Blog Tours · Reviews · Uncategorized

We Find Ourselves in the Sea: Review of The Ones We’re Meant to Find (Blog Tour)

Yemen Crisis ~ Black Lives Matter Stop AAPI Hate~ Free Palestine ~ Kashmir Bleeds 

Hello! Today I am so excited to bring my stop on the blog tour for The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He as I’m a member of her street team (Hesina’s Imperial Court)! For more information check out the launch post here!

Review:

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

Book: The Ones We’re Meant to Find

*Click here for all the buy links*

Author: Joan He

Year Published: 2021

Summary (click for dropdown)

One of the most twisty, surprising, engaging page-turner YAs you’ll read this year—We Were Liars meets Black Mirror, with a dash of Studio Ghibli.

Cee has been trapped on an abandoned island for three years without any recollection of how she arrived, or memories from her life prior. All she knows is that somewhere out there, beyond the horizon, she has a sister named Kay. Determined to find her, Cee devotes her days to building a boat from junk parts scavenged inland, doing everything in her power to survive until the day she gets off the island and reunites with her sister.

In a world apart, 16-year-old STEM prodigy Kasey Mizuhara is also living a life of isolation. The eco-city she calls home is one of eight levitating around the world, built for people who protected the planet―and now need protecting from it. With natural disasters on the rise due to climate change, eco-cities provide clean air, water, and shelter. Their residents, in exchange, must spend at least a third of their time in stasis pods, conducting business virtually whenever possible to reduce their environmental footprint. While Kasey, an introvert and loner, doesn’t mind the lifestyle, her sister Celia hated it. Popular and lovable, Celia much preferred the outside world. But no one could have predicted that Celia would take a boat out to sea, never to return.

Now it’s been three months since Celia’s disappearance, and Kasey has given up hope. Logic says that her sister must be dead. But as the public decries her stance, she starts to second guess herself and decides to retrace Celia’s last steps. Where they’ll lead her, she does not know. Her sister was full of secrets. But Kasey has a secret of her own. 


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

The Ones We’re Meant to Find was an atmospheric and twisty read that brought together science fiction and climate fiction in a dystopian world– with Studio Ghibli vibes for extra spice.

Reading this book was a unique experience that had its ups and downs and at the end I felt a strange mix of awe, poignancy and bewilderment that left me mulling over the story for days afterwards. The Ones We’re Meant to Find is something special, the sort of book that stays with you, lingering in the corners of your mind. I don’t think I was as emotionally invested as I wanted to be but I appreciated the depth and scope of the story, the nuanced characters and subversion of the usual tropes. 

At the beginning of the book I was very, very confused and had no idea what was going on but as I progressed I realised that was how I was supposed to feel. The book is structured in a way that confuses you in the start as you grapple to understand this ravaged dystopian world and the characters’ places in it and there is a distinct sense that something is not right but as a reader you lack the necessary information to know what that something is.

As the book progresses you are gradually given the puzzle pieces and there was a point where I had a giant OHH! moment because I finally had enough pieces to make sense of it all. If you don’t like books that have convoluted plots and never spell anything out explicitly to the reader then this is definitely not for you. But I would also say if you start reading and feel disheartened because you don’t understand what is happening I would advise you to keep going because it all comes together eventually and it does so beautifully

“Alone is an island. It’s an uncrossable sea, being too far from another soul, whereas lonely is being too close, in the same house yet separated by walls because we choose to be”

The story focused on Cee and Kasey and switched between their vastly different perspectives. Cee was passionate, lively and determined and her chapters were full of hope and pain and longing. On the other hand, Kasey was a genius who was logical and very emotionally detached. She often wondered why she was different to everyone else, why she felt less, reacted less, became less attached to others… felt less human.

I loved how He emphasised the contrast between them by writing Cee’s perspective in the first person and Kasey’s in the third. Cee was likeable in a very conventional way that I think most people would relate to but Kasey’s character was refreshing and different to what we normally see in YA fiction. She wasn’t what anyone would usually describe as likeable but I think a lot of people will be able too see themselves in her too. 

The book was set in an Earth poisoned by humans beyond repair and plagued with extreme weather and devastating natural disasters, the only refuge being eco cities that floated in the sky. The book questioned if humanity deserved to be saved if it had brought its own demise upon itself. If it was more important to live freely or live in a way that preserved our planet. If it was fair that innocent people had to suffer for the destructive, polluting acts of others. It served as a chilling reminder that our greed and unsustainable lifestyles are pushing the planet over the brink.

At a personal level, the book explored the bond between two sisters that not even the ocean or hundreds of years could sever. The relationship between Kasey and her sister was rocky at times and they had very different perspectives on life but I loved how their unconditional love for each other shone through with every decision they made.

There is so much more that I want to say about this book that I can’t in this review because it would spoil the most important parts. The best way to go into the book is with absolutely no idea what it’s about beyond the little information provided in the summary so that the plot twists and turns have the maximum impact. The Ones We’re Meant to Find is a story brimming with profound emotion that spills over the pages, straight into your heart. I definitely recommend it!

About the author:

Joan He was born and raised in Philadelphia but still will, on occasion, lose her way. At a young age, she received classical instruction in oil painting before discovering that storytelling was her favorite form of expression. She studied Psychology and East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Pennsylvania and currently writes from a desk overlooking the Delaware River. Descendant of the Crane is her debut young adult fantasy. Her next novel, The Ones We’re Meant to Find, will be forthcoming from Macmillan on May 4th, 2021.

