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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Review: The Year After You

Review: The Year After You

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.*

Almost a year after a car accident that derailed Cara’s life, her mother enrolls her into Hope Hall, for her final year. Miles away from anyone who knows her, on a secluded boarding school in the Alps, Cara intends to keep her past a secret. But the one thing she didn’t account for was the students of Hope Hall.

When I think random boarding school in the Alps, there’s a very stereotypical expectation I had constructed around this setting, but The Year After You utilizes the setting very well which very much complimented the story. The way everything is trapped in this one mountain made the story more intense.
Cara, our main lead, was brilliantly frustrating. I personally didn’t like her, but when we got to the end, I did feel for her. Her pain and confusion as she blames herself for the death of her friend while trying to keep her new friends at an arm’s length were honestly heart-breaking.

The side characters were extremely brilliant. Without them, I don’t think I would have enjoyed this book very much. Ren is everything you want in a friend; caring, supportive and patient. Hector is a hero with a chip on his shoulder and story of his own. He’s rather mysterious with an extremely interesting backstory. Fred, I have to admit, took a while to understand. He immediately sees Cara as a threat to his friendship group and I didn’t particularly enjoy seeing him gang up on her. Everyone in this school reminds me of my own secondary school days, we’re all on edge and even stuff that seems irrelevant now, really crumbled your world back then, so I get the fear of losing everything that you’ve known.

Overall, The Year After You is a moving debut about a girl sent to boarding school after her best friend in a car accident. Personally, this book wasn’t for me. It starts off rather slow, but towards the end, it really packs a punch


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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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Blog Tour: Graham’s Delicacies (+ INTL giveaway!)

Blog Tour: Graham’s Delicacies (+ INTL giveaway!)

I am so, so happy to be apart of the blog tour for Graham’s Delicacies. I’m so excited to share my review and playlist I’ve made. My playlist is a little different time around. Initially, it was going filled with songs about the book in general, but I quickly grew really fond of the actual bakery in the book, Graham’s Delicacies.

I’m also hosting my own Paperback copy giveaway of Graham’s Delicacies. It’s international, so everyone’s welcome to join!!! Check it out below!

R E V I E W

Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)

Six people and three love stories all in one bakery.

Graham’s Delicacies is a collection of short stories revolving around the love lives of the workers of Graham’s Delicacies. If you’ve read Ali’s previous work, you realise this café has already made it an appearance in Ali’s debut, Soft on soft, and I love it! I adored the casual and sweet environment of the café. Apart from Yujin, everyone works there, and it’s adorable. In just Saccharine alone, you can clearly see how furiously protective they are of each other and love each other so much. The familial aspect, inside the café and outside, was one of my favourites part of this book.

Saccharine follows Jen, who is a student working as a waitress, and her relationship with one of the café’s bakers, Emilie. I would, out of all the stories, this was the sweetest. Their relationship was a pretty adorable and we’re shown how they got together. It begins quite delicately with both sides definitely wanting to take their relationship further. I had a lot of love for Emilie; they’re so cute.

In just Saccharine alone, you’re very quickly introduced to the relationship dynamics of the workers. You can clearly see how furiously protective they are of each other and love each other so much.

In Delectable, James is hard-core pining over his co-worker Sam. He’s exceptionally family-orientated and often puts his family before anything else, even himself. If Saccharine was sweet, Delectable was emotional. Sam is confident and amazing. His confidence is sky-high and brilliant. James and Sam fit so well together, and their relationship was very natural and cute.

Ravenous is, I would say, my favourite out of the three stories. Alex hopes to change the mind of a popular food vlogger who made some pretty unjustified comments about the bakery. Except, they certainly weren’t expecting to meet Yujin. Ravenous was hilarious as Yujin tries to persuade Alex to give him a second chance. Alex is highly protective of Graham’s Delicacies, so they aren’t so easily satisfied.

Yujin was a surprising character I didn’t expect to rate so highly. He comes off quite arrogant at the beginning, but quickly he’s developed into this entirely different person, whose public persona precedes him.

Overall, I enjoyed Graham’s Delicacies. I love the way the stories interlink with each other but are their own stories. There are explicit sex scenes in each story, in case, that isn’t your thing, like me. I love the different couple dynamics. It’s pretty low in drama, and everyone gets a happy-ever-after. So I would recommend if anyone wants a fun and quick read.

Continue reading “Blog Tour: Graham’s Delicacies (+ INTL giveaway!)”

