Uncategorized · Reviews

A Celestial Serenade: Review of Star Daughter

Lebanon ~ Black Lives Matter ~ Free Palestine ~ Kashmir Bleeds ~ Junk Terror Bill

Thank you to HarperTeen for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Book: Star Daughter

Author: Shveta Thakrar

Year Published: 2020

Content Warnings: absent parent, critically ill parent, hospitalization, panic attack, person held captive and tortured

  • Plot: 3.5/5
  • Characters: 4/5
  • Writing: 4.5/5
  • Overall: 4/5

Star Daughter was a lyrical read interwoven with Hindu mythology that will reel you in and hold you in a starry embrace until the very last page. 

Sheetal Mistry was a girl caught between two worlds- half human, half star. Her mother was a star who went back to the sky when Sheetal was young, leaving her with her father. All her life, Sheetal had to hide who she was and lay low with her shimmering silver hair died black and her starsong held in. Until one day, after an accident with her starfire that hospitalized her father, Sheetal had to ascend to the sky and participate in a celestial competition to save him.

I loved how Sheetal gradually made her own place in both her worlds where she could be herself without fear. Her grief, pain and sense of abandonment was palpable and raw. She had to deal with the pressure and self-doubt of so much relying on one performance in what was basically a celestial talent show and I felt so worried and nervous for her. I loved how Thakrar contrasted Sheetal dealing with average teenager problems and high stakes magical dilemmas all in a short time span.

The side characters were really likeable too. Sheetal’s best friend Minal was a ray of sunshine– I loved their supportive friendship- and although I was annoyed at him at first Dev grew on me. Sheetal’s relationships with her family, especially her father and mother, were well fleshed out and given time to develop.

Star Daughter was a novel bursting at its seams with magic. The ethereal stars with their silver blood and hair, inspiring humans to create heartfelt works of art. The bustling Night Market which seemed so wondrous I wish it was real. It was a story full of whimsy and possible impossibilities that captivated my imagination.

I’m not an ownvoices reviewer for this book so it’s not my place to discuss the representation but it was a pleasure to learn about Hindu mythology and the nakshatras. I loved the author’s note at the start where she explained the inspirations behind the book (one of them being Neil Gaiman’s Stardust), her love for fantasy and how she wrote the story about a magical desi Hindu girl that she had always wished to read.

The book explored the themes of legacy, identity and how it’s important to own our mistakes and flaws as much as our accomplishments. I was going to give it 4.5 stars until the last few chapters where some of the plot twists made little sense to me and were confusing. Overall however, Star Daughter was an enjoyable, standalone novel that I would highly recommend to all fans of low fantasy!

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A Brilliant Conclusion: Review of Court of Lions (Blog Tour)

Lebanon ~ Black Lives Matter ~ Free Palestine ~ Kashmir Bleeds ~ Junk Terror Bill

Hello booksicles! I’m so honoured and excited to be a part of the Caffeine Book Tours blog tour for Court of Lions by Somaiya Daud (which you can find out more about in this launch post). In my stop, I’ll be sharing my thoughts about the book in a review along with my own quote graphics.

About the book:

  • Title: Court of Lions
  • Author: Somaiya Daud
  • Publisher: Flatiron Books
  • Publication date: 06 August 2020
  • Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Synopsis:

Two identical girls, one a princess, the other a rebel. Who will rule the empire?

After being swept up into the brutal Vathek court, Amani, the ordinary girl forced to serve as the half-Vathek princess’s body double, has been forced into complete isolation. The cruel but complex princess, Maram, with whom Amani had cultivated a tenuous friendship, discovered Amani’s connection to the rebellion and has forced her into silence, and if Amani crosses Maram once more, her identity – and her betrayal – will be revealed to everyone in the court.

Amani is desperate to continue helping the rebellion, to fight for her people’s freedom. But she must make a devastating decision: will she step aside, and watch her people suffer, or continue to aid them, and put herself and her family in mortal danger? And whatever she chooses, can she bear to remain separated, forever, from Maram’s fiancé, Idris?

