Review: Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged

Review: Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged

Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3/5)

Sofia Khan is single and ready to mingle, all in the name of her forthcoming Muslim dating book. Sofia is a Pakistani, hijabi Muslim working in the publishing industry. Age thirty and, to her parent’s exasperation, unmarried, Sofia finds herself writing a Muslim dating guide at the point in her life where she’s very much crossed it off forever.

Sofia Khan is neither a tragedy or a issues book which most books around Muslims tend to be about. Which I absolutely commend this book on, but this book just sits right on the middle for me. I didn’t actually hate it, but I didn’t love it either. I think what I liked about this book was how unlikeable Sofia was to me. She’s a witty protagonist who makes poor, poor decisions. Who finds herself in the worst situations that she works well to get out of. I liked how light-hearted it all was, yet critical of a culture that places women’s value on marriage. The moments of culture-clash were relatable and hilarious especially in her workplace which Sofia called  ‘the most white-centric, middle-class industry there is‘, and she’s not wrong.

I really enjoyed the way the book lays out, with its diary-like entries and text message. It’s somewhat choppy as some points, but Sofia’s voice really comes through this way.  I loved the family dynamics and the customs that I literally see every day.

I was certainly thrown off by the central romance, mainly because I hadn’t expected that to come. I was so fixed on a particular part that I hadn’t realised it was going in a completely opposite way. The surprise in the final pages was actually quite interesting. It literally took me until the last line to realise what was happening.

I think what I actually dispised about this book a lot was the microaggressions. And, in my opinion, it really ruined the book for me.  Sinead @ Huntress of Diverse Book put it to words more easily than I could ever, with specific examples that didn’t sit well with me either. She’s also quite hypocritical and narcissistic in a way that she doesn’t seem to realise and I was hoping it would kick in when she recognises the double standards that she holds.

Like Sofia’s mother, and her innocently asking ‘What is this click?’, Sofia Khan is not Obliged merely didn’t click with me. But I am interested in reading its sequel because of that last chapter actually surprised me.


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Content warning: colourism, ableist language, fatantagonistic language, aceantagonistic language, aroantagonistic language. (Credit to Sinead) Death of a parent. (more to be added)

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Review: A Very Large Expanse of Sea

Review: A Very Large Expanse of Sea

Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

A Large Expanse of Sea follows Shirin, a young teen, coming of age, in the year after 9/11. It’s 2002, and Shirin has learned to deal with the rude stares and degrading sneers from her peers. She builds her walls to protect her from a world that threatens to harm her because of her race and the hijab she chooses to wear. Rather than interact, she delves into her love for break-dancing with her brother. Until she meets Ocean James, and for once someone wants to know her for her. But Shirin’s not too sure if she’s ready to break down the walls she set up.

Shirin and her family are experts at moving. City to city, school to school. The cycle repeats itself for Shirin all her life. Her parents striving for better jobs, thus a better life for their children. But they don’t see how Shirin is suffering. So Shirin find a new form of happiness in breakdancing and music, which helps Shirin in her isolation.

I’m honestly blown out the water by this book. I didn’t expect to be so wholly enchanted by Shirin. There is so much longing and pain in this story, and I love how Shirin never back down. She stood by her belief where the most comfortable option would’ve been to back down. You see how hurt she is from all that she’s experienced that you can’t fault her for shutting people out. And slowly,  she opens up to others around. We watch her grow, in dancing and herself.

This story is so precious and so important to me. Everything was so real from the emotions, the characters, and then the ending. The characters were so relatable and hilarious. Even the romance cracked me for once. Shirin and Ocean have my heart. A slow burn that was so tender and sweet. The drama behind Ocean was borderline generic but it was interesting to see how Ocean’s history affected him and I think Tahereh Mafi did the best she could’ve done with the story concerning his part.

Rarely do we get to see a Muslim Hijabi teen in a story that revolves around her own coming of age and experiences with romance, but Expanse gives us just that. And I have to thank Tahereh Mafi for that.


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Content warnings: TBA

 

Review: Dear Evan Hansen

Review: Dear Evan Hansen

Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3/5)

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

Dear Evan Hansen,

Today’s going to be an amazing day and here’s why…

After Conor Murphy dies by suicide, Evan Hansen finds himself from invisible to visible as a letter from his therapy sessions gets mistaken as Conor’s suicide note. Now, he’s stuck with a lie he never meant to tell. Dear Evan Hansen expands upon the musical of the same name. Told from the perspectives of Evan Hansen and Connor Murphy.