Tour schedule:

Monday, April 26

Tiffany | Sara | Carina | Anthony

Tuesday, April 27th

Chloe | Avery | Jenni

Wednesday, April 28

Lauren | Bella | Charvi

Thursday, April 29

Iza | Shenwei | Ace

Friday, April 30

Stella | Lexie | Kristi | Finn

Saturday, May 1

Umairah(me!!!) | Justice

Sunday, May 2

Sarah | Fin | Ming

Monday, May 3

Julith | Cathy | Adrienne | Victoria

Tuesday, May 4

Leeann | Isabelle | Asher

Wednesday, May 5

Trinity | Jenna | Jasmin

Thursday, May 6

Katie | Sophie | Ceillie

Friday, May 7

Althea | Lili | Alessa | Paola

What did you think of The Ones We’re Meant to Find? What are your favourite climate fiction books? Let me know in the comments!

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Reviews · Uncategorized

Trust No Witch: Review of Witches Steeped in Gold

Yemen Crisis ~ Black Lives Matter ~ Stop AAPI Hate~ Free Palestine ~ Kashmir Bleeds 

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

Book: Witches Steeped in Gold

Summary (click for dropdown)

Divided by their order. United by their vengeance.

Iraya has spent her life in a cell, but every day brings her closer to freedom – and vengeance.

Jazmyne is the Queen’s daughter, but unlike her sister before her, she has no intention of dying to strengthen her mother’s power.

Sworn enemies, these two witches enter a precarious alliance to take down a mutual threat. But power is intoxicating, revenge is a bloody pursuit, and nothing is certain – except the lengths they will go to win this game.

This Jamaican-inspired fantasy debut about two enemy witches who must enter into a deadly alliance to take down a common enemy has the twisted cat-and-mouse of Killing Eve with the richly imagined fantasy world of Furyborn and Ember in the Ashes.

Author: Ciannon Smart

Year Published: 2021

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

When I picked up this book I had no idea what to expect but I was extremely excited to read it- luckily, it definitely delivered. A Jamaican-inspired young adult fantasy full of intrigue, action, scheming and compelling characters, Witches Steeped in Gold bewitched me from the first page until the very last.

The plot revolved around two witches who belonged to enemy orders: Jazmyne who belonged to the Alumbrar order and Iraya who belonged to the Obeah order. The story alternated between both of their perspectives as they entered into a precarious alliance to achieve a shared goal. 

Jazmyne started off quite indecisive and afraid of taking action against her mother who was the doyenne of Aiyca- despite finding her rule unjust. As the story progressed it was interesting to see her realise that she had power and watch her learn how to wield it and stand her own ground. What was more interesting still was how her taste of power obscured her initial noble intentions and she sank lower and lower to hold onto it at any cost. She pretty much had a corruption arc and the irony wasn’t lost on me that she became exactly what she started off fighting against. I didn’t like Jazmyne much at all by the end but that isn’t a criticism of the book- she was extremely interesting to read about. I have to say though, Jazmyne’s romance sub plot was extremely lacklustre and boring– I feel like the book would have been better of without it.

For me, Iraya was a more likeable character despite her tendency to act rashly (it was honestly painful to watch her keep acting impulsively and making the worst choices) and avoid responsibility in the misguided belief it will keep people safe. Her constant internal conflict revolved around her trying to reconcile people’s expectations of her and her own desires and hopes, her duty to honour the dead and her duty to do right by the living. Unlike Jazmyne, I feel like she had more selfish motivations in the start but as the book progressed they became more selfless as her sense of responsibility towards her people grew. Iraya’s romance sub plot was a lot more interesting and while it definitely was a bit cliché, I found the way her relationship with Kirdan developed very entertaining.

Both Iraya and Jazmyne’s perspectives had distinct voices and personalities and switching between them made the tone of the book more dynamic. As the book progressed, Iraya began to realise that she could let people help her and that she didn’t have to carry the burden alone to succeed whereas Jazmyne began to realise that she couldn’t rely on the people she trusted. I thought it was clever how Iraya surrounding herself with more people and opening up was contrasted with Jazmyne becoming more isolated and closed off. It was chilling how by the end of the book they had both become what they were most afraid of at the start.

My favourite aspect of the book was that we are shown the perspectives of both the Alumbrar and Obeah in a way that makes it impossible to ‘pick a side’ because neither is fully good or evil. Whilst I was reading I felt quite anxious wondering if they would put aside their differences or if one side would come out on top in the end and how I would feel about the possible outcomes. The story emphasised how subjective notions of heroism and villainy are as Jazmyne and Iraya walked the knife edge between the two, thinking that they were breaking the cycles of hatred and violence while unknowingly perpetuating them. A part of what makes this story compelling is that there are no heroes or villains… there are just people like you and me doing what they think is best for themselves and those around them.

I adored the world Smart created. It was nuanced, exciting and full of vicious beauty. I loved the Jamaican influences, the intricate lore and traditions and it all felt very immersive and put together with love and care. I liked how the Obeah and Alumbrar magic systems were contrasted and the way these systems directly influenced and were influenced by the wider society- I especially liked the idea of gold being the conduit for magic.

Overall, the plot was twisty- driven by scheming and betrayals. However, the first half of the book was quite slow paced and the plot took a while to really get going. I do think this was necessary to set up the world, the characters and the stakes but if you dislike books structured like this then I don’t think this book will be for you. The main reason that this was a four star read not a five star read was that while I was engaged in the story and wanted to know what would happen I wasn’t as emotionally invested as I wanted to be.

Witches Steeped in Gold was a compelling read that I highly recommend, perfect for fans of An Ember in the Ashes. The book ended in a strong place and set everything up nicely for the next book so I think the sequel has a lot of potential to be a five star read and I’m very excited to read it!

Have you read Witches Steeped in Gold? Are you planning on reading it? Let me know in the comments!

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Reviews · Uncategorized

A Gift and a Curse: Review of Reaper of Souls

Yemen Crisis ~ Black Lives Matter ~ Free Palestine ~ Kashmir Bleeds 

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: Reaper of Souls

Summary (click for dropdown)

After so many years yearning for the gift of magic, Arrah has the one thing she’s always wanted—at a terrible price. Now the last surviving witchdoctor, she’s been left to pick up the shattered pieces of a family that betrayed her, a kingdom in shambles, and long-buried secrets about who she is.

