Review: Gods of Jade and Shadow

Review: Gods of Jade and Shadow

Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3/5)

*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.*

Casiopea Tun dreams of a life beyond her small Mexico town until she accidentally releases a God of Death and her time is soon limited, as she is now bound to the Mayan God, Hun-Kamé, and must help him regain his missing body parts in order to reclaim his throne in Xibalba (Mayan Underground) from his thieving brother. Failure means Casiopea will lose herself and with the clock slowly ticking, together, they embark on a life-changing journey that has Casiopea leaving the clutches of her strict grandfather and experience an adventure of a lifestyle.

The central tale focuses on Casiopea and her journey from sheltered girl to a confident person who rediscovers the world beyond her small village. Her determination to go beyond what is expected of her is entertaining and thrilling. A tale of a young woman and a God with their fates tied so close together, the world they discover takes centre stage. Casiopea and Vacub-Kamé hurry though Mexico in the 1920s, beginning in Yucatán and onwards into northern Mexico. The bright lights of a changing world is a brilliant contrast with the darkness of Xibalba, crafty magic and the mischievous demons that reside beside the civilians. I really enjoyed the level of detail as you can really imagine the world unfold in front you as Casiopea experiences it all for the first time.

I really loved the inclusion of Casiopea’s cousin. Like Casiopea, he is forced to embark on a journey to bring his cousin back home. I love that it gave deeper depth to how he has come to hate his cousin and where is narcissistic tendencies comes from, and how easily things could’ve been different between them if it wasn’t for their upbringing. I wasn’t a massive fan of Vacub-Kamé, Hun-Kamé’s brother, and his chapters, but appreciate how it showed a difference in leadership between the brothers and added a lot to the major theme of family that runs through this novel.

In terms of pacing, it was quite even between the journeys to each body parts, but I do have to admit, each obstacle does give up rather easily which was quite jarring considering the stakes and risks presented to us. However, I did really enjoy each side character that we meet. Most we don’t ever meet again but were definitely memorable enough to enjoy. I especially really adored the lull moments between each trip where Casiopea and Hun-Kamé get to know each other. I’ve never been a big fan of romances where one person is like a thousand years older than the one, but each to their own, I guess.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book, and I think any other reader will enjoy how Moreno-Garcia’s blend of mythology and history. Gods of Jade and Shadow was an enchanting story of self-discovery with an ending that is satisfying but could hint at a potential sequel. If so, I would gladly read whatever comes next.


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Short Review: Aphrodite Made Me Do It and Mooncakes

Short Review: Aphrodite Made Me Do It and Mooncakes

Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)

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

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Aphrodite Made Me Do It by Trista Mateer

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“Regardless of whether you desire it, love is what sits at the core of the world. It is stronger than greed and hate and jealousy and pain. What brings us together will always be more powerful than what keeps us apart.” 

A poetry and prose collection that uses mythological goddesses to create a story of self-love and healing. I’m a not a massive fan of poetry collections anymore, but something about Aphrodite particularly caught my attention. Maybe, I’m just a sucker for mythological goddesses.

 The poetry collection begins with Aphrodite and the author conversing before weaving into different pieces that discussed topics such as body image, abuse and queerphobia. I think about stood out the most was how Mateer framed this collection and its narrative. The collection flows through Aphrodite’s life, while also mentioning other women such as Medusa and Pandora, intertwining their stories with her own experiences. 

I absolutely loved the illustrations and the designs of the tarot cards. I haven’t read anything previously by Mateer, so I don’t know if it’s a common thing, but I wasn’t expecting it. So it added such a nice touch to the entire collection. I would definitely consider buying a physical copy because of the art. 

“I belong to no one. They never wrote that part down.”


Mooncakes

Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker (Author) Wendy Xu (Artist)

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Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)

Nova Huang either spends her time at her grandmothers’ bookstore or investigating supernatural events that occur in her small town. Nothing new rarely happens, until the appearance of a white wolf changes everything. Her childhood crush returns, fighting a horse demon, asking for Nova’s help.

Damn, this story is sweet as hell. Reading this was quite comforting. The autumn vibes were really up my alley. I love Wendy Xu’s style, and it’s what drew me to Mooncakes in the first place. Nova, a Chinese-American, is struggling to cope with the loss of her parents and her duties of being a witch. Tam Lang, a nonbinary werewolf, returns to their childhood home to bring down the demon the resides in the woods, and returning home can bring up some not so good memories. Despite having not seen each other in ages, they return to each other unconditionally, and their support for each other was so endearing and sweet. 

I’d hate to pit the writing and art style against each other since they’re two different things, but, personally, the art carried most of the book. I felt like the writing was more on the weaker side. I think the character development was great, Tam and Nova are adorable. Nova’s grandmothers were funny and great. However, the plot is a little underwhelming at first. I was very interested in the wolf magic and Tam’s past, and how it all connected together in the end. So it’s a shame that wasn’t fleshed out as much as you’d expect, along with the magic system. It felt a little rushed at the end, in my opinion. However, I wouldn’t hold it against the series though. There’s so much to love and I can’t wait to see what comes next!

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Review: Red, White & Royal Blue

Review: Red, White & Royal Blue

Rating: ★★★★☆ 4/5)

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz finds himself falling in love with Prince Henry of Wales after an accident launches their non-existent friendship into international light. Damage control turns into an unlikely friendship and with his mother kicking off her re-election bid, the choices Alex must make can upend everything his family has worked for.

RWRB was strangely entertaining. I dived in not expecting much but came out with a good laugh and a feeling of warmth. McQuinston creates a world in which Trump never happened and instead, the first female president was elected. Alex is proud of his family and will do anything to help them. And that even means putting aside his disdain for Prince Henry for the sake of American-British relations.

