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!

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, Middle Grade Books

Amina’s Song by Hena Khan – ARC Review

Thank you to Simon and Schuster Books for this arc in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

It’s the last few days of her vacation in Pakistan, and Amina has loved every minute of it. The food, the shops, the time she’s spent with her family—all of it holds a special place in Amina’s heart. Now that the school year is starting again, she’s sad to leave, but also excited to share the wonders of Pakistan with her friends back in Greendale.

After she’s home, though, her friends don’t seem overly interested in her trip. And when she decides to do a presentation on Pakistani hero Malala Yousafzai, her classmates focus on the worst parts of the story. How can Amina share the beauty of Pakistan when no one wants to listen?

This story is one that I think many young people and even adults will be able to relate to a lot. A story about belonging and being the child of parents who immigrated to a different country for various reasons and now you’re in between two worlds. A story about how even though there can be many differences in being from different cultures there are also many things that can bring us together.

Reading this book reminded me of how I felt when as a young teen I went to Pakistan for a holiday and while I loved it, I couldn’t shake that feeling of not quite fitting in and yet being born and raised in the UK, sometimes I still feel like I don’t quite fit in. That sense of not quite belonging in either place because you are a combination of both cultures and also how you may even reject one culture to be able to belong in the other. Amina doesn’t want to wear salwar kameez or take Pakistani food to school for lunch because it would make her stand out and yet her white friend can bring kebabs without feeling like that. There were so many scenes like this in the book that really hit home for me and how I had felt growing up.

How when the only thing you see about countries you’re family is from is how “backwards” and “violent” they are it can make you want to distance yourself from it yet that isn’t the truth of things and people being violent is a universal thing no matter where you are from. As Amina learns about Malala and tries to show the beauty of Pakistan through her she is faced with people only seeing how a group of people hurt a young girl when all she wanted was to get an education. How people pity girls from there but don’t see how the same thing is happening in their own countries albeit in different ways. That there are incredible people all over the world. I just truly loved how Hena wove all this into the story and showed how beautiful countries like Pakistan can be.

I really liked how Amina has an internal conflict but is determined to show how beautiful her heritage and culture is. It felt so real and relatable and also woven into the story of friendship and family and loving each other despite differences.

At the end when Amina shared the stories of some of the many incredible women from Pakistan and their incredible achievements, it was wonderful to see and seeing people’s reactions go from pity to awe. In the west we are rarely told positive stories of people living in places like Pakistan and I love how Hena tackled this problem through Amina’s story.

This book is one I related to deep in soul and I am so happy to see these stories being published where we can celebrate our heritage and culture instead of being ashamed by it. It’s a wholesome story of love between family and friends and how despite being worlds apart you can still be connected to each other.

Book Tag

Of Curses and Kisses Book Tag

I have completely fallen in love with this book and so when I saw that Scorpio Book Dreams had created a book tag inspired by the book I could not resist doing the tag!

Before I do the tag here is what the book is about:

Will the princess save the beast?
For Princess Jaya Rao, nothing is more important than family. When the loathsome Emerson clan steps up their centuries-old feud to target Jaya’s little sister, nothing will keep Jaya from exacting her revenge. Then Jaya finds out she’ll be attending the same elite boarding school as Grey Emerson, and it feels like the opportunity of a lifetime. She knows what she must do: Make Grey fall in love with her and break his heart. But much to Jaya’s annoyance, Grey’s brooding demeanor and lupine blue eyes have drawn her in. There’s simply no way she and her sworn enemy could find their fairy-tale ending…right?
His Lordship Grey Emerson is a misanthrope. Thanks to an ancient curse by a Rao matriarch, Grey knows he’s doomed once he turns eighteen. Sequestered away in the mountains at St. Rosetta’s International Academy, he’s lived an isolated existence—until Jaya Rao bursts into his life, but he can’t shake the feeling that she’s hiding something. Something that might just have to do with the rose-shaped ruby pendant around her neck…
As the stars conspire to keep them apart, Jaya and Grey grapple with questions of love, loyalty, and whether it’s possible to write your own happy ending.

The tag was originally created by Scorpio Book Dreams and you can find her post here

So lets get on with the tag:

Jaya – Favourite fictional bookworm
I mean did you really expect me to pick anyone except my Prince Alizayd al-Qahtani from The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty?! My favourite nerd who will literally talk all day about all things history and economics and everything else in between!

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Grey – Favourite brooding character
Nasir from We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal takes brooding to a whole new level!

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St. Rosetta’s Academy – Favourite fictional school
Blackcliff Academy in An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir is technically a school, albeit one that trains kids to be ruthless assassins.

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Jaya & Isha – Favourite fictional siblings
Rishi and Aashish from When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon have a really interesting relationship and loved seeing how much they grow together in this book.

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Romance & Revenge – Book that features both themes
The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi has both and both themes are done SO WELL. My god I cannot wait to have the next book in my hands!

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Rose pendant – Book featuring a touch of magic
A Pocketful of Stars by Aisha Bushby weaves just that little bit of magic into the life of the MC to help her deal with the things that is happening in her life.

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Rao & Emerson families – Book that deals with the pressure of family expectations
One of the main themes that runs throughout The City of Brass by S.A Chakraborty is how the youth have to live up to their family expectations even though it isn’t what they want and how they have to deal with that when they realise that they actually don’t agree with their parents.

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Leo, Rahul & Daphne Elizabeth – A book featuring a supportive friendship group
All the Things we Never Said by Yasmin Rahman deals with some really difficult but one of the themes that is woven into the story which plays an important role is friendship. It was really great seeing some really wonderful and complex female friendships.

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Enemies to lovers – favourite book featuring this trope
I loved how The Tiger at Midnight by Swati Teerdhala used this trope and watching them go from enemies to lovers was *chefs kisses* it was done so well!

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Caterina – A character that seem an ice queen/king but is actually a cinnamon roll
Ari from The Light at the Bottom of the World by London Shah is really broody and angsty but we later realise he is actually a cinnamon roll!

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Everyone is welcome to do the tag!