Erotica, LGBT, New Adult, New Adult Romance

My Review: Show Me (Extracurricular Activities #3): by Neve Wilder

Publish Date: March 21st, 2021
Number of Pages: 318 pages
Publisher: Independently Published
Genre(s): LGBT, Erotica, New Adult Romance

***Warning! This book contains spoilers for the previous books in the series, so continue reading this review at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!***

To see my review for book #1 – Want Me – Click HERE

To see my review for book #2 – Try Me – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4.25 Stars

You’re ridiculously simple at times and incredibly complex at others. I can’t pin you at all.

– Neve Wilder, “Show Me”

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

Two Roommates. One Camera. A whole lot of action.

I get crushes the way some people get seasonal allergies.
And sharing a house with four hot roommates is like being stuck in permanent spring.
Too bad I keep getting friend-zoned.

But it’s senior year now, and I’m done pining for the impossible.
Time to live it up and go out with a bang.
Or a lot of bangs.

And I’m definitely, definitely not getting attached to anyone.
Especially not my straight, gym-loving, football-player roommate Sam whose impressively large… smile I caught a glimpse of once.
Or several times.

That’s why, when Sam asks me for help with a very special, very NSFW project so he can make a little cash, of course I agree. In the name of friendship.

And if it turns out that Sam’s more than just muscles—that he’s sweet, and smart, and a little bit filthy, and a whole lot less straight than I thought—well, that’s neither here nor there, because this time I’m gonna be smart. This time, I’m friend-zoning myself.

We’ve got a list of deliciously hot scenarios, a camera, and Sam’s huge… smile. What could possibly go wrong?

From the author of Want Me comes the third new adult college romance in the Extracurricular Activities series. Expect low angst, high heat, plenty of laughs, a flustered redhead, a gentle giant of a football player, and enough BDE to power a mid-size city.

~~~

Sometimes you just need a book NOT because it’s some literary masterpiece or because it’s the latest trending title on social media or because it’s some epic, grand adventure with an exciting plot…readers like me sometimes just seek out books for the hot sex scenes! I have no shame in admitting I’m a spicy smut reader, and this trilogy has been just a total delight in this sense! Neve Wilder is now one of my go-to’s when it comes to me looking for sexier books that I know will have some absolutely scorching scenes to enjoy.

If you liked the first two books of these, you most likely will appreciate this one too, and I personally thought the author didn’t disappoint with this final installment into this college romance story.

This final book revolves around Jesse and Sam. There’s a prequel scene at the beginning of the guys back in freshman year, and Jesse discovers his boyfriend in a compromising position with someone else…thus making him to believe he has the absolute worst luck in love…It makes him twice as snarky, and The Great British Bakeoff fan vows to have a smutty good time when it’s back to present day, senior year, and all the other guys in the house have surprisingly all gotten in serious relationships but him. Then there’s Sam: large, boy next door, football player, seemingly straight, and literal human golden retriever who has a secret of his own that Jesse finds out about…

I especially enjoyed both Sam and Jesse equally, I think they both felt fleshed out and had great personalities that fit each other well. There was definitely some chemistry there from the get go that only becomes more obvious as they keep hanging out and become closer as friends and more.

Was this book as strong as the other books? Yes and No.

The sex was hot as all the other scenes, but if I’m being a little critical, the actual relationship didn’t feel as strong as Nate/Eric’s and Chet/Mark’s. There wasn’t as much actual ROMANCE involved or tender hearted moments to make you swoon. I’m not saying this is a bad thing at all, and like I said Sam and Jesse defs have some chemistry between them, I guess it’s more that the author just doesn’t really show it as well this time around. Heck, even some moments only fade to black in the back half of the book which didn’t make the most sense.

I would say as far as content goes: this book is right up there with the others in terms of spice rating (which it gets a 4 peppers from me), but if you’re someone who likes to see deeper connections and have your heart feel like its fluttering out of your chest and want to read relationships that make you think true love is real…this might not be the one.

Personally, I didn’t have a problem with that in this story because by this point I knew what to expect in the overall tone of these books, but I can see other readers maybe turning away because out of them all this feels like the weakest of the connections.

I guess you’ll have to read it yourself to see what you think! Besides the fade to blacks, I immensely enjoyed this book!

