Adult Books, Diverse Books

The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah – ARC Review

Thank you to Orbit Books and Netgalley for this arc in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Neither here nor there, but long ago…

Loulie al-Nazari is the Midnight Merchant: a criminal who, with the help of her jinn bodyguard, hunts and sells illegal magic. When she saves the life of a cowardly prince, she draws the attention of his powerful father, the sultan, who blackmails her into finding an ancient lamp that has the power to revive the barren land—at the cost of sacrificing all jinn.

With no choice but to obey or be executed, Loulie journeys with the sultan’s oldest son to find the artifact. Aided by her bodyguard, who has secrets of his own, they must survive ghoul attacks, outwit a vengeful jinn queen, and confront a malicious killer from Loulie’s past. And, in a world where story is reality and illusion is truth, Loulie will discover that everything—her enemy, her magic, even her own past—is not what it seems, and she must decide who she will become in this new reality.

This book has already become one of my favourite reads this year. I loved the story and the characters so much. 1001 Arabian Nights are some of my favourite stories and I loved how Chelsea wove those stories with her own twist into the main arc of the story. We see the story of Scheherazade and the Sultan, the 40 thieves and more and it just made me so nostalgic as I remembered reading them when I was younger and especially being told these stories in urdu by my grandparents.

The storytelling had me completely hooked and sucked into the story and I could truly imagine the story in my head as I read. The writing is beautiful and has such a great flow that you just want to continue reading even as your eyes are literally closing. (Yes this did happen to me several times as I read.)

These characters have my whole heart, Loulie and Mazen were such wonerful characters. So different from each other but they had such great chemistry together. Qadir fast became a favourite, he gave me tired dad chasing after his hyper daughter vibes with Loulie and I am here for it. I really loved seeing their relationship develop thoughout the story. Aisha was a surprise and even though I was wary about her, she still won me over. All four of them had some great banter and I especially loved when they were sassy and sarcastic with each other.

However my favourite thing was that Mazen was the single sunshine amongst this group of grumpy travellers. All he wants is to see the world and hear all the stories and somehow he gets dragged into this quest with Loulie and is completely out of his depth in every way but still perseveres. His older brother Omar is the leader of the 40 thieves and yet Mazen can barely swing a sword. It was an interesting contrast to see that between the brothers. When we first meet Mazen he is escaping the palace in search of a storyteller that has come to the city and that causes a domino effect where he ends up fighting ghouls in the desert with Loulie and the others. I loved his character development throughout the story and how we see him change and become braver, though I do think he is brave in a different way, and always the optimist that also showed the others that they were more than the labels given to them.

Loulie is a thief and con artist and very good at her job, so much so that she has created a persona for herself which quickly becomes famous and results in the sultan sending her on the quest. Her story arc was so heartbreaking to read and you can see why she does not trust people and only relies on herself but I loved seeing her slowly learn to trust the others as the story progresses.

Throughout the story through the events and the wonderful short stories within the story we learn of the history of the world and how and why the jinns are hunted and killed, this is lead by Omar  and his thieves. It was such an interesting backstory and honestly I could read a whole book about the jinns before they were almost exterminated by humans.

This book is fast paced and action packed we are thrown right into the story from the very beginning and we slowly learn more as the characters learn more. Once I got about halfway I could barely breathe because the revelations and the plot twists left me screaming! I was stressed and absolutely terrified for these characters, the neat death experiences one after the other and it did not stop until the very end. I absolutely need the next book immediately after that ending and I don’t know how I will wait a whole year for that sequel.

Diverse Books, YA Books

My Mechanical Romance by Alexene Farol Follmuth – ARC Review

This book has fast become one of my favourite books ever!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Nerds are so hot.
Especially battle robot building nerds.

Bel would rather die than think about the future. College apps? You’re funny. Extracurriculars? Not a chance. But when she accidentally reveals a talent for engineering at school, she’s basically forced into joining the robotics club. Even worse? All the boys ignore Bel—and Neelam, the only other girl on the team, doesn’t seem to like her either.

