Review: The Black Veins (Dead Magic #1)

Review: The Black Veins (Dead Magic #1)

Rating: ★★★★☆ (3.5/5)

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

After Blythe witnesses her family being kidnapped right in front of her and her best friend injured, she’s forced into a road trip like no other. In search of other powerful magicians like her or “Guardians”, she must make her way to Electric City. But in a world where magic thrives and an imminent war between the two magician governments forces Blythes and her new friends to think on their feet and discover magic in a new way.

I found The Black Veins an interesting read. The writing is easy and enjoyable, and I found myself barrelling through the book with much ease, despite my own issue with the pacing. I particularly enjoyed the way Monet brings together all these teens who seemly have nothing in common. It was hilarious and sweet, watching them fall apart and come back together as a team. All the guardians have their own quirks that make them stand out. At first, I wasn’t too sure about the comedy aspects of this book, but I found it so funny, and I really loved how realistic all these teens came alive.

Blythe is the leader whose family kidnapping kickstarts her journey across the states. Slowly, she comes in contact with the guardians. Cordelia is a stuck up hacker, Daniel has never left his parents side, Antonio is confident and brash with a hilarious comedic flair. The last three I’ll keep unnamed were equally exciting and fun to experience.

I found the pacing to be quite the biggest pitfall for this book, and the lack of consistency in its pacing is where I struggled the most in the book. The overall journey we witness was quite exhilarating, and Ashia Monet is clearly a talented writer, but the story felt quite long and what we’re given in terms of worldbuilding doesn’t feel the gaps as well as I expected it to. Given the number of Guardians we meet, I feel like I didn’t really connect with the last three as much. But I do believe this is something that will most likely be worked upon in the sequel.  

Overall, I found The Black Veins to be a strong debut. A YA urban fantasy that follows a group of teenagers. I found their journey to becoming a found family quite sweet, and I would definitely recommend this book. I might just chalk my negativity as the result of myself never really enjoying the first book as much as the rest of the series. If you’re interested in an urban fantasy road trip that follows a ragtag group of teenagers with enough power to destroy the world basically, then The Black Veins is definitely a treat for readers. And considering the ending of The Black Veins, I’m excited to see what happens 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: Patron Saints of Nothing

Review: Patron Saints of Nothing

Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)

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

I’m not sure where to start because there’s so much to this story. After discovering his cousin, Jun was murdered and fuelled by a mysterious Instagram message, Jay Reguero heads to the Philippines to find out the real story. There, Jay must reconnect with a life he barely remembers and family who refuse to acknowledge what has happened.

Told through a mix of narrations, switching between Jay and the letters addressed to him, Patron Saints was deeply emotional. It’s a coming of age story that really tugs at your heartstring.

If you don’t know much about Duterte’s war on crime, this book really sets the scene really well. It’s not going to hold your hand and tell you the violent history of Philippine’s current president, but it really highlights and summarises the political background Jay is set in really well. We get an understanding of the situation from different characters. And I thought it was discussed really well and didn’t shy away from controversies and really emphasises how the context impacts Jay and his search for the truth.

The story follows Jay as he’s moving from different family households in his visit to the Philippines. His extended family play a huge part in this story as we’re introduced to an army of aunties, uncles and cousins. I loved how it showcased how diverse family can be. Each house brought something new and helped Jay in his search. His uncle is a police officer who Jay suspects of being complicit in his son’s death. His rigid way of raising his children has his cousins opening up to him. He then moves in with his aunts, a lesbian couple, who are more caring toward Jay. Then he eventually comes to his grandparent’s house where everything that the story accumulated finally comes free.

Patron Saints tackles a lot of heavy subjects. It discusses colourism, the impact of American Imperialism, ethnocentrism and privilege. And that isn’t even all of it. The second Jay comes to the Philippines, he’s very much confronted with his more privileged way of living. He quickly realises how easier it is for him, a light-skinned man, to navigate the space he’s in. He even finds himself speaking overturn but is quick to learn and acknowledge the privilege he has.

The one thing that follows Jay in the Philippines is how much of an outsider he feels. A child of mixed heritage (White and Filipino), Jay is seen as very much whitewashed in the eyes of his family. After being away for much of his life, his family don’t see him as Filipino. I could really relate to Jay: having not knowing your country’s language, history or culture and feeling like an outsider at any given moment. I really think Ribay showcased the diaspora struggle and was dealt with spot on. His internal conflict was realistic and deeply emotional.

The only criticisms I could have are how Jun was treated and the character of Mia. The mistreatment of Jun, especially with his ending.

Overall, it was an illuminating and compelling story that delved deep into justice and grief and identity. It’s a coming of age novel that was character driven and offered an emotional and powerful punch. Rarely do YA novels tackle global issues that are often buried under Western domestic problems, and I found it an excellent read.


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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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Review: Summer Bird Blue

Review: Summer Bird Blue

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 her younger sister, Lea, dies in a car accident, Rumi is sent to live with her aunt in Hawaii. Wracked with survivor’s guilt, Rumi doesn’t know how to begin coping. Far from home and without her sister, Rumi is angry. But with the help of her new neighbours, Rumi finds her way back to reconnect with music and her sister.

This story was just absolutely incredible. It’s intense and emotional. I was genuinely captivated by Rumi’s journey as we follow her from a very vulnerable place and watch grow in her healing journey. She begins the story in a very angry place, her mother had abandoned her, and now she’s in an unknown place. Memories are scattered in scenes which reveal her past and demonstrate how everything led to Hawaii. While they read a little abruptly at some moments, I loved what they showed. They really built into Rumi’s past with her family and allow Lea to fully flourish into her own despite never actually appearing in the current time.

What captured me the most about this book is how Rumi uses music to deal with her grief. At first, she’s very reluctant to keep music at bay but returns to it to fulfil her final promise to her sister. Music has so much power in this novel, and that was one aspect that I really appreciated. 

I feel like Rumi will anger a lot of readers. There’s a certain expectation of how grief should be portrayed, usually a constant state of sadness. And Rumi isn’t like that all the time, she’s angry, rightfully so, and she’s hugely expressive and says everything unabashedly. I just hope no one interprets her grief as her being a “Bad” character. Also, the parent-child relationship here is rather interesting, and I enjoyed the different take on the usual “strong parent who is there for their child” type I’m so used to reading about.

Amid everything, one subplot follows Rumi as she questions her own sexuality, and she later identifies as asexual which is pretty amazing to read considering how ace characters in YA are severely underrepresented.

I love books that have large friendship groups where everyone truly cares for each other, and Summer Bird Blue gave us just that. Rumi meets Kai, her neighbour, and later meets Hannah, Gareth and a whole bunch of others who genuinely care for each other. I would have loved to have seen more of them. There’s also her elderly neighbour, George Watanabe, and I had such sheer joy while reading about them doing such simple things. His own story is heart-breaking.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was just so heartfelt and emotional, especially the last quarter had me in tears. A story about a girl exploring her grief, but also a story about family and friendship. A brilliant character-driven novel that really hit all the right notes .


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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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image source: goodreads

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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