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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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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Mini Review: It’s Not About The Burqa and More

Mini Review: It’s Not About The Burqa and More

It’s Not About the Burqa

Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)

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I LOVED this. A much-needed collection of essays from Muslim women on faith, feminism and sexuality as a Muslim woman. Each piece was distinct and worked towards dismantling a very stereotypical narrative around Muslim women. It does its best to discuss a wide range of experiences and allows Muslim women to take a step into a discussion we are never invited to join. It starts for a much bigger conversation where Muslim women can reclaim their identity for themselves without generalisation and gives a great insight into many other perspectives of intersections of Muslim identities.

Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes?

Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3/5)

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image source: goodreads

Olive is given a chance to join a new mental health programme where, for one month, she will receive a new form of therapy with other kids like herself, who are dealing with mental health issues. Except Olive does not know her diagnosis and she wants to keep it that way. In this summer camp, Olive comes to term with her thoughts, and while everyone around her is trying to fix her, she realises that maybe it is the world that needs fixing. So, she teams up with the other campers and figures out a way to fix

the world. This book is quite blunt and I, personally, had some seriously mixed feelings about this book. However, I did appreciate the discussion it had on mental health, and it encourages others to discuss it more. The characters are ridiculous and real, and their journey together as a group was a shining moment in this book. I just personally did not connect with this book, but I also did not want to rate it really negatively because of my own personal shortcomings with this book.

The Beauty That Remains

Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3/5)

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image source: goodreads

Told from the perspective of three teenagers, all experienced the death of a loved one. Autumn lost her best friend, Shay, her twin sister, and Logan, the boy he loved. Their stories are linked through an indie band called Unravelling Lovely, and this book essentially follows them as they navigate their grief. It’s an emotional story, and I really enjoy how each narrator uses music differently to deal with their pain. Towards the end, I feel like the plot thins especially as it’s spread between three different perspectives, but nonetheless, I really enjoyed. It’s, in essence, three different stories in one, and it has a beautifully diverse cast of characters.


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Mini-review: Mermaid’s Voice and By Your Side

Mini-review: Mermaid’s Voice and By Your Side

*I receive e-copies of these books via NetGalley in return for an honest review*

the mermaid’s voice returns in this one – amanda lovelace

Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3/5)

A powerful and empowering conclusion to the Women Are Some Kind of Magic trilogy. I wasn’t too sure about this reading especially since I didn’t particularly enjoy the second book that much, but I knew it would bug me to not complete a series that is short like this one. The one thing I liked the most about Lovelace’s work is how she uses the concepts of fairy tales, subverting traditionally submissive stories about women and reinventing them in her own way. I guess, and it isn’t Lovelace’s fault, the style really doesn’t do much for me anymore. I can’t really fault her on this structure being so overused in popular poetry books.  

Rilakkuma: By Your Side – Aki Kondo

Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

Two words: Cute and simple. By Your Side is a series of different everyday scenes of Rilakkuma and his friends. It’s pretty sweet, a simple quote book filled with adorable art of the well-loved cartoon characters. It’s a book I would keep at my shelf and look through if I’m feeling down.

Don’t expect a lot from this book, it’s mainly pictures with some inspiring quotes alongside it. But it’s delightful and optimistic. I believe this was released in anticipation of Rilakkuma’s upcoming Netflix series, which I did not know what happening. And now I’m pretty excited to watch it.

Mini-review: The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore

Mini-review: The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore

Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3/5)

*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 group of girls find themselves stranded on an island on a sleepaway camp. The Lost Girls recounts that fateful day that was supposed to be an adventure for all, soon turns dark and no way home. And no one else knows where they are.

Ah, this was very disappointing. It starts off very strong with all these girls who join this camp but then find themselves trapped on an island and must fight for their survival. The chapters interchange with a POV from one of the girls when they’re on the island and years after the incident occurs. Quickly, the book loses momentum and makes this interesting story about how trauma impacts an individual long after the initial event rather unsatisfying.

The After scenes were actually quite good and peaked my interested quite a lot. And so were the Before scenes but, together, it doesn’t read as cohesive as I would’ve preferred. The lack of connection we have to their past, I think, affects the entire novel. It’s a very disjointed read.

I know this review seems very negative, but I still found this book quite a standout. A lot didn’t work for me in this book but everything else was rather engrossing. Like I mentioned before, I really enjoyed the exploration of how past events emerge long after they’ve happened. Some of these girls seemingly recover, but not everyone does. I really appreciated the characters and their personalities. I did find some point of views more engaging than others. But all their voices shine through despite my predisposition with the novel. I’ll definitely want to read more from Kim Fu.


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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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