Enter Mateo Luna, captain of the club, who recognizes Bel as a potential asset—until they start butting heads. Bel doesn’t care about Nationals, while Teo cares too much. But as the nights of after-school work grow longer and longer, Bel and Teo realize they’ve built more than just a combat-ready robot for the championship: they’ve made space for each other and themselves.

I did not know what to expect when I started reading but this book is utterly phenomenal and I loved every single second. But first can I mention that for the first time ever, I saw a character that had my name, MY NAME! I have never read a book with a character that has the same name as me and she was a STEM girl!

Take up your own space, Bel. Don’t let other people tread over it.

This book has my whole heart, it discusses all the things I am passionate about and we get all the nerdy banter too! Through Bel and Teo we see how misogyny creates barriers for women to succeed in STEM careers and how much harder they have to work to get even a tenth of the recognition that the men get. How Neelam is constantly dismissed and belittled, how she is made to feel inferior to Teo and how hard she has had to fight for her place and even then her ideas are ignored. Even the teacher and how his language changes depending on whether he’s speaking to the girls or the boys. How this is so normalised that speaking against is seen as making a fuss. I felt this all deep in my soul.

You don’t have to make the world perfect just so people will love you.

Another really great discussion was how as teenagers when we barely understand ourselves, we are expected to have our whole life planned out and that it is seen as failure if you haven’t. The pressure that we and the adults put on ourselves to know what we want to do and yet so many of us just don’t and that should be okay too. It was also great to see how socioeconomic factors affects how “prepared” a young person is by 18 to have their lives mapped out. If we have been denied opportunities and a better education because we can’t afford it then how is it our fault that our choices are limited and we don’t know what it is we want to do. Combine that with expectations from parents and it can be very stressful for the person. I loved seeing this all discussed in the story without it becoming too heavy.

If I want the world to recognise what I am truly capable of, I have to show them.

I loved Bel from the moment we meet her but Teo took me a few chapters to really like, he seems like the usual arrogant boy who thinks he deserves all the special treatment but as the story progresses we see that he isn’t actually like that, though he does have some prejudices towards how he treats Neelam. I loved how much he changes and grows throughout the story and learns to let others in and help him and that he can trust other people and even how he views Neelam.

I loved seeing Bel grow throughout the story too as she finally finds something she truly enjoys and is passionate about and how she fights for it. I also loved the conversation between her and Neelam near the end of the story where we finally see why Neelam was hostile towards Bel at first and they learn to understand each other better. I also loved seeing a teacher that truly saw Bel’s potential and guided her without shaming or guilting and spoke to her respectfully, we all need teachers like this in our lives.

I think about how much I want them all to succeed in life; to go far, as far as possible, until every girl who succeeds is a beacon of light for all the others.

One of my favourite things was seeing the female friendships and women supporting women. How Bel and her friends truly want the best for each other and don’t try to stab each other in the back to progress themselves because there is space for all of them. I just truly  loved that we see this in the story, it brought me so much joy.

This book is absolutely incredible and once I started I could not put it down reading well into the night. I loved these characters and that epilogue was everything! I really hope we get to see more of them in the future.

Adult Books, Diverse Books

The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake – ARC Review

Thank you to Tor Books for this arc in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

The Alexandrian Society, caretakers of lost knowledge from the greatest civilizations of antiquity, are the foremost secret society of magical academicians in the world. Those who earn a place among the Alexandrians will secure a life of wealth, power, and prestige beyond their wildest dreams, and each decade, only the six most uniquely talented magicians are selected to be considered for initiation.

Enter the latest round of six: Libby Rhodes and Nico de Varona, unwilling halves of an unfathomable whole, who exert uncanny control over every element of physicality. Reina Mori, a naturalist, who can intuit the language of life itself. Parisa Kamali, a telepath who can traverse the depths of the subconscious, navigating worlds inside the human mind. Callum Nova, an empath easily mistaken for a manipulative illusionist, who can influence the intimate workings of a person’s inner self. Finally, there is Tristan Caine, who can see through illusions to a new structure of reality—an ability so rare that neither he nor his peers can fully grasp its implications.

