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.

Adult Books, Books by Muslim Authors, The Daevabad Trilogy

The River of Silver by S.A. Chakraborty – Audiobook Review

I have been dying for more Daevabad content ever since I finished The Empire of Gold and Shannon certainly delivered! This book was everything I wanted and more!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

A prospective new queen joins a court whose lethal history may overwhelm her own political savvy…

An imprisoned royal from a fallen dynasty and a young woman wrenched from her home cross paths in an enchanted garden…

A pair of scouts stumble upon a secret in a cursed winter wood that will turn over their world…

Now together in one place, these stories of Daevabad enrich a world already teeming with magic and wonder. From Manizheh’s first steps towards rebellion to adventures that take place after The Empire of Gold, this is a must-have collection for those who can’t get enough of Nahri, Ali, and Dara and all that unfolded around them.

TW: suicidal thoughts, attempted suicide, self harm, torture, attempted rape

I am completely enthralled by the Daevabad trilogy and so it was bittersweet when I finished The Empire of Gold but then Shannon blessed us with these stories. Stories of love and hope and even the darker parts were balanced with lighter elements. A perfect collection to see so much more of the world and characters in these stories.

So first about the audiobook itself, I love listening to the trilogy and was so glad that the same narrator was narrating this too. I love listening to her and how she brings the story to life. I think that even if you aren’t a huge fan of audiobooks this will be okay to listen to especially as we are already familiar with the story and characters.

Some stories Shannon had shared before on her website so I was familiar with some but some were brand new and I especially loved Duriya and Hatset’s stories. How these women carved a place for themselves in a world that barely made space for them. That they showed strength and bravery and fighting for something better. It was amazing to see these glimpses into the past, the younger versions of the characters we all know and see how they may have been different and what may have caused them to become the characters we see in the books.

My favourite stories were of course the ones of Alizayd, the scene we see set just before The Kingdom of Copper was so funny and we get more of a glimpse of him using his abilities and just more of him trying not to implode when girls throw themselves at him which is always hilarious to read.

But my favourite scene was of course that last story that Shannon had vaguely hinted at before and it was everything I wanted and more. It was such a beautiful story about love and taking that step to be vulnerable with someone you love even if it terrifies you. It’s about trust and respecting each others decisions and boundaries and it is about building something on a strong foundation of friendship and care.

It was the perfect story to end on especially as this is the last story we will be getting of these characters and we end on a note of hope and joy and love.

I have already listened to it multiple times especially that last story and I know that I will be coming back to these stories time and time again.

My reviews for the trilogy can be found here: The City of Brass, The Kingdom of Copper, The Empire of Gold

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.

Adult Books, Non Fiction Books

Period. It’s About Bloody Time by Emma Barnett – Book Review

Okay so I only picked this up because there was recently a readalong hosted for the book and there were rave reviews. I was skeptical because the author has said some problematic things in the past and honestly this book left me a screaming ball of rage.

Rating: 0.5 out of 5.

What the book is about: (apparently)

At a time when women around the world are raising their voices in the fight for equality, there is still one taboo where there remains a deafening silence: periods. Period. is an agenda-setting manifesto to remove the stigma and myths continuing to surround the female body. Bold and unapologetic, Emma Barnett is on a crusade to ignite conversation among women–and men–everywhere.

This is yet another white western feminist book that speaks about how enlightened they are and how their view is the correct view. The condescending manner in which she spoke about women of colour and inaccurate religious beliefs and cultural practices just left me incredibly angry. How are you going to write this book which is supposed to be empowering while perpetuating harmful stereotypes and giving false information which people can use as ammunition against people of colour. Utterly disgusting that this was even published and not once questioned as to where she got this information.

She did not in fact list any sources anywhere in the book about where she got the stats she shared or any other information and yet somehow it was published and people are raving about it? Why? This book isn’t even ground breaking, nothing she says is new or even remotely helpful. It’s a vague, trying way too hard to be funny (when she’s not) and just her screaming DON’T BE EMBARRASED SPEAK ABOUT PERIODS. Yes, Emma, but how? Was there anything in there to suggest ways in which to bring up the topic in different situations? Was there any resources for people to go and look up for help? Absolutely nothing. Just her screaming about how we shouldn’t be ashamed of it anymore. So what even was the point of this utterly useless book?

