Double Review: That Can Be Arranged and The Black Hawks

Double Review: That Can Be Arranged and The Black Hawks

*I received a copy of both these books via the publisher and NetGalley in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

That Can Be Arranged

Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)

In her second comic, Huda Fahmy recounts the story of how she met her husband, Gehad. Marriage is always tricky, and especially for Huda as she faces gossiping aunties and overbearing parents who want the best for her. That Can Be Arranged is hilarious, quirky and quite refreshing. A simple story which also discusses misconceptions about the autonomy of Muslim women, and offers another way to understand what life is like for a Muslim woman in a modern age.

Fahmy’s sense of humour is strange, but I surprisingly enjoyed it. I see a lot of her art on Instagram so I knew I had to read this one. The story is practical, nothing too extreme, and I really enjoyed how open she was about her spirituality in her story. I also appreciated how she’s so unabashed when it comes to expressing all her struggles.

I’ll admit the art style isn’t my taste, but her wit and humour really makes up for it. Fahmy’s story is quick and simple, yet makes its mark about her longing to find someone, the struggles it entails and making sure she gets married for the right reason and with the right person.


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The Black Hawks

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ (2/5)

Bound to a dead-end job in the service of his uncle, life isn’t all that for Vedren Chel. That is until the kingdom is thrown into chaos, and Vedren finds an out: escorting the stranded prince who promises his oath would be dissolved. But dragging a prince while being hunted by enemies on all sides isn’t easy and when they find themselves in the company of the Black Hawks, Vedren’s dream to return home drifts further away from him.

It hurt a lot to not like this one. I was really excited to read The Black Hawks, but nothing was really impressive about this book at all. The pacing was all off, the fight scenes were exhilarating but they were immediately followed by extreme moments of utter nothingness.

Chel was both annoying and amusing at the same time. He doesn’t seem to do much apart from getting beat up violently and somehow surviving. The prince in question is quite immature, but we get no clarity in his age, or I either missed it. The Black Hawk Company had the makings to be so good. But their humour fell flat for me. I wasn’t sure if Chel was supposed to grow to enjoy their company or be terrified of them because, in the end, Chel comes to like them, but I don’t think that development really came through in the story.

The last quarter of the book did really interest me. But the overall story just didn’t entice me enough to care about continuing this series in the future. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. Or maybe, it just wasn’t the right time and I’ll have to check out reviews of the next book in the future to decide if this one deserves a second chance.


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Review: Other Words for Home

Review: Other Words for Home

Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

“Americans love labels. They help them know what to expect. Sometimes, though, I think labels stop them from thinking.”

Jude is only twelve-years-old when she leaves Syria to live to live with her uncle’s family in the US. Being the only student who looks like her, she begins to discover that she isn’t seen as a normal girl like her peers. Told in verse, Other Words for Home follows her journey to understanding her new label of “Middle Eastern” while also finding herself.

I adored this book. Jude is the sweetest protagonist and her story was so inspiring and relatable. Growing up, Jude was obsessed with movies and becoming a star, so she is obviously surprised when she must move away from her coastal home when it descends into a civil war. Along with her pregnant mother, she must leave her family, father and brother, behind, and comes face-to-face with the life she had thought she knew from the movies.

Her life in the states is new but straining. Her cousin Sarah makes no effort to help, her aunt tries her best, and her new peers see her as something different. She reminds herself of her brother’s goodbye message. “Be brave.” Slowly, she grows to enjoy her new classes and even makes new friends in her ESL classes where they all bond over their experiences of coming to the states. Much to her cousins’ dismay, she even auditions for the school musical. Jude is such an insightful narrator; her confidence, her insecurities and her confusion all come through in the pages.