~~~

“You’re the first person I look for in any room. I hear you louder than anyone else. Even when you’re quiet. Sometimes especially when you’re quiet. I’ve never wanted to be with someone else as much as I want to be with you. Making you happy makes me happy. I’ve never felt that way with someone else either. Everything about you makes me feel impulsive and excitable, and it’s both scary and exhilarating as hell.

– Neve Wilder, “Show Me”

~~~

What I Liked:

  1. Neve Wilder Writes Really Good Smut! This author skyrocketed up my list of authors whom I know will add the fire and steam to their stories! And the fact that it’s MM makes it even better! If you’re looking for hot, graphic scenes between younger and eager college age guys, these are an excellent option!
  2. Sam is Total Book Book Boyfriend Material! I totally adored Sam in this book! I’m a sucker for the big muscles, bigger smile, slight himbo jock vibes that he gives off and how he’s probably one of the most easy-going characters I’ve ever come across…I didn’t think much of him when he was a background character in the previous books, but once the spotlight shined upon him, oh did it ever shine so brightly!
  3. Surprisingly No Angst About Queer Self Discovery! With Sam being so go-with-the-flow and super chill about literally everything, he was even this way during his journey of self discovery. Before him and Jesse start going at it, he’d never done anything with another guy or really even thought of it, but then he realized he had feelings and just kind of shrugged and went “Well… I guess I’m bi or whatever.”

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Either Needed to Be Shorter or It Needed More Conflict… If I’m going to be critical–I’m a Gemini and we ALWAYS have something to say–I would say maybe this book could be a little shorter, or if not shorter, maybe it could’ve actually added more angst or conflict to the story. I’m good if it’s not about gay discovery since Sam seemed actually pretty chill about all that, but maybe Neve could’ve added more drama with Jesse’s ex or something to maybe push the story a little faster?
  2. Later Sex Scenes Were Fade to Black…the first chunk of the book is phenomenal, but then the last bit feels a little rushed in this sense and the spicy scenes start to fade into the background, literally…for some of the scenes, it felt like a real missed opportunity.
  3. There’s Not Much Actual Romance…While there is a LOT of sex–no complaints there–there’s not actually a whole lot of softer moments that make you really believe that its a deeper, more serious relationship…Personally I didn’t mind this too much, but I can see other readers being disappointed by this.

Conclusion:

Overall, this was another great addition to a smokin’ hot MM college romance series that Neve Wilder has come out with! Sam was an absolute favorite of mine, and Jesse was a great fit with him too with his sassy snark. It couldve ended on a stronger note, but I think this book is still perfectly fine for what it is: a spicy new adult college romance.

Neve Wilder has totally gained a fan in me for these books now, and you can definitely bet I’m going to be exploring other titles too!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

LGBT, New Adult, New Adult Romance

My Review: Try Me (Extracurricular Activities #2): by Neve Wilder

Publish Date: August 5th, 2020
Number of Pages: 390 Pages
Publisher: Independently Published
Genre(s): LGBT, New Adult Romance, Erotica

**Warning!! This book contains spoilers from the previous book in the series, so continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!!***

To see my review of book 1 – Want Me – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4.5 Stars

That was the scary thing about love. It was unpredictable and unfathomable, and when you were walking a tightrope in its throes, the only thing that mattered was how much you trusted the person walking it with you.

– Neve Wilder, “Try Me”

What It’s About:

The official synopsis:

Two rivals. One law internship. A whole lot of objectionable activity.

It wasn’t always this way between us.
We were best friends growing up.
Competitive? Yeah.
Ruthless? Definitely.
Neither of us liked to lose.

But the intense chemistry?
That’s new.
The hatred in his eyes?
That’s new, too.

I should let it go.
There’s too much bad blood between our families. Between us.
But I can’t.
I don’t think he can, either.

Now we’re gunning for the same internship.
If he thinks I’ll back down, he’s dead wrong.

Once upon a time, I lost everything.
I won’t let it happen again.

Go ahead. Try me.

From the author of Want Me comes the second new adult college romance in the Extracurricular Activities series. Expect drama, snark, feels, egregious misuse of private property, a guy who’s way more heteroflexible than he realized, and a semi-sorta reformed bad boy who loves to test him.