Amazon   B&N   Book Depository   IndieBound   Goodreads 

Review:

Thank you to Flatiron Books and Caffeine Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Content Warnings: violence, death, physical abuse, grief, themes of colonialism 

  • Plot: 4.5/5
  • Characters: 5/5
  • Writing: 5/5
  • Overall: 5/5

Court of Lions was a stunning sequel to Mirage that concluded the duology perfectly. I loved how much more Moroccan culture was incorporated into it. More delicious food descriptions (this book made me crave sfenj so badly), clothes, language references, henna, haggling in the souk, small cultural details that made my heart swell with joy and even Moroccan marriage traditions (including the all important wardrobe changes!) which made me wish someone would invite me to a Moroccan wedding (although that’s impossible with the current situation). And the cover of the book is so gorgeous! I never thought I’d see a book cover with two Moroccan girls resplendent in qaftans and selhams!

This book had a much slower pace than the first, with more of an emphasis on politics and forging alliances and I thought it worked really well and seemed realistic. All the choices the characters made sense and came together at the end nicely.

HOPE was given to a person who might reshape the WORLD (1)

Amani shone through in this book even more than she did in the first. She was brave, smart and versatile in a way Maram, for all her strengths, was not. I was already impressed with her growth in Mirage but in this book she grew even more. Although she hadn’t been raised to navigate courts she was smart, she knew how to influence people and understood the importance of symbolism. I admired the way Amani held to her hope of a better world and never, ever stopped fighting for it. I also loved how her relationship with Idris developed and how they dealt with the bumps on the road. 

Maram also had her time to shine, quite literally, because she gets her own 3rd person POV chapters! Although they were few and far between they gave so much insight into her and her character development in this book was top-tier. I loved her journey of accepting and loving her Kushaila heritage and working through her father’s conditioning. Seeing the grief, fear and anguish beneath her icy exterior, seeing the soft parts of her that were always there but pushed down by the Vath, seeing her take the time to explore herself and come into her own was so emotive and touching. If Mirage was where Amani found her strength and resilience to act, Court of Lions was the same for Maram.

In Kushaila there were degrees of love_

 

I loved her romance with Aghraas. The way they saw and accepted each other immediately and the slow burn of their relationship was exquisitely done. For someone who was taught that emotions were weakness and was used to constantly being on the defensive it was amazing to see Maram examine her emotions and lower her defenses completely around someone. Daud really does write romance well!

Amani and Maram’s friendship was so well fleshed out. The way they slowly regained each others’ trust and rebuilt a strong, sisterly relationship based on trust was beautiful to behold. Furthermore, the side characters and the complex web of relationships between them, Amani and Maram were also extremely well fleshed out and engrossing. And I loved how many strong, brave women were introduced into the story!

The Vath who governed us were concerned with policing and surveillance, not growth and prosperity

Court of Lions dealt with rebellion, liberation and the trials that come with them. How do you dismantle an imperial structure built to break you when it has become so interwoven with society? How do you convince people that rebellion is worth the risk? It also explored trauma and how the characters each dealt differently with their own.

I loved how much more world building we got in this sequel. We get to explore so many more places in Andala through the characters eyes as well as learning more about the world’s history and lore. The emphasis on the different tribes and their cultures was lovely to see especially as it reflected the diversity among the Amazigh tribes in the real world. It saddened me how the Vath dismissed them as all the same and sought to erase their cultures but unfortunately that also reflects our world too. However, I wish we got to see more of the universe the book is set in and understand Andala and the Vath’s position in it. There are multiple references to a galactic law but we never know who enforces it and why it matters so much.

We never used to give a thought To separation, and now, for us To be together again Is beyond our dreams...

All in all, Court of Lions was a brilliant conclusion and I’d highly recommend this duology to everyone as I love it with all my half Moroccan heart!

About the author:

Somaiya Daud is the author of Mirage and holds a PhD from the University of Washington in English literature. A former bookseller in the children’s department at Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C., now she writes and teaches full time.

Author website   Facebook   Goodreads   Twitter   Instagram 

Giveaway:

Caffeine Book Tours is holding a giveaway, the prizes are five (5) paperback editions of Mirage and five (5) hardcover editions of Court of Lions by Somaiya Daud it is:

  • Open to United States (US)
  • Ends on 11 August 2020 (Philippine time)

This is the link to the rafflecopter to enter the giveaway.

Court of Lions blog tour schedule

Thank you so much to Shealea from Caffeine Book Tours for making all of this possible!

