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.

Books by Muslim Authors, YA Books

This Is My Truth by Yasmin Rahman – Book Review

Thank you to Hot Key Books for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

This book is incredible and should be read by both teens and adults.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Best friends Amani and Huda are getting nervous about their GCSEs – and their future beyond school, which they’re both wildly unprepared for. Shy, quiet Amani has an outwardly picture-perfect family – a father who is a successful TV presenter, a loving mother, and an adorable younger brother – while confident and impulsive

Huda has grown up with over-affectionate foster parents who are now expecting a baby of their own. Both girls are jealous of each other’s seemingly easy life, without realising the darkness or worries that lie underneath. Then Huda witnesses Amani’s father hitting her mother, and Amani’s biggest secret is suddenly out. As Amani convinces Huda to keep quiet by helping her with her own problems, a prank blog starts up at school, revealing students’ secrets one by one. Will this anonymous blogger get hold of Amani’s secret too? Will Huda keep quiet?

Trigger warning: Domestic violence

This book deals with domestic violence in desi and Muslim communities and it is an incredibly difficult topic to deal with but Yasmin deals with so sensitively and it’s so well written. She also discusses what it can be like for a young girl in the foster care system.

The story is told from the point of view of Amani and Huda who are best friends in the last couple weeks of school. Huda is more outspoken and confident whereas Amani is more reserved and introverted but they both get along really well together. Seeing the way the teens were during the last few weeks literally transported me back to my last few weeks of school. While Amani’s school had a prank war, we had egg and flour fights. The stress and relief and excitement and worry with your normal coming to an end after five years was so well written in the story. I could feel it and remember when it was me. Honestly it made me real nostalgic, although I do not miss exam stress.

Both Amani and Huda think the other has the perfect family but it really shows how no one truly knows what is happening in the home and that on the outside your family can seem picture perfect but inside you are just trying to survive each day.

Huda had a lot of insecurities and struggled to think of a future for herself because of how she has been moved around in the foster care system. How can she think of a future plan when her whole life can be uprooted in any moment? Do her foster parents truly love her or will they discard her now that they have their own baby coming? These things run through her mind pushing her into asking Amani to teach her to be a “perfect daughter” and it really brought into question, what is a perfect daughter and can any girl be a perfect daughter?

These are the things that make you you, the things I love about you.

None of us are perfect, we make mistakes, we hurt those we love even by accident and yet desi culture demands perfection from girls from a young age. Their worth is based on how “perfect” they are. They decide what makes the girl a good or perfect daughter and it always includes being obedient, submissive, quiet, and able to handle all domestic chores without complaint. When we aren’t that, we are labelled rebellious and bad.

Huda is attacked in this way by some characters in the book too. She thinks that because she isn’t that type of daughter her foster parents won’t want to keep her after they have their own child. Her insecurity about being loved was so heartbreaking to read. No child should be made to feel that they aren’t loved and love shouldn’t be conditional on whether they meet certain criteria. Even though her foster parents are incredible and love her for the way she is. Society pressure can still make a teen feel insecure about it.

Amani lives in an abusive toxic household but one that looks picture perfect from the outside. Everyone sees a wonderful caring father and yet no one sees who he truly is behind closed doors. So who would even believe her mother or Amani if they spoke up? Amani’s terror and struggle to cope and hide this from everyone was so difficult to read. How despite being terrified herself she still had to be there for her little brother. How this affected both their perceptions on how you should treat your spouse, what marriage is like, how a woman should be treated and how a man should be towards their wife. Amani says she would rather be single and honestly I felt the same at her age. Marriage was a prison, it was suffocating and violent. But I was really glad to see there was a contrast with Huda’s foster parents being in a healthy happy relationship.

I thought that’s what marriage was – not being happy.

Amani would take on the burden of “fixing” her dad like it was her responsibility, if she was just a perfect daughter it would be okay. But no matter how perfect she was, her dad would still become violent at the smallest inconvenience. Her mother lived in fear, and would flinch at the smallest sounds. She reduced herself, she stopped being her own person and just lived to try and keep her husband happy. She kept one thing for herself which was a part time job and this became another area in which her father would try to control her financially. The emotional, physical, psychological and financial abuse she goes through is horrifying and yet she still tries to be a good mum to her kids and wants to protect them. She doesn’t realise until much later that her silence was also destroying her children, even though women are told to stay silent “for the sake of the kids.” How is staying in an abusive relationship good for her or her kids?  

I love that Yasmin has written a book dealing with these topics within the Muslim and Desi communities because so many kids and teens are affected by it and yet to speak about it is taboo. There is too much emphasis on what will people say as opposed to how my child feels, is my family safe, are we creating a healthy environment for them to grow up in. Yasmin has done such a wonderful job of discussing these topics in her book and I hope that they are easily available to teens. So they know that they aren’t alone and trapped, so that they know that violence isn’t okay.

Okay wow I have written a long essay but truly this is a topic I am incredibly passionate about and I was literally sobbing by the end of the book and knew that this will stay with me for a long time. Like Yasmin’s first book, this is another book I wish I had been able to read as a teen.

I loved Huda and Amani’s friendship and it was really great to see friends that fall out but also work through the reasons for the fall out without making lives difficult for each other. Huda broke Amani’s trust but she realised she was wrong to do so and apologised and tried to make up for it. Amani knows that what Huda did, while still wrong, was to help her. It’s such a delicate and difficult situation to be in for both of them and we aren’t really shown or taught in any way how to handle these things. I was glad to see that they were able to work things through and remain friends.