Contemporary books that try to get with the current lingo often come across as embarrassing. But RWRB made it surprisingly work. Alex was a hilarious main lead. He’s very full of himself but I’m saying that in a nice way. I personally didn’t like Henry, he just came across as a stereotypical British person. But their relationship together was pretty sweet. Henry is gay, but Alex is questioning his sexuality for most of the book, before coming out as bisexual. They work really well together, and they try their bests to help each other out, despite the circumstances. The side characters are really great to read. I really enjoyed the strong sibling relationship and the whole unlikely yet supportive friendship group that develops in the book.

The political backdrop will be a hit or miss for some readers. I’m sort of in the middle. I feel like this book wanted to stay completely on the romance path but couldn’t ignore the political context in which it’s set in. I wasn’t exactly a huge fan of it,, but I particularly loved the message that Alex sent about being a non-white person in America and how the melting pot that is the country is what makes America and diversity should be celebrated, not shunned away.

I didn’t really have much issue with this book. Adiba Jaigirdar says its more eloquently than I ever could, but because this story is essentially these two people, children of national figures, falling in love. And one of the people being a member of the royal family, you’re given this idealised image of British royalty. An empire which has committed many crimes against humanity. McQuiston does acknowledge the awfulness and Henry is aware of this privilege but positioning him as this ‘not like the others’ prince really wasn’t cutting it for me. But I don’t think I’ll knock off anything from my rating for it, it’s just a personal taste.  

Overall, I personally really enjoyed it. Another review called it a “bookish security blanket” which is rather fitting. It’s hilarious and heart-warming. I found myself engrossed at most. I would definitely recommend it for anyone looking for an international royal romance.


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Review: My So-Called Bollywood Life

Review: My So-Called Bollywood Life

Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3/5)

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

Winnie Mehta dreams of getting her Bollywood forever after. For her, everything was perfect. Her life was going according to the words of her family pandit, who swore Winnie would find the love of her life, whose name starts with R, before her 18th birthday. And suddenly, everything is going wrong. Her boyfriend Raj had cheated on her. She’s lost her chair position in the film festival, lowering her chances of getting into film school. Winnie decides to look her prophecy differently, begins taking control of her destiny, in any way possible.

It’s always disappointing not to like a book that you really wanted to enjoy.

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Mini review: The Paper & Hearts Society and Secrets of the Henna Girl

Mini review: The Paper & Hearts Society and Secrets of the Henna Girl

I apologise in advance. 😂 I took a semi-hiatus because of assignments and I ended up writing these during that hiatus so these reviews aren’t written up the standard I would usually prefer.

The Paper & Hearts Society

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ (2/5)

*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.*

A young teen moved to a new town and discovered a book club that pushes her out of her comfort zone.

Honestly, this was a little disappointing, considering how positive the reviews were for this book. I really wanted to love this book, but this book was just not for me. This is a story I would say good in concept, but the execution was so bland.

I have no issues with references to certain things, but this book really overdid it with the book mentions. Like I genuinely thought this book would’ve collapsed on itself if it didn’t mention another book. Yes, this is a book about a book club. But the way it was written was definitely meant to namedrop, which I don’t have an issue with, but it just wasn’t smooth.

A majority of the book is:
Tabby/ Anyone else: Oh, wow. I love [book title] by [author]! Spends a couple of lines on how great it is.

A lot of the books mentioned were prevalent Young Adult/ Contemporary novels. I understood wanting to celebrate UKYA, but I found myself rolling my eyes a lot of it because it was so just so cringey.

I also found the characters to be quite snobby at some points. And a lot of them act as if reading is such a weird thing that makes them different. Like, you know when people say “Am I the only one who does [something that everyone does]?” Tabby and some of the others all tends to give off that similar vibe, and it was just a little frustrating.

Continue reading “Mini review: The Paper & Hearts Society and Secrets of the Henna Girl”

Review: Ayesha At Last

Review: Ayesha At Last

Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)

Ayesha’s dream of being a poet is on a standstill as she’s stuck paying off a debt to her uncle. So while she’s stuck being a substitute teacher, she’s also tailing behind her gorgeous cousin who has marriage proposals thrown at her every day. An identity mishap leads her to be in charge of a fundraising conference for the young Muslims at their local mosque and pairs up with Khalid Mirza to run it. Khalid is conservative and judgemental with secrets of his own. Why should Ayesha fall for a man who acts above her? But a surprise engagement blows everything out of the water.

I enjoyed this book a lot more than I had expected. Like, wow. I couldn’t get enough Ayesha and her family. And her hilarious antics as she falls further down a web of lies by pretending to be her cousin. Each character was so unique and likeable. The narration jumps between different people. It was a bit too much, but each character has a distinct voice that separated them all, voices that were authentic and funny.

Khalid was the one that took me a while to get used to. I didn’t even think he deserved Ayesha for a good half of the novel. He just reminded me of most Muslim men I’ve met who are pretty ridiculous and judgemental before getting to know anyone. You can tell from the offset he’s grown to follow whatever his mum agrees to because of some background events that happened with his sister. And he does learn to become less judgemental, but when I say it took a while, it took a long while.

Apart from the growing relationship between Ayesha and Khalid, multiple complex conflicts grow in the back that adds to this drama-filled debut. Weddings to be planned and had, gossiping aunties that get their due and a very unexpected twist at the end.

Overall, I really enjoy Ayesha At Last. I think this book addressed so many issues and was so well done in that aspect. Workplace racism, Islamophobia, and double standards that women face. A great window into Muslim communities that explored the complexities of life, family and belief. Ayesha At Last was refreshing and hilarious.


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Content warning: workplace racism, Islamophobia, revenge porn

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