Diverse Books, YA Books

The Ivory Key by Akshaya Raman – ARC Review

Thank you to netgalley and Hot Key Books for sending me an arc in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Vira is desperate to get out of her mother’s shadow and establish her legacy as a revered queen of Ashoka. But with the country’s only quarry running out of magic–a precious resource that has kept Ashoka safe from conflict–she can barely protect her citizens from the looming threat of war. And if her enemies discover this, they’ll stop at nothing to seize the last of the magic.

Vira’s only hope is to find a mysterious object of legend: the Ivory Key, rumored to unlock a new source of magic. But in order to infiltrate enemy territory and retrieve it, she must reunite with her siblings, torn apart by the different paths their lives have taken. Each of them has something to gain from finding the Ivory Key–and even more to lose if they fail. Ronak plans to sell it to the highest bidder in exchange for escape from his impending political marriage. Kaleb, falsely accused of assassinating the former maharani needs it to clear his name. And Riya, a runaway who cut all family ties, wants the Key to prove her loyalty to the rebels who want to strip the nobility of its power.

They must work together to survive the treacherous journey. But with each sibling harboring secrets and their own agendas, the very thing that brought them together could tear apart their family–and their world–for good. 

This book has become a favourite read for me! I fell in love from the moment I started reading. We get the point of view of all four siblings which I loved because it gave each of them so much depth but it never felt like there was too many views to keep track of. Each voice was distinct and I loved seeing their internal monologue especially compared to how the others perceived them and how they saw themselves.

Memories only have power over us if we let them.

I love all four siblings and how the dysfunctional sibling relationship was one of my favourite parts of the book. I love seeing sibling relationships in books and I wish we got to see more of these. We see that they used to be really close but as they got older and their circumstances changed they drifted apart but now they have to work together to save their home but they each have their own motives too that would mean betraying their siblings.

I loved seeing how they each had their own strength and weaknesses, and they knew that they had to trust in the one who had the skills to complete the task which meant they had to start trusting each other again. One of my favourite things was watching them bicker over the smallest things which was so funny and reminded me of me and my sisters when we were younger.

“Would it kill you to act as though you liked people?” “I don’t,” Ronak said. “And I see no reason to pretend.”

This story starts with the siblings alone and they have to put past differences aside and come together to work together and complete the quest. It gave me Indiana Jones vibes but make it desi! I love that this quest was connected to their parents and that they never truly gave up hope in being able to work out the truth of their history.

I don’t think anyone loses any part of themselves just because they embrace another aspect of their identity.

I also loved how immersed in desi culture we were. The clothes and architecture to the customs and traditions. It was so great to see. I especially loved all the food! Food that I had grown up with eating and had my mouth watering at the barest mention of kachori’s and so much more!

This book was such a wonderful read and I cannot wait for the sequel especially after the way things ended in this book! I highly recommend picking up this book, it had me hooked and I was up late into the night reading.

Diverse Books, YA Books

A Pho Love Story by Loan Le – Book Review

Thank you to Simon and Schuster for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

If Bao Nguyen had to describe himself, he’d say he was a rock. Steady and strong, but not particularly interesting. His grades are average, his social status unremarkable. He works at his parents’ pho restaurant, and even there, he is his parents’ fifth favorite employee. Not ideal.

If Linh Mai had to describe herself, she’d say she was a firecracker. Stable when unlit, but full of potential for joy and fire. She loves art and dreams pursuing a career in it. The only problem? Her parents rely on her in ways they’re not willing to admit, including working practically full-time at her family’s pho restaurant.

For years, the Mais and the Nguyens have been at odds, having owned competing, neighboring pho restaurants. Bao and Linh, who’ve avoided each other for most of their lives, both suspect that the feud stems from feelings much deeper than friendly competition.

But then a chance encounter brings Linh and Bao in the same vicinity despite their best efforts and sparks fly, leading them both to wonder what took so long for them to connect. But then, of course, they immediately remember.

Can Linh and Bao find love in the midst of feuding families and complicated histories?

This is a cute fun story of two teens who despite being from rival family restaurants end up secretly dating after they are paired together to write reviews for local restaurants. I really liked both Linh and Bao. I also really liked their friends and how they supported and helped each other.

