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review 2020-07-14 17:36
Real Men Knit
Real Men Knit - Kwana Jackson
 

I Picked Up This Book Because: I’ve heard good things

The Characters:

Jesse Strong:
Kerry Fuller:


The Story:

I love the backstory of Jessie and his brothers coming together as adoptees of a woman with a big heart. This story centers around Jessie in the wake of Mama Joy’s sudden death. Jesse wants to keep their store, their legacy, their communication with the community open while his brothers, all involved more in their burgeoning careers want to be more practical and shut it down. Now Jessie is challenged with keeping open the store and making it profitable while battling a crush on the “girl next door” Kerry. Jesse’s struggles with his insecurities in being “good enough” for not only Kerry but to run a business and help keep his family together without their strong matriarch.

I really enjoyed this book and I’d love to see more from the Strong family.

The Random Thoughts:

#LibraryLoveChallenge


4 Stars
 
 
 
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review 2020-06-04 16:58
Real Men Knit by Kwana Jackson
Real Men Knit - Kwana Jackson

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

Four boys from different makeups and ethnic backgrounds, brought together by their shared need of, first and foremost, a home, but probably more so the love that that the seemingly irreverent single Black woman had given them.

 

Instead of romance or women's fiction, I think this story falls under what I'm going to call community fiction; what a perfect time to read this. Jesse, along with his adoptive brothers, Lucas, Noah, and Damien came from different experiences and walks of life but found family in each other when their foster mother, Mama Joy, adopts them. As families are want to do, they love hard but also stretch, tear, and need mending. When Mama Joy suddenly passes away, the four brothers have to decide what to do with her shop, Strong Knits. Jesse is considered the wastrel of the group but he's the only one who doesn't want to sell, he wants to run the shop.

 

The tan knight and the used-to-be-man of her dreams, and there he was walking out his last night’s stand while she was cleaning his kitchen like a broke-down Cinderella.

 

Kerry grew-up around the Strong family as she found peace and comfort with Mama Joy at her knit shop. Jesse was always the brother that caught her eye the most but his womanizing and frittering ways kept her away. Kerry's recently obtained her degree in children's counseling and art therapy but not having a full time job yet, she still worked and helped out at Strong Knits. When Jesse announces he wants to try and keep Strong Knits going, she volunteers to help him out. Their relationship starts out rocky as both have strong protective instincts but their shared love of Mama Joy and Strong Knits connects them on a deep emotional level and heated glances have them wanting to connect in other ways.

 

She knew his strengths, but worse, she knew his weaknesses.

 

The natural flow of the writing welcomed me into this story and if you told me Strong Knits and all these characters where actually real places and people I'd believe you, there was a realness to this that will pull you in emotionally. There is a part of me that wishes we could have gotten a flashback or opening scene with Mama Joy and the boys. I missed “seeing” her with them but the author does a really good job of having the reader “feel” her through the brothers, which in turn I suppose also helps the reader feel Mama Joy's stark absence. I also would have liked more background on Jesse to help me get a feel for him too. I think it was around the mid-point when we learn some about what led to him entering the foster care system. Jesse just didn't feel as tangible to me as Kerry's character, she was more filled or flushed out. Kerry takes the lead in the story more than Jesse, even though I would still say the community is the overreaching star. Kerry struggling with what she wants to do, work with children and keep Strong Knits open but also make money, was a conflict I think a lot could relate to. There was also the clash of Kerry's feelings for the “bad boy” Jesse and not wanting to end up feeling stupid and hurt, which I know a lot can relate to.

 

Decisions must be made, and it was time for him to finally step up and take his place once and for all to be the type of Strong brother that Mama Joy always wanted him to be.

 

There was conflict, emotion, and turmoil swirling around and in Kerry and Jesse's relationship but, for the most part, it's in the underling of the story fabric; this story is subtle depth. Their falling in love, especially from Kerry's side, seemed to mostly be already in place from their childhood and I missed going through some of that emotional heft with them. I also felt like it wasn't until around the 70% mark that there was significant movement towards each other and the romance part of the story. However, because of the background these two had with each other and their chemistry and friendship, I really did believe in their relationship and that they would have a happily ever after.