Other Words tackles tough to talk about topics like Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim rhetoric. The way it manifests in Jude’s life is so subtle and real, like Jude realising how people actions towards her suddenly shift when she begins to wear the hijab. The book takes on the idea that not all Muslims shares the same experience, and this is just Jude’s story. There was something comforting reading about a young Muslim girl experiencing her spirituality on her terms. You don’t get that often. Her fear and confusion were portrayed so well, something that I experienced a lot as a Muslim kid growing up which makes this book a lot more special.

Overall, Other Words for Home is a story of becoming and belonging and what it means to be yourself in a society that would rather see otherwise. A middle-grade read that tackles topics like war, refugees and prejudice, a definite recommendation for younger children and older teens.


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Review: Crier’s War

Review: Crier’s War

Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3/5)

Years ago, the Kingdom of Rabu came under the control of the Automae after the war almost decimated the land. Now, humanity lives under their controlling and violent thumb. Ayla, a human servant, finds herself unexpectedly rising in her rank where she plots to kill the sovereign king’s daughter, Lady Crier. Crier is Made to be perfect, without a single flaw, ready to carry her father’s legacy. However, her recent betrothal sees her spot slipping right from under her, and meeting Ayla creates tension that can start a war, but can they rise above it and stop before it goes too far?

A couple of months ago, I saw the prettiest book cover reveal I had ever seen and, with no shame, decided that I had to read this book. When I took a look at the description and saw it was an F/F sci-fi/fantasy novel about automation? A double whammy. I had brought myself up to hype Crier’s War and counted down the says to its release. There’s a lot to love about Ayla and Crier’s story, much of it I loved, but I did find it a quite directionless a lot of time, which was disappointing, to say the least.

This isn’t an original set up but what made this story stand out was how Varela utilises the concept of automation ruling over humanity. Set in an alternate future where alchemy has crafted the Automae who now rule the land. Humanity created them when their Queen was unable to have children, but they quickly rose up against their creators. The core of this book is mainly about what it means to be human, is it free will or the fact we have blood running through us that makes us so? I found it interested how the author uses this story to discuss oppression, privilege and appropriation. Was I expecting it? No. Did I like it? Very much so.

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Monthly Rewind: November 2019

Monthly Rewind: November 2019

B O O K S

During the month of November, I read 5 books.

The Wolf of Oren- Yaro by K.S. Villoso – Queen Talyien finds herself stranded in a different land after her attempts to reunite her own kingdom leaves her fleeing a botched assassination attempt. Alone and actively being hunted, Talyien must embrace her namesake and show her enemies that a wolf of Oren-Yaro cannot be tamed. I’m a part of the 2020 international blog tour for this book! (Thanks to Caffeine Book Tours!) A longer review will be published in the new year!

Girls of Storm and Shadow by Natasha Ngan – Failing to kill the King has Lei and Wren travelling all corners of the kingdom to rally support. I really liked this sequel, falls victim to middle book syndrome, but nonetheless, the secondary characters saved it from being too terrible. My full review can be found here!

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Namjoo – Taken from my review: ” This book is so simple in its concept, and the fact that it angered so many men does not surprise me. It holds a mirror to their privilege without actually calling them out, uncomfortable enough to make them uncomfortable. It lays down the facts and backs itself up, sending the message that hey this is what women are facing in Korea and it’s not okay. The story of Kim Jiyoung is full of silence but every bit powerful.

The Can Be Arranged by Huda Fahmy – Author of Yes, I’m Hot in This publishes her second book following the story of how she met and married her husband. Navigating gossiping auntys and societal expectations, Fahmy tells a hilarious story based on her experiences. Full review to come!

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Double Review: Goddess of the Hunter and Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982

Double Review: Goddess of the Hunter and Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982

Goddess of the Hunt

Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3/5)

“Artemis was a beauty, a terror, a force that nature bowed to, but only because she had bowed to nature first.”

A poetry collection about the life of Artemis, the Greek Goddess of the Hunter. Told through her perspective with the contribution of other Greek Goddesses. Eileen reimagines Artemis’s life and interprets her vow of chastity as aromanticism and asexuality.