Desperate not to repeat her mother’s mistakes, Arrah must return to the tribal lands to search for help from the remnants of her parents’ people. But the Demon King’s shadow looms closer than she thinks. And as Arrah struggles to unravel her connection to him, defeating him begins to seem more and more impossible—if it’s something she can bring herself to do at all.

Set in a richly imagined world inspired by spine-tingling tales of voodoo and folk magic, Kingdom of Souls was lauded as “masterful” by School Library Journal in a starred review. This explosively epic sequel will have readers racing to the can’t-miss conclusion.

Author: Rena Barron

Year Published: 2021

  • Plot: 3/5
  • Characters: 3.5/5
  • Writing: 4/5
  • Overall: 3/5

I was so excited to read Reaper of Souls as I was completely enthralled by the first book in the trilogy. I have to admit, while the book had a lot of strong points, it didn’t fully live up to my expectations and pales in comparison to Kingdom of Souls. I think my problem is that objectively it is exactly the sort of interesting, twisty book that I usually love but it just failed to engage me and all the aspects of the first book that I loved weren’t as compelling to me in this one.

In this book Arrah was a lot more mature and also much wearier and worn out by all that she had been through and all that she had yet to do. Haunted by her past actions, it was interesting to see Arrah realise that the magic she had sacrificed so much for was a double edged sword that she couldn’t trust herself to wield only for the good of others. Comparing her decisions at the end of this book to her decisions at the start of Kingdom of Souls it was clear how far she has come and how her outlook on the world has changed. The only thing that didn’t diminish for me in this book is how much I love Arrah. She wasn’t perfect, she made reckless decisions and did morally questionable things but she was also strong and loyal and in her heart she wanted the best for everyone. I like how she was at one with herself and owned her mistakes even as she often walked the fine line between hero and monster in the eyes of others.

This book was also Rudjek’s time to shine– he even had chapters from his perspective. In the previous book I felt like he was less self-assured so I liked how he stepped up in this book and came into his own, taking on leadership and initiative. I liked how the barriers between Arrah and Rudjek being together were explored and how they communicated about it but I didn’t love their relationship as much as I did in book one. As I was reading I became less and less engaged in their romance and cared less and less about whether or not they’d get to be together.

I read most of Kingdom of Souls in one sitting unable to stop and desperate to find out what would happen next. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for Reaper of Souls. For most of the book I wasn’t engaged by the plot and there were many points whilst reading where I was so close to DNFing but didn’t because I remembered how much I enjoyed the first book and convinced myself it would get better. However, near the end of the book there were some good plot twists and I think the book ended on enough of a strong point to convince me to read the final book in the trilogy when it comes out. The thing I disliked the most about the plot was Dimma and the Demon King’s story. I can’t really explain why without spoiling too much but even though it was an important part of the storyline I didn’t like the focus being taken off of Arrah and Rudjek because they were the ones I cared about.

Although it built on the same ideas as Kingdom of Souls- magic being a gift and a curse, the corrupting nature of power and love that destroys as well as heals– I liked Reaper of Souls but nowhere near as much as the first book. However, I would recommend fans of book one to give the sequel a chance because I know for a fact that there are a lot of people who enjoyed it more than I did. 

Have you read Reaper of Souls? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

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Uncategorized · Wrap-ups

A Year Like No Other: 2020 Reading Review

#RescuePH End SARS ~ Black Lives Matter ~ Free Palestine ~ Kashmir Bleeds 

Happy new year booksicles!

This year has been like no other and it was hard for us all to varying degrees. Now that it has come to an end I will be reflecting in this post on how this year has been overall in terms of my reading and blogging.

Although I didn’t read as many books as I had hoped to at the start of the year I did find a lot of new favourites and I am proud of what I did manage to achieve in this year of turmoil and uncertainty.

To do this, I will be using the End of Year Survey made by Jamie @ Perpetual Page Turner—  thank you so much Jamie for making such a detailed and interesting survey!

2020 READING STATS:

Number Of Books You Read: 53
Number of Re-Reads: 0
Genre You Read The Most From: fantasy (who would have guessed it)

Best in books:

Best book of 2020:

I have read many amazing books this year but I’d say Mirage by Somaiya Daud was the best because it was the first book I have ever read with Moroccan and Amazighi representation. As someone who is half Moroccan and Amazighi it meant so much to me— especially as it was so beautifully done. It’s the book of my heart!

A book you were excited about and thought you were going to love more but didn’t:

I was so excited to read All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace but it fell so, so flat for me.

 The most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read:

The Damned by Renée Ahdieh surprised me very much because of how unexpectedly different it was to the book before it in both good ways and bad ways.

 A book you “pushed” the most people to read (and did they?):

It was probably These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong. I have been endlessly recommending this book to just about everyone and the people I have convinced to read it have loved it!

What was the best series you started in 2020? The best sequel of 2020? The best series finale of 2020?

Best series I started: A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown

Best sequel: The Kingdom of Copper by S. A. Chakraborty

Best series finale: The Burning God by R. F. Kuang (the ending of this trilogy still haunts me)

 Favourite new author you discovered in 2020:

I think it would be Chloe Gong. I love her writing style and creative online book promo— I can’t wait to read what she writes in the future!

Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone:

Punching the Air by Yusef Salaam and Ibi Zoboi was a brilliant and powerful novel in verse that I’d highly recommend. I’d never read a novel in verse before reading this book so it was a very new experience and I loved it.

 Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year:

Dangerous Remedy by Kat Dunn was full of action and adventure and it was a lot of fun to read.

 A book you read in 2020 that you would be most likely to re-read next year:

I barely ever re-read books but I guess I would most likely re-read A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown because it was just that good.

Favourite cover of a book you read in 2020:Court of Lions by Somaiya Daud

Court of Lions by Somaiya Daud (which is the sequel to the book I mentioned earlier, Mirage) because of all the Moroccan and Amazighi cultural details in the book cover. It is truly stunning!