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Reviews · Uncategorized

The Space Moroccans: Review of Mirage

Black Lives Matter ~ Free Palestine ~ Kashmir Bleeds ~ Junk Terror Bill

Thank you to Flatiron Books for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Book: Mirage

Author: Somaiya Daud

Year Published: 2018

Content Warnings: violence, physical abuse, torture, themes of colonialism

  • Plot: 5/5
  • Characters: 5/5
  • Writing: 5/5
  • Overall: 5/5

Mirage was a Moroccan and Amazigh (who are the indigenous people of North Africa) inspired sci-fi (with the feel of a fantasy) and it was quite literally the book of my dreams. I don’t think words can convey how much this book means to me but I’ll give it a go!

I’m half Moroccan Amazigh and reading a book so interwoven with Moroccan and Amazighi culture and history meant the world. From aspects like the food (all the food descriptions made me so hungry!), language, clothes and traditions to more subtle cultural nuances, I’ve never read a book where I felt so seen! There was a specific scene, where one character taught another to cook miloui (a type of Moroccan flatbread), which I could directly relate to because I remembered when my mum taught me to cook it myself! 

Mirage explored colonialism, cultural appropriation and erasure, themes that are relevant today and have been throughout history not just in Morocco but all over the world. I loved how poetry was an important motif as a method of resistance and rebellion. Also, there was a religion (that felt slightly reminiscent of Islam) in the book that revolved around a deity called Dihya and historically, Dihya was an Amazigh warrior queen who for many symbolises anti-colonialism and feminism. 

“Even your happiness is rebellion.”

The book is set on a planet called Andala (and its two terraformed moons called Cadiz and Gibra) which had been conquered by an empire from another planet called the Vathek, at the time the book is set Andalans had been suffering under their brutal rule for years. Amani was an eighteen-year-old Kushaila girl (Kushaila were the oldest tribe group on Andala) kidnapped from her village on Cadiz to be Princess Maram’s body double at public events as they looked pretty much exactly the same. She was thrust into a completely unfamiliar world that was dazzling on the surface but sinister beneath where she had to navigate court intrigue and politics and weather violence and slavery

“Change takes bravery, yabnati.”

I loved Amani as she was so strong in the face of adversity. Her identity, agency and future dreams were stolen from her but she survived, she adapted to her situation and made a place for herself. Gradually, she built up the courage and resilience to channel her anger at the injustices her people endured into action. I also loved how she was smart, soft and kind with immense loyalty for her loved ones and her people and a passion for poetry, throughout the book I was rooting for her. I also adored her forbidden romance with Idris. I don’t usually like insta-love romances but theirs was so emotive and poignant without becoming the main focus of the book.

Maram was one of the most interesting characters I’ve ever read about. Her father, the king, was Vathek and her mother was Kushaila. All her life she had been taught to hate her mother’s legacy and people while also being disdained by the Vath for her Kushaila blood. There was nowhere she truly belonged and was accepted as she was. She channeled the turmoil inside her through being cruel so no one would think her weak or see her pain. Gradually, as Amani befriends her and starts to understand her the reader does too. We see her vulnerability, grief and helplessness and instead of a cruel princess we see a boat lost at sea in need of a lighthouse to guide its way home. Maram and Amani’s sisterly friendship was beautifully done.

“It was a cruel person that judged a child by their parent’s legacy.” 

The sci-fi aspect of the book was a bit confusing as the boundaries of their technology weren’t established and at times it felt more like a fantasy novel. But this is a very minor observation as it had no impact on my enjoyment or love for the book.

Mirage was a brilliant novel with powerful, uncompromising writing and strong female characters that I love with all my heart. If you haven’t read it yet… what are you waiting for?

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Reviews · Uncategorized

A New Favourite: Review of The Kingdom of Copper

Black Lives Matter ~ Free Palestine ~ Kashmir Bleeds ~ Junk Terror Bill

Book: The Kingdom of Copper

Author: S. A. Chakraborty

Year Published: 2019

  • Plot: 5/5
  • Characters: 5/5
  • Writing: 5/5
  • Overall: Five Fiery Daeva Stars!