There’s not much I can say for this as someone who isn’t an avid poetry reader, hence the short review, but I really liked the way Eileen uses Artemis to discuss self-love, sexuality and gender. It’s been a while since I’ve read mythology, but I’ve always had a soft spot for mythological interpretations. I can’t say I connected with most of the pieces, but the concept is unique.

There are also a few pieces which are from the view of other goddesses around Artemis. I had anticipated finding this jarring, but I was wholly surprised to find that I really enjoy their snippets. It includes Demeter, Persephone, Athena and Hera. (Along with others..) It’s a fun little read for anyone.


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Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982

Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

*I received a copy via the publisher and NetGalley in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

Why do I have to deny myself something I want right now to prepare for a future that may or may not come?”

Through the eyes of her therapist, we follow the life of Kim Jiyoung as she experiences everyday sexism all from birth, youth and into her adulthood where she becomes a stay-at-home mother, and begins to unravel under pressure.

Kim Jiyoung first came to my attention last year when a member of K-pop group Red Velvet, Irene, had recommended this book during a fan signing. I still remember the aftermath where many of her male fans cursed her, insulted her and even burnt pictures of her. Back then, a translation of the book did not exist, so when I found out it was being translated, I jumped at the opportunity to review one of South Korea’s best-selling feminist novels.

Rather than a full-length novel, Kim Jiyoung is more of a series of anecdotes – a string of events that chronicles her life, with interspersing stories of the women around her, e.g. her mother, mother-in-law and sister. The style is very objective, and the tale integrates quantitative and historical data.

The story is mainly set in Seoul, SK, but her experience is universal. Jiyoung realises from a young age that being a girl means something different, something less. She is served food last in her family, and if her siblings need to share, her younger brother is automatically given his own share while she shares with her sister. “He’s the youngest.””You mean he’s the son!” Just those two lines hit very close to home for me.

The story follows select moments of her life that reflect that society she is in. From the schoolboys who tease her to the men who force her to an uncomfortable alcohol-laden dinner party, the everyday sexism she is forced to accept slowly takes a toll on her. This book is so simple in its concept, and the fact that it angered so many men does not surprise me. It holds a mirror to their privilege without actually calling them out, uncomfortable enough to make them uncomfortable. It lays down the facts and backs itself up, sending the message that hey this is what women are facing in Korea and it’s not okay. The story of Kim Jiyoung is full of silence but every bit powerful.


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Review: Girls of Storm and Shadow

Review: Girls of Storm and Shadow

*I received a copy via the publisher and NetGalley in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)

After failing to kill the Demon King, Lei and Wren barely escaped with their lives. But this isn’t the end of their journey, unaware their plot failed, the duo must travel the kingdom to gain support from clans from all corners of the world. But a heavy bounty on Lei’s head makes this even more difficult and when tensions begin to make Lei doubt what she knows, can she succeed in her quest or will the dark magic finish the war before its even begun?

After finishing Girls of Paper and Fire, I eagerly anticipated the release of Storm and Shadow. And I can say that I’m not disappointed, although I was a little underwhelmed. But I still found it a solid read.

I won’t lie, Lei, despite being our main protagonist, was not the star of the show for me. Lei and Wren are joined by others, some familiar, some new. Despite how fractured it all becomes at the end, I truly loved the moments of everyone banding together in their journey. I thought the brashness of Bo and Nitta would be off-putting, but their sibling banter was hilarious and I had come to love their sibling relationship a lot. Merrin got my attention the most, his anger and frustration with everything going on around them was admirable. My heart broke a lot during a pivotal moment in this book. Lei and Wren go through a lot in this. Wren, in particular, shocked me quite a bit. I won’t say too much, but I’m glad Ngan utilised Wren’s past a lot more in this book, a shocking revelation made a lot of sense and really amped up my excitement for whatever comes next in the finale.

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