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.

Adult Books, Diverse Books

Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa – ARC Review

Thank you to orbit books for sending me an arc in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis from goodreads:

In the ancient city of Bassa, Danso is a clever scholar on the cusp of achieving greatness—only he doesn’t want it. Instead, he prefers to chase forbidden stories about what lies outside the city walls. The Bassai elite claim there is nothing of interest. The city’s immigrants are sworn to secrecy.

But when Danso stumbles across a warrior wielding magic that shouldn’t exist, he’s put on a collision course with Bassa’s darkest secrets. Drawn into the city’s hidden history, he sets out on a journey beyond its borders. And the chaos left in the wake of his discovery threatens to destroy the empire. 

I loved Danso so much! He is my favourite type of character, a soft nerd who often acts first thinks later but has good intentions. And then we have Lilong who is a warrior and a grumpy one at that who has to deal with Danso and his act first attitude. Lastly we have Esheme who is absolutely terrifying and gets scarier as the story progresses.

Danso is treated as an outcast because he looks more like his mother than his father and so he has never really fit in. He is also incredibly smart academically and loves to learn new things and so he is at the top of his class but it’s never enough for him. He wants to know more about his mothers family and his constant searching for answers gets him into trouble. He is also set to marry Eshmae and while they are civil to each other there is no real feelings between them.

Eshmae is driven and will not let anyone get in her way, her mother is essentially a fixer and does what cannot be done through legal channels quietly and discreetly. As a result Eshmae is some what of an outcast too but she uses any all advantage she can find to further her goals. She is ruthless and doesn’t take any crap from anyone and honestly I loved her character so much although it does mean she’s out to hurt my baby Danso but I want to see more characters like her in books!

Lilong is a warrior and one who does not trust easily. She is sassy and sarcastic and does not like asking for help but I loved seeing her slowly warm to Danso and eventually start to trust him after everything they go through. I am so looking forward to seeing more of her and her people.

One of my favourite things about the book was the incredible world building. It’s set in a world inspired by a pre-colonial empire in West Africa and it was just so vibrant and I loved reading about the world and the cultures. There is a complex caste system and so many different cultures living in this world and it’s so vastly different to worlds if read about before and I just loved every single second. I also loved the magic system we are introduced to and I hope we get to learn more in the sequel!

This book slowly builds to an incredibly tense end and had me screaming because WHAT WAS THAT ENDING?! I absolutely cannot wait for the sequel because I need to know what will happen to all the characters.

Adult Books

The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird – ARC Review

As soon as I saw the synopsis I knew I had to read it, it sounded so interesting and I did end up enjoying this book even though it was quite difficult to read at times.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

The year is 2025, and a mysterious virus has broken out in Scotland–a lethal illness that seems to affect only men. When Dr. Amanda MacLean reports this phenomenon, she is dismissed as hysterical. By the time her warning is heeded, it is too late. The virus becomes a global pandemic–and a political one. The victims are all men. The world becomes alien–a women’s world.

What follows is the immersive account of the women who have been left to deal with the virus’s consequences, told through first-person narratives. Dr. MacLean; Catherine, a social historian determined to document the human stories behind the male plague; intelligence analyst Dawn, tasked with helping the government forge a new society; and Elizabeth, one of many scientists desperately working to develop a vaccine. Through these women and others, we see the uncountable ways the absence of men has changed society, from the personal–the loss of husbands and sons–to the political–the changes in the workforce, fertility and the meaning of family.

TW: Discussions of a pandemic and plague, death including children, infertility, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, sexism

This book was such an interesting read although it was difficult to read at times and did have to put the book down a few times and come back to it because it describes the fear and panic of being in a pandemic and it was eerily similar to the covid pandemic. The first half was especially hard but once I got through that I was pretty much hooked.

This book discusses what would happen if a virus killed 90% of men on this planet, what would be the repercussions and how would that affect how we live and function as a society and honestly there is a lot to think about. From those who are part of the government to the police force to those in healthcare what would happen if most of the men in an already male dominated profession died? We need doctors and surgeons because people will still need to be treated, who would run the country in the aftermath, how would our society structures change. These are things we see discussed in the book and it was really interesting to read.

It also discusses motherhood and infertility especially as the virus kills male children too and many women are left grieving for their sons. It was incredibly difficult to read at times when we see the grief of these mother and how they struggle to cope with the loss of their husbands and sons and then the guilt of those lucky few who had husbands or sons who are immune. Then because there are barely any men left they can’t even think to have a baby again and then there are those who before were struggling with infertility and are now faced with the reality that they may never become mothers. One of the hardest things was the scenes of the women who were giving birth to baby boys who were not immune and then having to watch them die just days later.

Once a vaccine is discovered we do see a more hopeful future where people are just beginning to pick themselves up and come to terms with a new normal. Much like we have had to in the face of the covid pandemic. Those who survived the pandemic have been thrust into positions they may never have been able to get before because there are literally no men left in those areas. The majority of the government is now full of women and it was interesting o see how they handled things that maybe men would handle differently.

We also see at the beginning when it all starts, the doctor who discovers patient zero is largely ignored and labelled as hysterical and so it spreads rapidly before anyone takes it seriously. The sexism and misogyny present in the workplace means that so many more die before things can be put into place to reduce the death toll. Discussions about how women aren’t given the credit they deserve and the gender pay gap and so much more.

The main issue I had with the book and the discussions was how white centric it was and how the majority of focus was on the UK and US. I know that for women of colour and those living in Asia and Africa for example would have a really different experience in everything that would happen during the virus outbreak. And yet none of that was touched upon and the few mentions of places like Saudi Arabia was linked to trafficking and other places like Iran, Afghanistan etc were just mentioned to have no information about what is happening there after years of the pandemic. I’m tired of the BIPOC erasure in books especially in a book dealing with a worldwide pandemic.