When I read The City of Brass last year I liked it and wanted to read the sequel but I didn’t love it. There many aspects I appreciated but I also found it to be quite a tedious read. So I am very glad I did read the sequel, The Kingdom of Copper, because I didn’t just love this book it has become one of my all time favourites!

The book started off with a prologue detailing how the three main characters dealt with the aftermath of what happened at the end of The City of Brass. Then, the story had a five year time jump that I was not expecting. However, it added more to the characters as it became evident that time had hardened them, reinforced the qualities I already associated with them and brought out new ones. It was so interesting to see them look back on the events of The City of Brass with the hindsight, regret, nostalgia and pain that comes with time while for the reader it didn’t feel that long ago at all.

I loved Nahri in this book. She was trapped in Daevabad and she needed all her astuteness and strength to navigate her gilded cage. She pushed against its boundaries and tried to bridge the gap between djinn, daeva and shafit. From the start of the novel it was clear she had already grown so much since the previous book and that growth continued throughout the sequel, especially because without her Afshin she had to rely on her own hard gained power that much more.

Ali also came into his own. Exiled to the desert away from his family and the scheming Daevabad court, he had the space to find his feet and earn the respect and love of people not because he was a prince but because they could tell her genuinely cared about them. After being manipulated using his religious beliefs it was nice to see him thrive somewhere where they were welcomed. Linking to that, I felt the Muslim representation resonated more with me in this book as opposed to the previous one. I loved the way Ali turned to his faith through all the turmoil and it gave him strength

Dara… what can I even say about Dara. In my review of The City of Brass I expressed much dislike towards him- he infuriated me. However in this book, my opinion on him softened. I realised that what I mistook for exasperating arrogance was actually a facade concealing his pain and confusion after centuries of slavery that he couldn’t remember. In The Kingdom of Copper we see a more vulnerable side to him (especially because we get chapters in his POV) and more complexity is added to his character. He loathed himself and his past actions and felt beyond redemption. And yet, he was willing to do those same things again because of his ingrained loyalty to the Nahids and feelings for Nahri.

The side characters were also very well fleshed out especially Jamshid, Muntadhir, Subha, Aqisa and Lubayd. Manizheh, was also introduced and she was such an interesting character. She was so shaped by cruelty it was all she knew and she wasn’t afriad to inflict it as long as it benefited her and those loyal to her. 

Chakraborty’s world building was masterful, creating a vivid, layered world of wonder  and chicanery that simultaneously felt far flung and right on my doorstep. In this book, we learn so much more about the djinn tribes, their history and their politics as well as the world outside of Daevabad. Everything was so detailed from the clothes, the food, the buildings, the customs and the traditions but not in a way that felt overwhelming or unnecessary. The story explored how hatred and discrimination can fester, how people will use anything they can to justify and permeate it and the destruction that causes. 

The plot was so engrossing that I never felt bored for even a moment (unlike the previous book). Even the slower paced parts captured my interest and pushed the story forward. The ending in particular was dramatic, visceral and heart wrenching in every way. It left me reeling with every emotion imaginable.

If you love dynamic, political fantasies The Kingdom of Copper is definitely for you. And if you weren’t too impressed with The City of Brass or found it boring I’d advise you to give the sequel a go, as it’s better in every way. With a gripping and complex plot, incredible multi-faceted characters, Muslim representation and discussion of interesting themes, The Kingdom of Copper delivers in every way!

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2020 Book Blogger Awards: Nominations!

Black Lives Matter ~ Free Palestine ~ Kashmir Bleeds ~ Junk Terror Bill

Hello booksicles! 

This year May @ Forever and Everly and Marie @ Drizzle & Hurricane Books are hosting the fourth annual book blogger awards. In this post I will be nominating some lovely book bloggers who I admire and respect for the various categories.

These awards are a great way to show appreciation to book bloggers (who are often underappreciated in comparison to booktubers and bookstagrammers). If you want to find out more about them and how you can join in May’s introductory post is amazing and explains everything really well.

Here are my nominations! It was really hard to choose for some of them as there are just so many great book bloggers out there but I managed to narrow it down.

Best of their age:

Best Pre-Teen/Teen Book Blogger (13-19)

~Sasha and Amber @ Sasha and Amber Read~

I love Sasha and Amber’s blog it’s clear a lot of passion and hard work goes into it.