~~~

This book was a great surprise to me! Book 1 was smoking hot with the focus solely on Nate and Eric and their smoldering relationship that formed, but one thing it kind of failed to do was make me care about any of the side characters. Mark was a notable character, but he was more an antagonist sort of with how he was confronting the two of them about why they were sneaking around, but he didn’t do much else besides just knowing him as one of Nate’s fraternity brothers and friend. When he had a fight with Chet, whom you don’t really meet in person in the book, part of me was wondering why I should care…but then I started this book and found out why.

This second installment in this MM college romance story now revolves around Mark and Chet, who have some interesting history that leads up to this book. They’re childhood friends who had a falling out and lost touch. There’s a ton more to that story, but you gotta read the book to get all that info! We’re gonna jump back to the present to when they get into a fight at Nate and Eric’s housewarming party, but then discover they’re fighting for the same law firm internship. Can they keep things professional and not let their history get in the way???

It’s a new adult romance novel and they’re the main characters, so of course they can and just like book 1, it’s total flame emojis….

I was surprised how much the author made me care about these characters, especially when Chet wasn’t even in the previous book…but oh yeah, I was rooting for them from page 1!

This book was a little more of a slow-burn in comparison, there isn’t a sex scene in EVERY chapter, but oh man is the spice awesome once again!

It also helps that this book had two perspectives telling the story instead of just one. It made the story feel deeper and more layered depths to it. I really think that helped in this book, especially with all the history between Mark and Chet.

But don’t let that deter you…the author still kept it pretty hot and steamy and dirty between these guys….it makes me jealous that all these hot, non-straight college males all live in the same house and I got nothing even close to that in my not-so-long-ago college days…

~~~

Mark Farrow, the boy I’d crushed on before I even knew what a crush was. The first guy I’d ever jacked off to. The first guy I’d ever wanted to kiss. The first guy who’d ever touched me exactly the fucking way I’d wanted to be touched. The only guy I could never have.

– Neve Wilder, “Try Me”

What I Liked:

  1. The Spice Continues! This book gets a 4-pepper rating in my system, it was filled with some extremely hot moments just like the previous book. It didn’t start in the first chapter this time, but oh man was it still a spicy read!
  2. Duo-Perspectives! I liked that the author switched it up and made both characters narrate the story. It added some complexity and more side-plots to the story. Both Mark and Chet got equal amount of time, and each an awesome side to this story!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Parents Suck….I was NOT a fan of Mark’s dad, and not just because he’s kind of the villain/antagonist in this story.

Conclusion:

Overall, I once again really enjoyed this book and am continuing to become a fan of this author REAL quick! Neve Wilder writes some hot-as-hell MM spicy romance and I want to learn all this authors other titles too!

Highly recommend if you’re into MM romance with a lot of spice as well as fluff, but mostly spice! Also if you’re into college romance stories, that’s an added plus here!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Erotica, LGBT, New Adult, New Adult Romance

My Review: Want Me (Extracurriculars #1): by Neve Wilder

Publish Date: May 6th, 2019
Number of Pages: 304 Pages
Publisher: Kindle Edition
Genre(s): New Adult Romance, LGBT, Erotica

Total Star Rating: 4.25 Stars

That’s not handholding. That’s like … hand fucking. Or hand seduction. Your hand is seducing mine and my hand has zero game. It’s just gonna hop into bed with yours without dinner or a drink first. Maybe I need to give it a lecture about standards.

– Neve Wilder, “Want Me”

What It’s About:

The official synopsis:

Two roommates. One calculus exam. A whole lot of extracurricular activity.

Nate:
Living with four other guys, it’s bound to happen.
Every guy’s been caught taking care of business at least once, right?
It shouldn’t be a big deal.

But I don’t know Eric as well as my other roommates, and things are a little awkward now.
He’s a loner. A mystery. Quietly confident. Smart.
Sexy as hell.

I’ve been happily subsisting on the typical frat guy diet of booze and sorority girls.
But the way Eric looked at me that night?
There was something there.
Something that’s got me curious.
Something that’s stirring up feelings I thought I’d left behind for good.

Something that’s making me think I’m not as straight as I thought I was.

I can’t get him off of my mind.
I don’t think I want to.

So when he offers to help me study for a midterm, I take him up on it.

It’s innocent.
Probably. Maybe.

There’s no way I could’ve known what it’d start…

