Review: “You Bring the Distant Near” by Mitali Perkins

33155334Rating:
5 stars

This elegant young adult novel captures the immigrant experience for one Indian-American family with humor and heart.

Told in alternating teen voices across three generations, You Bring the Distant Near explores sisterhood, first loves, friendship, and the inheritance of culture – for better or worse.

From a grandmother worried that her children are losing their Indian identity to a daughter wrapped up in a forbidden biracial love affair to a granddaughter social-activist fighting to preserve Bengali tigers, award-winning author Mitali Perkins weaves together the threads of a family growing into an American identity.

Here is a sweeping story of five women at once intimately relatable and yet entirely new.

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You Bring the Distant Near quote

Hello everyone! I’m coming out of hiding to rave about this spectacular book that everyone should go read as soon as physically possible.

I LOVED this book so much! A book has never resonated so well with me; it’s been months since I read it and I still can’t stop thinking about You Bring the Distant Near. There’s FINALLY a book about Bengali girls, not one, not two but FIVE kickass Bengali girls/women who are awesome in their own imperfect ways. 

You Bring the Distant Near follows five characters spanning three different generations, their struggles, their joys, their dreams and their failures. But most importantly, it’s about their relationships with each other and their identities as immigrants in America.

The highlight of the book for me was definitely all the characters. The characters all have their individual character arcs where they grow at their own pace but they’re also all skillfully woven together in the overall story arc. Perkins is an expert at developing and writing characters in a way that leave no doubts of their authenticity. All five of them go on their own individual journeys trying to find their niche in society as first and second generation immigrants. I also just really love following characters’ stories from childhood to adulthood to make sure I know how they turned out so this book was perfect for me.

The cultural representation is something else I adored. Seeing common mundane aspects of Bengali culture reflected in a book made me very happy because it’s so rare to find in the media. Things like the parents listening to Rabindranath Tagore songs while cleaning the house made the book feel special in a way no other book has.

The book also doesn’t sugarcoat the negative parts of South Asian culture but instead takes the challenge head on by having the characters deal with it. Racism, misogyny, colorism and feminism play big important roles in shaping the characters. There’s also an emphasis of the characters trying to balance the two cultures, deciding what parts of Bengali culture to hold on to and what to leave, figuring out what exactly makes them American. That’s a story most immigrants (myself included) know well so it hits close to home.

All in all, I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone who likes a well written and well developed diverse contemporary. And also a huge shout out and thank you to Shenwei @ Reading (AS)(I)an (AM)erica for sending me a copy of this back in July.

Have you read this book? What book characters do you resonate with the most?

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Review: “They Both Die At the End” by Adam Silvera

33385229Rating:
4.5 stars

On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure and to live a lifetime in a single day.

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They Both Die at the End quote

A huge thank you to the publisher (HarperTeen) and Edelweiss for giving me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

They Both Die at the End is an Adam Silvera book so of course it broke my heart and I loved every minute of it. The concept of knowing when you’ll die has always seemed interesting to me so I was looking forward to seeing how these characters would deal with knowing they’ll die that day. It’s tragic and hopeful at the same time.

Mateo as a character is very relatable and I could find myself in him. He’s a dreamer who’s been wanting to do a lot in life but always felt paranoid or scared to take that next step. He’s cautious and reluctant to try new things because of the jarring question, what if something goes wrong? But he’s also an all around good person. He cares deeply about others and will always be around for moral support.

Rufus is more bold and adventurous but has a good heart and is loyal till the end. He just lost his family in a car accident a few months ago and has been living in a foster home. He has the most wonderful and supportive group of friends who would go to the ends of the earth for him.

Watching Rufus and Mateo’s relationship growing into something deep and significant is heart warming. They’re both very different and under another circumstance, they wouldn’t have met. I usually hate the “met and fell in love all in one day” trope but it makes sense in this scenario since neither of them have any time left. They are both supportive of one another and become each other’s strength as the day goes by.

Similar to The Sun is Also a Star, TBDatE has small chapters with snippets from all the side and minor characters so we get glimpses of what’s going on in everyone’s heads, not just our two mains. I love stories where we get a full picture and in this world, we get to see how something like DeathCast affects all parties, the ones who are dying and the loved ones they’re leaving behind.

Have you read this one? What’s your favorite Adam Silvera book?

ARC Review: “City of Brass” by S.A Chakraborty

32718027Rating:
4 stars

Step into The City of Brass, the spellbinding debut from S. A. Chakraborty—an imaginative alchemy of The Golem and the Jinni, The Grace of Kings, and One Thousand and One Nights, in which the future of a magical Middle Eastern kingdom rests in the hands of a clever and defiant young con artist with miraculous healing gifts

Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles.