Best Adult Book Blogger (20+)

~Noura @ The Perks of Being Noura~

I always get great book recommendations from Noura and I love the interviews she does on her blog and the cool readathons she regularly holds.

Best Genre Blog:

Young Adult

~Sara @ Words With Wings~

Sara started blogging recently but I love the reviews she’s written for YA books. Her review of Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman made me add it to my tbr!

~Neelam @ The Tsundoku Chronicles~

I love Neelam’s blog it’s brilliant. She’s always promoting Muslim authors and reading and reviewing diverse YA books.

Romance

~Maha @ Sunshine N’ Books~

Maha’s blog aesthetic is so cute and generally she’s a lovely person. She reads and reviews a lot of romance books and even writes helpful posts about the genre like her beginner’s guide to romance.

Science Fiction / Fantasy

~Arina @ The Paperback Voyager~

Arina’s blog is great and full of author spotlights and recommendations of SFF books!

~Juri @ Tomes And Thoughts~

Juri reads and reviews quite a lot of fantasy and I love her review of The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K. S. Villoso.

Best of book blogging:

Best Book Reviews

~Meha @ Books, Bits & Bobs~

Meha is quite a new book blogger but I absolutely adore her eloquent reviewing style and she has a great writing voice (I highly recommend her review of These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong).

~Ikram @ Readology~

I love Ikram’s detailed and straightforward reviews especially her ‘Moral of the Story’ reviews where she adds more analysis (like her review of Parachutes by Kelly Yang).

~Finn @ Evidently Bookish~

Finn also writes gorgeous reviews with a lot of detail and care (you can tell I love detailed reviews) and I love their blog!

Best Book Recommendations

~Fadwa @ Word Wonders~

Fadwa is an icon, this is a known fact. She’s a fabulous book blogger in every way but I especially love her tbr expansion posts full of diverse book recommendations (but my favourite is this post where she recommends OVER 100 books by Muslim authors which must have taken forever to put together).

Best Discussion Posts

~Zainab @ Em’s Bookish Musings~

Zainab does lots of original mini series and discussion posts that are really interesting and generally I love her blog and book reviews.

Best Blog Aesthetic

~Rumaanah @ Rum’s the Reader~

I love Rumaanah’s blog graphics they’re so cute!

~Cielo @ Bellerose Reads~

I also love Cielo’s blog graphics and aesthetic, it looks really pretty.

~Amber @ The Literary Phoenix~

I adore Amber’s blog aesthetic it’s so colourful and cute and I love the magical theme.

Best Blogging/Writing Voice

~Rain @ Bookdragonism

Rain’s eloquence and humour always make her posts a delight to read!

Miscellaneous:

Most Helpful (someone who posts thoughtful blogging guides/advice)

~E. @ Local Bee Hunter’s Book Nook~

E. has lots of helpful posts on her blog and I particularly like her guide to audiobooks on Spotify.

Most Supportive (someone who always shares others’ posts in wrap-ups/has kind comments/boosts other bloggers with initiatives, etc.)

~Rameela @ Star Is All Booked Up

Rameela is such a ray of sunshine and I love her blog. She does a feature called ‘weekly favourites‘ where she shares other bloggers’ posts (and booktube videos) that she liked in that week.

Most Engaged in the Community

~Fanna~

Fanna is always engaging with the book community on her blog and on social media. She is also one of the creators of the South-Asian Reading Challenge!

~Nadia @ Headscarves & Hardbacks~

Nadia also engages a lot with the book community, particularly when it comes to promoting books by Muslim authors. She even runs the Ramadan Readathon and The Muslim Shelf!

Most Creative (creative/original posts)

~Leelynn @ Sometimes Leelynn Reads

Leelynn makes her own original book tags and I love them (especially the Forest of Souls Shaman Book Tag which I hope to do soon).

Best at Promoting Diverse Books

~Krisha @ Bookathon~

Krisha is so friendly and I love her blog. She does a really cool feature called Woven in Books dedicated to promoting diverse books.

Most importantly:

Best New Book Blogger (started blog after August 2019)

~Meha @ Books, Bits & Bobs~

~Sara @ Words With Wings~

Best Overall Book Blogger [two winners!]

