Diverse Books, YA Books

Sisters of the Snake by Sasha Nanua and Sarena Nanua – ARC Review

Thank you to Harper Teen and netgalley for this arc in exchange for an honest review.

I really enjoyed this story and once I started I couldn’t put it down!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

A lost princess. A dark puppet master. And a race against time—before all is lost.

Princess Rani longs for a chance to escape her gilded cage and prove herself. Ria is a street urchin, stealing just to keep herself alive.

When these two lives collide, everything turns on its head: because Ria and Rani, orphan and royal, are unmistakably identical.

A deal is struck to switch places—but danger lurks in both worlds, and to save their home, thief and princess must work together. Or watch it all fall into ruin.

This book had me hooked from the first chapter! I loved both Ria and Rani and how each of them have such distinct personalities that it was always easy to see who was who. The world the book is set in was so great, I loved seeing all the desi culture in the book from the clothes and food and everything in between. I was literally craving all my fave desi foods by the time I finished reading and it reminded me of my holidays to Bangladesh and Pakistan and I just loved seeing it all so much!

This book had me reeling from all the revelations and I loved how it was all built up slowly and we slowly piece things together by being able to see both Rani and Ria’s point of view we are able to see the foreshadowing and that build up to that explosive ending!

I will say that as someone who is kinda scared of snakes, the pit was actually terrifying! I would not want to be subjected to that as a way to be executed! Although I did grow to like Shima who was Rani’s familiar. She was sarcastic and sassy and I did love seeing how she looked out for both Rani and Ria.

Both Rani and Ria had great character arcs and had great development from the girls we meet at the beginning to who they become over the course of the story. Rani realises how ignorant she has been about the suffering of her people and the injustices they face and that her family isn’t as great as she thought in how they treat the common people. Ria is an angry person because of all the suffering she has been through and seen all her life. She wants to escape but as the story goes on she realises she can make a difference for those who are stuck there. I am looking forward to seeing how they both are in the next book especially the two of them together as we don’t actually get to see them together much as they swap lives and go in different directions.

Of course we also get a dash of romance though it isn’t the main theme it is there woven into the story and I really enjoyed seeing it develop. I liked both the love interests and how they both believed in and supported Rani and Ria. It was nice seeing love interests who supported the person they loved and believed in them.

I’m really looking forward to the sequel after that ending and to see where the story goes and I hope we get to learn more about the magic system in the book too.

Books by Muslim Authors, Diverse Books, YA Books

Misfit in Love by S.K. Ali – Book Review

This is the companion book to Saints and Misfits and I highly recommend you read this before this book. You can read my review of Saints and Misfits here. This book was everything I ever wanted and more!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Janna Yusuf is so excited for the weekend: her brother Muhammad’s getting married, and she’s reuniting with her mom, whom she’s missed the whole summer.

And Nuah’s arriving for the weekend too.

Sweet, constant Nuah.

The last time she saw him, Janna wasn’t ready to reciprocate his feelings for her. But things are different now. She’s finished high school, ready for college…and ready for Nuah.

It’s time for Janna’s (carefully planned) summer of love to begin—starting right at the wedding.

But it wouldn’t be a wedding if everything went according to plan. Muhammad’s party choices aren’t in line with his fiancée’s taste at all, Janna’s dad is acting strange, and her mom is spending more time with an old friend (and maybe love interest?) than Janna.

And Nuah’s treating her differently.

Just when things couldn’t get more complicated, two newcomers—the dreamy Haytham and brooding Layth—have Janna more confused than ever about what her misfit heart really wants.

Janna’s summer of love is turning out to be super crowded and painfully unpredictable.

This book was pure serotonin injected straight into my veins. I loved every second of this book, it was a celebration of being Muslim and love and marriage and family and friends. I don’t know if I will ever be able to write down coherently just how much this book means to me.

This book is set about 2 years after the events of Saints and Misfits and it’s the summer when Janna’s older brother, Muhammad and Sarah, are getting married. Their nikkah is taking place at their dad’s home in the garden overlooking the lake. Even the setting in the book is so beautiful and honestly I wish we could see the wedding happening because it must have looked amazing.

Janna is older and she has grown a lot over the two years. She had a lot of trauma to deal with and it was nice to see that she no longer blames herself for what happened to her and that monster was held accountable. In this book Janna goes through a great character growth from thinking her happiness will be with being with another person to realising she can be happy with just herself. It was so wonderful to see that message in the book because often girls are taught their happiness lies with being with someone else. But our happiness and self worth should be with being happy within ourselves. 