But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass–a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.

In that city, behind gilded brass walls laced with enchantments, behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments are simmering. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, she learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences.

After all, there is a reason they say be careful what you wish for . . .

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First of all, a huge thank you to the publisher (HarperCollins) and Edelweiss for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

City of Brass is a solid introduction to a vibrant new Fantasy series. The setting is rich and descriptive, the characters are well thought out and the plot is [mostly] unpredictable. S.A Chakraborty creates a complex Djinn society and as someone who is very interested in [more like obsessed with] djinns, I soaked it all in.

City of Brass is a book about oppression, how one group thinks they’re better or more deserving because of how pure their blood is. It’s also a book about Islamic traditions and mythology and is unafraid of showing off Islam and I loved the book for it.

I will say however, all the different terms took a lot of getting used to for me. I figured out there’s a glossary at the end after I finished the book… don’t be like me kids, check the glossary if you’re confused by all the terms.

It also took me some time to figure out everything that was going on in the world, the politics and the different classes/types of djinns. Because Chakraborty goes into a lot of the history of what happened in this world, it was too much for me to remember sometimes. And though the action started off pretty quickly, I wasn’t invested in the first few chapters. It took me until getting 50 percent into the book to have the “I really want to know what happens next” feeling.

The book eventually won me over with my two favorite things in the world: magic and sword fights. I mean, what Fantasy lover doesn’t love it when the characters are stabbing each other?

Snippets about the characters:

I liked all the characters well enough to be invested in their stories. Nahri is witty, headstrong and a survivor. She is similar to many other YA protagonists I love [Lila Bard from ADSOM in particular]. She has insecurities about not belonging in either of her worlds, neither the human world nor the djinn. Her insecurities were portrayed well and gave her character depth.

Dara is a Daeva warrior who Nahri accidentally summoned one day. He introduces Nahri to the djinn world and they go on a journey to get to Daevabad, the safest place for Djinns. We don’t learn too much about him honestly and I was the least attached to him when it came to the characters.

Prince Ali [cue the Aladdin song 😀 ] grew on me after just a few chapters. Ali is very religious and has strong moral and political opinions, many of which oppose his father, the king. He tries to do what’s right for his people, especially the shafit (half human half djinn who usually live in poverty). 

Muntadhir (Ali’s brother and future king) grew on me as well. Ali and Muntadhir have a deep and complex relationship that I loved. I love sibling storylines and theirs is a good one, with all the love and rivalry two brothers are bound to have.

My favorite character though, because I almost always tend to like side characters more [especially if they’re sweet and kind Hufflepuffs] was Jamshid Pramukh. He is the Daeva head of the guard and Muntadhir’s best friend. I hope to see more of him in the future books.

Is this on your TBR list? What do you like best about Fantasy books?

 

Review: “Saints and Misfits” by S.K Ali

31123249Rating: 

4 stars

Saints and Misfits is an unforgettable debut novel that feels like a modern day My So-Called Life…starring a Muslim teen.

How much can you tell about a person just by looking at them?

Janna Yusuf knows a lot of people can’t figure out what to make of her…an Arab Indian-American hijabi teenager who is a Flannery O’Connor obsessed book nerd, aspiring photographer, and sometime graphic novelist is not exactly easy to put into a box.

And Janna suddenly finds herself caring what people think. Or at least what a certain boy named Jeremy thinks. Not that she would ever date him—Muslim girls don’t date. Or they shouldn’t date. Or won’t? Janna is still working all this out.

While her heart might be leading her in one direction, her mind is spinning in others. She is trying to decide what kind of person she wants to be, and what it means to be a saint, a misfit, or a monster. Except she knows a monster…one who happens to be parading around as a saint…Will she be the one to call him out on it? What will people in her tightknit Muslim community think of her then?

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Saints and Misfits is a great start to the road for more YA contemporaries with Muslim main characters. The plot is of a typical YA contemporary about finding your voice and overcoming a past trauma. There are many things the book does well and I applaud the author for trying to educate people on what Islam is actually like.

The main character Janna is a fifteen year old, Muslim hijabi teen in the United States. She is kind-hearted and faithful. She tries to balance her religion with a typical high school experience and it was interesting to see what she does to not have to compromise one for the other (sometimes unsuccessfully). The book does a good job in highlighting that people aren’t perfect; Janna makes many mistakes in this novel but she is only fifteen and is still trying to figure herself out.

My heart went out to Janna for what she has experienced with Farooq. Farooq is one of her best friend’s cousin, he attempted to rape her and then continued to stalk her in the book. He is highly respected in their community and Janna is too intimidated by his reputation to report him.

