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, 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.

YA Books

Kingdom of the Cursed by Kerri Maniscalco – Book Review

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

Synopsis from goodreads:

After selling her soul to become Queen of the Wicked, Emilia travels to the Seven Circles with the enigmatic Prince of Wrath, where she’s introduced to a seductive world of vice.

She vows to do whatever it takes to avenge her beloved sister, Vittoria… even if that means accepting the hand of the Prince of Pride, the king of demons.

The first rule in the court of the Wicked? Trust no one. With back-stabbing princes, luxurious palaces, mysterious party invitations, and conflicting clues about who really killed her twin, Emilia finds herself more alone than ever before. Can she even trust Wrath, her one-time ally in the mortal world… or is he keeping dangerous secrets about his true nature?

Emilia will be tested in every way as she seeks a series of magical objects that will unlock the clues of her past and the answers she craves…

I really enjoyed Kingdom of the Wicked so I was looking forward to reading the sequel but unfortunately I did not enjoy this book at all. It was a hot mess.

This book takes place just after the events of the first book and while the first book had an interesting plot that kept me reading one more chapter this book is mostly Emilia trying to be smart and scheming but not actually doing much at all. You could read the last couple chapters and move on to the third book and not miss anything of importance.

This book is also aimed at younger YA and yet it is not appropriate at all for them. There is romanticisation of sexual assault and violent behaviour. One scene where Wrath gets Emilia completely drunk to the point she can’t even feed herself so she unable to consent and then later tells her he was doing it to teach her how to protect herself. Later in the book, Emilia comments that some people like violent behaviours when it comes to romance and this is such a dangerous thing to normalise for young people. I honestly don’t know how this was all included in the book.

Emilia also annoyed me to no end in this book, she acted like she was being so smart and badass but she was not, she was just plain stupid and unable to work anything out that every single person around her already knew. But at least she did it with confidence, I guess. She repeatedly said the same thing again and again and yet all we see from her: no thoughts, head empty, only horny. I don’t have an issue with romance in general but this was just not it. It felt very toxic and Wrath withheld important information from her regarding who she is actually supposed to be marrying and it just felt ick.

Wrath was just as annoying and after him basically assaulting Emilia in the name of training her, I just did not like him at all after that. This wasn’t addressed at all in the book at any point and I really need these scenes to stop being shown in books aimed at young teens.

This book is also very romance heavy and the plot suffered because of it, in fact there was very little plot at all. We make zero progress throughout the whole book and then right at the end all the reveals happen together and in the span of the last two chapters which were also generally very obvious to everyone except Emilia.

The ending of this book was really underwhelming because there was so little plot and everything was so vague and just I was barely interested by the end because I was so irritated by having to get through a whole book to end on THAT ending when the ending of the first book suggested we would get a lot more information but we got very little.

I’m so disappointed because I actually enjoyed the first book and this book was a mess.

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!