 

Jesse felt his heart slam against the wall of his chest as everything in him and every part of him seemed to move forward at once to meet her.

 

What made this story special to me was the way the author integrated not just secondary characters but a whole community. The author didn't “tell” me how Jesse and Kerry felt about Strong Knits, she made me feel it through the after school program importance to a boy in the neighborhood, the Old Knitting Gang, and various other seemingly innocuous moments and characters that were woven throughout. I wouldn't call this a heavy or light story, just one made up of all those moments. There's talk of gentrification but also amazing lines like this when Kerry contemplates the man her friend Val seems to be thinking about taking home for the night: The way he’d gone in on those wings had her skeptical about his technique. It could be either very good for Val or an altogether disaster.

I'm still laughing about this line. The ending was very abrupt but as this is obviously going to be a series, I guess a down the line or epilogue could infringe on the series timeline. This writer's style, tone, and depth will have me looking up other books by her and I can't wait to snatch up Jesse's brother's books when they come out (there's a firefighter brother!). If current events have you down, this is the book you need to pick up to restore the love.

 

Noah stepped in, his smile bright as he admonished the crowd for their tears. Sounding every bit like a little Mama Joy, he told them, “Drink up, stitch well,” and then he looked at his brothers when he said, “Love hard and live in the moment, not in the past.”

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review 2020-05-13 21:50
Review: Real Men Knit by Kwana Jackson
Real Men Knit - Kwana Jackson

Reviewed for Wit and Sin

 

Real Men Knit is a love note to family and community that would be perfect for a movie. It was oh-so-easy to fall for Kerry and the Strong family; so much so that I didn’t want to put the book down.

In the wake of his adoptive mother’s death Jesse Strong finds himself at loose ends. He’s always been seen as the brother who didn’t live up to his potential and now that Mama Joy is gone he doesn’t seem to know what to do. But when his brothers start to talk about selling their mother’s shop, Strong Knits, Jesse finds his focus. Strong Knits isn’t just important to their family – it’s a piece of the heart of their Harlem neighborhood. I loved watching Jesse find his passion, seeing him carry on his mother’s legacy but also making it his own. Jesse finds himself over the course of the story and he’s so loveable that you can’t help but be sucked into his journey.

But Jesse can’t reopen the knitting shop on his own. He needs the help of Kerry Fuller, his mother’s part-time employee and the woman who knows Strong Knits best. Kerry has just finished her degree in children’s counseling and art therapy and should be looking for a full-time job in her field, but she can’t resist helping Jesse. Kerry has always been the typical “girl next door” to the Strong brothers and sometimes that frustrates her…especially when it comes to her longtime crush, Jesse. Kerry has always been in the shadows and I enjoyed her journey over the course of Real Men Knit as she takes her place in the sun. She’s an incredibly giving person (sometimes to her own detriment) and her heart of gold plus the way she cares for everyone around her makes her a heroine you can root for.

Real Men Knit is Jesse and Kerry’s story, but author Kwana Jackson brings the world of Strong Knits alive with an endearing supporting cast. Jesse’s sometimes troubled relationship with his brothers was one of my favorite parts of the book. I desperately hope each brother gets a book of his own (especially my favorite, the sensitive Noah). All four men are so different but Mama Joy brought them together and made them a family. Mama Joy may have passed before the beginning of the book, but her presence and the impact she had on her boys’ lives and her community is felt throughout. The only downside to this is that she sounded like such a generous, strong, loving, downright incredible woman that I wish I could have “met” her.

The romance is where Real Men Knit falls short. It had the potential to be a good slow-burn love story, but it never quite hit the mark. At one point, one of Jesse’s brothers indicates that he doesn’t know if Jesse sees Kerry as a mother figure, sister, or lover and that’s part of the problem. The romance plotline doesn’t really take hold until near the end of the book and I never felt any growth or true change in their relationship, aside from giving into mutual attraction. Jesse and Kerry aren’t a bad couple – they’re far too likeable for that. Rather, there was something missing that made the romance fall flat. If this book were general fiction instead of a romance, my overall enjoyment of the book wouldn’t have really changed if they hadn’t ended up together. Ms. Jackson definitely showed that Kerry and Jesse love each other, but even by the end it didn’t feel like they were in love. That one plot issue aside, I adored Real Men Knit and I’m eager to read more about the Strong family.