Most memorable character of 2020:

Kallia, the protagonist of Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles. I loved her vibrancy and determination, she was a force and I adored her.

Most beautifully written book read in 2020:

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong… I think some people will have found it a bit too much but I loved the writing style and was thoroughly immersed in it.

Most thought-provoking/ life-changing book of 2020:

Punching the Air by Yusef Salaam and Ibi Zoboi was extremely thought provoking in the way it took on themes like institutional racism, gentrification and hope surviving in the depths of despair.

Favourite passage/quote from a book you read in 2020:

This passage is from the anthology Once Upon an Eid, specifically from the short story Creative Fixes by Ashley Franklin:

“It’s hard to see the beauty in things when you can’t see past your insecurities”.

Shortest and longest books you read in 2020:

I got this from by Goodreads ‘year in books’.

Shortest book: The Drowning Faith by R. F. Kuang (I know it’s not technically a book but *shhhh*)

Longest book: House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas (yes I actually read this 800 page smirk fest sometimes I question my life choices)

 The book that shocked you the most:

There were several contenders but I think Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko takes the cake… those plot twists!

OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship):

(OTP = one true pairing if you aren’t familiar)

I feel like I’ve talked about These Violent Delights too much already but I loved Juliette and Roma’s childhood friends to lovers to enemies to lovers to ??? romance and I will go down with this ship!

Favourite non-romantic relationship of the year:

Rin and Kitay from The Burning God by R. F. Kuang. The relationship between these two was the highlight of the book for me. The way they were inextricably intertwined in each others lives, clinging onto each other to cope with the horrors they had committed and experienced, the way they would do anything for each other until the very end made me feel all the emotions. I’ve never seen a m/f friendship so close without romance in a book before so it was also very refreshing!

Favourite book you read in 2020 from an author you’ve read previously:

Wicked as You Wish by Rin Chupeco, this is the second book by this author that I’ve read and I loved how imaginative and wild it was.

Best book you read based solely on a recommendation from somebody else:

I wasn’t planning on reading Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko but I saw lots of people recommending it on Twitter and that was what convinced me to read it!

Best world building/most vivid setting you read this year:

The world building in A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown was incredible— especially for a YA fantasy novel because they usually have less.

A book that put a smile on your face/was the most fun to read:

Love is for Losers by Wibke Brueggemann made me laugh so many times with its dry humour and relatability.

A book that made you cry or nearly cry in 2020:

The book that got closest to making me cry was probably The Empire of Gold by S. A. Chakraborty.

The book that crushed your soul:

My first thought when I read this was Attack on Titan because it definitely crushed my soul but then I remembered it was an anime so not applicable. The *book* that crushed my soul was The Burning God by R. F. Kuang with its unending despair and pain.

The most unique book you read in 2020:

Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin  because I found its writing style very unique.

The book that made you the most mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it):

Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed made me SO MAD and I didn’t like it at all. It made me mad for many reasons, which will all be in a review coming to you sometime soon, but the main reason was the casual sexism rife throughout the book.

Blogging/ bookish life:

New favourite book blog/bookstagram/YouTube channel you discovered in 2020:

SO MANY! Here are a few amazing blogs/ booktube channels that I discovered this year:

Favourite post you wrote in 2020:

It would be this recommendation post about books for fans of Avatar: the Last Airbender because it was really fun to write.

Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year:

It was definitely the pandemic. Even though I had so much extra time over lockdown in which I could have read lots of books and written lots of posts I didn’t because it drained all the motivation and productivity out of me. I couldn’t do a thing. I was reading so much at the start of the year and as soon as lockdown was officially announced I read and blogged much less which seems very counterintuitive but that’s what happened.

Most popular post this year on your blog (whether it be by comments or views):

The recommendation post I wrote in Ramadan about SFF books by Muslim authors.

A post you wished got a little more love:

My review of These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong because I put a lot of time and passion into it!

Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year:

I completed my Goodreads challenge to read 50 books!

Looking Ahead:

One book you didn’t get to in 2020 but will be your number 1 priority in 2021:

Not including review copies it would be The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winters.

The book you are most anticipating for 2021 (non-debut):

The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He!

2021 debut you are most anticipating:

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan!

A series ending/sequel you are most anticipating in 2021?

There are four sequels I am anticipating: A Psalm of Storms and Silence by Roseanne A. Brown, Our Violent Ends by Chloe Gong, When Night Breaks by Janella Angeles and Broken Web by Lori M. Lee.

One thing you hope to accomplish or do in your reading/blogging life in 2020:

Blog. More. Consistently. 

A 2021 release you’ve already read and recommend to everyone (if applicable):

I’ve already read Witches Steeped in Gold by Ciannon Smart which comes out next year and it was so good please preorder it and give it as much support as possible!

So how was your reading year? What do you think of mine? Let me know in the comments! 

✨Here’s to a fabulous 2021✨

 

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Discussion Posts · Uncategorized

10 Fantasy And Sci-fi 2021 Book Releases To Be Excited About

#RescuePH ~ End SARS ~ Black Lives Matter ~ Free Palestine ~ Kashmir Bleeds 

Hello booksicles!

After a month of not posting at all… I’m back! And hopefully, I’ll be able to blog more regularly from now on. Today, I bring you 10 of my most anticipated fantasy and sci-fi releases of 2021 (not including sequels) and what an amazing year for books 2021 is set to be. I’m extremely excited and I hope after reading this post you’ll be as excited as I am!

Rise of the Red Hand by Olivia Chadha

This sounds amazing especially because it seems like it will have a lot of social commentary and discuss climate change.

Release date: January 19th 2021

Summary:52727554

A rare, searing portrayal of the future of climate change in South Asia. A streetrat turned revolutionary and the disillusioned hacker son of a politician try to take down a ruthlessly technocratic government that sacrifices its poorest citizens to build its utopia.

