Review: The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali

Review: The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali

Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)

Rukhsana tries her best to live up to her parent’s unbelievably high expectation. Luckily for her, she has only months between her life in Seattle to her new life in Caltech, where she can hope to be herself with her girlfriend, Ariana. But when her parents catch her with her girlfriend, she finds herself travelling to Bangladesh, believing she was visiting a sick relative and stripped off her passport until she agrees to an arranged marriage. As she plans to return to the States, she discovers her grandmother’s diary and learns to find strength without losing her family in the process.

This book is emotional and brilliant in every way possible. I warn it isn’t an easy read. It discusses colourism, homophobia, Islamophobia, assault, abuse, forced marriage and hate crimes. The sheer depth of this book is mesmerising and packs a hell of a punch. Rukhsana’s experience is one that is all too real and heart-breaking.

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Blog Tour: Graham’s Delicacies (+ INTL giveaway!)

Blog Tour: Graham’s Delicacies (+ INTL giveaway!)

I am so, so happy to be apart of the blog tour for Graham’s Delicacies. I’m so excited to share my review and playlist I’ve made. My playlist is a little different time around. Initially, it was going filled with songs about the book in general, but I quickly grew really fond of the actual bakery in the book, Graham’s Delicacies.

I’m also hosting my own Paperback copy giveaway of Graham’s Delicacies. It’s international, so everyone’s welcome to join!!! Check it out below!

R E V I E W

Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)

Six people and three love stories all in one bakery.

Graham’s Delicacies is a collection of short stories revolving around the love lives of the workers of Graham’s Delicacies. If you’ve read Ali’s previous work, you realise this café has already made it an appearance in Ali’s debut, Soft on soft, and I love it! I adored the casual and sweet environment of the café. Apart from Yujin, everyone works there, and it’s adorable. In just Saccharine alone, you can clearly see how furiously protective they are of each other and love each other so much. The familial aspect, inside the café and outside, was one of my favourites part of this book.

Saccharine follows Jen, who is a student working as a waitress, and her relationship with one of the café’s bakers, Emilie. I would, out of all the stories, this was the sweetest. Their relationship was a pretty adorable and we’re shown how they got together. It begins quite delicately with both sides definitely wanting to take their relationship further. I had a lot of love for Emilie; they’re so cute.

In just Saccharine alone, you’re very quickly introduced to the relationship dynamics of the workers. You can clearly see how furiously protective they are of each other and love each other so much.

In Delectable, James is hard-core pining over his co-worker Sam. He’s exceptionally family-orientated and often puts his family before anything else, even himself. If Saccharine was sweet, Delectable was emotional. Sam is confident and amazing. His confidence is sky-high and brilliant. James and Sam fit so well together, and their relationship was very natural and cute.

Ravenous is, I would say, my favourite out of the three stories. Alex hopes to change the mind of a popular food vlogger who made some pretty unjustified comments about the bakery. Except, they certainly weren’t expecting to meet Yujin. Ravenous was hilarious as Yujin tries to persuade Alex to give him a second chance. Alex is highly protective of Graham’s Delicacies, so they aren’t so easily satisfied.

Yujin was a surprising character I didn’t expect to rate so highly. He comes off quite arrogant at the beginning, but quickly he’s developed into this entirely different person, whose public persona precedes him.

Overall, I enjoyed Graham’s Delicacies. I love the way the stories interlink with each other but are their own stories. There are explicit sex scenes in each story, in case, that isn’t your thing, like me. I love the different couple dynamics. It’s pretty low in drama, and everyone gets a happy-ever-after. So I would recommend if anyone wants a fun and quick read.

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Review: Proud

Review: Proud

Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)

*I received an advance e-copy from the publisher via NetGalley. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

Proud is an upcoming anthology of stories and poetry by LGBTQ+ YA authors, each piece reflecting the theme of Pride. Proud is such a fun anthology. It was a pure joy to read some of these pieces.

Some stories are utterly hilarious with Green’s Penguins were his own coming out to his parents is interrupted by penguins. Somewhere deeply saddening which follow the narrator as they navigate grief. All the chosen pieces are equally powerful and personal.

Each piece could easily be expanded by their authors if they wanted to. However, my fantasy-biased self obviously loved Cynthia So’s The Phoenix’s Fault the most. The short F/F story where a Chinese lantern maker has to choose between what her heart desires and what is expected of her. It reminded me a lot of Girls of Paper and Fire. Almost Certain comes close which follows a music loving teen who struggles to come out to her family while navigating her impending adulthood. I like reading books set in Brighton, where I’m from.

A broad and heart-warming collection of stories poems about identity and pride. Each piece was refreshing and different. I really love how each writer had interpreted the theme in their own unique way, and the range that is in this book is rather brilliant and fun to read. The accompanying art does not go unnoticed, and they work so well with their matching piece.


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Mini-review: Ripped Pages, sunfish and others

Mini-review: Ripped Pages, sunfish and others

Ripped Pages by M. Hollis

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ (5/5)

Princess Valentina braves the unknown and escapes the tower her father locked her in. A sweet and adorable F/F retelling of Rapunzel. This short story has a lot of potential. I would have definitely loved to have read a full-length version of this where we follow Valentina from being forced into the tower by her abusive father, to her life growing up in solidarity, to then finally breaking free and finding her own space in the world. But M. Hollis does a very good job in condensing everything into such a short number of pages.

A very short but satisfying read.


sunfish by Shelby Eileen

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ (4/5)A short poetry collection exploring relationships, grief, and loss. Deeply moving pieces that were interesting to read.


in the absence of the sun by Emily Curtis

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ (3/5)

I read this and sunfish because I wanted to branch out what kind of books I was reading. I have a love/hate relationship with poetry, I don’t know where it stems from but slowly I’m more open to reading poetry than I had in my younger years. But this was a pretty good collection, very quick, very impactful. There isn’t much to say, for me, but I guess, it was an okay reading experience.


