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.

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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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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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Review: Opposite of Always

Review: Opposite of Always

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.*

Jack meets Kate. They bond over their love for cereals and films. Jack falls in love, and it should be happily ever after. That is until Kate dies, and Jack returns to moments just before he meets Kate, again. Here, Jack faces multiple choices as he’s continuously thrown back to the past when Kate dies. He aims to stop Kate from dying, but that doesn’t come without consequences. And the choices he makes turns deadly elsewhere, and he has to figure out what he’s willing to let go to save everyone he loves.

Opposite of Always took a while to grow on me. I knew it was going to become a bit repetitive, considering the plot, but Reynold’s debut was a sweet coming-of-age story with a fun time travelling twist.

After meeting Kate at a party, Jack embarks on an adorable romance which is cut short and restarts itself when Kate dies. He sees this as a second chance, another chance to save Kate, but every time he changes something to help Kate, some even more drastic happens in the result of it.  Each return to the past has devastating impacts if Jack’s not careful. And because of this, the plot builds very slowly, but I found that Opposite of Always was more charming than I had expected.

The dialogue is witty and fun, especially with Jack and his peers. His relationship with his family was dynamic and nuanced. Jack is very loveable, and a well-rounded character. His voice is genuine and real. As well as Kate, something new is revealed about her with every loop. The plot mainly revolves around Jack’s choices and the consequences to said choices, and it was interesting to see how drastic the decisions ended up and how they differed from previous times based on small choices that seem insignificant.

Overall, an exciting novel about choices and living. Opposite of Always is charming, witty and fun. Contemporary isn’t really up my alley, but I definitely recommend.


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Review: Geekerella

Review: Geekerella

Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)

Elle lives, breathes and blogs Starfield. But her step-mother and sisters think otherwise. So, when the opportunity to enter a cosplaying competition comes up, she takes it, she just needs to find a way to get there. Darien Freeman is an up and coming actor and playing Starfield’s Carmindor is a dream come true. He just needs to prove it. But it isn’t easy when the fandom has already shrugged off the teen actor, and a cruel blogger aims to undermine his every move. One wrong number leads to a connection none of them would’ve expected.

I was very surprised by this book, and mainly because I actually enjoyed it more than I had anticipated. I always hold “fandom” books at a distance, mostly, because I often find them cringey, outdated, and never really that representative of fandom. The title alone already had me on edge, but I adored Geekerella.

Elle was a sweet lead, who blogs about Starfield and isn’t exactly happy about Darien being cast. And like a blogger, she takes to the internet to voice her opinions. I absolutely loved how Elle experiences fandom, and it was quite real and actually relatable. As a teen, I was in Elle’s position too, but instead Starfield it was multi-fandom Tumblr. (Imagine 2013 circa Tumblr) And this is where the book shined. It was a fantastic experience that felt like my own personal ode to my own personal fangirl experience. It was incredibly relatable, the conventions, the speech. The book really encompasses the general gist of positive fandom, while also addressing negative aspects quite well.

Darien was a pure sweetheart, who really wanted to do well by Starfield, but couldn’t do so due to contractual obligations and an overdemanding dad-manager who only sees this as a career boost. I was sort of more leaning towards him parts of the story because it discusses whitewashing in film and his experiences of being a non-white actor.

Geekerella is a light romance. I really enjoyed how the story of Cinderella is retold within the context of a big movie adaptation. The romance can get little too much, but honestly, it isn’t as bad as people make it out to be in more negative reviews. A lot of people are calling it unbelievable because they interact with each other through texts. In the context of Geekerella, it’s understandable because neither make an attempt to actually see the other, not even via web calls or anything. But to say every relationship made via online media is inauthentic is a pretty shitty take, and that seems to come up a lot in reviews for this book.

Overall, it’s a pretty decent book. An adorable modern update of Cinderella set in fandom and reboots. I really enjoyed the accurate depiction of contemporary day fandom. Though mostly predictable, it’s somewhat entertaining, and I enjoyed it a lot more than I had expected.


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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.)