~~~

Lately I’ve been in a reading slump, which I’m starting to notice is a normal thing for me in the spring time. Maybe it’s how the weather is nicer so I’m more likely to be out and about, and life just gets busier because of it to the point where I’m not concentrating as much on the books I read, and I feel the struggle with high octane, fantasy genre stories…

…this is where I turn to hot, quick, mindless smutty books to ward off the slump!

After DNFing several books prior to this one, I was relieved when I flew through this one no problem at all! It’s exactly what I’m looking for when I’m in this reading mood.

This MM romance book is HOT. Plain and simple. There’s so much sex in this story I almost want to say it’s ridiculous, but I enjoyed it way too much to even complain about it!

The story revolves around Nate and Eric, two college guys who are also roommates in the same house with three other guys living with them. Nate gets caught by Eric when he’s….taming the dragon? Having some fun with “Jill?” Whatever you want to call it, but after the initial shock, there’s a curiosity that grows between them, and then the extra push is when Nate needs help with an algebra exam coming up…Eric is right there to help him out in more ways than one!

The story is told through Nate’s perspective, and he’s an absolute delight to follow along with. His commentary is hilarious, and he’s a pretty standup guy who’s awkward and charming and easily likable. Eric is a lot more mysterious and alluring at first, and part of you questions his intentions at first, but he grows on you too as you get to know him better.

~~~

I didn’t know a lot about him beyond that he was majoring in structural engineering. And currently minoring in confusing my dick.

– Neve Wilder, “Want Me”

What I Liked:

  1. There Is SO Much Sex! I mean….we’re talking hot AF hooking up in almost every chapter!! There definitely wasn’t a shortage of spice in this book!
  2. There Wasn’t A Random Break-Up Right Before The End! One thing I see all the time in romance novels is that dramatic breakup the couple always has to have right towards the end…like a secret gets out or there’s some last minute drama that comes between them, and luckily this sort of thing happens earlier in the book! It was refreshing because I’m always like “Okay….we know they’re gonna end up together…cut the shit!”
  3. The Banter & Dirty Talk! Eric is a sexy dirty mouthed bastard, and I love him for it! The conversations between him and Nate are a highlight, no doubt!
  4. Its Hilarious As Much As It Is Sexy! This goes with the banter a little bit, but even the narration with Nate telling the story was pretty funny! The author really knew how to sound like a guy in college!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. There Wasn’t As Much Build Up With Other Main Characters for The Next Books…this one is kinda nit-picky, but hey, I have to include something in this section at least! There wasn’t a whole lot of development with many other characters except for maybe Marc, but he’s off screen—or page?—so often that it doesn’t feel like he does much…the author throws subtle hints that more is to come with some drama with Marc and another character, but it’s barely touched on to the point that this book feels like it could just be a standalone because it didn’t really make you feel a whole lot for the other characters.

Conclusion:

Overall, this book was EXACTLY what I needed after DNFing several books prior to it! It was hot, sweet, quick, and sexy as hell with some equally cute and tender moments between the two main characters!

There’s two more books to make this a trilogy, and while the author didn’t build up the other characters quite as much as I’d liked, the fact that this is the steamiest book I’ve read this year so far is what makes me want to keep reading and see what happens next!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

LGBT, New Adult Romance

My Review: Check Yes, No, or Maybe (Meeting His Match #1): by Stormie Skyes

**Kindle ARC Edition**
Publish Date: January 15th, 2022
Number of Pages: n/a
Publisher: 4 Horseman Publications
Genre(s): New Adult Romance, LGBT+

First and Foremost, I just want to personally thank the author for giving me an ARC (Advance Reader’s Copy) of this story for an honest review!

Total Star Rating: 3.5 Stars

What It’s About:

The official synopsis:

Crappy job. Yes.

Take back an annoying ex. Definitely no.

Hit on the sexy new firm partner looking him over…maybe?

For Aaron Cambrian, life is lived by checklists. No matter how promising, everything – jobs, potential partners, cars, drinks, food, etc – needed to meet all his criteria or he walks away.

Everything changes one night at the cocktail bar when his best friend challenges Aaron to abandon his list and ask the first hot guy who catches his interest if he can buy him a drink.

Thanks to his old nemesis alcohol, Aaron takes the dare! The next thing he knows, he finds himself in the condo of an absolute stranger! It was supposed to be one drink. One accidental kiss… Good thing he’d never see the guy again.

Wrong! When the sexy new partner at Kimball & Marks law firm turns out to be the hot stranger, Aaron is faced with a life-changing decision: keep the checklist or lose the hottest, most frustrating man who ever stole his heart.

