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

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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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

“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

*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.*

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.

Continue reading “Review: Girls of Storm and Shadow”

Review: The Ten Thousand Doors of January

Review: The Ten Thousand Doors of January

Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)

*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.*

After growing up under the watchful eye of her wealthy benefactor, Cornelius Locke, who employs her father to travel the world in search of unique oddities and treasures to add to his growing collection, January Scaller can’t help but feel part of the furniture: well kept but mostly ignored. However, when her father disappears, she discovers a book that sends her into the new worlds which lay behind secret doors. With an unlikely crew including the grocer’s son and a mysterious woman hired by her father, January begins her search which will ultimately question what she knows and the world around her.

It’s been a few days between finishing the book and writing the review you read now, and I’m kept thinking about it. So I’m not even sure how to explain what worked so well with this book. I didn’t even have any expectations for this book, and its cover mainly enticed me. However, when I finished reading, I was utterly enthralled. The open concept of the story seems so simple, but Harrow does such a great job at making it so unique, spinning a tale of love and loss and finding yourself after a long time. The characters stood so well on their own, but when they come together, they are a team to adore. This book is what I’d call a quiet read: nothing loud nor brutal. Harrow creates such an atmospheric tone that shone through this book entirely. As a child, a common daydream of mine was finding doors to new worlds, so January’s journey truly felt like a love letter to my own childhood dream. 

January is a young girl who feels lost until she accidentally discovers a book that opens her world beyond the Locke estate. Set in the early 1900s, January is aware of her privilege and her ability to live a life of wealth that most mixed-race girls would never have been granted. I also appreciated that the book didn’t shy away from racism, classism and sexism, especially for the period its set in. She discovers the existence of Doors that open into new worlds and learns about the true circumstance of her family history. Reading this book felt quite dreamlike, the writing so lyrical and immersive, a calling to those who wish to wander to lands beyond our wildest dreams. 

January as our protagonist is incredible, a fish out of water and must survive on her own for the first time in her life. I felt for her need to leave and discover life on her own terms. Jane, hired by January’s father, is equally compelling. Samuel, the grocer’s son, is lacking in characterisation but can’t really give it much fault as he isn’t as crucial to the story as the two leading ladies. The book also follows two others: Adelaide and Yule Ian, two people who cross many worlds to find each other, their story the most heartbreaking in my opinion. The villains are corrupted, faceless men who move in the shadows they have created, and are hellbent on making sure January doesn’t bring a flame to their power. 

Overall, I adored the Ten Thousand Doors of January. A charming and magical adventure about a girl who persevers in the face of resistance. A story I didn’t know I needed, but I will appreciate for a long time. 


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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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Review: Slay

Review: Slay

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.*

A teen game developer finds herself facing an online troll after her Black Panther-inspired game reaches mainstream media and is labelled as exclusionary when a young Black boy is murdered over an online dispute. No one knows that Kiera Johnson, an honours student, runs the secret multiplayer online role-playing card game, SLAY. So when her game’s existence is thrown out into the open, she must save her game while also protecting the safe community she has created for Black gamers. 

SLAY comes to life when Kiera Johnson’s experiences of being a Black gamer means she is ostracised and faces continuously racist abuse. SLAY becomes her refuge where she can put aside her fears about college and whether her future with her boyfriend is the one and, simply put, slays in her self-made game environment. I loved the gameplay detail a lot. For some, it can feel overwhelming, but I loved the detail Morris put into bringing SLAY to life! The gaming culture is one of the book’s strongest point. 

When word of SLAY leaks to the media, Kiera is devastated to see what was a safe space for so many people suddenly branded and portrayed in a negative light, this book is a discussion of the importance of space spaces, and they have the right to exist without being labelled racist. 

In my opinion, the book struggles to make me feel like Kiera developed this game. I thought we’d get a better explanation to how she manages to run SLAY, a VR MMORPG, but we get so little that it made the reading experience disappointing. SLAY is Kiera’s baby, but to maintain a game like SLAY for years with no one in your family realising and only having two people moderating a game with 500k users doesn’t make sense. I would’ve loved to have seen Kiera actively working on SLAY rather than pushing it to the side and with little to show of her skill in game development. Also, the ending was rather disappointing as well, and a lot is glossed over, and not developed. So it’s a shame the side characters weren’t as impressive as they had the potential to be better. Kiera deserves better friends after everything she’s been through. 

Overall, despite my own shortcomings with SLAY, Morris’s debut is a sweet love letter to Black gamer girls. SLAY is born out of Kiera’s wish to promote Black culture from across the diverse diaspora. Collectable battle cards are grounded in Black culture, each with a deep meaning and can kick ass on the digital playing field. SLAY was a good read, and I’ll happily check out anything else Morris will release in the future.  

Here are some #OwnVoices reviews from Black book bloggers: Leila and Liselle Sambury


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