Top 5 Wednesdays

Top 5 Wednesday – Current Obsession

Hey booknerds! So I’ve been kind of absent on my blog lately but I want to start posting again so I thought I would start off with sharing my 2022 obsessions!

I have some absolutely incredible books this year and some of them have imprinted themselves onto my heart and soul. They truly live in my head rent free and I need you all to go read them!

1 The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah – This book has my whole heart and filled the void of no more Daevabad stories. I absolutely adore the characters and I am already dying for the sequel! You can read my full review here

2 My Mechanical Romance by Alexene Farol Follmuth – This book completely took me by surprise and I finally read a book with a character that has my name, a STEM girl at that! You can read my full review here

3 Little Thieves by Margaret Owen – I absolutely adore these chaotic characters, especially the dynamic between Emeric and Vanja and I cannot wait to read the sequel!

4 The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper – This book is incredible. Set in ancient Pompeii and follows the story of a group of women who have been sold into slavery and their fight for a better life. Truly heart breaking and I adore the women and how smart and resourceful they are. I loved seeing how each of them deal with their trauma so differently and how they fight for a better tomorrow.

5 The River of Silver by S.A. Chakraborty – Did you honestly think a Daevabad book wouldn’t make the list? I loved these stories so much and filled the void that nothing has been able to fill since the end of The Empire of Gold. The last story especially lives in my head rent free. You can read my full review here

So these are my 5! Share what books you’re currently obsessed with in the comments!

Diverse Books, YA Books

My Mechanical Romance by Alexene Farol Follmuth – ARC Review

This book has fast become one of my favourite books ever!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Nerds are so hot.
Especially battle robot building nerds.

Bel would rather die than think about the future. College apps? You’re funny. Extracurriculars? Not a chance. But when she accidentally reveals a talent for engineering at school, she’s basically forced into joining the robotics club. Even worse? All the boys ignore Bel—and Neelam, the only other girl on the team, doesn’t seem to like her either.

Enter Mateo Luna, captain of the club, who recognizes Bel as a potential asset—until they start butting heads. Bel doesn’t care about Nationals, while Teo cares too much. But as the nights of after-school work grow longer and longer, Bel and Teo realize they’ve built more than just a combat-ready robot for the championship: they’ve made space for each other and themselves.

I did not know what to expect when I started reading but this book is utterly phenomenal and I loved every single second. But first can I mention that for the first time ever, I saw a character that had my name, MY NAME! I have never read a book with a character that has the same name as me and she was a STEM girl!

Take up your own space, Bel. Don’t let other people tread over it.

This book has my whole heart, it discusses all the things I am passionate about and we get all the nerdy banter too! Through Bel and Teo we see how misogyny creates barriers for women to succeed in STEM careers and how much harder they have to work to get even a tenth of the recognition that the men get. How Neelam is constantly dismissed and belittled, how she is made to feel inferior to Teo and how hard she has had to fight for her place and even then her ideas are ignored. Even the teacher and how his language changes depending on whether he’s speaking to the girls or the boys. How this is so normalised that speaking against is seen as making a fuss. I felt this all deep in my soul.

You don’t have to make the world perfect just so people will love you.

Another really great discussion was how as teenagers when we barely understand ourselves, we are expected to have our whole life planned out and that it is seen as failure if you haven’t. The pressure that we and the adults put on ourselves to know what we want to do and yet so many of us just don’t and that should be okay too. It was also great to see how socioeconomic factors affects how “prepared” a young person is by 18 to have their lives mapped out. If we have been denied opportunities and a better education because we can’t afford it then how is it our fault that our choices are limited and we don’t know what it is we want to do. Combine that with expectations from parents and it can be very stressful for the person. I loved seeing this all discussed in the story without it becoming too heavy.

If I want the world to recognise what I am truly capable of, I have to show them.

I loved Bel from the moment we meet her but Teo took me a few chapters to really like, he seems like the usual arrogant boy who thinks he deserves all the special treatment but as the story progresses we see that he isn’t actually like that, though he does have some prejudices towards how he treats Neelam. I loved how much he changes and grows throughout the story and learns to let others in and help him and that he can trust other people and even how he views Neelam.

I loved seeing Bel grow throughout the story too as she finally finds something she truly enjoys and is passionate about and how she fights for it. I also loved the conversation between her and Neelam near the end of the story where we finally see why Neelam was hostile towards Bel at first and they learn to understand each other better. I also loved seeing a teacher that truly saw Bel’s potential and guided her without shaming or guilting and spoke to her respectfully, we all need teachers like this in our lives.

I think about how much I want them all to succeed in life; to go far, as far as possible, until every girl who succeeds is a beacon of light for all the others.

One of my favourite things was seeing the female friendships and women supporting women. How Bel and her friends truly want the best for each other and don’t try to stab each other in the back to progress themselves because there is space for all of them. I just truly  loved that we see this in the story, it brought me so much joy.

This book is absolutely incredible and once I started I could not put it down reading well into the night. I loved these characters and that epilogue was everything! I really hope we get to see more of them in the future.

YA Books

Kingdom of the Cursed by Kerri Maniscalco – Book Review

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

Synopsis from goodreads:

After selling her soul to become Queen of the Wicked, Emilia travels to the Seven Circles with the enigmatic Prince of Wrath, where she’s introduced to a seductive world of vice.

She vows to do whatever it takes to avenge her beloved sister, Vittoria… even if that means accepting the hand of the Prince of Pride, the king of demons.