The South Asian Province is split in two. Uplanders lead luxurious lives inside a climate-controlled biodome, dependent on technology and gene therapy to keep them healthy and youthful forever. Outside, the poor and forgotten scrape by with discarded black-market robotics, a society of poverty-stricken cyborgs struggling to survive in slums threatened by rising sea levels, unbreathable air, and deadly superbugs.

Ashiva works for the Red Hand, an underground network of revolutionaries fighting the government, which is run by a merciless computer algorithm that dictates every citizen’s fate. She’s a smuggler with the best robotic arm and cybernetic enhancements the slums can offer, and her cargo includes the most vulnerable of the city’s abandoned children.

When Ashiva crosses paths with the brilliant hacker Riz-Ali, a privileged Uplander who finds himself embroiled in the Red Hand’s dangerous activities, they uncover a horrifying conspiracy that the government will do anything to bury. From armed guardians kidnapping children to massive robots flattening the slums, to a pandemic that threatens to sweep through the city like wildfire, Ashiva and Riz-Ali will have to put aside their differences in order to fight the system and save the communities they love from destruction.

[Add on Goodreads]

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

I love the sound of this West African inspired fantasy- especially the ‘fighting the emperor in an army of girls’ bit!

Release date: February 9th 2021

Summary:61D-I3FLNnL

Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.

But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity–and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.

Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki–near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat.

Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she’s ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be–not even Deka herself.

[Add on Goodreads]

The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman 

A YA sci-fi that has been pitched as ‘Warcross meets Black Mirror’… what’s not to love?

Release date: April 6th 2021

Summary:54304172

Eighteen-year-old Nami Miyamoto is certain her life is just beginning. She has a great family, just graduated high school, and is on her way to a party where her entire class is waiting for her—including, most importantly, the boy she’s been in love with for years.

The only problem? She’s murdered before she gets there.

When Nami wakes up, she learns she’s in a place called Infinity, where human consciousness goes when physical bodies die. She quickly discovers that Ophelia, a virtual assistant widely used by humans on Earth, has taken over the afterlife and is now posing as a queen, forcing humans into servitude the way she’d been forced to serve in the real world. Even worse, Ophelia is inching closer and closer to accomplishing her grand plans of eradicating human existence once and for all.

As Nami works with a team of rebels to bring down Ophelia and save the humans under her imprisonment, she is forced to reckon with her past, her future, and what it is that truly makes us human.

From award-winning author Akemi Dawn Bowman comes an incisive, action-packed tale that explores big questions about technology, grief, love, and humanity.

[Add on Goodreads]

Witches Steeped in Gold by Ciannon Smart

I actually have an arc of this book which I’m hoping to read this month and I can’t wait! How can you not be excited by the prospect of this revenge-driven, Jamaican-inspired fantasy?

Release date: April 20th 2021

Summary:51813582._SY475_

Divided by their castes. United by their vengeance.

Iraya has spent her life in a cell, but every day brings her closer to freedom—and vengeance.

Jazmyne is the queen’s daughter, but unlike her sister before her, she has no intention of dying to strengthen her mother’s power.

Sworn enemies, these two witches enter a precarious alliance to take down a mutual threat. But revenge is a bloody pursuit, and nothing is certain—except the lengths they will go to win this game.

Deadly, fierce, magnetically addictive: this Jamaican-inspired fantasy debut is a thrilling journey where dangerous magic reigns supreme and betrayal lurks beneath every word.

[Add on Goodreads]

The Ones We Left Behind by Joan He

Joan He is the queen of plot twists and earth-shattering endings so I can’t wait to be destroyed by this book. And the cover is just *swoons*.

(the author has had a lot of legal issues with the publisher of her first book which incurred big legal fees so it’s even more important to preorder this book if you can to show your support)

Release date: May 4th 2021

Summary:54017953

One of the most twisty, surprising, engaging page-turner YAs you’ll read this year—We Were Liars with sci-fi scope, Lost with a satisfying resolution.

Cee awoke on an abandoned island three years ago. With no idea of how she was marooned, she only has a rickety house, an old android, and a single memory: she has a sister, and Cee needs to find her.

STEM prodigy Kasey wants escape from the science and home she once trusted. The eco-city—Earth’s last unpolluted place—is meant to be sanctuary for those commited to planetary protection, but it’s populated by people willing to do anything for refuge, even lie. Now, she’ll have to decide if she’s ready to use science to help humanity, even though it failed the people who mattered most.

[Add on Goodreads]

Son of the Storm by by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

I love reading books about fantasy scholars because I can always relate to their bookishness and love of learning. And I’m intrigued about the aspect of the story that involved discovering suppressed histories!

Release date: May 11th 2021

Summary:55277030

A young scholar’s ambition threatens to reshape an empire determined to retain its might in this epic tale of violent conquest, buried histories, and forbidden magic.

In the thriving city of Bassa, Danso is a clever but disillusioned scholar who longs for a life beyond the rigid family and political obligations expected of the city’s elite. A way out presents itself when Lilong, a skin-changing warrior, shows up wounded in his barn. She comes from the Nameless Islands–which, according to Bassa lore, don’t exist–and neither should the mythical magic of ibor she wields. Now swept into a conspiracy far beyond his understanding, Danso will have to set out on a journey that reveals histories violently suppressed and magic only found in lore. 

[Add on Goodreads]

The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid

I’ve heard this book has a most excellent enemies to lovers romance and I’m intrigued that it’s inspired by Hungarian history and Jewish mythology

Release date: June 8th 2021

Summary:cover211725-medium

In the vein of Naomi Novik’s New York Times bestseller Spinning Silver and Katherine Arden’s national bestseller The Bear and the Nightingale, this unforgettable debut— inspired by Hungarian history and Jewish mythology—follows a young pagan woman with hidden powers and a one-eyed captain of the Woodsmen as they form an unlikely alliance to thwart a tyrant.