~CW @ The Quiet Pond~

CW is probably one of the most hard working and dedicated bloggers out there. She does the best blog series and readathons and is always promoting diverse books (I get the best recommendations from her). And on top of all of that, her art is so cute!


Those are my recommendations! Please check all of these amazing bloggers out and follow their blogs! Nominations close on July 26th and after that there will be a voting round.

I wish everyone nominated the best of luck and thank you so much to May and Marie for organizing these awards!

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Introducing A Thousand Nights Book Club!

Black Lives Matter |Free Palestine |Kashmir Bleeds|Junk Terror Bill

Hello booksicles!

Today I have some very exciting news to share. As a Muslim, I’m always seeking to support Muslim authors and recommend their books. I also love to read fantasy and science fiction- it’s my favourite genre!

So, I decided to combine two things very close to my heart and created A Thousand Nights, an online book club with a focus on science fiction and fantasy (SFF) by Muslim authors.

After some online research I realised how few SFF books by Muslim authors there are, and how hard they are to find out about. In response to this, I compiled a spreadsheet of all the SFF books by Muslim authors I could find so that they can be all in one place and more accessible to everyone.

About A Thousand Nights:

The aim of this club is to celebrate SFF books by Muslim authors and expose more people to them, diversifying their reading. 

Members of the club will vote on a book to read, which will be read and discussed over the course of two months before another book is chosen. This will take place on Discord, a platform for group discussion and chats. It is very easy to make an account and anyone can join.

To join the club and get the link for its Discord server you can either sign up here or message @_AThousandBooks on Twitter. Also, you can follow A Thousand Nights’ Twitter page (@_AThousandBooks) for updates about the club and SFF books by Muslim authors.

I hope to see you there! 

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Reviews · Uncategorized

Monster Princess: Review of Girl, Serpent, Thorn

Thank you to Hodderscape for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Book: Girl, Serpent, Thorn

Author: Melissa Bashardoust

Year Published: 2020

  • Plot: 3.5/5
  • Characters: 4/5
  • Writing: 4.5/5
  • Overall: 4/5

Girl, Serpent Thorn was a novel reminiscent of a fairy tale. Influences from Persian mythology were intricately woven throughout creating a tapestry of deadly beauty with monsters and magic in every thread. One of my favourite parts was actually the author’s note at the end explaining the inspirations behind certain aspects of the book, an important one being an epic poem called The Shahnameh. It is clear that so much thought and love went into creating the world.

Soraya was a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. She had spent her entire life hidden away in the shadows, starved of human contact. Meanwhile, her twin brother was the shah and dwelled in the sunlight and adoration of the people. Soraya felt resentful and crushingly, achingly lonely but she tried not to show it. She thought innocent thoughts and actions were the only thing stopping her from becoming a monster but in her darkest hours she wondered if it would be easier to become the monster others already thought her to be.

I loved Soraya’s journey of self acceptance. This could have easily been a villain origin story but it wasn’t and while there were many moments when Soraya gave into her darker impulses she always brought herself back and rejected monstrosity. Her story showed that protecting someone with lies often isn’t protection at all and when too many secrets accumulate it can be more deadly than poison. Soraya’s relationship with Parvaneh was sweet and hopeful. Their romance wasn’t a major part of the book but the way they saw a beauty in each other that no one else did was heart warming.

In a lot of YA fantasy, the parents are often dead or have no part to play in the story. That wasn’t the case with Girl, Serpent, Thorn. I loved how Soraya’s relationship with her mother was portrayed. Many secrets surfaced between them and their relationship was often messy and strained but there was an overwhelming sense of love, appreciation and respect between them that grew as the story progressed.

The writing was gorgeous and lyrical and completely drew me in. However, I wish the plot was a bit stronger. Some of the events that happened felt too contrived or convenient and some details needed more explanation. However overall Girl, Serpent, Thorn was a magical, Persian-inspired read with a compelling main character and a f/f romance that I would definitely recommend.

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Reviews

Into the Shadow: Review of The Damned

Thank you to Hodderscape for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Read my review of The Beautiful here!

Book: The Damned (The Beautiful #2)

Author: Renée Ahdieh

Year Published: 2020

  • Plot: 4/5
  • Characters: 4.5/5
  • Writing: 4/5
  • Overall: 4/5

The Damned was a magical read that expanded upon the first book well, answering many of the questions that I had whilst giving me more. I loved diving back into the glamorous yet monstrous world of The Beautiful and learning more about the characters. However, it wasn’t a five star read like the first book was for me because I felt like it tried to cram a bit too much in without adequate explanation.