~~~

I was happily surprised when the author and I connected on Instagram and I ended up receiving an ARC of this book! It hasn’t happened often to me…in fact, this is only the second time I’ve ever gotten the privilege to read something technically before it’s release date! It’s a great opportunity to add some hype for newly released books, and hey, if this somehow leads to me getting ARC’s of books by say…Sarah J. Maas, Jennifer L. Armentrout, Leigh Bardugo, Elle Kennedy, or Sarina Bowen, I would for SURE volunteer to give an honest review of any of their upcoming stories! Just tossing that out there…

Check Yes, No, or Maybe is an easy, light-hearted, and cute romantic story with a touch of spice that’s also MM—which I’m also a big fan of! I’ll say it every time, but it’s great to see so many MM romance stories out now that weren’t as readily available for someone like me when I was growing up in the early 2000’s and questioning things. This book wasn’t perfect, but that’s honestly okay! You can tell the author had fun writing this story, and it did keep me reading to see what happened next, so if a book can keep my attention like that, and I mean I was up reading until three a.m. one morning, so I consider that a success!

The story mainly revolves around Aaron Cambrian, who’s a college student studying to become a chef while also working at a law firm to help pay the bills and rent, and he’s at low point in his life…his toxic ex has run out on him yet again, he feels like he’s one misstep away from getting fired, he’s constantly compared to his master chef father who abandoned him and his family, and it even feels impossible to walk up to a sexy stranger in a bar one night…

When the urging of his best friend leads him to do exactly that in their usual Friday night hangout spot, he surprises himself by ending up in bed with a hot stranger…only to later discover that of course the guy also just happens to be the new partner of the law firm he works at!

Maverick Waylan is smooth, charming, always dressed to impress, and has his eyes set on Aaron, who has to decide if the feelings Mav evokes is worth it all…

There are a few things I have to critique on with the story, which I do in greater detail further down below in my review, but again, it was an enjoyable story despite its faults, and I did have some hearts floating above my head for both Aaron and Maverick as I read on about their love story.

What I Liked:

