Diverse Books, YA Books

The Righteous by Renee Ahdieh – 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:

Pippa Montrose is tired of losing everything she loves. When her best friend Celine disappears under mysterious circumstances, Pippa resolves to find her, even if the journey takes her into the dangerous world of the fae, where she might find more than she bargained for in the charismatic Arjun Desai.

This is the third book in The Beautiful Quartet and each book just keeps getting better and better! These books can be read in any order but I do recommend reading them in the order they are released to get a rich experience.

I absolutely adored this book and I was so happy to see that we would get to see Arjun and Pippa’s point of view as they were my favourite side characters in the first two books. We also see more of Celine, Bastian, Michael and Emilie from the first two books.

Each book expands the world of The Beautiful more and more and in this book we get to spend a lot more time in the world of the fey, we see how they live and how different they are from the human world and we see their politics and the rising tensions between the summer and winter courts. It was so interesting to see this world though I did miss the New Orleans and especially the court of lions. Maybe we will see them again in the next book.

Love was for the foolish. And Arjun Desai was no fool.

This book has a marriage of convenience, only one bed scene and multiple interactions between Arjun and Pippa where he calls her a term of endearment in Urdu and she doesn’t understand! Every time he did I would just have a big goofy grin on my face because it was the sweetest thing ever! I loved the dynamic between Pippa and Arjun so much and how well they compliment each other. How they understand each other so well in such a short time and the secret pining for each other almost killed me! They notice the smallest things about each other like how Arjun promises to not let her ever go hungry in their marriage vows when she reveals that she often went hungry growing up.

Conquering a man’s country does not mean you have conquered his soul.

I loved their development throughout the book and one of the things I loved most was that Arjun was not afraid to call Pippa out on her colonialist thinking and her white privilege and Pippa took the time to listen, apologise and learn from it. We do see this discussion happen throughout the series and it is so well done.

One of my favourite things about these books is how we get fae and vampires but they’re people of colour and their cultures are shown in their courts. It was so nice to be able to see that in the story especially when we usually see fae and vampires they are always white but now we get to see people of colour and ourselves in the story.

Men had been given access to power all their lives. It was their so called birthright. Maybe it was time for them to see what a woman could do.

We also see more of Celine and Bastian in this book and it’s so interesting to see how Celine is the one who is drawn to power and Bastian doesn’t want it. Bastian has always had power, but Celine hasn’t and now she realises she can have that freedom and choice she is often denied because she is a woman. The ongoing discussions around women and how the patriarchal society pushed them down and caged them in certain roles is one I have loved seeing throughout the books. We also see how the patriarchy hurts men too, like Bastian and how he must unlearn so many toxic ideas.

We get a few chapters from Michael’s point of view too in this book and let me just tell you that I completely and entirely hate this man. He has nothing but the audacity and if Celine doesn’t slap him, I will. In the first two books I was indifferent towards him but now we see how entitled he feels and how he puts blame on others instead of taking responsibility and it infuriated me.

The writing and the story is absolutely incredible and had me completely and entirely hooked to the point where I was up late at night to read just one more chapter. The tension that built up slowly throughout the book and then chaos ensued at the end with the ending being left on a cliffhanger left me screaming. And a cameo from one of Renee’s previous books that left me shook and so incredibly happy to see!

I need everyone to go read these books because they are incredible and deserve all the love.

Diverse Books, YA Books

Fire With Fire by Destiny Soria – ARC Review

Thank you to hodderscape and netgalley for sending me an arc in exchange for an honest review.

I loved this book so much! The sibling relationship and the growth of both sisters was so wonderful to see in a book.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Dani and Eden Rivera were both born to kill dragons, but the sisters couldn’t be more different. For Dani, dragon slaying takes a back seat to normal high school life, while Eden prioritizes training above everything else. Yet they both agree on one thing: it’s kill or be killed where dragons are concerned.

Until Dani comes face-to-face with one and forges a rare and magical bond with him. As she gets to know Nox, she realizes that everything she thought she knew about dragons is wrong. With Dani lost to the dragons, Eden turns to the mysterious and alluring sorcerers to help save her sister. Now on opposite sides of the conflict, the sisters will do whatever it takes to save the other. But the two are playing with magic that is more dangerous than they know, and there is another, more powerful enemy waiting for them both in the shadows.