When the candidates are recruited by the mysterious Atlas Blakely, they are told they will have one year to qualify for initiation, during which time they will be permitted preliminary access to the Society’s archives and judged based on their contributions to various subjects of impossibility: time and space, luck and thought, life and death. Five, they are told, will be initiated. One will be eliminated. The six potential initiates will fight to survive the next year of their lives, and if they can prove themselves to be the best among their rivals, most of them will.

Most of them.

This book blew my mind! Every single time I thought I knew what was happening a plot twist came and left me reeling! This book is very character driven and we get to see the point of views of all six characters. Each and every character is absolute chaos and I love them all so much. My favourites however are Nico and Libby, I absolutely loved their dynamic.

No one here is good. Knowledge is carnage. You can’t have it without sacrifice.

This book follows six people who have some incredible abilities as well as being some of the smartest minds on the planet. I loved every single one of them, they’re all so unique and each have their own story within the main story of them fighting for a spot to be part of the society. They each have their own strength and weaknesses and they have to learn to work together despite not trusting each other. When they get to the decision of who is going to be eliminated it was so interesting to see it from each of their point of views.

Really there was nothing more dangerous than a woman who knew her own worth.

Libby was one of my favourites because although she is incredibly smart and very capable, she has anxiety which shows in how she is constantly needing to prove herself and the way she fidgets all the time and it was so relatable. Nico is so caring and loyal to his friends and I loved seeing his friendship with Gideon. I also loved Parisa and how confident and smart she is and uses everything to her advantage even the fact that she incredibly beautiful which always makes others underestimate her. Tristan’s ability was also really interesting and one of my favourite scenes is of him and Libby working together to protect the library. Callum was one who I didn’t like until the end which honestly surprised me.

Either you believe you’re worthy or you don’t, end of story.

Right from the beginning I was completely hooked and stayed up late at night to read just one more chapter because I just needed to know everything! Every time I thought I had figured things out, I was left reeling because I did not in fact figure things out and it was such a wild ride! There is a lot of science in this and when I’m reading I felt like I was sitting in class with them listening to the smart kids talk about advanced science that had me feeling like I was not as smart as school had convinced me I was.

But princesses can be monstrous at times

I loved reading this book and the interactions between the characters especially Nico and Libby and their bickering but also knowing each other so well. The last part of the book were we finally start to see all the pieces fitting together and figuring out what everything has been leading up to was so satisfying and it had me screaming. Then we get to the end which was intense and an absolute wild ride and now I am dying in anticipation for the sequel because I need to know what will happen next.

Diverse Books, YA Books

The Girl Who Fell Beneath The Sea by Axie Oh – ARC Review

Thank you, Hodder and Stoughton, for sending me this arc in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Deadly storms have ravaged Mina’s homeland for generations. Floods sweep away entire villages, while bloody wars are waged over the few remaining resources. Her people believe the Sea God, once their protector, now curses them with death and despair. In an attempt to appease him, each year a beautiful maiden is thrown into the sea to serve as the Sea God’s bride, in the hopes that one day the “true bride” will be chosen and end the suffering.

Many believe that Shim Cheong, the most beautiful girl in the village—and the beloved of Mina’s older brother Joon—may be the legendary true bride. But on the night Cheong is to be sacrificed, Joon follows Cheong out to sea, even knowing that to interfere is a death sentence. To save her brother, Mina throws herself into the water in Cheong’s stead.

Swept away to the Spirit Realm, a magical city of lesser gods and mythical beasts, Mina seeks out the Sea God, only to find him caught in an enchanted sleep. With the help of a mysterious young man named Shin—as well as a motley crew of demons, gods and spirits—Mina sets out to wake the Sea God and bring an end to the killer storms once and for all.

But she doesn’t have much time: A human cannot live long in the land of the spirits. And there are those who would do anything to keep the Sea God from waking… 

I was instantly drawn to this book because of the absolutely beautiful cover and the story is just as beautiful. This story takes place under the sea in the spirit realm and Mina has to try to end the curse that is not only causing destruction to her home but also in the spirit realm.

This book is magical and enchanting and honestly I was not expecting the story to be like this but I ended up loving it anyways. I love the world we get to see and how the culture and traditions are shown in the story and how those in power may not be the right people for the job and then there are others who would sacrifice everything to help those around them.