Although I liked Janna just fine, I wasn’t in love with her. She seemed immature at times and her crush on Jeremy often deterred her from seeing the big picture. It makes sense because she’s so young but it did throw me off of loving her character.

Janna’s parents are divorced – she lives with her single mother in an apartment. Her father lives in another state and is married with two sons. The social stigma that comes with divorce in a Muslim society is briefly touched upon but isn’t given much detail.

The side characters all played a role in trying to represent all types of Muslims but sometimes it felt like that was all they were there for. The ending did little to resolve their stories and left a lot of questions unanswered. I wish we got to spend more time with the side characters and had more glimpses of their personalities. But I understand that’s not always easy to do with a first person narrative.

Overall this book was enjoyable and the representation was on point.

Have you read this? Do you have it on your tbr list?

Review: “Words in Deep Blue” by Cath Crowley

31952703Rating:
5 stars

Love lives between the lines.

Years ago, Rachel had a crush on Henry Jones. The day before she moved away, she tucked a love letter into his favorite book in his family’s bookshop. She waited. But Henry never came.

Now Rachel has returned to the city—and to the bookshop—to work alongside the boy she’d rather not see, if at all possible, for the rest of her life. But Rachel needs the distraction, and the escape. Her brother drowned months ago, and she can’t feel anything anymore. She can’t see her future.

Henry’s future isn’t looking too promising, either. His girlfriend dumped him. The bookstore is slipping away. And his family is breaking apart.

As Henry and Rachel work side by side—surrounded by books, watching love stories unfold, exchanging letters between the pages—they find hope in each other. Because life may be uncontrollable, even unbearable sometimes. But it’s possible that words, and love, and second chances are enough.

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“We are the books we read and the things we love.”

Wow. I am stunned.

From afar, Words in Deep Blue may look like yet another book about anonymous letter writing and people magically finding lost notes but Cath Crowley’s take on this trope was unique and perfect. She turned the concept into a beautiful and heartbreaking story. The book deals with depression, loss of a family member, and grief. But also of hope, love and friendship.

Rachel returns to the city she grew up in about a year after her brother Cal drowned in an accident. She is reacquainted with her old best friends (one of them being Henry, the guy she had a huge crush on) but she hasn’t told anyone her brother. Rachel starts to slowly ease back into the lives of her former friends. She has a lot of memories in the town of her brother and it takes her time to sort them out.

Henry is also in the middle of a family disaster. His girlfriend just dumped him again. And it also seems like his family would be losing their second hand bookstore: Henry’s favorite place in the world. Rachel starts to work at their store once she moves back into town and they start to mend their relationship little by little. I liked both Henry and Rachel and I was rooting for them.

The side characters were all great and never felt one-dimensional. Henry’s family members were all dynamic characters. Did I mention his parents are actually a present part of the plot? I know it’s rare but it happens. I hope we get more parental presence in YA books in the future. Henry’s sister was probably my favorite character. I loved how different the two of them were and yet always looked after each other.

Sometimes I fall in love with characters, sometimes the plot, rarely the setting. But I have to say, if I could live in a book, I would choose this one solely because of the precious book store. The way the bookstore is described is every reader’s dreamland. The idea of the Letter Library especially was brilliant. (The Letter Library is a section of the store dedicated to people leaving letters for each other in the books). I loved reading the letters the characters would write to each other, the little highlighted quotes and passages. Years and years of people’s history on the margins of second hand books is a lovely concept to think about.

“Sometimes science isn’t enough. Sometimes you need the poets.”

I also fell in love with Crowley’s beautiful writing. She puts an emphasis on the power of words in the story and her writing is fully up to par with her theme. The book is just so quotable but never seems like it’s trying too hard.

Because I don’t want this review to have half the book written on it, I will refrain from writing down my favorite quotes (which basically consists of half the book). All in all, Words in Deep Blue made me cry (a lot) and it also made me laugh quite a bit and that’s the best reaction a book can give you.

Have you read this or are planning to?

Review: “Now I Rise” by Kiersten White

22817331Rating:
5 stars

Warning: The following contains spoilers for the first book in the series And I Darken. 

Lada Dracul has no allies. No throne. All she has is what she’s always had: herself. After failing to secure the Wallachian throne, Lada is out to punish anyone who dares to cross her blood-strewn path. Filled with a white-hot rage, she storms the countryside with her men, accompanied by her childhood friend Bogdan, terrorizing the land. But brute force isn’t getting Lada what she wants. And thinking of Mehmed brings little comfort to her thorny heart. There’s no time to wonder whether he still thinks about her, even loves her. She left him before he could leave her.