I loved this book so much! I love seeing sibling relationships in books and this one had such a complicated nuanced relationship. I loved both sisters and their individual arcs as well as how they were together. I related to each of them in different ways and it was so great to see a story where sisters are the main relationship we see.

Dani is  the younger sister and always feels like she can’t live up to her “perfect” older sister. She also doesn’t want to take on the family  legacy which I related to a lot. It’s like when your parents have their own dreams for you but what you want is different but you don’t want to hurt them either but hers is way more intense! Her character growth throughout the book was also so great to read, how she learned to balance her family and what she wanted and wasn’t afraid to also call out the parts that she knew were wrong and shouldn’t just continue the same way just because that’s how it’s always been done.

Edan, the older sister, yet feels like she will never be truly seen as she always feels overshadowed by Dani and this makes her strive for perfection. In trying to impress her parents she neglects all other parts of her life to her detriment. She also has anxiety and had panic attacks which I felt were showed really well. I really appreciated how they were shown in the story and especially her journey to coming to terms with this part of herself. She thinks this is a weakness and makes her less and just wants it to go away but she learns to see it as a strength and that she is more than capable even with her anxiety. She doesn’t need “fixing” and I thought that is such a important thing for young people to read in books. I just really loved seeing it in the story.

Their relationship with each other was also so great to see. They were close but there was also walls up because they both thought they can’t live up to the other. I loved that Dani did everything she could to help Edan and how they finally started to accept each other for who they are.

There was also some wonderful side characters that I am really looking forward to seeing in the sequel especially that potential love interest for Dani. Tomas was adorable and a wonderful best friend to Dani like seriously this is the type of friendship I love to see in books. I also loved seeing Dani intereact with Tomas’ family and how his mum would force her to take food home. It reminded me of the Asian aunties who insist on doing this too and I think it’s such a wonderful part of the culture we got to see.

I also loved Nox who is the dragon that Dani meets and how sassy and sarcastic he is. His relationship with Dani was so great to see too and how they both learned to accept and trust each other. I am really looking forward to learning more about the dragons.

The story was so much fun to read even though it was dark at times especially in the second half of the book. It’s also fast paced and I couldn’t stop reading once I started, often reading late into the night. And after the ending of the story I am absolutely dying to read the sequel!

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

Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim – ARC Review

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

I loved this book so much! And I cannot wait for the sequel!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Shiori, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control. At first, her mistake seems like a stroke of luck, forestalling the wedding she never wanted, but it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother.

Raikama has dark magic of her own, and she banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes, and warning Shiori that she must speak of it to no one: for with every word that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will die.

Penniless, voiceless, and alone, Shiori searches for her brothers, and, on her journey, uncovers a conspiracy to overtake the throne—a conspiracy more twisted and deceitful, more cunning and complex, than even Raikama’s betrayal. Only Shiori can set the kingdom to rights, but to do so she must place her trust in the very boy she fought so hard not to marry. And she must embrace the magic she’s been taught all her life to contain—no matter what it costs her.

This book was such a wonderful read. The world building is vivid and imaginative and just so lush that you could really see the world in your head. I absolutely love when books have such vivid descriptions. I loved that we got to travel to several places in the world with Shiori and I loved the folklore and mythology woven into the story.

This is a story of family bonds and sibling love and how sometimes we may not understand the motives behind something that someone we love does but that it may not always be what it seems. A story of self-development and learning how our actions can affect others and to what lengths we will go to, to protect those we love.

When we first meet Shiori she was rash and didn’t consider how her actions may affect other people. She was sheltered and because of this was always yearning for a life outside the palace she lived in and not truly appreciating what she had. I found her a bit childish at first but I loved her character arc and growth throughout the book. I also loved seeing her relationship with her brothers and how they collectively cared for and looked out for each other. But I especially loved seeing how they each had their own special relationship with Shiori. It felt so real and relatable and I love seeing loving sibling relationships in books. It was one of my favourite parts of the book seeing how they joked and had fun but also looked out for each other and how Shiori was willing to go through dangerous situations for them and they risked being killed to help her.