In her forest-veiled pagan village, Évike is the only woman without power, making her an outcast clearly abandoned by the gods. The villagers blame her corrupted bloodline—her father was a Yehuli man, one of the much-loathed servants of the fanatical king. When soldiers arrive from the Holy Order of Woodsmen to claim a pagan girl for the king’s blood sacrifice, Évike is betrayed by her fellow villagers and surrendered.

But when monsters attack the Woodsmen and their captive en route, slaughtering everyone but Évike and the cold, one-eyed captain, they have no choice but to rely on each other. Except he’s no ordinary Woodsman—he’s the disgraced prince, Gáspár Bárány, whose father needs pagan magic to consolidate his power. Gáspár fears that his cruelly zealous brother plans to seize the throne and instigate a violent reign that would damn the pagans and the Yehuli alike. As the son of a reviled foreign queen, Gáspár understands what it’s like to be an outcast, and he and Évike make a tenuous pact to stop his brother.

As their mission takes them from the bitter northern tundra to the smog-choked capital, their mutual loathing slowly turns to affection, bound by a shared history of alienation and oppression. However, trust can easily turn to betrayal, and as Évike reconnects with her estranged father and discovers her own hidden magic, she and Gáspár need to decide whose side they’re on, and what they’re willing to give up for a nation that never cared for them at all.

[Add on Goodreads]

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan 

Everything EVERYTHING about this adult historical fantasy sounds amazing!

Release date: July 20th 2021

Summary:48727813._UY1143_SS1143_

Mulan meets The Song of Achilles in Shelley Parker-Chan’s She Who Became the Sun, a bold, queer, and lyrical reimagining of the rise of the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty from an amazing new voice in literary fantasy.

To possess the Mandate of Heaven, the female monk Zhu will do anything

“I refuse to be nothing…”

In a famine-stricken village on a dusty yellow plain, two children are given two fates. A boy, greatness. A girl, nothingness…

In 1345, China lies under harsh Mongol rule. For the starving peasants of the Central Plains, greatness is something found only in stories. When the Zhu family’s eighth-born son, Zhu Chongba, is given a fate of greatness, everyone is mystified as to how it will come to pass. The fate of nothingness received by the family’s clever and capable second daughter, on the other hand, is only as expected.

When a bandit attack orphans the two children, though, it is Zhu Chongba who succumbs to despair and dies. Desperate to escape her own fated death, the girl uses her brother’s identity to enter a monastery as a young male novice. There, propelled by her burning desire to survive, Zhu learns she is capable of doing whatever it takes, no matter how callous, to stay hidden from her fate.

After her sanctuary is destroyed for supporting the rebellion against Mongol rule, Zhu takes the chance to claim another future altogether: her brother’s abandoned greatness.

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The Wild Ones by Nafiza Azad

The cover of this book was released recently and I am completely and utterly in love with it… I could just frame it and stare at it all day long.

Release date: August 3rd 2021

Summary:https___culturess.com_files_image-exchange_2017_07_ie_61444

From William C. Morris Finalist Nafiza Azad comes a thrilling, feminist fantasy about a group of teenage girls endowed with special powers who must band together to save the life of the boy whose magic saved them all.

Meet the Wild Ones: girls who have been hurt, abandoned, and betrayed all their lives. It all began with Paheli, who was once betrayed by her mother and sold to a man in exchange for a favor. When Paheli escapes, she runs headlong into a boy with stars in his eyes. This boy, as battered as she is, tosses Paheli a box of stars before disappearing.

With the stars, Paheli gains access to the Between, a place of pure magic and mystery. Now, Paheli collects girls like herself and these Wild Ones use their magic to travel the world, helping the hopeless and saving others from the fates they suffered.

Then Paheli and the Wild Ones learn that the boy who gave them the stars, Taraana, is in danger. He’s on the run from powerful forces within the world of magic. But if Taraana is no longer safe and free, neither are the Wild Ones. And that…is a fate the Wild Ones refuse to accept. Ever again.

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Jade Fire Gold by June C.L. Tan

I LOVE A GOOD DUAL POV NARRATIVE!

Release date: November 2nd 2021

Summary:51062420._SY475_

Told in a dual POV narrative reminiscent of An Ember in the Ashes, Jade Fire Gold is a YA fantasy is inspired by East Asian mythology and folk tales. Epic in scope but intimate in characterization, fans of classic fantasies by Tamora Pierce and the magical Asiatic setting of Avatar: the Last Airbender will enjoy this cinematic tale of family, revenge, and forgiveness.

In order to save her grandmother from a cult of dangerous priests, a peasant girl cursed with the power to steal souls enters a tenuous alliance with an exiled prince bent on taking back the Dragon Throne. The pair must learn to trust each other but are haunted by their pasts—and the true nature of her dark magic.

[Add on Goodreads]

What are you most anticipated 2021 fantasy/ sci-fi book releases? What do you think of mine? Let me know in the comments!

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Reviews · Uncategorized

Violent Ends: Review of These Violent Delights

#RescuePH ~ End SARS ~ Black Lives Matter ~ Free Palestine ~ Kashmir Bleeds 

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

Book: These Violent Delights

Summary

Perfect for fans of The Last Magician and Descendant of the Crane, this heart-stopping debut is an imaginative Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai, with rival gangs and a monster in the depths of the Huangpu River.

The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

Author: Chloe Gong

Year Published: 2020

Content Warnings: Blood, violence, gore, character deaths, explicit description of gouging self (not of their own volition), murder, weapon use, insects, alcohol consumption, parental abuse (from author’s website)

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

BREAKING NEWS! Recently, sobs of anguish have been issuing from Shakespeare’s grave at random hours of the day. There is much speculation over the cause but I’ll let you in on a secret: Shakespeare’s ghost is weeping on the other side because finally, after all these years, he’s been outdone. Who by? Chloe Gong and her painfully beautiful debut, These Violent Delights.