I also loved all the female friendships in this book and that Janna and Tats even discuss the Bechdel test. I especially loved the friendship and love between Sarah and Janna and how they became family and look out for each other. It was a big difference from a couple years ago where Janna called her saint Sarah! It was amazing to see so many female characters, each with their own distinct personalities and dreams and hopes. From Sausan who is a badass niqabi with her own youtube channel to Sarah getting her PhD to the new characters we meet in this book who come for the wedding.

Muhammad, is Janna’s older brother and is such a cinnamon roll, I loved him so much. The way he understood Janna at such a deep level to understanding her through a look on her face. But also being the annoying older brother and their banter was so great! However he had questionable choices in wedding décor and I cannot explain the absolute horror I felt at some of his choices. But it was also hilarious watching Sarah bring out her clipboards and rope Janna into sorting everything out in one weekend.

This book may seem like it’s a fluffy romance but it also deals with some really serious issues like the racism that exists in our community that Black people face. The microaggressions that they have to deal with but find it difficult to call them out for it. Nuah has to deal with this throughout the wedding and Janna has to have some very difficult discussions with her dad about this. There is also the racism between arabs and non arabs and how some arabs view those who aren’t, inferior and show that in the comments they make about how their traditions are more important and make Muhammad not feel welcome in the family at times. These are difficult but important discussions we need to have with the people in our lives if we see them do this, we can’t just ignore it.

I really loved Haytham and Layth too even though I was still rooting for Nuah. Haytham was just swoon worthy and Layth had so much depth to him. I really enjoyed seeing their stories play out and how they interacted with Janna.

This book was so wonderful in so many ways and I just loved reading every second of it. The ending was so wonderful and so perfect for Janna and the wedding was so beautiful and there’s so much more I want to say but I can’t because spoilers but this book made me laugh and me so emotional and please you all need to go read it!

Diverse Books, YA Books

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim – 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 after that ending I’m looking forward to reading the sequel!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Synopsis from goodreads:

Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.

This book wasn’t what I thought it would be but I still enjoyed it a lot. I really liked Maia and Edan and their dynamic and banter. The world building and the Chinese culture was so beautifully written. I loved the world that Lim has created and the descriptions of the palace and the towns and even the clothes are so beautiful.

Maia is a wonderful character, she is determined and perseveres despite the odds being against her. She is brave despite being afraid and cares deeply for her family and loved ones. She suffers a lot in her life and still grieves for those she lost. And I loved how her grief was shown in the book, it felt so real and relatable and I appreciate that it was shown because often we are told to just “move on.” I loved how she became more confident in herself and her abilities as the story went on as she is exceptionally talented but has been prevented from furthering that because she is a woman but she outshines the best male tailors there.

Edan was a character that grew on me, I didn’t know whether I should trust him at the beginning and if he was truly someone that would help Maia but I ended up really loving his character and snark. He was witty and sarcastic and I loved that. I really loved his banter with Maia and how she gave it back as much as he gave.

Their journey takes us to several different places and it was great to see more of the world and how different the areas are. Maia having to make the dresses from the sun, moon and stars was so interesting and the descriptions of the dresses were breath taking. Honestly I want these dresses please and thank you. I did have some issues with the pacing in the middle, I felt it dragged a little but I really enjoyed the ending and I am looking forward to reading the sequel after the way this book ended!

Diverse Books, YA Books

Oculta by Maya Motayne – ARC Review

Thank you to Hodderscape and Netgalley for sending me this arc in exchange for an honest review.

This is the sequel to Nocturna and I absolutely adored this book!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

After joining forces to save Castallan from an ancient magical evil, Alfie and Finn haven’t seen each other in months. Alfie is finally stepping up to his role as heir and preparing for an International Peace Summit, while Finn is traveling and reveling in her newfound freedom from Ignacio.

That is, until she’s unexpectedly installed as the new leader of one of Castallan’s powerful crime syndicates.

Just when Finn finds herself back in San Cristobal, Alfie’s plans are also derailed. The mysterious organization responsible for his brother’s murder has resurfaced—and their newest target is the summit. And when these events converge, Finn and Alfie are once again forced to work together to follow the assassins’ trail and preserve Castallan’s hopes for peace with Englass.

But will they be able to stop these sinister foes before a new war threatens their kingdom?

TWs: Violence, death, PTSD, hallucinations, mentions of domestic abuse, blood, gore, panic attacks, grief, mentions of alcohol abuse, racism, slavery and colonisation

This book starts a few months after the events of Nocturna and we see that Finn has left and travelled while also committing a whole host of high end robberies and Alfie is now the crown prince and has accepted this role and is committed to serving his people. They are both leading their own paths and yet their minds wander back to each other and I was LIVING for it.