Celine was grappling with the trauma of what happened to her at the end of The Beautiful. She felt like she had lost herself in the midst of confusion, nightmares and terror gripping her when she was perfectly safe. For Celine, this book was about self discovery– in more ways than one. She showed even more fortitude and determination than in the previous book and I was rooting for her throughout.

Celine took centre stage in The Beautiful and Bastien had little character development, whereas The Damned saw him take the spotlight and have his own arc too. His POV chapters were in the first person and in the present tense, as opposed to everyone else’s POV chapters being in the third person and the past tense, making it feel as if it was primarily his story. We get to see the most of his inner conflict as he dealt with his own trauma and navigated uncharted waters in a familiar world. He wanted to be a better version of himself despite the darkness inside him and he went on a journey to find out what that meant. I liked discovering more depth to his character and it helped me to better understand him.

“Love and loyalty are not always the same thing. Loyalty is easy. Love is doing what is right, even when it is difficult.”

I loved getting to learn more about the side characters especially Odette and Jae. I think they both deserve their own spin off books because they’re amazing and have the most interesting back stories. We get to see the POVs of so many more characters in comparison to The Beautiful such as Bastien, Odette, Jae, Arjun and more. I was actually surprised that we don’t see Celine’s POV until around a quarter of the book. I liked reading from new perspectives even though at first it slowed the pace down too much.

The Damned didn’t hold back with the supernatural: vampires, werewolves, fey, goblins and more. We are introduced to the magical realms of the summery Sylvan Vale and the wintry Sylvan Wyld– equally dangerous despite their appearances. The plot became more about the greater picture than any one character’s goals which I liked but, as I mentioned earlier, too many components were introduced without being properly fleshed out. The conflict between the Brotherhood and the Fallen could have also felt more high stakes.

I really enjoyed The Damned but it felt like it was mainly setting the stage for the next book. I originally thought this series was a duology but it turns out there’s going to be a third book and I cannot wait!

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Book Tags · Uncategorized

Mid-Year Freak Out Book Tag- 2020 Edition!

Hello booksicles!

Today, I bring you the Mid-Year Freakout Tag where I review my reading in the first half of the year. I’m not sure who started the tag but it’s very popular with book bloggers and booktubers alike! I didn’t do it last year but it looks fun and I was tagged by Azrah from Az You Read so I decided to give it a go!

Best book(s) you’ve read so far in 2020

The Empire of Gold by S. A. Chakraborty: This is the last book of the Daevabad trilogy and it truly was a beautiful conclusion to the series that filled me up with every emotion imaginable.

Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles: This book comes out in August but I was lucky enough to read a review copy of it and trust me when I say that this book is fabulous! It is inspired by The Phantom of the Opera and full of glitz, magic and drama- I loved it!

Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2020

The Kingdom of Copper by S. A. Chakraborty: This is the second book of the Daevabad trilogy and I’d say it’s not just the best sequel I’ve read in 2020 but the best sequel I’ve read EVER!

New release(s) you haven’t read but want to

  • The Silence of Bones by June Hur
  • Heart of Flames by Nicki Pau Preto
  • A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow
  • Parachutes by Kelly Yang

Most anticipated release(s) for the second half of the year

  • A Sky Beyond the Storm by Sabaa Tahir
  • The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab
  • The Burning God by R. F. Kuang
  • These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong (I have a review copy of this one which I’m really excited to read)

Biggest disappointment

All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace: This was a really anticipated read but it fell so flat for me. I didn’t find it interesting at all and couldn’t connect to the characters.

Biggest surprise

House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas: I had no idea what to expect from this book but I actually quite liked it?! It was a fun read although it was far longer than necessary.

Favorite new to me author(s)

  • Janella Angeles
  • Intisar Khanani
  • Zoraida Córdova

Newest fictional crush

Uh I don’t have one actually.

New favorite character(s)

  • Nahri from the Daevabad trilogy: I admire Nahri and how smart and unyielding she is in extremely trying situations. She is also so kind and she always chooses what is right for others over what would benefit her.
  • Alizayd al Qahtani from the Daevabad trilogy: He really grows over the trilogy and has a tendency to always say the wrong thing but he’s also very sincere and has the best intentions.
  • Kallia from Where Dreams Descend: Kallia is spectacular in every way. I love her determination and flair for the dramatic!

A book that made you cry

Not a single book made me cry this year, in general it is very rare that books make me cry at all even though I am an emotional person. When I feel sad about something in a book I don’t think it manifests as tears but my heart physically hurts. That being said, the book that was closest to making me cry was The Empire of Gold.

A book that made you happy

Once Upon An Eid is an anthology full of short stories about celebrating Eid by Muslim authors and when I read in in Ramadan this year it filled me with joy!

Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year

I bought a hardcover of An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir and it’s stunning I love it!

What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

Well there are quite a lot of books I couldn’t mention them all! Some review copies I need to read are:

  • These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong
  • The Once and Future Witches.by Alix E. Harrow
  • Crowning Soul by Sahira Javaid

And here are some other books I hope to read during 2020:

  • Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
  • The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
  • Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin
  • Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
  • The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K. S. Villoso
  • Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi

So that’s the tag! I found some new favourites in the first half of 2020 and I hope to read some more amazing books during the rest of the year too.

I tag Zainab @ Em’s Bookish Musings and anyone else who wants to give this tag a try.

What has your favourite book of 2020 so far been? Let me know in the comments!

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Reviews · Uncategorized

In The Spirit of Friendship: Review of Forest of Souls

Thank you to Page Street Kids for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Book: Forest of Souls

Author: Lori M. Lee

Year Published: 2020

  • Plot: 4/5
  • Characters: 4.5/5
  • Writing: 4/5
  • Overall: 4.5/5

Forest of Souls was a magical read about the strength of friendship and developing self worth. It was one of my most anticipated releases of the year and I really liked it!

The main character was Sirscha, a spy-in-training who discovers she is the first soulguide in living memory and the only one capable of restraining the vicious, dangerous Dead Wood. I loved her uncompromising fierceness, skill and strength- she was a force that you definitely would not want to be on the wrong side of!

No matter how hard Sirscha trained and how skilled she became most people never saw any value in her because of her low station. This resulted in a fear of never being enough and a desire to be worthy and seek external validation that drove her every action. These fears, of failure and disappointing those around us, are something I think that many people can relate to and it’s amazing seeing Sirscha start to realise that her worth isn’t tied to what others think of her. 

Another key aspect of this novel was unconditional friendship. I’ve never seen a YA fantasy that puts a friendship front and centre instead of a romance and it was a beautiful thing to behold. Saengo was Sirscha’s best friend and despite their differences, especially in rank, they were inseparable and would do anything for each other. Through all the trials and tribulations their friendship stood firm where others would have wavered and it gave them the strength to keep fighting for each other. My only wish is that Saengo gets more of an active role in the next book because I really would have liked to see more of her in action.

I’ve always been intrigued by magic systems in books and the system in Forest of Souls was one of the most interesting I’ve ever seen. The author has said that it was inspired by Hmong shamanism and it had a heavy emphasis on spirits and souls as the source of magic. It also had an elemental aspect with the five Shamanic Callings being fire, water, earth, wind and light. Separate to this there were also the Shadowblessed who could manipulate shadows. I loved how well fleshed out the system was and the fact that spirit familiars were necessary to channel the magic was probably my favourite part of it.

I loved the Dead Wood, the chilling forest of souls referenced by the title, as it was so morbid and visceral while also serving as a symbol for how hatred can endure and power can corrupt even the most well intentioned person. A large chunk of the book was spent in the Dead Wood and its surroundings which was great but I hope too see much more of the world in the sequel. Overall, Forest of Souls was a brilliant YA fantasy novel that is beautiful both inside and out.

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Sereadipity supports Black Lives Matter and stands against racism and discrimination in all its forms. I intend to work harder to uplift Black voices and books by Black authors.

This carrd is constantly being updated with petitions, ways to donate, resources to educate ourselves and more. This thread by Myonna @itsmyoreads on Twitter has a list of videos by Black booktubers talking about Black Lives Matter, allyship and being Black in the book community that I’d recommend to watch and subscribe to their channels as well.