The first rule in the court of the Wicked? Trust no one. With back-stabbing princes, luxurious palaces, mysterious party invitations, and conflicting clues about who really killed her twin, Emilia finds herself more alone than ever before. Can she even trust Wrath, her one-time ally in the mortal world… or is he keeping dangerous secrets about his true nature?

Emilia will be tested in every way as she seeks a series of magical objects that will unlock the clues of her past and the answers she craves…

I really enjoyed Kingdom of the Wicked so I was looking forward to reading the sequel but unfortunately I did not enjoy this book at all. It was a hot mess.

This book takes place just after the events of the first book and while the first book had an interesting plot that kept me reading one more chapter this book is mostly Emilia trying to be smart and scheming but not actually doing much at all. You could read the last couple chapters and move on to the third book and not miss anything of importance.

This book is also aimed at younger YA and yet it is not appropriate at all for them. There is romanticisation of sexual assault and violent behaviour. One scene where Wrath gets Emilia completely drunk to the point she can’t even feed herself so she unable to consent and then later tells her he was doing it to teach her how to protect herself. Later in the book, Emilia comments that some people like violent behaviours when it comes to romance and this is such a dangerous thing to normalise for young people. I honestly don’t know how this was all included in the book.

Emilia also annoyed me to no end in this book, she acted like she was being so smart and badass but she was not, she was just plain stupid and unable to work anything out that every single person around her already knew. But at least she did it with confidence, I guess. She repeatedly said the same thing again and again and yet all we see from her: no thoughts, head empty, only horny. I don’t have an issue with romance in general but this was just not it. It felt very toxic and Wrath withheld important information from her regarding who she is actually supposed to be marrying and it just felt ick.

Wrath was just as annoying and after him basically assaulting Emilia in the name of training her, I just did not like him at all after that. This wasn’t addressed at all in the book at any point and I really need these scenes to stop being shown in books aimed at young teens.

This book is also very romance heavy and the plot suffered because of it, in fact there was very little plot at all. We make zero progress throughout the whole book and then right at the end all the reveals happen together and in the span of the last two chapters which were also generally very obvious to everyone except Emilia.

The ending of this book was really underwhelming because there was so little plot and everything was so vague and just I was barely interested by the end because I was so irritated by having to get through a whole book to end on THAT ending when the ending of the first book suggested we would get a lot more information but we got very little.

I’m so disappointed because I actually enjoyed the first book and this book was a mess.

Diverse Books, YA Books

The Girl Who Fell Beneath The Sea by Axie Oh – ARC Review

Thank you, Hodder and Stoughton, for sending me this arc in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Deadly storms have ravaged Mina’s homeland for generations. Floods sweep away entire villages, while bloody wars are waged over the few remaining resources. Her people believe the Sea God, once their protector, now curses them with death and despair. In an attempt to appease him, each year a beautiful maiden is thrown into the sea to serve as the Sea God’s bride, in the hopes that one day the “true bride” will be chosen and end the suffering.

Many believe that Shim Cheong, the most beautiful girl in the village—and the beloved of Mina’s older brother Joon—may be the legendary true bride. But on the night Cheong is to be sacrificed, Joon follows Cheong out to sea, even knowing that to interfere is a death sentence. To save her brother, Mina throws herself into the water in Cheong’s stead.

Swept away to the Spirit Realm, a magical city of lesser gods and mythical beasts, Mina seeks out the Sea God, only to find him caught in an enchanted sleep. With the help of a mysterious young man named Shin—as well as a motley crew of demons, gods and spirits—Mina sets out to wake the Sea God and bring an end to the killer storms once and for all.

But she doesn’t have much time: A human cannot live long in the land of the spirits. And there are those who would do anything to keep the Sea God from waking… 

I was instantly drawn to this book because of the absolutely beautiful cover and the story is just as beautiful. This story takes place under the sea in the spirit realm and Mina has to try to end the curse that is not only causing destruction to her home but also in the spirit realm.

This book is magical and enchanting and honestly I was not expecting the story to be like this but I ended up loving it anyways. I love the world we get to see and how the culture and traditions are shown in the story and how those in power may not be the right people for the job and then there are others who would sacrifice everything to help those around them.

I loved all the characters and especially Mina. She is brave and kind and caring and smart. She does not stop doing what is right because it is difficult or because she is scared. She makes the sacrifices again and again to save and help those she loves. She is also reckless at times and often putting herself in danger but is helped by her friends that she makes in the spirit realm. I just really loved her and the relationships she builds with others. Her love for her brother, so that he isn’t separated from the woman he loves, she takes her place instead and that alone is a huge sacrifice and yet she continues to be caring and kind and helping others even putting her life at risk for them. It doesn’t make her bitter and angry and I really loved seeing that.

Shin was a bit more of a mysterious character and it took me a little longer to warm up to him but by the end when we learn more about him I loved him too. I loved his friendships and how he protects everyone. I think my main issue with the book is that the romance felt a little rushed and I wasn’t completely sold on how suddenly they developed these feelings for each other but I was rooting for them by the end.

I loved the discussions around fate and whether we can change the fate that others decide for us and I loved seeing the women who were sent as brides before given more thought. Mina thinks about how they didn’t have a choice and whether they wanted this for themselves. She also has a huge decision to make in this story, whether she will tie her fate to the sea god or follow her heart. And I really loved going on this journey with her.

This book is whimsical and beautifully written and I highly recommend everyone read it!

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.