I loved all the characters and especially Mina. She is brave and kind and caring and smart. She does not stop doing what is right because it is difficult or because she is scared. She makes the sacrifices again and again to save and help those she loves. She is also reckless at times and often putting herself in danger but is helped by her friends that she makes in the spirit realm. I just really loved her and the relationships she builds with others. Her love for her brother, so that he isn’t separated from the woman he loves, she takes her place instead and that alone is a huge sacrifice and yet she continues to be caring and kind and helping others even putting her life at risk for them. It doesn’t make her bitter and angry and I really loved seeing that.

Shin was a bit more of a mysterious character and it took me a little longer to warm up to him but by the end when we learn more about him I loved him too. I loved his friendships and how he protects everyone. I think my main issue with the book is that the romance felt a little rushed and I wasn’t completely sold on how suddenly they developed these feelings for each other but I was rooting for them by the end.

I loved the discussions around fate and whether we can change the fate that others decide for us and I loved seeing the women who were sent as brides before given more thought. Mina thinks about how they didn’t have a choice and whether they wanted this for themselves. She also has a huge decision to make in this story, whether she will tie her fate to the sea god or follow her heart. And I really loved going on this journey with her.

This book is whimsical and beautifully written and I highly recommend everyone read it!

Diverse Books, YA Books

The Ivory Key by Akshaya Raman – ARC Review

Thank you to netgalley and Hot Key Books for sending me an arc in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Vira is desperate to get out of her mother’s shadow and establish her legacy as a revered queen of Ashoka. But with the country’s only quarry running out of magic–a precious resource that has kept Ashoka safe from conflict–she can barely protect her citizens from the looming threat of war. And if her enemies discover this, they’ll stop at nothing to seize the last of the magic.

Vira’s only hope is to find a mysterious object of legend: the Ivory Key, rumored to unlock a new source of magic. But in order to infiltrate enemy territory and retrieve it, she must reunite with her siblings, torn apart by the different paths their lives have taken. Each of them has something to gain from finding the Ivory Key–and even more to lose if they fail. Ronak plans to sell it to the highest bidder in exchange for escape from his impending political marriage. Kaleb, falsely accused of assassinating the former maharani needs it to clear his name. And Riya, a runaway who cut all family ties, wants the Key to prove her loyalty to the rebels who want to strip the nobility of its power.

They must work together to survive the treacherous journey. But with each sibling harboring secrets and their own agendas, the very thing that brought them together could tear apart their family–and their world–for good. 

This book has become a favourite read for me! I fell in love from the moment I started reading. We get the point of view of all four siblings which I loved because it gave each of them so much depth but it never felt like there was too many views to keep track of. Each voice was distinct and I loved seeing their internal monologue especially compared to how the others perceived them and how they saw themselves.

Memories only have power over us if we let them.

I love all four siblings and how the dysfunctional sibling relationship was one of my favourite parts of the book. I love seeing sibling relationships in books and I wish we got to see more of these. We see that they used to be really close but as they got older and their circumstances changed they drifted apart but now they have to work together to save their home but they each have their own motives too that would mean betraying their siblings.

I loved seeing how they each had their own strength and weaknesses, and they knew that they had to trust in the one who had the skills to complete the task which meant they had to start trusting each other again. One of my favourite things was watching them bicker over the smallest things which was so funny and reminded me of me and my sisters when we were younger.

“Would it kill you to act as though you liked people?” “I don’t,” Ronak said. “And I see no reason to pretend.”

This story starts with the siblings alone and they have to put past differences aside and come together to work together and complete the quest. It gave me Indiana Jones vibes but make it desi! I love that this quest was connected to their parents and that they never truly gave up hope in being able to work out the truth of their history.

I don’t think anyone loses any part of themselves just because they embrace another aspect of their identity.

I also loved how immersed in desi culture we were. The clothes and architecture to the customs and traditions. It was so great to see. I especially loved all the food! Food that I had grown up with eating and had my mouth watering at the barest mention of kachori’s and so much more!

This book was such a wonderful read and I cannot wait for the sequel especially after the way things ended in this book! I highly recommend picking up this book, it had me hooked and I was up late into the night reading.