Overall this book was an interesting read and did discuss some really important issues and I did mostly enjoy the book.

Adult Books, Books by Muslim Authors

The Blue Eye by Ausma Zehanat Khan – Book Review

This is the third book in the Khorasan archives and I loved it as much the first two books and after that ending I am so nervous about what will happen in the last book!

My review for The Bloodprint is here. My review for The Black Khan is here.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

The Companions of Hira have used their cunning and their magic in the battle against the patriarchal Talisman, an organization whose virulently conservative agenda restricts free thought. One of the most accomplished Companions, Arian, continues to lead a disparate group in pursuit of the one artifact that could end the Talisman’s authoritarian rule: The Bloodprint.

But after a vicious battle, the arcane tome has slipped once more beyond her reach. Despite being separated and nearly losing their lives, Arian’s band of allies has remained united. Yet now, the group seems to be fracturing. To continue the fight, Arian must make a dangerous journey to a distant city to recruit new allies. But instead of her trusted friends, she is accompanied by associates she may no longer be able to trust.

This book begins shortly after the events of The Black Khan and we also get to see new places that were mentioned in the first two books. We get to see where Sinnia is from and her people and we also travel to what is Al-Aqsa in that world! We are also introduced to new characters and I loved it so much!

Sinnia gets a lot more backstory and development in this book as to why she decided to join the Companions of Hira and what she wants to do in her life. I really loved seeing her story and her home. She comes from a people who have incredible women who are smart and resilient and manage to navigate the traditions that they don’t agree with to their advantage. We also see a potential love interest for her introduced later on in the story so I am intrigued to see where that will go.

We also learn more about Arian and her childhood, we also get some incredible revelations about her childhood and family that had me reeling! I also liked seeing her work through her relationship with Daniyar and especially finally realising just how much he actually does for her and the sacrifices he also makes to be with her and support her. It was also great to see her understand that maybe being a Companion of Hira doesn’t mean she can’t also be with the man she loves. We also learn more about her brother and what happened to him. And I hope we get to see more of this in the next book.

This book is dark and does not shy away from the darker things that happen when there is war and the oppression against women. We see that there are those who want to keep this way where only a few are granted wealth, power and freedom to do as they choose and everyone else suffers and those who wish to overthrow this whole system and then those who are somewhere in the middle and want to save their own while not particularly caring what happens to everyone else. It was really interesting seeing all the different people interact and how complicated it can be when there is an oppressive regime.

There’s so much I can’t say without spoiling things but I just need you all to read these books!

Adult Books, Blog Tours/Street Teams, Books by Muslim Authors, Favourite Book Quotes

Blog Tour – My Favourite Quotes From Hana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin

Hey booknerds! Today, as part of the blog tour for Hana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin, hosted by Coloured Pages Tours, I am sharing my favourite quotes from the book!

If you don’t know what the book is about here is the synopsis:

From the author of Ayesha at Last comes a sparkling new rom-com for fans of “You’ve Got Mail,” set in two competing halal restaurants

Sales are slow at Three Sisters Biryani Poutine, the only halal restaurant in the close-knit Golden Crescent neighbourhood. Hana waitresses there part time, but what she really wants is to tell stories on the radio. If she can just outshine her fellow intern at the city radio station, she may have a chance at landing a job. In the meantime, Hana pours her thoughts and dreams into a podcast, where she forms a lively relationship with one of her listeners. But soon she’ll need all the support she can get: a new competing restaurant, a more upscale halal place, is about to open in the Golden Crescent, threatening Three Sisters.

When her mysterious aunt and her teenage cousin arrive from India for a surprise visit, they draw Hana into a long-buried family secret. A hate-motivated attack on their neighbourhood complicates the situation further, as does Hana’s growing attraction for Aydin, the young owner of the rival restaurant—who might not be a complete stranger after all.

As life on the Golden Crescent unravels, Hana must learn to use her voice, draw on the strength of her community and decide what her future should be.

So here are my top 10 quotes from the book!

Just promise you’ll be careful with your heart, okay? You deserve someone who puts you first.

I only meant that an intelligent young woman – I assume you are intelligent – would not lay all her cards on the table. Gather information, consider your options, and then act accordingly.

I couldn’t hide who I was.

Find your principles and see your story through to the end, no matter what.

Anger was easier, feeling justified in my tactics more satisfying. Trying to change my world was the harder path, and less likely to succeed.

Real change is a boulder we keep pushing, but don’t fool yourself into thinking it doesn’t push back. Because it does. And sometimes it pushes back hard.

If things are changing, that means we’re still alive. Only living things change.

I know now what I will and will not tolerate. I know where my line is, and what I am willing to lose to defend my heart.

Keep chasing the story in your heart.

Choice. That’s what my parents had gifted me. There’s nothing more powerful than being able to make up your own mind about something. Nothing headier than reaching out your hand and saying: This. I choose this.

Do also check out the other posts as part of the blog tour and check out my bookstagram (@thetsundokuchronicles) for a giveaway!

More about Uzma:

I am the author of AYESHA AT LAST (2018), a retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in a Toronto Muslim community. My second novel HANA KHAN CARRIES ON (2021) is inspired by the movie ‘You’ve Got Mail’ and set in rival halal restaurants. I also write a funny parenting column for The Toronto Star, and have written for The Atlantic. I live in Toronto with my husband and two sons. Find out more at www.uzmajalaluddin.com and thanks for visiting!