No Man of Woman Born by Ana Mardoll

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ (4/5)

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

A really cool collection of fantasy short stories where transgender and non-binary characters take centre stage. No Man subverts gendered prophecies of tales that are old as time. There are pronunciation guides provided for each story. And that’s what I liked a lot since I follow Ana Mardoll on twitter, they’re very informative and a pretty interesting person. I was already aware of some nonbinary pronouns, but this book introduces me to some I wasn’t aware of.

My favourite of all the stories was either Tangled Nets or His Father’s Son. All are amazing but these two caught my eye the most and was most intriguing to read. 


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Book Review: What If It’s Us

Book Review: What If It’s Us

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ (2/5)

* I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.

A chance meeting has Arthur and Ben cross paths at a New York post office. When they fail to exchange details, both boys go in search of each other. Ben is suffering from a break up which causes him to lose his main friendship group. Arthur is an intern on a limited time frame. Once reunited, they face a ton of near misses and second third fourth chances. But the universe isn’t exactly always in their favour.

I feel I am yet to find a favourite within both Becky and Adam’s books so far. Both of them have a way of writing that doesn’t always work for me. I was hoping with What If It’s Us, it would be a significant mash-up of everything I liked from both authors.  Unfortunately, that’s not the case. I liked What If It’s Us, I enjoyed reading it, but in the end, it just wasn’t for me. This book didn’t show the qualities that I had appreciated from previous novels.

I  feel a bit guilty for speaking so negatively later on in the review, but there’s still a lot to love in this book. The side character, including Ben’s best friend, really bought the book together and made it little funnier to read. The diverse cast of characters Arthur is gay and Jewish with ADHD while Ben is gay and Puerto Rican. I enjoy the little conversations about Ben and how painful it is for him and to have his culture erased because he’s white passing. There’s an intense moment where Arthur says something that crossed a line and Ben rightfully calls him out on it. It’s a bit strange and confusing to describe, but I loved many aspects of this book, the concept, the story, I just wasn’t a huge fan of how it was all executed.

I really did not like Arthur or Ben. In my opinion, Ben was more likeable than Arthur. But I really could not click with either of these two. The biggest critique I have to give is predictability. Knowing what’s going to happen can go, either way, you either anticipate the ending you’ve guessed or found yourself reading at a sluggish pace. While Ben and Arthur have charming moments which I loved, there was no real plot. A couple of things happen, but the rest of it just falls really flat. The initial meeting was sweet and fun, and you expect more to come off from it, but it immediately goes downhill as the authors kind of force the relationship to happen. Given the timeframe the book is set in, Arthur is due to return home at the end of the summer, little really happens, and I was left a little disappointed. Once they’ve met, it mostly constant pining from them, Arthur over Ben and Ben over his breakup.

They do eventually come together and actually reach the point where they’re actually enjoyable to read as a couple. I was disappointed that it doesn’t last as long as you’d think. I get everyone hates the ending, but it was the saving point for me. It was quite open, and I understand why everyone would feel frustrated, but it’s a better ending. 

I usually have no issues with current day pop references in novels, no matter how outdated it’ll read in the future. But what on earth was happening? I stopped reading for a bit because every sentence was Hamilton, Hamilton, Hamilton. Another popular musical. And then another reference. This does not include a very adorable scene where Arthur and Ben sing along to musicals. My stone cold heartfelt warmth for a moment. But I did feel like the references were simply over saturated.

Overall, What If It’s Us is not exactly a disaster read — and I think despite with my low rating, it has its shining moments. Too slow, and not enough was happening. The in-jokes and references became too much. It just didn’t work for me. I won’t cross off both authors from TBR because of it, I appreciate the stories they write, but this book wasn’t the one for me.


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Content warning: homophobia, mentions of a panic attack, racist comments. (more to be added)

Mini-review: Soft on Soft and Women of Resistance

Mini-review: Soft on Soft and Women of Resistance

41212987Soft on Soft by Em Ali

Rating: ★★★☆☆(3/5)

June Bana is a growing make up artist whose looks are gaining traction by the day on social media. But to June, the real her is a quiet homebody and lives a life less eventful than the pictures on her feed. Then she meets Selena Clarke, drop dead gorgeous model, who loves June for who she is.

A soft sweet tale of two women learning each other and falling in love. A rapid contemporary read with little to none conflict. This title is very fitting. Soft on Soft is precisely what you get. This story centres two women of colour falling in love. The writing is simple and easy to follow. Pop culture references abound!

Its uneventful plot makes a bit tricky to read since you can hardly tell what is going on at the moment. I don’t expect something tragic to happen to make it interesting, but something a little more eventful would’ve improved the pacing a lot.

Overall, there’s something to love in this. Em Ali has a bright future in of them. I know I’ll read more.

UPDATE: Purchase links for Soft on Soft are not currently available as the author has taken them offline for further edits. I will upload a longer review once it’s available. 

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Women of Resistance: Poems for a New Feminism – Edited by Danielle Barnhart and Iris Mahan

Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3/5)
when a girl pronounces her own name
there is glorywhen a woman tells her own life story
she lives forever

A feminist poetry collection that discusses race, gender identity and sexuality. I really enjoyed the variety of poetry styles that each contributor used. There’s a variety in content and form. I am not sure each piece is beautiful and exciting. The collection encompasses the works of a diverse range of poets who I’ll definitely want to check out. I don’t read that much poetry, but this collection of works from such inspiring people was indeed a hidden gem. 

I received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review. This in no way affected by opinions of the book.