  1. The Spice! There were a couple of heated moments between Aaron and Maverick that make the romance a little more on the spicy instead of the sweet side that I personally enjoyed. I’m a proud smut lover, so of course I’ll say that it made the story that much better! I only wish there was even more tossed into the story.
  2. The Cover Design! I love the simple, almost cartoony designs that romance covers are getting in recent memory. This cover is another great example of this artistic decision.
  3. It’s An Addicting Slow-Burn! It may not be the best written book I’ve ever read, but I can also admit that it did still keep me interested and kept me up late at night to see what was happening next. I was mainly invested in the sexual tension between Aaron and Maverick and HAD to read on until something happened between them!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Abrupt Ending…Big surprise I’m not a fan of the ending, but that seems to always be something I critique in my reviews when it comes to romance novels…It just felt so abrupt and there were a few things that were left unresolved that I wish we saw more of possibly!
  2. The British Slang Tossed Into Non-British Character’s Dialogue…Now I know Maverick is supposed to be a British character, but there were a few instances where some of the American characters say a word only someone who’s British would say…I did find myself double-checking to make sure this book was set in NYC because of it.
  3. Certain Conflicts/Side-Plots Are Never Fully Utilized…While I’m a big fan of the romantic plot of this story, it felt like a lot of subplots weren’t given nearly as much attention that maybe should’ve been in order to make this a stronger story. One example is Aaron’s father being a big celebrity chef that abandoned the family before the story took place, but the family still deals with paparazzi and getting their mugs in the tabloids…but thats kind of it…like Aaron has some issues with his father for all this, but it’s never really explored or develops more than that besides one instance that causes drama between him and Maverick. Another example is Aaron’s ex, Declan, and their whole toxic past. It’s referenced like one time but thats about it, like I feel like maybe some more background info could’ve made this stronger too. You also don’t feel like you get as much out of Maverick’s family too even though that was presented as a possibly big conflict for the couple to overcome. Also, for someone who’s worried about his crush running off about his strange quirk for writing lists, he doesn’t write a whole lot of actual lists in the book. I also feel like maybe there didn’t need to be as many side characters too, but they did make for it to be easier to read on in the story.

Conclusion:

Overall, Check Yes, No, or Maybe was an alright book that really is a sweet, romantic storyline between two male characters—something I’m always happy to read—and just have a light, easy, beach read of a romance novel. I feel like readers who are drawn to stories like Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston or Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall will enjoy this book too! They have the same lighter tone and also a similar style of setup.

It wasn’t the perfect story and honestly it left me questioning a few things as it ended, but I still found it entertaining and I can also say I did enjoy it! There was mainly a focus on the romantic development, which isn’t a bad thing, but if the author also put more attention onto the several other subplots happening, it would’ve strengthened the story a lot better in my opinion!

I still say to give this a try if you think you might enjoy this story, or if you’re just looking for a lighter, easy-going romantic novel to kill a plane ride with, or if you just need a little break from the heavier and darker material that you may read as well!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

LGBT, Mystery/Thriller, YA Contemporary Fiction

My Review: Ace of Spades: by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

Publish Date: June 1st, 2021
Number of Pages: 432 Pages
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Genre(s): YA Contemporary Fiction, Mystery, LGBT

Total Star Rating: 2.5 Stars

I hate how they have the power to kill my future, kill me. They treat my Black skin like a gun or a grenade or a knife that is dangerous and lethal, when really it’s them. The guys at the top powering everything.

– Faridah Àbíké-Íyídé, “Ace of Spades”

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

Gossip Girl meets Get Out in Ace of Spades, a YA contemporary thriller by debut author Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé about two students, Devon & Chiamaka, and their struggles against an anonymous bully.

When two Niveus Private Academy students, Devon Richards and Chiamaka Adebayo, are selected to be part of the elite school’s senior class prefects, it looks like their year is off to an amazing start. After all, not only does it look great on college applications, but it officially puts each of them in the running for valedictorian, too.

Shortly after the announcement is made, though, someone who goes by Aces begins using anonymous text messages to reveal secrets about the two of them that turn their lives upside down and threaten every aspect of their carefully planned futures.

As Aces shows no sign of stopping, what seemed like a sick prank quickly turns into a dangerous game, with all the cards stacked against them. Can Devon and Chiamaka stop Aces before things become incredibly deadly?