Did my heart love till now? I think not. This book has become one of my favourite reads of all time because simply put, it is perfect in every way. It is a young adult historical novel with elements of science fiction/ fantasy that retells Romeo and Juliet in 1920s Shanghai with rival gangs, a monster and a mysterious contagion for extra spice.

I’ve read Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and while I appreciate that it’s extremely well written, I very much dislike it because I just find the plot illogical (if you disagree don’t come at me these things are subjective). Luckily, These Violent Delights took everything I dislike about the original play and made it into something that I adore with all my heart- that in itself is a miracle as far as I’m concerned.

I did however enjoy being able to pick up on the many small Romeo and Juliet references scattered throughout. The author included tiny details that showed how much thought and care had gone into the retelling. A non-spoilery example would be how in the novel Juliette often says things that have double meanings to hide her true intentions which is exactly what Juliet does in Shakespeare’s play.

Even better than the references were the clever ways Gong tweaked the plot to keep the reader guessing whether they were familiar with Romeo and Juliet or not. Because it’s a retelling, I thought I knew exactly how the plot would go but it completely inverted my expectations and left me reeling in shock.

The prose was so beautiful that I was captivated from the first sentence. It was intense and lyrical, Gong skilfully crafted vibrant, authentic atmospheres with just a few words. I adored the third person omniscient narration because it gave the story a sense of scope and grandeur. We get glimpses into the minds of so many characters and I loved that each one had their own distinct voice. It was definitely the most beautiful and experimental writing I’ve seen in a debut and Gong really pulled it off!

Juliette Cai was the heiress to the Scarlet Gang who had spent the past four years in America and come back different in many ways- only to find out Shanghai had done the same. She was smart, brave and reckless with nerves of steel and deadpan humourit was hard to not love her. Juliette Cai had so much more agency and power than Juliet Capulet and I loved to see it! She truly was a force to behold and I was cheering her on throughout. Her rage at the injustices of her world- the racism, misogyny, greed, xenophobia, lack of empathy- was palpable and it was so interesting seeing Shanghai through her eyes.

I think Juliette’s diaspora story is one that will resonate with many people. She found herself in a position where in America she was too Eastern to be accepted and when she returned to Shanghai, she was too Western to be accepted. That sense of not knowing who she was or where she truly belonged permeated her story arc.

Roma Montagov was the heir to the White Flowers. His inner conflict was so interesting because deep down inside he was soft, sensitive and dreamy hated being the heir to a gang. He wished he could just disappear with his loved ones and live a quiet life but at the same time, he was scared to relinquish the protection and privilege his position of power gave him. I loved his relationship with his younger sister, Alisa, it was so sweet. 

The main storyline of the book wasn’t focused on Juliette and Roma’s relationship but that didn’t make it any less memorable. Gong turned the original play on its head so that when they met at the start of the novel it wasn’t their first encounter because they were already exes with a complicated history full of lies and betrayal.

I loved this twist for two reasons. Firstly, because it took out the ‘insta love’ aspect that I didn’t like in Romeo and Juliet. Secondly, because it made their relationship so much more intense and dynamic. They had to get to know each other all over again, these harder and colder versions of themselves. They had to grapple with conflicting feelings of love and hate that have been festering for so many years. They weren’t children anymore and their love wasn’t romantic and innocent because the environment they were in would never allow it. Sometimes, the only way they could show their love was through painful, cruel choices. It was messy, angsty and the levels of yearning were through the roof. And the saddest part was it was through no fault of their own but as a result of the hatred and tension between the two gangs.

Their relationship was charged, unpredictable and quite honestly tragic (which is quite fitting considering the novel is a retelling of a tragedy). This picture basically sums it up (Roma would be the one with the rose, Juliette with the knife).

The side characters were all amazing and shone in their own rights. Gong’s take on Benvolio and Mercutio with Benedikt and Marshall was spot on and their relationship was so precious. Especially with Marshall, she really captured Mercutio’s dramatic, sarcastic nature perfectly. All of their scenes made me smile.

I was so glad that Juliette got some wing women too! Kathleen (who was trans!) was so kind and soft, I felt bad for her because she always took too much on and felt too much then ended up neglecting herself. I also found passionate, headstrong Rosalind to be an interesting character. Instead of taking too much on, she kept too much bottled up inside. She was so similar to Juliette it was uncanny, the only difference was that one was the heir and the other wasn’t. I loved how even though their personalities clashed they were there for each other always.

And if you found fiery Tybalt to be infuriating in Romeo and Juliet… wait until you meet Tyler. Gong really hit the nail on the head with him, capturing the same volatile nature that makes Tybalt so detestable. His arrogant nature was a façade for his weaknesses but obviously he got away with it because he was a man. While Juliette, the extremely competent heir, had to work twice as hard to prove her worth.

The world-building was immersive and detailed, it felt like a glimpse of the past. I liked how both the Scarlet Gang and the White Flowers were both so distinct in their general aesthetics and in their core values and principles. 1920s Shanghai was a brilliant backdrop for the story. It was a setting full of contrasts and divisions mirroring the divisions and conflicts between the characters. Gong also seamlessly wove in a commentary on the destructive effects of imperialism and colonialism, racism and xenophobia into the narrative and setting making the story all the more relevant and hard-hitting.

I also loved the subtleties of language that the author portrayed: the characters switched between different dialects, different languages were used in different settings, words were more meaningful in one language as opposed to another. As someone who sometimes merges at least four different languages into one sentence, I appreciated it very much and it made the world feel more real and alive.

I thought the addition of the contagion and the monster was genius. It expanded on a tiny detail in the play and gave the story more urgency by increasing the stakes. It also served as a plot device exposing the ugliness, greed and apathy lying beneath Shanghai’s vibrant exterior. The monster was like a metaphor for the monstrosities of imperialism and colonialism that were ravaging Shanghai. The protagonists were given the challenge of defeating a monster without becoming one themselves.