I’ve glad I decided to listen to the musical after I had read this. I’ve come to love the musical so much that I feel like it would’ve shrouded my review of the novelisation of the musical. Which definitely has its flaws.

The characters are absolutely phenomenal, and we get a more in-depth look to all the beloved characters from the musical. Especially Conor Murphy. You get a much better in-depth look into his mind which I really appreciated and loved the most about the book. You don’t get much from Connor that isn’t from his perspective in the musical and the novel did well on his side. Everyone transcends beyond the time limitations of the musical.  Dear Evan Hansen is a thoughtful coming-of-age tale that depicts mental health issues and how social media impacts connections on a global scale.

Like I said before, I’m glad I read this before listening because the beauty of the songs would’ve shrouded my review of the book. There was a bit of frustration at how Evan allows the lies to spread for him to gain a sense of belonging, but it’s understanding of communication and finding meaningful relationships is utterly amazing. But its moral ambiguity of the entire situation was somewhat unsettling. While Evan’s lies did aid them in their grief, it was still disturbing. And how everyone forgives him for it was somewhat disappointing. Maybe, it was easier for plot sake, but I would’ve liked there to be more emphasis on him facing some sort of consequences for his actions, rather than brushing it off. I’ll link to this review which describes some issues of the musical. I don’t think I could put it words better than they had.

Overall, Dear Evan Hansen has its flaws which I definitely acknowledge. The importance of its central message to everyone that they are never alone. And I really needed that. Take a listen to the musical, even if you’re a not a fan of the format, it really is so powerful.


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Content warning: TBA

Review: A Place for Wolves

Review: A Place for Wolves

Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)

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

James has begrudgingly followed his parents country to country all his life. And suddenly, he’s separated from sister and has never felt so alone. Then comes, Tomas. And then comes the war. A historical fiction set during the Kosovo War, James and Tomas must survive life on the run and face unspeakable choices to return to their family.

This book took a while to hook me in. I didn’t exactly understand what was happening in the first chapter. But once I understood, the story began to unravel in a good way. A tale of survival for these two boys who were willing to do anything to survive the war and return to safety. Together, they escape the cruel world until they’re both unwillingly yanked back into danger.

It’s actually a shorter read than I expected but a strong one that carried itself all the way through. James and Tomas are both on the run after James’s parents disappear, and are forced to make their way to safety before they’re captured too.

There’s letter addressed to James’s sister at the beginning of each chapter, dated long before the war breaks out and shows a closer look into the relationships James had with his parents, sister, friends and how he meets Tomas. It was a good way of introducing their relationship and how they met and fell in love without taking away from the journey they’re on in the main story.

Overall, Kosoko Jackson has delivered brilliantly on his debut. A Place for Wolves has found its own place in my heart.


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Content warnings: TBA

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)

Review: Girls of Paper and Fire

Review: Girls of Paper and Fire

Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)

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

The Girls is set in a world where there are three castes, Moon (reigning and demons), Paper (lower and human) and then Steel, a mix of the first two. Every year, eight girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. Lei is girl number nine. She’s forced back into the very place her mother was forced into years ago. Slowly, she learns the way of the palace, honing her skills to benefit the king’s comfort only. Until she falls in love.

Girls of Paper and Fire was surprising. I really enjoyed it a lot. Ngan’s storytelling skills are beyond amazing. It was so tense, and her writing is so elegant and smooth. The stakes are high in this, and I was quickly hooked from the first page. The vivid worldbuilding where Ngan creates this devastating but beautiful world and created characters that weave so well into it, and in all makes it an enchanting but compelling read.

I think the most powerful thing of this book is its message of self-empowerment and discovering one’s self while discussing classism and the objectification of women. Girls show the subtle way of how Ikhara, the fictional society, allows misogyny to flourish and aides its abuser by only viewing women as nothing but lesser beings. The Moon King is a disgusting man who uses his position of power to act out violence towards anyone around him. These girls groomed to believe they’re doing something good slowly come together and unravel the trauma they’re facing. Not everyone is exactly happy to be here. The strength of the friendship between all the Paper girls is beautiful – they grow into even stronger women and reclaim themselves and decide what they’re capable of.

Despite the moments of slowness, I would advise you to watch out for this new YA fantasy birthed from Asian mythology and Ngan’s own experiences from growing up in Malaysia. It’s a dazzling and immersive read with a pulse-racing conclusion that will leave you wanting more.


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Content and warnings for rape, sexual assault, slavery, sex trafficking, loss of a loved one, murder, captivity, torture, branding, violence, physical abuse, graphic animal death, and war themes. (More to be added.)