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 via 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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Review: The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali

Review: The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali

Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)

Rukhsana tries her best to live up to her parent’s unbelievably high expectation. Luckily for her, she has only months between her life in Seattle to her new life in Caltech, where she can hope to be herself with her girlfriend, Ariana. But when her parents catch her with her girlfriend, she finds herself travelling to Bangladesh, believing she was visiting a sick relative and stripped off her passport until she agrees to an arranged marriage. As she plans to return to the States, she discovers her grandmother’s diary and learns to find strength without losing her family in the process.

This book is emotional and brilliant in every way possible. I warn it isn’t an easy read. It discusses colourism, homophobia, Islamophobia, assault, abuse, forced marriage and hate crimes. The sheer depth of this book is mesmerising and packs a hell of a punch. Rukhsana’s experience is one that is all too real and heart-breaking.

Continue reading “Review: The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali”

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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Review: Furthermore

Review: Furthermore

Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)

In Ferenwood, colour is everything, but Alice Queensmeadows is devoid of it all. And that makes her different, outcasted, even in her own family. Three years after her father’s disappearance, the only person who believed in her, Alice joins a journey into the perils of Furthermore to find him.

Alice hides in her colourful clothes and bangles. And with her upcoming Surrender, the ceremony in which the younger generation of Ferenwood are given a role based on their magical abilities. Alice’s Surrender goes wrong which leads her to join Oliver through the world of Furthermore.

Alice has no choice but to team up with a past friend, Oliver, who is given the job to find her father. And he needs her help. Oliver takes her to Furthermore, a rule changing world, where one mistake will have you lost forever. Oliver is a gifted and strict while Alex is reckless and free-spirited. They begin at odds, but their friendship is forged quite quickly as they face fast-paced adversity. The way they bounce off each other was rather exciting. Their friendship was adorable, and I really enjoyed their development.

This is a fantastic Middle-grade read! I wish something like this existed when I was ten and discovering fantasy. While I fumbled with the world-building at first, the visuals are rather captivating. This book deserves its own graphic novel. The current cover is enough to justify it. It’s very adventurous, with its twisted logic, and Alice’s inner journey of self-love and friendship is fantastic.

Like I said, the world building was a bit confusing, to begin with, it makes more sense in the end, but I would’ve appreciated more clarity in the beginning. But the setting is so unique and thrilling. The eccentricity of all it all was somewhat entertaining. Mixed with its oddity of background characters, there is a lot to love in this book. I’m slightly disappointed in myself that kept putting this book off because I was not a massive fan of Tahereh’s Shatter Me series. I had learnt that quite a lot of other people shared this sentiment which I can now say, give Furthermore a shot, even if you didn’t like Shatter Me.

Overall, Furthermore is impressive. A story of loss and recovery, one of Tahereh’s more unique novels which show Alice and Oliver negotiate the harsh landscape of Furthermore and discover more about themselves. It’s fun, vibrant and imaginative! A definitely recommended read, especially for younger readers.


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