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

Jade Fire Gold by June CL Tan – ARC Review

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

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

In an empire on the brink of war…
Ahn is no one, with no past and no family.
Altan is a lost heir, his future stolen away as a child.
When they meet, Altan sees in Ahn a path to reclaiming the throne. Ahn sees a way to finally unlock her past and understand her arcane magical abilities.
But they may have to pay a far deadlier price than either could have imagined.

I was so excited to read this as it sounded like exactly my type of book and while I did enjoy it mostly I was a little disappointed by it. This had great potential to be amazing but the execution just wasn’t quite there. That isn’t to say that it’s a bad book, I know that a lot of people will enjoy it I just wanted that bit more, especially when it came to the characters.

The story itself is interesting, but everything happens so conveniently and quickly that there’s no build up or tension considering the story and the powers that Ahn has. Evey new aspect to the story and any trouble that the characters get into is resolved so quickly and easily that I never felt worried for them when I should have. The ending with the climax was so rushed and the time jumps that skipped over parts left me feeling underwhelmed. The beginning was slow especially the travelling parts and I feel that this should have been reduced to extend the climax more and give us more answers because I was left with a lot of answers for a book that is standalone. It was great to see Chinese folklore inspired elements in the book though.

When it comes to the characters, I actually liked the side characters more than the main characters. Ahn confused me because she just so easily accepted everything that was told to her without me but refused to trust the one person that was actually trying to look out for her. Altan was so busy trying to get revenge that he was either brooding or pining for Ahn while also denying said feelings. His revenge wasn’t very thought out because he didn’t want to become emperor but was happy to create a power vacuum which would absolutely lead to war and cause more suffering. Their romance was also rushed and had no substance, I didn’t feel any chemistry between them or felt like I should root for them. It was interesting to see how the choices they made resulted in the events at the end of the book. And they both learn how the history they are taught is not always the full truth.

My favourite character was Leiye and I just want to know more about him and his past. We aren’t given any answers about why he chose to help Ahn and I want to know more about him. I also liked all the other side characters too but again wish we had been given more information about them. There was a lot that wasn’t explained about any of them which left me just wanting more answers than feeling satisfied when I finished.

This book didn’t work for me, maybe because I have read a lot of fantasy so my expectations were higher but I do think that anyone that wants to start reading fantasy would enjoy this book and younger teens would too.

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.

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.