With heart-pounding suspense and relevant social commentary comes a high-octane thriller from debut author Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé.

~~~

Ace of Spades is a whirlwind of a story once you really get into the thick of things…it’s about two black students who are being targeted by an anonymous online presence who goes by the name “Aces” at a prestigious private school. They have no idea why this faceless enemy is targeting them specifically, but what they do know is that they know all their dirty secrets and aren’t afraid to put it all out there for the world to see, thus putting their futures in grave danger…

This book has gotten a lot of praise and exposure on bookstagram and all over social media ever since it came out over the summer of 2021, and I’ll admit that the comparison of “Get Out” meets “Gossip Girl” really had me interested to see what the hype is all about. Plus, I’m a strong advocator for how representation matters and wanting to hear different voices in books and expanding my perspective of other people’s lives that are different than my own. I am a white CIS male, and while I know I will never fully understand the struggles of being black in America, especially a black queer male, but I can honestly say I felt like this book gave me a good idea! The social issues that are explored in this story are a definite highlight that a lot of us can definitely relate to in some way, shape, or form and the characters feel much more fleshed out and dynamic as more is revealed to their character and personal sense of morality.

While the initial set up and beginning of the book were good enough to draw you in, I felt the midpoint really dropped the ball and really slowed down for me…I mean, I really struggled to stay interested through a good chunk of it and even considered putting this book on my DNF stack on several occasions. Heck, I even tried bribing some of my coworkers at the bookstore to read it for me and just spoil it all for me! Not exactly a good thing for any book, lesbehonest…however, my curiosity to find out who was behind it all was what kept me going to be able to finish the story. It obviously won out in the end, and I can’t say it disappointed me either!

While the midpoint was slow, once I got to page 200 I think, that was when the mystery really began to get juicier and it was a much faster and engaging book. The whole situation begins to be revealed as something much bigger and sinister than anyone could imagine, and even I found myself with freakin’ chills running up my arms when certain things happen to the characters, like with certain students or even faculty members. I found the ending to be very satisfactory even if it also felt a little rushed, but I also think that’s okay because by then the authors message and lesson for the reader is loud and clear about issues like systematic racism, classism, and even the struggles of being a POC LGBT+ youth in America today.

Like I said, when you get further into the book where the plot becomes more significant and characterization moves to the passenger seat; sex, lies, murder, secrets, white supremacy, and the ongoing battle of taking down racism make this quite a wicked ride of a story that somehow even has some heartwarming softer moments of both family, friendship, and love that make this even a more well rounded story!

~~~

All you need to know is… I’m here to divide and conquer. Like all great tyrants do.”

– Faridah Àbíké-Íyídé, “Ace of Spades’

What I Liked:

  1. The Representation! One reason I picked this book up was because it’s not a bad thing to broaden your horizons and try to listen to different voices in literature. We all know the argument that representation matters, and I can say this book provides someone like me a great visual on what it’s like to be black and dealing with racism, and even to be black and queer and dealing with the system being against you just because of the color of your skin. It’s not the type of story I usually go for, and for that is why I wanted to try something new.
  2. The Character Development! Chiamaka and Devon both have such amazing character development as the story progresses and they deal with other issues besides a cyber bully. I especially liked Chiamaka’s chapters and her as a character in general because she,at start off as the typical queen b, Blair Waldorf HBIC, but she becomes so much more as you get closer to her.
  3. The Social Commentary/Theme! It’s been said already in this review, but I thought the author showed the struggles of dealing with racism, classism, and even homophobia all incredibly well, and it certainly helped someone who’s not facing the same struggles as they face to better understand it and hopefully learn from it as we move forward!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Extremely Slow Midpoint…I’m sorry, but that midpoint almost killed the book for me! I was just so bored, and I kept putting this book down for others because I just couldn’t get myself to read it most days. I almost put it in my DNF stack, but I hate doing that and really did want to find out who was behind it all.

Conclusion:

Overall, Ace of Spades was crazy and twisted YA thriller that also has an incredibly interesting take on systematic racism, white supremacy, and plenty of other social issues that are so incredibly important, ESPECIALLY with all that has happened in the last year and a half pertaining to those specific issues and what plenty of POC citizens still deal with today.

I will never fully know the struggle of being black in America, that is a privilege that I am aware of, but I wanted to read this as a way to help spread the message of how important it is for stories like this to be heard, and for writers of color who are willing to put this sort of material out there for us to read, to enjoy and hopefully also to learn and understand from their perspective. Those are their stories, and we should want to hear them!

I would’ve rated this book higher, but the slow midpoint is why I’m not giving it a higher rating. None of the social importance is really revealed until later in the story, and I really did struggle and almost not bother to finish this book, but let’s also take into consideration that this is also the author’s debut novel, which that in itself makes it an impressive story too! I also usually don’t read this type 0f story, so I’m sure there are plenty of others who will especially enjoy this one!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell