Interviews · Uncategorized

Sereadipity Interviews… Mahtab Rohan On Her Debut Your Heart After Dark (Rapid Fire!)

Hello my booksicles!

I’m very excited to be sharing the rapid fire interview I did with Mahtab Rohan about her debut novel: Your Heart After Dark. I am very excited to read this paranormal contemporary with Muslim rep (!!!) and I am very grateful for the time Mahtab took to answer my questions!

Here’s a bit about the book [add it on Goodreads]:

Maria Chaudhry’s personal demons trap her in a downward spiral, but the beast lurking in Ehmet’s blood can do a lot worse than that.

After a year of living in a prissy suburb, Maria Chaudhry is back downtown. Back to what she never wanted to leave. But she can’t really enjoy it since neither the living nor the dead will leave her in peace.

JC’s death still keeps her up at night and Ehmet’s sudden ambivalence isn’t helping. Maybe she had read his signals wrong and Ehmet was never in love with her like she thought. Or maybe his love is tangled with secrets too dark to speak aloud, secrets about JC’s death and the unpredictable beast in Ehmet’s blood.

When an upcoming hiking trip is cancelled, there’s no pretty path left towards the truth. A growing spiral of deceit threatens to tear Maria and Ehmet apart forever, but the beast lurking within Ehmet can do a lot worse than that.

Mahtab Rohan’s debut YA novel delivers a paranormal tale of crumbling friendships, malevolent secrets, and the struggle to have hope in the face of uncertainty.

Interview

Pitch Your Heart After Dark in one sentence:

A desi Muslim teen deals with dysfunctional family & her crush hiding that he’s a werewolf involved in her friend’s death.

Describe yourself in 5 words:

President: Secretly-Hates-Weddings Association

Are you a pantser or a plotter?

I’m an ex-planster turned full-time plotter.

A fun fact about one of the characters in Your Heart After Dark:

Ehmet is a significant character in a related urban fantasy I’ll be working on soon.

What was the biggest change from the first to the last draft?

The POV changing from third to first person. Yes, I rewrote THE ENTIRE thing.

Why did you choose to write in the supernatural genre?

I didn’t choose the supernatural– the supernatural chose me. Really though, I can’t write pure contemporary. I’m not sure why. I have a hard time reading purely contemporary books, too.

What inspired you the most to write Your Heart After Dark?

Lingering teenage angst. [big mood]

Your favourite books as a child:

Franklin, Clifford The Big Red Dog, The Cloud Book, books on endangered & unique species.

As a kid, I loved those book order forms we got in school. I don’t think there was anyone else in my class who was as obsessed with them as me, even though I rarely got to actually order anything.

Your favourite book of 2020:

I can’t say! 2020 isn’t over yet!

Your most anticipated release of 2021:

WE FREE THE STARS by Hafsah Faizal. Someone please cryofreeze me.

[I’m excited for this one too!]

The author that most inspires you:

I find Hafsah Faizal inspiring because she’s basically the most visible type of Muslim woman there is and she’s not sorry for it. Every time I see her on a graphic for a convention or workshop, I just think about how powerful the image is.

Your favourite word:

Majawar (roughly translates to “religious mendicant”).

What is your favourite quote from Your Heart After Dark?

“There’s no easy way to stop loving someone.”

Do you have a tip for overcoming writer’s block?

If I have writer’s block, I take time away from writing and do some reading, or I work on a different writing project. I always have books and sources of inspiration I can go to if I need a quick pick-me-up.

If my writer’s block gets real bad, I recite a prayer that Moses said when God asked him to approach Pharaoh.

[I love this answer so much!]

Describe the Kashmir-inspired YA fantasy you’re currently writing in one sentence:

Aided by a mountain-dweller who hates royalty, undercover rani Neelum journeys through a treacherous mountain to find a cure for her dying cousin.

[This sounds like the book of my dreams- I can’t wait]

About the author:

Mahtab Rohan is a Canadian writer of South Asian & Himalayan descent. Rohan was born in Ontario and currently resides in the relentlessly cold Canadian Prairies. When she’s not writing stories that keep her up at night, she’s busy perfecting her square rotis and tutoring English. 

Thank you again to Mahtab Rohan for taking the time to answer my questions!

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Reviews · Uncategorized

A Must-read For Everyone: Review of Punching the Air

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

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

Book: Punching the Air

Summary

From award-winning, bestselling author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam of the Exonerated Five comes a powerful YA novel in verse about a boy who is wrongfully incarcerated. Perfect for fans of Jason Reynolds, Walter Dean Myers, and Elizabeth Acevedo.