Review: Gates of Thread and Stone

Review: Gates of Thread and Stone

Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

The Labyrinth has been humanity’s home for a long as Kai could remember. Despite the damp and discomfort, it is home. That is until her adopted brother, Reev, disappears and keeping her head down isn’t an option anymore. Kai must come to terms with her ability to manipulate time and unravel her past before she loses her future.  

I really enjoyed this a lot more than I expected! I had some initial shortcomings maybe because the title put me off a lot, but I genuinely had a good time reading this.

The fantasy world was substantial. I guess I would’ve liked more on the creation of gargoyles, but the world is rather exciting and inventive. Humanity lives inside this walled off city now named Ninurta, with fractions of communities of differing wealth. We slowly learn throughout the book about the use of magic, how it destroyed the world we once knew, and how it manifests in different beings.  It’s sort of post-apocalyptic with a magical twist. I really enjoyed that fact that it’s given to us in paces because the amount that is needed to create this world, it just wouldn’t have been right to info-dump it all.

I really enjoyed Kai as a protagonist. She’s very headstrong, and I liked that she was very sure about what she wanted from the get-go and was very adamant that nothing was going to get in her way. I really loved Avan as well. Maybe not as a love interest but as a friend to Kai, who you can clearly see these two cared for each other and were willing to anything to keep each other safe. Their friendship was delightful, and I was expecting it to be held more platonic, but the romance wasn’t as bad as it could’ve gone nor did it dominate and overtake the actual plot.

The twist that comes towards the end had me thoroughly shocked. I was initially confused because I genuinely was not expecting the way the plot just shifts so suddenly into something we weren’t necessarily informed about. The ending was a complete 360 from the original set up. But the twist did introduce some new characters that I am indeed very interested in and brought some of the secondary characters to the forefront again. I’m reading the sequel as I’m writing this and I enjoy how the story is progressing from here.  

I listened to the audiobook, though I did swap to the e-book on chapters where it wasn’t available, I think the audiobook made the reading experience more enjoyable. I really loved the voice actor for the book who did an outstanding job at not only bring Kai’s story to life but gave a real warmth to the secondary characters.

Overall, Gates of Thread and Stone was pretty solid and fun to read. It isn’t jumping to the top of my favourites list, but it is a contender. The world and story were amusing and exciting that I do have high hopes for how this series will play out in the end.


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Review: Internment

Review: Internment

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.*

Set in a horrifying future, where the United States has forced all Muslim American citizens into an internment camp, seventeen-year-old Layla must find help inside and out to lead a revolution against the camp’s cruel director.

I engulfed this book. Really. I started reading at 11 pm and didn’t put my phone down until I checked the time when I was done, and it was 2 am. Internment is timely to our ongoing xenophobic climate where a Muslim ban like the one in this book isn’t as fictional as people would think. Muslims are rounded up, their books are burnt, and their bodies are coded. Layla and her family are swiftly rounded up in California, but she refuses to let herself be hidden away like this. She begins to lash out but quickly learns that resistance is death in the eyes of the camp director.

I loved Layla so much. Despite her fears, she carries on, even though she has no idea what she’s doing and everything she does know can come crashing down in seconds if the Director discovers her plans.

Internment focuses on the younger generation, and how they all band together to fight the injustice, they’re experiencing. Layla quickly makes friends, and they all work together to bring attention to their situation and put an end to the unfair treatment within the camps and bring an end to them. Their friendships are one of the book’s main strength. Even when they’re divided into the camp, with the Director doing the most to make them turn on each other, they rise together to uplift everyone’s voices.

The book shines the most when it brings awareness of how this has happened before, and how turning away from history can only bring devastating actions. Layla recalls her history lessons of WWII and Japanese internment and shows how easy oppressive entities can enact destructive acts on marginalised communities.

I’m not sure how to put this into words, but it felt somewhat incomplete? Like the world felt lacking. All we know is that a full-on Muslim ban has been enacted where they must be home by a particular time, they are unable to work, and even Layla’s father’s literature was being burned at book burnings. It was all too frightening to read knowing easily true this can come. The book is marketed as a “fifteen minutes into the future” so I assume our current knowledge is supposed to fill the gaps, but I wished there was more to it. I hoped there was more detail to certain things like the camp and motivation behind secondary characters. There are certain characters who I don’t think they get the right amount of time to understand them. And because of this, certain aspects do come across as comical.

Overall, despite my own personal shortcomings with this book, I still found it gripping and authentic. Can I say how much Ahmed has improved from her debut? She’s definitely an author to watch everyone! A gripping narrative about the internment of Muslims and Layla’s journey to understanding and combating xenophobia and racism. A brilliant book for younger readers and I definitely recommended reading this book.


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