The story starts with Shiori escaping meeting her betrothed and ending up meeting a dragon who decides to help her and someone we meet several times in the book. She has magic which is forbidden in her kingdom and is discovered by her stepmother who banishes her and turns her brothers into cranes. The banishment means that no one will recognise Shiori or her brothers so they can’t get help from anyone. Her brothers only become human again at night so during the day they fly to different places in search of answers while Shiori has to build a magical net to help her fight her stepmother. Things are even more complicated because of one part of the banishment which could be deadly for her brothers.

At first it may seem like a straightforward story with an evil stepmother and the children of the king saving their father but not all is as it seems and is the villain truly the stepmother or someone or something else? I was completely hooked watching the story unravel and slowly piecing things together as Shiori learns more about everything happening and who is trying to overthrow her father. We learn more about her stepmother and their relationship and we also learn about her betrothed.

Takkan was a breath of fresh air. I loved him from the moment we are introduced to him and we see that he is nothing like Shiori imagined him to be. He is kind and sweet and caring and I loved his relationship with his little sister. She was such a wonderful character and I loved her friendship with Shiori. Seeing Shiori slowly warm to Takkan and Takkan caring for Shiori even while thinking she is just a maidservant. I loved Shiori and Takkan so much and just how much he loves Shiori and is only truly open and vulnerable with her. I cannot wait to see more of him in the sequel.

I absolutely loved this book and the character driven story but also weaving mythology and forbidden magic into the story and the hints we get about where the sequel may take us, I am so excited to know what will happen next!

Books by Muslim Authors, Diverse Books, Muslim Shelf Space, YA Books

Court of Lions by Somaiya Daud – ARC Review

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

This is the sequel to Mirage which I loved so I was excited to read this. I really enjoyed this book and I liked how it ended.

Here is my review for Mirage

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

After being swept up into the brutal Vathek court, Amani, the ordinary girl forced to serve as the half-Vathek princess’s body double, has been forced into complete isolation. The cruel but complex princess, Maram, with whom Amani had cultivated a tenuous friendship, discovered Amani’s connection to the rebellion and has forced her into silence, and if Amani crosses Maram once more, her identity – and her betrayal – will be revealed to everyone in the court.

Amani is desperate to continue helping the rebellion, to fight for her people’s freedom. But she must make a devastating decision: will she step aside, and watch her people suffer, or continue to aid them, and put herself and her family in mortal danger? And whatever she chooses, can she bear to remain separated, forever, from Maram’s fiancé, Idris?

This is the sequel to Mirage and starts pretty much where Mirage ended. Amani has to try to gain back the trust of Maram while also deciding whether she wants to risk being part of the rebels or not anymore.

I have mixed feelings about the sequel, the story went in a direction I wasn’t expecting but I did love what happened in the book. I did feel however that the story felt quite slow at the beginning and felt myself losing interest in the middle of the book. But the ending was really great though I wish we had spent more time on the ending as opposed to the build up.

I loved seeing Amani’s character development from being the scared girl we meet at the beginning of Mirage to the young woman who leads a rebellion by the end of Court of Lions. She builds the relationships and ties needed for Maram to be a good leader and helps Maram to overcome the conditioning she has been taught her whole life to look down on her mother’s people. It was really great to see their friendship build to becoming like sisters and Amani became the family Maram never had who she could trust and turn to for help and advice. I loved seeing Amani’s love for Maram and how much she fought for her despite the rebels wariness.

Maram was the character that surprised me most in the sequel. I really wasn’t sure which way Maram would go after the ending of Mirage and I am actually really happy to see her point of view in the sequel as it made her more complex and gave her character more depth. I especially liked seeing how conflicted she was underneath her mask of indifference and wanted to be a part of her mother’s heritage and family despite her father trying to stamp it out of her. I liked seeing her relationship with her new mysterious falconer, Aghraas. Though I do wish I could have seen more build up of their relationship before they got to the ‘I would do anything for you.’ I had the same issue with Amani and Idris though I do like both couples in the books.

The political intrigue is most prominent in this book as Maram and Amani must navigate the politics of both the rebels and the Vath and I really loved seeing them both deal with all the complications and trying to keep the peace between everyone while also showing they were willing to build a new world where no one would be oppressed.

Overall I did enjoy the sequel and how it concluded I just wish we had gotten more from the ending rather than so much of the political intrigue which made it drag a little in the middle. But I think most people will enjoy how the world is expanded and that this is a lot more plot based and had more characters which I loved seeing.