The story that I thought

was my life

didn’t start on the day

I was born

Amal Shahid has always been an artist and a poet. But even in a diverse art school, he’s seen as disruptive and unmotivated by a biased system. Then one fateful night, an altercation in a gentrifying neighborhood escalates into tragedy. “Boys just being boys” turns out to be true only when those boys are white.

The story that I think

will be my life

starts today

Suddenly, at just sixteen years old, Amal’s bright future is upended: he is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and sent to prison. Despair and rage almost sink him until he turns to the refuge of his words, his art. This never should have been his story. But can he change it?

With spellbinding lyricism, award-winning author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam tell a moving and deeply profound story about how one boy is able to maintain his humanity and fight for the truth, in a system designed to strip him of both.

Authors: Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam

Year Published: 2020

Content Warnings: wrongful conviction and imprisonment, racism, abuse, violence

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

Punching the Air was a powerful novel in verse about a Black Muslim boy who was convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. Words can hardly covey the profundity of this book- my advice to anyone reading this review is to read Punching the Air as soon as possible and experience it for yourself.

The writing was raw and hard-hitting. There were so many times when I gasped at the sheer emotion packed into the words and the beauty of how they were expressed. Amal’s despair, love, anger and hope were palpable and conveyed in such a genuine voice. It didn’t shy away from exploring the emotional, spiritual and physical toll imprisonment took on Amal.

Their words and what they thought
to be their truth
were like a scalpel

shaping me into
the monster
they want me to be

The way the novel was crafted was genius. The imagery, the way the words were arranged on the page and the illustrations made it seem like a work of art in and of itself. Amal was an artist and a poet so the format of the book was fitting and felt like an insight to his mind. We see his inner thoughts, musings and coping mechanisms and they felt so authentic for a sixteen year old. He was just a boy, often seen as a man, trying to hang on to his art, his faith, his love and his hope in a world that was trying to crush him.

For a relatively short read, it was packed with social commentary on issues like institutional racism, gentrification and prison abolition. The way it focused on the devastating and far reaching consequences racism had on not only on Amal’s life but on that of everyone around him made it intensely personal and emotive

Dr. Yusef Salaam is a member of the Exonerated Five and is now doing inspiring work as a prison reform activist (I’d recommend researching more about his story, there is a documentary about it called The Central Park Five). Amal’s story was inspired by his own experience of being wrongfully convicted and imprisoned at only fifteen years old and knowing that added a whole new dimension and depth to the words on the page. 


I was punching
the air
the clouds
the sun


for pressing
down on me
on us
so hard
that the weight
of the world
made us crack
split in half
break into pieces

I had never read a novel in verse before this one but I definitely would love to read more in the future! Punching the Air was a powerful novel that is definitely a must-read for everyone. I highly recommend it!

Have you read Punching the Air? What were your thoughts?

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Blog Tours · Uncategorized

Blog Tour: Crowning Soul by Sahira Javaid

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

Hello booksicles! Today I bring you my stop on the Crowning Soul blog tour (hosted by Qamar Blog Tours) with some information about the book and mood boards!

About the book:

  • Title: Crowning Soul
  • Author: Sahira Javaid
  • Publication date: September 8th, 2020
  • Genre: YA Fantasycrowning soul cover-1696946039..jpg

Synopsis:

Be swept away in this unique fantasy debut from Sahira Javaid. A spellbinding adventure of belonging, finding hope and where the price of a soul is another soul’s fate. Perfect for the fans of InuYasha, Children of Blood and Bone and The Candle and The Flame.

Nezha Zaman considers her gift to control fire a dangerous secret. A secret that unravels when she encounters a vengeful shadow jinni in a maze garden that has been stalking her family, and knows about her power.

Weeks after seeing the demonic being, Nezha is torn from her world through her backyard pond and transported into another dimension which sought out the light inside her heart.

Nezha learns from two unicorns that the dimension is her family’s roots, and the light is a fragment of an angel’s shattered soul. The three must work together to find the soul’s shards in a land teeming with shape-shifting jinn.

If Nezha fails to stop the corrupted Iron Prince, the malevolent jinn at his side will shatter her soul next.

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Mood boards:

Here are the mood boards I made inspired by the book! They are based on three of the main characters: Nezha, Sapphire and Thunderbolt.