Someone once told me you can’t count on the future…the present’s all you got

This book deeply resonated with me on so many levels and one that I want everyone to read. It’s such an important book and shows how toxic these situations are and that we shouldn’t have to silently put up with it. I highly recommend everyone who can read this to read this. Give it to teens and adults alike because even adults who have not been in these type of situations don’t truly understand what it is like. Please go buy and read this book!

Diverse Books, YA Books

Gearbreakers by Zoe Hana Mikuta – ARC Review

Thank you to Macmillan and netgalley for sending me this arc in exchange for an honest review.

I really enjoyed this book and I am looking forward to the sequel!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis from goodreads:

The shadow of Godolia’s tyrannical rule is spreading, aided by their giant mechanized weapons known as Windups. War and oppression are everyday constants for the people of the Badlands, who live under the thumb of their cruel Godolia overlords.

Eris Shindanai is a Gearbreaker, a brash young rebel who specializes in taking down Windups from the inside. When one of her missions goes awry and she finds herself in a Godolia prison, Eris meets Sona Steelcrest, a cybernetically enhanced Windup pilot. At first Eris sees Sona as her mortal enemy, but Sona has a secret: She has intentionally infiltrated the Windup program to destroy Godolia from within.

As the clock ticks down to their deadliest mission yet, a direct attack to end Godolia’s reign once and for all, Eris and Sona grow closer–as comrades, friends, and perhaps something more…

This book was fast paced and action packed and I really enjoyed reading! I loved both the main characters and how they both spent their lives trying to take down the oppressive system but in vastly different ways.

This book starts with Eris being captured and taken to one of Godolias prisons where she meets an unlikely ally in Sona who is a windup pilot and who helps her escape and goes with her back to the rebel base. There Sona helps the rebels and joions Eris’s team of gearbreakers to overthrow the oppressive regime that is Godolia. But can a small team of teenagers do enough to overthrow a tyrannical regime that has wealth, power and resources not available to them and then there’s also the issue that not everyone trusts Sona.

There are some incredible heart racing, action packed scenes of gearbreakers fighting and taking down the giant machines sent to kill all rebels and the descriptions are so vivid that you can truly imagine the whole scene as it happens. Then you also have the wonderful fun scenes between team mates and the family they build for themselves. The squabbling and fighting and yet they all look out for and care deeply for each other.

We also see a slow burn romance bloom between Eris and Sona and how they slowly learn to trust each other and protect each other. I am looking forward to seeing more of them in the sequel and what will happen to them especially after that ending!

This is a wonderful action packed story with a great found family who fight an oppressive regime to be able to live freely and safely.

Diverse Books, YA Books

Of Princes and Promises by Sandhya Menon – ARC Review

Thank you to hodderscape and netgalley for sending me this arc in exchange for an honest review.

I really enjoyed this book and it was great to see Jaya and Grey too!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Caterina LaValle is determined to show she’s still the queen of St. Rosetta’s Academy. Sure, her crown may be slightly askew after her ex-boyfriend, Alaric, cheated on her, but she’s a LaValle. She’ll find a way to march right back in there, her hands clutching the strings to the whole puppet show. This time, she’s going to be untouchable.

Rahul Chopra knows that moment he shared with Caterina LaValle at the winter formal meant something. Surely she feels it, too. He’s a little uncertain how someone like him (socially inept to a point way past “adorkable”) could fit into her world, but he’s loved Caterina for years. He knows they’ll find a way.

When Caterina finds out Alaric is taking a supermodel to the upcoming gala, she knows she cannot arrive without the perfect date. But the thought of taking another superficial St. R’s boy exhausts her. The solution? Sweet-but-clueless Rahul Chopra and a mysterious pot of hair gel with the power to alter the wearer into whatever his heart desires.

When Rahul tries it, he transforms instantly into RC—debonair, handsome, and charming. But transformation comes with a price: As Rahul enjoys his new social standing, the line between his two personas begins to blur. Will he give up everything, including Caterina, to remain RC? Or will this unlikely pair find their way back to each other?

I really enjoyed this story and especially as we got to see more of Rahul who I loved in Of Curses and Kisses. This story is a Princess (Caterina) and the frog (Rahul) retelling and it was so wonderful to see a new retelling. One of the things I loved was that we get to make up our own minds about whether there is any magic or not. Is the hair gel truly magical or does simply implying it is magical give Rahul that confidence boost to become more socially adept?

The story may seem as though it is a fluffy romance also deals with family relationships and how living up to your parents expectations can affect someone and what can happen if the parent rejects us. It also deals with friendships and how having real deep friendships make a big difference in our lives. People who we can truly be ourselves around and not have to put on a front to protect ourselves.

I enjoyed learning more about Caterina who at first seems like your typical queen bee but we learn there is more to her and she struggles just like everyone else. She has no real friends because she keeps everyone at arms length because of how her father raised her. I liked seeing her change over the story and realise she can let people in to have a more meaningful relationship.

Rahul is socially awkward often not realising that he should not have said something until it’s too late but he transforms with the hair gel and becomes more like the boys he sees around him. Charming and funny and able to understand social ques but does that make him a better person? Is he changing too much of himself to fit in and does that make him better? These are all things he learns throughout the story which was great to see.

I liked seeing Caterina and Rahul together, they were cute and brought out the best in each other. The plot twist was interesting to see too although I can’t say much without spoilers! But it will be interesting to see what happens with that in the next book. We also get to see more of Jaya and Grey which I loved seeing as I really loved their story so it was great to see them being as cute as ever. I also loved how despite Rahul not having the best relationship with his friends in this book they came through for him and helped him when he had no one else to turn to.

This was a fun, cute read and I am looking forward to seeing what the next book will be about!