Although this has a cute romance there are also some more serious discussions that happen in the book too. Discussing the difficulties of growing up in a country that isn’t safe to live in, becoming a refugee and then having to start over in a completely new place. The racism that they face and this is something that both Bao and Linh also have to deal with.

Some of the things that Bao and Linh have to deal with this throughout this book was so relatable as a child of immigrant parents. Choosing between doing what you love and what will pay the bills and can they both be the same thing. Pursuing your passion which may disappoint your family or living up to their expectations. Surviving the gossip of the community and reducing yourself so that you aren’t the next target or living life on your own terms. I loved seeing these discussed in the story.

The first half is a little slow but the story picks up a lot in the second half and we learn that there could be more to the family rivalry than just rival restaurants and this added layer just made the story even more interesting. Linh and Bao both have their own individual arcs too in learning more about themselves and what they truly want from life and if they’re willing to take the risk to fight for it. I loved that their arcs wasn’t solely their romance.

But their relationship and how it slowly built was absolutely adorable. They helped each other in their lowest moments and also pushed each other to fight for their dreams. Bao especially stole my heart because he was so sweet, kind and thoughtful. Linh’s passion for art was so wonderful to see and how her teacher encouraged her to pursue it. How she really spoke through her art and showed the emotions through her it. I could picture it in my head.

I cannot forget to mention the food. All the food. The Vietnamese food was described throughout the book and was a big part of the story and it left my mouth watering. I loved how food was such a big part of both their lives and how it’s more than just food. It brings the community together and it is comfort and more.

Overall this was a great read and one that will stay with me for a long time.

Diverse Books, YA Books

Our Violent Ends by Chloe Gong – ARC Review

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

The year is 1927, and Shanghai teeters on the edge of revolution.

After sacrificing her relationship with Roma to protect him from the blood feud, Juliette has been a girl on the warpath. One wrong move, and her cousin will step in to usurp her place as the Scarlet Gang’s heir. The only way to save the boy she loves from the wrath of the Scarlets is to have him want her dead for murdering his best friend in cold blood. If Juliette were actually guilty of the crime Roma believes she committed, his rejection might sting less.

Roma is still reeling from Marshall’s death, and his cousin Benedikt will barely speak to him. Roma knows it’s his fault for letting the ruthless Juliette back into his life, and he’s determined to set things right—even if that means killing the girl he hates and loves with equal measure.

Then a new monstrous danger emerges in the city, and though secrets keep them apart, Juliette must secure Roma’s cooperation if they are to end this threat once and for all. Shanghai is already at a boiling point: The Nationalists are marching in, whispers of civil war brew louder every day, and gangster rule faces complete annihilation. Roma and Juliette must put aside their differences to combat monsters and politics, but they aren’t prepared for the biggest threat of all: protecting their hearts from each other.

This book completely ended my life. I have not stopped thinking about the final scene since I read it. I am a complete mess.

This book begins shortly after the events of These Violent Delights and we are instantly thrown into the thick of things. Chloe really said this book will be pure stress and it truly was but I loved every single second of it.

I absolutely loved Roma and Juliette and their arcs and the pure angst and chaos it was and knowing how Romeo and Juliet ends had me completely terrified for them and yes the end of this book broke me but for multiple reasons and I was up at 4am trying to get it together so I didn’t wake my husband.

This book pulls together all the things that started in the first book from the future of the gangs and the political changes happening in Shanghai and rivalry within each gang for those vying for the leadership positions. Even though there is a lot going on, we get each plot point fully fleshed out and the second half especially is action packed and will keep you on the edge of your seat.

I loved that despite all the action we get some sweet tender moments between the characters and we get some hilarious and complete chaos scenes too. I loved that we also get really great arcs for the side characters too. Kathleen’s arc of accepting her true self and Benedikt and Marshall also had great arcs. And of course the banter between Marshall and Juliette was amazing. I love them all so much!

This duology is absolute perfection and will stay with you long after you finish reading. I loved all the important discussions about sexism, colonisation and how the youth are often torn between two cultures. That of their parents and the one that they grew up with and that we live a mixture of both but we are often not enough for either side and the way that affects us.

It was so interesting to see how Juliette had to be a ruthless and uncompromising and always on alert simply because she is a woman and so being less than perfect can mean she will instantly lose her leadership but that men can make many mistakes and still be respected. How Roma has to also put on a façade for the rest of the world where he is stoic and shows strength because emotions are not for men to show but he is soft and there is nothing wrong with that.

