:

OPPOSITE OF ALWAYS presents the burning questions of many time travel loop novels: If you had the power to change the past, would you, and how? Jack King took me along his journey through time, revisiting the same incidents again and again, beginning at a party where he meets Kate on the stairs and they share a bowl of cereal. From there, he wrestles with friendships, family relationships, and self-care, and the time loop ends and rewinds upon Kate’s death, totaling a six month span each round.

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The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory – Slow Burn Romance Done Right

Text: The Proposal, Jasmine Guillory. Background images: An illustration of the profile of a dark-skinned woman with natural hair, wearing glasses facing the right, and the profile of a brown-skinned man wearing a blue cap, facing the left.
Blurb:

When freelance writer Nikole Paterson goes to a Dodgers game with her actor boyfriend, his man bun, and his bros, the last thing she expects is a scoreboard proposal. Saying no isn’t the hard part—they’ve only been dating for five months, and he can’t even spell her name correctly. The hard part is having to face a stadium full of disappointed fans…

At the game with his sister, Carlos Ibarra comes to Nik’s rescue and rushes her away from a camera crew. He’s even there for her when the video goes viral and Nik’s social media blows up—in a bad way. Nik knows that in the wilds of LA, a handsome doctor like Carlos can’t be looking for anything serious, so she embarks on an epic rebound with him, filled with food, fun, and fantastic sex. But when their glorified hookups start breaking the rules, one of them has to be smart enough to put on the brakes…

Joce’s review:

I have always loved reading romance novels, and in early 2018, I read THE WEDDING DATE by Jasmine Guillory and instantly fell in love. However, I am notoriously bad at only reading the first book in a series and then completely abandoning the rest of the series (or in this case, I guess the companion novels), so I made a conscious effort to forge on. So here I am, reading THE PROPOSAL five months after it was published! (Oy.)

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Soft on Soft by Em Ali – The, Indeed, Very Soft Story between Two Queer Fat Girls in Love

Hm, you haven’t seen Xiaolong in awhile.

Although you have been visiting the Pond frequently, Xiaolong always seemed so busy and the both of you never had the opportunity to talk. You hope, in your visit today, that you will get to see her and talk to her.

Xiaolong the pink axolotl, wearing a purple flower hat, holding a soft pillow and a book 'Soft on Soft' to her chest.And so, when you pass through the magical boundary and enter the Pond, you hear the familiar scampering of feet and the familiar call of ‘friend!’ Indeed, when you turn around to the sound of her voice, Xiaolong stands before you, holding a pillow and a book in her hand.

“Friend! I’m so glad that I got the chance to see you today. I’ve been so busy and I missed you. I’m sorry we haven’t had the chance to talk much, but I made sure to make time for you today!”

You smile, and tell her that it was good to see her. You ask her what she is doing today, and what book she is holding in her hand.

“Oh yes!” she exclaims. “I had a feeling you were coming today, so I brought you this fluffy pillow. I highly recommend cuddling this pillow while I tell you about this very lovely book that will make you want to cuddle things.”

That sounds like such a comforting book! Once you and Xiaolong settle at your favourite spot at the Pond, her fluffy and soft pillow on your lap, she holds the book out to you. “So, this book is called Soft on Soft…

TEXT: Soft on Soft, Em Ali. IMAGE: a white and pink cup, with steam rising above the text. Bottom right corner: Xiaolong the pink axolotl with an upside down flower hat at the center of a stamp, with the text "Review by CW, The Quiet Pond" around it.
Summary:

June Bana might post nearly daily makeup looks that gain thousands of likes but Real Life June has built a wall behind which she exists with her two cats.

But with messy feelings getting in a way of an early hermit life, June begins to realize that she wants more. She wants model/actress, Sunshine Reincarnated Selena Clarke. It doesn’t hurt that Selena is amazing with cats and quiets down June’s anxiety to bearable levels.

June is given the choice of facing her anxieties about relationships to gain not only a girlfriend but also a better understanding of how far she’d go for love.

But would she take it? Would she leave her comfort zone for something softer?

Contemporary romance where one homebody and one extrovert make one hell of a love story.

My review:

I was provided a copy of this novella by my lovely friend and the author themself. This does not influence my review in any way, and my opinions are my own.

Listen, Soft on Soft is indeed, very soft, and that’s what makes it such a gorgeous gem of a book. It’s a short and sweet novella, and follows two fat queer women – June, a Persian cat-loving homebody, and Selena, an extroverted Black model and actress – and the slow-burn love that blossoms and grows between them.Read More »