Nezha MoodboardThunderbolt & Sapphire Moodboard

About the author:

Sahira Javaid is a YA Fantasy writer and poetess from Ottawa who shares her poems on her Twitter page and her website. Fond of animals, nature and learning, she passes time with reading about the world around her, nature’s healing ways, chatting with friends and making others smile and laugh every time she gets. Her poetry book Crack of Dawn is available on Amazon and other online retailers.

Twitter  Website  Pinterest  Goodreads

Thank you to Qamar Blog Tours for making this possible!

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Reviews

Abandon Thought: Review of Where Dreams Descend

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

Thank you to Wednesday Books for providing me with an digital ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Book: Where Dreams Descend

Summary

In a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.

As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.

The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost

The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told

The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide

Where Dreams Descend is the startling and romantic first book in Janella Angeles’ debut Kingdom of Cards fantasy duology where magic is both celebrated and feared, and no heart is left unscathed.

Author: Janella Angeles

Year Published: 2020

Content Warnings: misogyny, character death, emotional abuse, manipulation

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

Where Dreams Descend is one of those rare books that actually surpassed my expectations. It seemed like the sort of book I would like but I didn’t think I would end up adoring everything about it!

Months after reading it, the characters and story are still fresh in my mind. Drawing inspiration from The Phantom of the Opera and Moulin Rouge, Angeles crafted a world that will lure you in with its lavish façade only to trap you in the sinister claws of its secrets.

The book is set in a world where magic could be acquired and rarely, a gift one could be born with. However, it was only socially acceptable for men to take their magic to the stage and become show magicians. Women were expected to only use their magic (although it was often stronger) for labour and domestic tasks. The closest they could get to the spotlight was being a showgirl in an underground club or bar

“Why else destroy light if not envious of its radiance?”

Which brings us to Kallia, a showgirl in one of the aforementioned underground clubs who escaped to join a competition for magicians and carve her name into the spotlight.

Now when I say Kallia is a queen and deserves the world I really do mean it. I loved her determination and ambition, her sass and flair for the dramatic. She knew that she was talented and she demanded the recognition she was due. She faced the sexism in her world head on and was not afraid to put up a fight. There truly is nothing more satisfying than reading about Kallia putting another crusty, misogynistic man in their place. The sexism in the book had parallels with our world, especially the sexism in the entertainment industry.

For much of her life, Kallia was isolated from the world and manipulated. The book addressed her struggle with trauma because of this, hidden beneath a confident and arrogant mask. As well as her flamboyance, there was a vulnerable side to Kallia too. A part of her that was scared to show weakness, scared of failure, scared to let people in, scared that she wasn’t enough. This made her all the more relatable for me.

“Their first mistake was in thinking obstacles gave them an upper hand. Little did they know, she would always find a way to grow through cracks in the stone.”

Another character worth mentioning is Daron. Normally I don’t like the ‘broody love interest with a Tragic Past™’ trope but Angeles pulled it off. I liked how he gradually softened and opened up as Kallia (and the reader) got to know him. And I loved how his slightly awkward and sombre nature contrasted with Kallia’s vibrant character.

“She narrowed her eyes on each judge all the way to the end, and met Daron’s stare with a wink.”

The romance was sweet and full of yearning without being the main focus of the plot- we even get a swoony dance scene! And I’ve seen people saying this book has a love triangle in it but I disagree, to me it seemed like Kallia knew who she wanted to be with and there was only one love interest.

I loved Kallia’s friendship with her assistant, Aaros, and how he was always there to support her (although I wish we got to know more about him). I also loved the friendships she made with Canary and the circus women and how they found kinship and strength in one another. Another side character I liked was Lottie de la Rosa and I hope we see more of her in the sequel.

I can never resist a book with a strong sense of atmosphere and this book definitely delivered in that respect. It was full of elaborateness, music, dancing and glamour with ominous undertones lurking in the background. I loved Angeles’ gorgeous writing and imagery that reflected Kallia’s personality with its drama and intensity.

So you might be wondering: Umairah, if you loved this book so much why did you drop off half a star? And the answer to that would be: the plot. While I loved the mystery, magic and theatrics of the plot, the ending was extremely open ended. It didn’t answer any of the questions the story brought up and left me with even more of them. Personally, I like endings with a bit more resolution but I hope the sequel wraps up all the loose ends.

Where Dreams Descend was a spectacular (or should I say Spectaculore) read that had similar vibes to The Night Circus and gave me everything I found lacking in Caraval. It is a book that tackles themes like misogyny and trauma head on and I would highly recommend it!

What did you think of Where Dreams Descend? Have you read any other books featuring a magical competition/ game? Let me know in the comments!

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