Adult Books, Diverse Books

The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna – ARC Review

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

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

As one of the few witches in Britain, Mika Moon knows she has to hide her magic, keep her head down, and stay away from other witches so their powers don’t mingle and draw attention. And as an orphan who lost her parents at a young age and was raised by strangers, she’s used to being alone and she follows the rules…with one exception: an online account, where she posts videos pretending to be a witch. She thinks no one will take it seriously.

But someone does. An unexpected message arrives, begging her to travel to the remote and mysterious Nowhere House to teach three young witches how to control their magic. It breaks all of the rules, but Mika goes anyway, and is immediately tangled up in the lives and secrets of not only her three charges, but also an absent archaeologist, a retired actor, two long-suffering caretakers, and…Jamie. The handsome and prickly librarian of Nowhere House would do anything to protect the children, and as far as he’s concerned, a stranger like Mika is a threat. An irritatingly appealing threat.

As Mika begins to find her place at Nowhere House, the thought of belonging somewhere begins to feel like a real possibility. But magic isn’t the only danger in the world, and when a threat comes knocking at their door, Mika will need to decide whether to risk everything to protect a found family she didn’t know she was looking for….

This book was so warm and comforting and such a wonderful read. I read the whole book in one night because I was completely hooked and I absolutely adored this charming story and the wonderful cast of characters. A story of finding your people and belonging and it was just so beautiful and heartwarming.

There is someone out there who will accept you as you are, who will allow you to just be Mika.

We meet Mika who is a young woman living on her own and has spent her whole life alone and now struggles to let people in and build emotional bonds and attachments because she thinks everyone will leave anyways. She answers an ad for a witch wanted, thinking that they can’t possibly know that she truly is a witch and this changes her whole life. 

I loved seeing Mika grow and learn to accept people into her life and be able to love deeply and be loved in return. Her story touches on how childhood trauma can impact your adult life but it is possible to work through that and choose a better life for yourself. I loved seeing her relationships with each of the children and how different they were and how each of them had a different reaction to Mika coming to live with them and teach them to control their magic. I also loved seeing her with the adults in charge of the care for the children and how they had built a close loving family and how starkly different it was for Mika growing up.

He was the purest alchemy, lead to gold.

Jamie is the book loving, nerdy, socially awkward love interest and I loved him so much! It was so refreshing to read a story where the man openly expresses his love and affection the way he does towards the family he has and especially the children under his care. He loves deeply and fiercely and will do everything in his power to protect those he loves. He doesn’t initially trust Mika but soon realises she wants nothing but the best for these children and he eventually learns to trust her and falls pretty hard for her. He is very grumpy at the beginning but secretly he is an absolute cinnamon roll and the quiet ways in which he cares for Mika and helps her see that she can be loved was just so beautiful to read.

She had never felt so welcomed and included, so much a part of something and she couldn’t rid herself of a lifelong fear that it was too good to be true.

The family dynamics and how each of the characters love and care for each other, and how Mika becomes part of their family and is accepted completely and entirely as she is was so wonderful to read. Being accepted and accepting all of yourself was a theme that ran through the story for most of the characters and showing the children a better life so they don’t have to suffer the way they did. I just loved it all so much!

If you love grumpy/sunshine, found family and a cosy, heartwarming story, I highly recommend picking up this book. I read this in one sitting and it’s a story that will stay with me for a long time.

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

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.

Blog Tours/Street Teams, Diverse Books, YA Books

The Damned by Renee Ahdieh – ARC Review

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

I am part of The Damned Blog Tour and I will be sharing my review of The Damned with you all. I absolutely adore everything that Renee writes and The Damned is no exception. This is the sequel to The Beautiful which came out last year and quickly became one of my favourite reads of 2019 and The Damned is definitely become a favourite this year!

You can read my review of The Beautiful here

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Following the events of The Beautiful, Sébastien Saint Germain is now cursed and forever changed. The treaty between the Fallen and the Brotherhood has been broken, and war between the immortals seems imminent. The price of loving Celine was costly. But Celine has also paid a high price for loving Bastien.

Still recovering from injuries sustained during a night she can’t quite remember, her dreams are troubled. And she doesn’t know she has inadvertently set into motion a chain of events that could lead to her demise and unveil a truth about herself she’s not quite ready to learn.

Forces hiding in the shadows have been patiently waiting for this moment for centuries. And just as Bastien and Celine begin to uncover the danger around them, they learn their love could tear them apart.

We pick up where The Beautiful ended and what an ending it was! We get to see several points of view in the first half of this book which I loved because I really love these vampires, especially Odette! Her friendship with Celine was everything!  

This book takes the world we are introduced to and expands it so we see so much more of the world hidden from humans. We get to go to the world of the fae and we learn more about the history of the vampires and werewolves and I loved it so much. It made me see things that happened in The Beautiful in a new light. I love the incredible world building and how it was incorporated into the story so it didn’t feel like it was just info dumping. We are introduced to new characters and we get to see more of some of the characters in the first book. One of my favourite side characters is Arjun and I just hope we get to see more of him in the next book!

For far too long, Celine had looked to others for answers. It was time for her to look within herself.

Celine starts this book so unsure of herself because she has lost her memories and doesn’t know what has happened to her and she hates how everyone thinks they what’s best for her so she goes looking for answers and ends up learning so much about herself and her history. I loved seeing how she didn’t let anyone dictate her life and took charge of it herself.

It is was easy for a man to be kind and generous in times of plenty. The real measure of a man was what he did and said in times of difficulty.

While The Beautiful was Celine’s story, this book is Bastian’s. He has such wonderful character development in this book. Through Bastian we also get lots of discussions of toxic masculinity and what truly makes a man great. I loved seeing how he has to unlearn all the things that have been drilled into him by his uncle and he has to consciously choose to be better. It was so wonderful to read and see his development and the choices he makes, especially when it comes to Celine. Everyone insists on knowing better for her but he trusts her to make her own decisions and supports her in those decisions. I just loved it so much!

Renee’s writing is so beautiful and the vivid descriptions were so wonderful and I could really see the world that Renee has created. I loved the vampires who were dark and seductive and you’re just instantly drawn to them and it was also interesting to see how they were different yet similar to the werewolves especially considering their shared history and why they don’t like each other.

If a mediocre young man could crow to the world about his mediocrity, then why should a superior young woman not do the same?

I love how diverse the characters are and how Renee has so many cultures seamlessly incorporated into her world and it’s one of the things I love about her books especially that I can see myself in her worlds. There are discussions of how being a person of colour affects how you are treated and it was so wonderful to see this in a book but also people like Arjun, make the best out of their situation.

I absolutely adore this series and I cannot wait to read the next book! I am so happy that we get another book because I am not ready to leave this world and I’m excited to see where the story will go next and who it will follow.

Make sure you check out everyone else’s posts too!