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

Source: witandsin.blogspot.com/2020/05/review-real-men-knit-by-kwana-jackson.html
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review 2020-02-28 16:55
Here in the Real World
Here in the Real World - Sara Pennypacker

I really wasn’t sure how I felt about this book until I was a few chapters in and then, well I loved this book!  Ware had just witnessed his grandmother being whisked off to the hospital and now his summer plans were ruined.  He didn’t want his parent’s Plan B for his summer, that is, until he found a tree.  Climbing that tree was the beginning of Ware’s own Plan B.

 

Ware’s parents had a goal for the summer and they immediately found an alternative plan for Ware when his grandmother could no longer care for him over the summer.  Ware didn’t want his parent’s alternative plan, and he was now, begging and bribing his parents to change their minds. In the end, nothing worked.

 

Plan B. Most everything looked the same as it did years ago, as the building appeared before him.  Ware knew he couldn’t live out the rest of this summer at the Rec.  This was daycare and he was now 11 ½, this place is not for him. I loved Ware’s attitude; at times, he acted older than he was yet there’s still that child within him.  Ware finds his escape during exercise class, when he spots a huge tree in the lot next door.  Believing that the tree would provide the perfect cover, he scales it.  How long can Ware hide up in the tree?

 

Ware had studied medieval times at school and he was becoming obsessed with castles, knights and various items from that era.  His plans at his grandmothers to build a replica were now cancelled but now sitting in this tree, Ware remembered the church that was on this lot. Shock came over him, as he noticed that the church had been destroyed and was now lying in pieces.  Ware notices a girl digging in the dirt, behind the church.  Trying to remain undetected, Ware creeps closer yet the girls spots him immediately.

 

Instantly, Jolene take control of the situation. She announces that this area is hers and that Ware needs to leave immediately!  I thought this was funny when I first read it.  It totally took Ware off-guard.  I wasn’t expecting Ware to fight back but he did.  He also took control.  He told Jolene that the church was his and her response…..well, she would just have to see about that. 

 

I liked how the two of them fit together.  Ware needed a space and the damaged church provided that for him.  Actually, it provided more than just a space for him to hang out but I’m not going to spoil the book for you.  Jolene needed the space behind the damaged church.  You might be thinking, what is Jolene doing? Well, Jolene is having some issues at home so she needs this space behind the church. They also needed each other, sometimes more than the physical space.  There are also problems because the lot has a sign on it and the sign means problems for more than just these two.  

 

Jolene and Ware worked hard and tried to transform the area that they were now trying to claim as their own.  I enjoyed reading about this and how they got along.  The references to the baptistery, the “do-over tub, the “sinner” tub, and the moat made this a fun book to read.

 

I loved how Ware alluded his mother each day when she dropped him off at the Rec.  Ware wanted to tell his mother what he was doing but he overheard her talking one day and he now knows, that he can’t. He then tries hard to be a knight and abide by the Knight’s Code that he has memorized.  I really enjoyed it when Uncle Cy and Ashley were added to the story, they were wonderful characters and I feel that they added a great deal to the story.  

 

What an excellent story, I really enjoyed it.  It was crazy good!  The ending gave me goosebumps as I was shedding happy tears.

 

“don’t ask to be normal- you’re better than that.”

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review 2020-02-24 01:32
THE LAST REAL COWBOY by Caitlin Crews
The Last Real Cowboys - Caitlin Crews
Brady has come home after the death of his father to help his brothers run the family ranch.  He's finding it hard to deal with the attitudes of his brothers.  Going to the bar one night with his best friend Riley, he sees Riley's sister, Amanda, working behind the bar.  He tries to keep the best friend code but Amanda does not make it easy for him.  Temptation gives in and Brady and Amanda start a secret affair.  How long will it last?
 
This can be read as a standalone.  I like that Amanda went after what she wanted.  I also liked that she could be honest with herself even if she did not share her truths with others.  Brady figures he is damaged goods but I love how Amanda protected and stood up for him.  It makes me rethink a lot about himself.  I loved that Brady made the decisions he finally did.  I enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more of this author.
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