This book is unapologetically Latinx and I loved it! The culture, the clothes the food the language, just everything was so wonderfully Latinx. We also see the royals from Englassen in this book who are colonisers and while Castallan is now free from their enslavement we can still see the generational trauma and how much of their history was lost because of it. The people of Englassen are still enslaved by the white people there so it isn’t even something that is a distant past. It is something Alfie and his people can still see happening. It was so painfully real to read at times but Maya dealt with it so well and called out the micro aggressions that people of colour still have to deal with even now. It reminded me of a lot of the things I would have to smile and tolerate at my previous work place and the white privilege people benefitted from but refused to acknowledge.

When Luka calls a white woman’s skin mayonnaise colour after they are spoken to in the same way I just had to stop for a minute because it was a lot to see it being called out so clearly in the book. I really appreciate how these discusiions happen in the book and we see how Alfie, Luka and the others have to tolerate a lot of it because they are trying to build a peace treaty with them. We also see those who are opposed to this because they do not want anything to do with the colonisers in their home country. Both sides have valid arguments and Maya leaves it up to us to decide what our own opinions are.

I loved seeing Finn and Alfie work together again and how much they cared for each other but refused to acknowledge it because of who they are. The tension and angst is built so wonderfully through the book and by the end I was literally screaming at them to accept it already! They both had such great character growth too, individually and together. We see Finn battle with her own demons and finally overcome them and Alfie becomes the leader he needs to be for his people.

I also loved seeing more of Luka and how much he has had to endure and how he changed because of the events of Nocturna and the guilt he feels but also his relationship with Alfie felt so real. They fight they disagree yet when they need to they are there for each other. I also loved that the King and Queen are present and a part of Alfie’s life. They are great parents and deeply in love and it was such a nice change to see that in the book.

The last 100 pages and the ending left me a MESS. I am still not over all the revelations and plot twists some of which I did not see coming at all even though when I think back the foreshadowing was there and I was shook. The way this story ends left me with the worst book hangover and I absolutely need the next book asap because the wait is going to kill me.

Everyone go read Nocturna and Oculta!

YA Books

The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni – ARC Review

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

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Seventeen-year-old Kiva Meridan has spent the last ten years fighting for survival in the notorious death prison, Zalindov, working as the prison healer.

When the Rebel Queen is captured, Kiva is charged with keeping the terminally ill woman alive long enough for her to undergo the Trial by Ordeal: a series of elemental challenges against the torments of air, fire, water, and earth, assigned to only the most dangerous of criminals.

Then a coded message from Kiva’s family arrives, containing a single order: “Don’t let her die. We are coming.” Aware that the Trials will kill the sickly queen, Kiva risks her own life to volunteer in her place. If she succeeds, both she and the queen will be granted their freedom.

But no one has ever survived.

With an incurable plague sweeping Zalindov, a mysterious new inmate fighting for Kiva’s heart, and a prison rebellion brewing, Kiva can’t escape the terrible feeling that her trials have only just begun.

This story sounded so interesting and had a really intriguing storyline yet I just didn’t love it like I thought I would. I liked the story somewhat but I just didn’t love any character which made it difficult for me to really root for them despite the fact that they endure some terrible things.

The story is about a young woman who has been in prison since she was seven and mostly entirely alone and it didn’t make sense that she had no one who looked after as a child and she had so many skills including being a healer after watching her dad for a year when she was seven. Her motivations for choosing to risk her own life and suffer through the trials which are known to be horrific also didn’t make sense and it was just confusing as to why she would have such a strong motivation to do something like that. Like yes she was told to keep her alive but why is she so personally invested in it? Especially for people who kept promising to help her but never actually came.

I also had issues with the big plot twist at the end because there was zero hints throughout the book and this is something we should have had an inkling about because we literally spend the book in Kiva’s head. She knew that twist but the readers didn’t and not once is it even remotely alluded to.

The romance was also very insta love and didn’t have much depth to it especially s Kiva kept saying she didn’t like him while also thinking about him all the time. He also conveniently doesn’t get marked with the Z like every single person who is taken to the prison and especially once we find out more about him it makes sense but also convenient. He risks so much for Kiva including getting tortured despite them barely knowing each other. I just couldn’t feel invested in their relationship.

I did like Tipp and how Kiva would take care of him and that despite the awful circumstances he somehow managed to be optimistic and find joy and love. He was sweet and he needs to be protected at all costs.

The end of the story had several revelations which made the motivations of Kiva make more sense and it has intrigued me to know what will happen in the next book. Especially as it seems we will get to see more of the world as this book is set solely in the prison with some flashbacks and references. And it seems as though we will get more political intrigue which I love seeing. So I am a little intrigued to know what will happen in the next book.