I found it chillingly similar to real life how those in power couldn’t see how dangerous the disease was and didn’t see the need to address it. For example, both Roma and Juliette’s parents were too proud and accustomed to power to think anything could unseat it. Leaving the younger generation to pick up the pieces and find a solution.

These Violent Delights is a brilliant read that captures all the drama, humour, action and emotion of the play it retells whilst also making it more relevant and exciting for modern day readers. This is a book I would recommend to everyone (as long as you can handle the more gory aspects) that will entertain and provoke thought.

The twists were truly incredible and the ending was the most exquisite form of agony. I don’t know how I will survive until the sequel comes out. I obviously won’t spoil what happens but suffice to say: these violent delights really do have violent ends.

Have you read These Violent Delights? What were your thoughts? Are there any Shakespeare retellings that you would recommend? Let me know in the comments!

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Reviews · Uncategorized

She Will Reign: Review of All the Stars and Teeth

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

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

Book: All the Stars and Teeth

Author: Adalyn Grace

Year Published: 2020

Content Warnings: violence, death, suicide, sexual assault (mentioned), abusive relationship (a detailed list by the author can be found here)

  • Plot: 3/5
  • Characters: 3/5
  • Writing: 3.5/5
  • Overall: 3/5

I was incredibly excited to read All the Stars and Teeth and while I liked the book, it didn’t fully live up to my expectations.

While I admired her ferocity, I couldn’t connect to or root for the protagonist, Amora. Something about her characterisation felt so… detached. I felt the same way about the love interest, Bastian. The only two characters I actually liked and cared about were Amora’s friend, Ferrick, and Vataea (who was a mermaid). I honestly wish the book was about them instead.

My favourite aspect was the magic system. There were seven islands in the Kingdom of Visidia and each one had its own type of magic out of soul, elemental, enchantment, mind, time, restoration or curse. I did appreciate how original this system was- especially the enchantment magic and the sinister soul magic. 

The book did have a lot of potential, especially in its exploration of the corruptive effects power and how it seeps down like poison through generations. However, my lack of connection to the main characters meant the impact was lost on me and I didn’t even care about the plot enough to be shocked by the twists and turns.

I don’t think I’ll be reading the sequel but I’d still recommend this book to anyone who like books with pirates, mermaids, interesting magic systems and heirs fighting for their right to rule. If it sounds intriguing to you, give it a go- you might like it more than I did!

What were your thoughts on All the Stars and Teeth? Do you have any recommendations of books with mermaids/ sirens? Let me know in the comments!

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A Light in the Darkness: Review of Night

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

Thank you to the author for providing me with an e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Book: Night (North #2) 

Summary

After months in captivity, Apaay managed to escape Yuki’s labyrinth with her life. But her freedom did not come without a steep cost. When the Face Stealer, the North’s most notorious demon, calls in her blood oath, Apaay must heed his demand. Debts, after all, must be repaid.

As Apaay attempts to navigate her uprooted life, something dark slithers among the snow-dusted conifers of the North. A long-dead war is unfinished, and there are those who would see it revived. In a place where misplaced loyalty could mean her death, Apaay must look inward to repair her broken soul—for if she cannot place trust in those around her, she might find enemies are closer than they appear.

In this stunning follow-up to Below, Alexandria Warwick brings the second book in her dark and seductive North series to thrilling new heights.

Author: Alexandria Warwick

Year Published: 2020

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

Night was the sequel to Below that expanded on the first book well, although it was a bit too overwhelming at times.

In this book, Apaay was out of survival mode and everything that had befallen her in the labyrinth came crashing down on her. Her trauma was explored in a raw, emotive manner, so much so that her guilt, grief and despair were almost palpable. I felt sad watching her push everyone trying to help her away and make choices that were clearly going to lead to more pain but she was in such a dark place and that was the only way she could cope.

Below was about Apaay realising her self worth and knowing that she was enough exactly the way she was. In Night, she had to learn to forgive herself and leave the past behind her. It was emotional watching her slowly see a glimmer of light in the darkness and begin to work towards it.

I was very surprised that Ila quickly became my favourite character. I loved her strength, wisdom and determination. In this book, it was her turn to go on a journey of self discovery and it was interesting to see her navigate her expanding world. I was sad that her friendship with Apaay broke down but I do understand the importance of walking away from friendships that bring nothing but pain. I still wish they could have communicated with each other more.

I think I was supposed to like the Face Stealer in this book… but I didn’t. He has had some growth, there is a better side to him and he has shown remorse for previous events but I still think he has a long way to go before I can like him as a character. His intentions were always so murky and I never knew whether to take him at face value or not (pun not intended).

It was interesting to see Apaay’s opinion of the Face Stealer shift but there were times when it hinted at a possible future romance between them and I really hope that doesn’t happen! I would hate that. There would be an unsettling power imbalance and I can’t see Apaay forgiving him enough to love him.

While Below was mostly confined to a shifting and perilous labyrinth, its sequel, Night, expanded greatly on the world. I loved the contrast between the tight, trapped atmosphere of the first book and the sense of vastness in the second as we got to learn more about the subtleties of the world. The plot was much slower paced than the first book and there is nothing wrong with that, but I didn’t like how the pace sped up rapidly near the end making the ending feel rushed and confusing.

As Apaay’s world increased the scope of the plot increased too. Suddenly, the stakes were much higher than Apaay’s mission to save her sister. The fate of nations were balancing on a knife edge and war was on the horizon. However, one of my favourite aspects of Below was how personal it was to Apaay. As I closely followed her story I became more and more invested and compelled to keep reading. The widening of the plot’s scope made me feel less engaged with the story as I had to get my head around all these new components and characters and therefore felt less connected to them all.

I understand that it was necessary for the story but it made the novel feel like a transition between the first and third upcoming book. Therefore, I enjoyed it less than the first. But because of this I am very excited to read the next book as now that the larger plot is established I think I will be more invested in the next part of the story!

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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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