“Factions of Islam believe women shouldn’t touch the Quran, pray or have sexual intercourse with their husbands while menstruating. Muslim women are similarly deemed impure and must be limited in terms of contaminating their faith or their men.”

Who told her this? Because she didn’t learn that from us. The utter rage I felt reading this paragraph and her wording of it. Yes, we do not pray or fast or do certain acts of worship. No it is not because we are impure. No it is not because we are less nor do we find it oppressive. Not having to wake up before sunrise when we are on our period to pray is a blessing from Allah, He gives us a break so we can rest, because we sure as hell aren’t going to get that same level of care and understanding from anyone else. We are also not considered impure. It is a state of ritual impurity, the Quran is sacred and we have to be in a state of ritual purity to touch the Arabic Quran, this is regardless of whether you are a man or a woman. There are several things which cause both men and women to be in a state of ritual impurity and yet she makes it sound like this is an oppression for women. Please calm down with your fake woke attitude we do not need nor want to be ‘saved’ by you. Throughout the book in fact she only ever mentions religion in a negative way, the same goes for any mentions of cultural practices different to her own or people of colour.

She repeatedly tells us that she is educated and living in one of the most advanced societies on earth and yet her opinions show her lack of knowledge of intersectional feminism and even the ability to see that maybe not everyone finds her brand of feminism empowering at all. That her brand of feminism should have died a long time ago and she really needs to go back to school and get up to date on these things. That white western feminism only cares about white middle class women to the detriment of everyone else.

Her privilege oozed out of the pages making me nauseous. She said women need to be taken seriously about their health. How she had suffered from horrible periods and yet she doesn’t see how her white privilege gave her the ability to seek help and be believed. Women of colour don’t get that same treatment. Just saying go to a different doctor as if everyone has that option isn’t exactly helpful information. She shares stories of women who made radical choices that made headline news and uses that as examples of how we should all speak up but she doesn’t see how women are speaking up in so many ways that may not be as radical and not newsworthy.

The constant comparison of the west and developing world using such loaded terms will have an impact on how people view those not living in the ‘privileged’ west. Her words matter and yet not her, nor her editor or any other person who read this before release mentioned it, and that is another example of how she uses her privilege to push her white western feminism that benefits no one except people that look like her. She speaks about how women wanted to show that they are as good as men so anything ‘expressly female’ were downplayed. But again, only white western feminism is calling for this. She speaks as if her brand of feminism is the superior feminist brand and yet is still holding on to things that are decades out of date.

When you are a minority, you don’t want to seem like you are kicking up a stink about something which nobody else fully understands or at the that time felt like they could talk about.

Is she talking about the many minority groups that need their voices uplifted? Nope. She’s talking about Margaret Thatcher, a white woman in a position of power. Now normally I wouldn’t have an issue with this discussion however considering how she dehumanised and othered actual minority groups throughout the book, yes I absolutely do. Words matter, the way you write things matter.

“We have made huge progress on all of these fronts. As I write this, a woman runs the country I live in, another runs the most powerful country in the European Union and sexual harassment is being called out the world over with the hashtag #MeToo”

Okay but does this actually mean we have all benefited from this? Does it mean all people can feel safer about speaking up about sexual harassment? She makes sweeping statements like this to make it sound like there has been huge progress for all. But people of colour haven’t felt that progress, we are still fighting to be able to exist and live safely. Ignoring everything happening to people of colour shows how little she actually cares about anyone who doesn’t look like her.