I loved every second of this book and I cannot wait to see what Chloe will write next!

Book Recommendations

Book Recommendations for Grumpy x Sunshine Trope

I love this trope so much but what I love more is when the girl is grumpy and the boy is sunshine! The books with this trope often end up being some of my favourite books so here are some recommendations which I absolutely loved!

The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty – Ali is the most sunshine of sunshine boys and Nahri is grumpiest girl ever. I love them and their dynamic so much.

Nocturna by Maya Motayne – Alfie is adorable and Finn acts like it annoys her while secretly loving his sunshine.

Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes – A grumpy space pirate and an oblivious elite soldier that have some great banter.

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanna A Brown – Malik is a cinnamon roll and Karina loves it even if she pretends she doesn’t.

Defy the Night by Brigid Kemmerer – A grumpy prince that thinks nothing will change and a healer that makes the change. I love them.

Son of the Storm by Suki Davies Okungbowa – A sheltered scholar ends up on the run with a grumpy warrior. They have such a wonderful dynamic.

YA Books

Defy the Night by Brigid Kemmerer – ARC Review

Thank you to Bloomsbury YA and Netgalley for sending me an arc in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

The kingdom of Kandala is on the brink of disaster. Rifts between sectors have only worsened since a sickness began ravaging the land, and within the Royal Palace, the king holds a tenuous peace with a ruthless hand.

King Harristan was thrust into power after his parents’ shocking assassination, leaving the younger Prince Corrick to take on the brutal role of the King’s Justice. The brothers have learned to react mercilessly to any sign of rebellion–it’s the only way to maintain order when the sickness can strike anywhere, and the only known cure, an elixir made from delicate Moonflower petals, is severely limited.

Out in the Wilds, apothecary apprentice Tessa Cade is tired of seeing her neighbors die, their suffering ignored by the unyielding royals. Every night, she and her best friend Wes risk their lives to steal Moonflower petals and distribute the elixir to those who need it most–but it’s still not enough.

As rumors spread that the cure no longer works and sparks of rebellion begin to flare, a particularly cruel act from the King’s Justice makes Tessa desperate enough to try the impossible: sneaking into the palace. But what she finds upon her arrival makes her wonder if it’s even possible to fix Kandala without destroying it first.

Set in a richly imaginative world with striking similarities to our own, Brigid Kemmerer’s captivating new series is about those with power and those without . . . and what happens when someone is brave enough to imagine a new future. 

I loved this book so much! The characters are written so well, they are complicated and nuanced and this book is full of morally grey characters!

Despite the characters doing questionable things, I still felt myself rooting for them because they were put in such difficult situations and you can see they are trying their best to do what’s right but also make decisions that aren’t the best. But they acknowledged what they had done and that it wasn’t right but they did it because it was the lesser of two evils. They had remorse for it and actively tried to do what’s right. It just made the two brothers so interesting to read. I especially loved Corrick’s point of view because of that. Seeing him and his brother from other perspectives it seems as though they are just heartless people who care nothing for the suffering of it’s people but when you see how they think and everything they are trying to do and trying to juggle and balance between so many groups of people.

Corrick is probably my favourite character just because of how complex and nuanced he was. He did questionable things but he also deeply cared for his people. He could trust no one and so struggled with all this alone unable to even speak to his brother because he had to protect him. I did like Harristan as well but we didn’t get to see as much of him but I hope we see more of him in the sequel as I think he will also be a really interesting character.

Tessa was another interesting character because she sees everything as black and white at the beginning of the book. But as she learns more about the complexities of everything that is going on she realises that everything isn’t as simple as she first thought. I also really loved that she is a healer and that she uses that to help those who are the most vulnerable and even helps the King to help the people. I liked seeing that she had confidence in her skills and yet still has moments of self doubt, it made her seem so much more real.

This book surprised me with a plot twist early on that I did not see coming at all and left me shook! I literally had to stop reading to scream because WHAT! But I loved that twist so much because it made the story so much more interesting! I also loved the slow build up to the climax where all the pieces finally fit together and I liked that the ending felt like a complete story but also that there’s more and honestly I am so excited for the sequel!

I highly recommend reading this the story had me hooked from the beginning and I just couldn’t stop reading. I loved the complex characters especially and cannot wait to read more about them.