I also found the book to be so mundane in the things she chose to write about. There are a myriad of complex issues regarding periods and women’s health that should and could have been discussed in a nuanced manner however there is no nuance in this book at all. Some of the issues too seem like she is just saying it to show how woke she is. “Don’t you just hate those patronising aisles in supermarkets which have the label feminine hygiene dangling above them in a halo of fluorescent lighting? Just call a pad a pad already.” Clearly, she doesn’t understand that the aisles have more than just pads. She was also complaining about we don’t have a pad emoji and she has been forced to use the Japanese flag. I just think about all the discussions she could have had about all the very real issues people face all over the world regarding periods and yet she chose to speak about these. Like I get it, it’s part of the shaming that we don’t have these emojis etc but women are literally dying due to so many issues surrounding periods and women’s health. And so much of it is just not touched upon at all.

She did speak about how women don’t always have access to pads or tampons which yes, it does need to be spoken about more but again she just complained about the issue with no real discussion on what can be done about it. Every single complaint she had about lack of awareness or shame or access to pads etc had no real discussion about things that could be done or what is being done with resources listed so people can actually go and find them and help these organisations. Instead of actual resources and sources for her information in the book she decided to list all the different things people have used to call periods. I wouldn’t have minded that if there had been actual sources too to show that her information is accurate because she already showed me she will include false information when I read about what she wrote about Islamic beliefs so how can I actually trust the information she wrote in the rest of the book?

This book left me incredibly angry and not for the reasons it should have. It is full of inaccurate information about religious beliefs. It erases people of colour and how different our fight against shame about periods is. It dehumanises people of colour with her comparisons about how educated she is and how advanced a society she lives in compared to the uneducated people and backwards societies of the developing world. Nothing she speaks about is remotely inspiring or made me want to rage about the injustices and even the writing itself was poor. How this has been published and praised is beyond me. Do yourselves a favour and skip this for other books about periods and empowerment.

Adult Books, Diverse Books

The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri – ARC Review

Thank you to Orbit Books for sending me an arc in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Imprisoned by her dictator brother, Malini spends her days in isolation in the Hirana: an ancient temple that was once the source of the powerful, magical deathless waters — but is now little more than a decaying ruin.

Priya is a maidservant, one among several who make the treacherous journey to the top of the Hirana every night to clean Malini’s chambers. She is happy to be an anonymous drudge, so long as it keeps anyone from guessing the dangerous secret she hides.

But when Malini accidentally bears witness to Priya’s true nature, their destinies become irrevocably tangled. One is a vengeful princess seeking to depose her brother from his throne. The other is a priestess seeking to find her family. Together, they will change the fate of an empire. 

TW: Discussions of being burned alive

I really loved the story though it was really dark at times. The world that Tasha has created was incredible. I loved that it’s inspired by Indian/Desi culture and all the things that was so familiar to me. From things like the clothes and food to the architecture and language, it was just so wonderful to see it in the book.

The discussions of how colonisation and the oppression of the indigenous populations and erasure of their culture and history was written into the story so well. It was a complex nuanced discussion which we see through both the oppressed and the colonisers and how it has impacted different people and communities. How the oppressed have lost their language and culture how they have become the most vulnerable and poor, unable to live safely and peacefully. How people will have different definitions of what resistance looks like and what lengths people will go to, to put an end to the occupation.

This book has some incredible female characters from Malini who can be ruthless to achieve her goals and kind hearted Priya who will always look out for those she loves and Bhumika who’s powerful in her own way despite people thinking she is weak because she cares for the poor and vulnerable. I loved seeing how women can be powerful in their own way and there isn’t just one “right” way to be strong and powerful.

I loved seeing the different points of view and how these women made a difference in a society that holds little value for women and how they are in many ways better and more resilient than the men in their lives. I am so excited to see where the story will go next after the ending of this book. I am especially looking forward to seeing Malini taking down her brother!

I think my one issue with the story was that I felt the romance between Priya and Malini felt a little forced, I just didn’t find they had chemistry or depth in their relationship past the attraction they had to each other and that they were both fighting for an end to the oppression of their people.

I am still really excited to read the next book especially because I completely fell in love with the world building and the story had me hooked from the beginning and I cannot wait to see where the story will go next.