What Lada needs is her younger brother Radu’s subtlety and skill. But Mehmed has sent him to Constantinople—and it’s no diplomatic mission. Mehmed wants control of the city, and Radu has earned an unwanted place as a double-crossing spy behind enemy lines. Radu longs for his sister’s fierce confidence—but for the first time in his life, he rejects her unexpected plea for help. Torn between loyalties to faith, to the Ottomans, and to Mehmed, he knows he owes Lada nothing. If she dies, he could never forgive himself—but if he fails in Constantinople, will Mehmed ever forgive him?

As nations fall around them, the Dracul siblings must decide: what will they sacrifice to fulfill their destinies? Empires will topple, thrones will be won . . . and souls will be lost.

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“Hold hands with the devil until you are both over the bridge.
Or kill the devil and burn the bridge so no one can get to you.”

AHHH I LOVED THIS SO MUCH. This book tore me TO PIECES! I liked the sequel even more than And I Darken.

If there were ever such a thing as a character driven stories, this is IT. Lada, Radu and Mehmed are such complex and imperfect characters that I go from wanting to hug them to wanting to strangle them to death. The main three characters have developed into such distinct personalities it’s a marvel of Kiersten White’s writing. She writes historical characters with a twist that’s fresh yet familiar.

Our Radu, Lada and Mehmed are no longer children, though all three of them still have the same goals in mind. From the first book, we know what they value above all else: Lada will always choose Wallachia, Mehmed will always choose Constantinople and Radu will always choose Mehmed. In Now I Rise we see how their desires play out and how their goals affect their decisions – politically and emotionally.

If I thought I disliked Mehmed in the first book, I downright hated him in this one. He cares about both Dracul siblings but it’s clear he doesn’t care about either one as much as he cares about being the Sultan who expands the Ottomans towards Constantinople. I never understood his desire to conquer Constantinople, his reasoning is questionable and his means to his goal is even more so.

Lada is more brutal and ruthless as ever. Her and her soldiers are parading through the countryside trying to get to Wallachia’s throne. Lada doesn’t know how to get to the throne, she was never one for politics, all she knows is that she wants it. She finds an unlikely ally in the man who killed her father. Lada was my least favorite out of the three in the first book but became my favorite in this one. Lada never pretends to be someone she isn’t, she is fierce and violent and she gets things done with brutal force. After all the mind games Radu and Mehmed were playing in the book, Lada’s chapters felt honest and refreshing.

Radu is getting on my nerves. I understand he’s in love with Mehmed but there should be a line that you know not to cross. His blind devotion to Mehmed annoyed me for most of the book especially since so many innocent people are now suffering because of it.

And yes the main three are great characters but do you know who took me completely by surprise? Nazira. I’m SO GLAD Nazira had such a strong presence in this book because I was dying to learn more about her after And I Darken. She is kind, caring while being strong and sly, and she’s also crazy smart and resourceful. She’s everything I look for in a character.

Cyprian is also a character I quickly became very fond of. He is generous and opened up his home to Radu and Nazira. He basically provides Radu an opportunity to spy on the Ottomans from the heart of their city. Poor Cyprian deserves better.

Have you read this? Or “And I Darken”?

Review: “Magnus Chase and the Hammer of Thor” by Rick Riordan

27904311Rating:
4 stars

Thor’s hammer is missing again. The thunder god has a disturbing habit of misplacing his weapon–the mightiest force in the Nine Worlds. But this time the hammer isn’t just lost, it has fallen into enemy hands. If Magnus Chase and his friends can’t retrieve the hammer quickly, the mortal worlds will be defenseless against an onslaught of giants. Ragnarok will begin. The Nine Worlds will burn. Unfortunately, the only person who can broker a deal for the hammer’s return is the gods’ worst enemy, Loki–and the price he wants is very high.

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Oh Rick Riordan, how much I love thee. I liked Hammer of Thor much more than Sword of Summer and let me just start by giving a huge round of applause to Riordan for this fantastic and diverse cast of characters.

Magnus Chase: a sassy pan sexual healer with a heart of gold. I complained about him in the last book because of how similar he sounded to Percy but his voice was unique in this one. He sounded more grown up and mature, and when he brought in humor to the situation, he still understood the gravity of things.

Samirah al-Abbas: an axe wielding, hijab wearing Muslim Valkyrie. I love love LOVE her and Riordan for making her such a strong, liberal person. She’s also very happily betrothed to Amir who’s an absolute cinnamon role.

Alex Fierro: a transgender/genderfluid shapeshifter whose weapon is a metal wire. How cool is that? This was the first book I read with a gender fluid person where the book didn’t revolve around the character’s gender identity.

Hearthstone: a deaf dwarf who comes from an abusive family. He’s also a master at rune magic. This was also the first book I read with deaf representation.

Blitzen: a POC elf with a great fashion sense who wants to open his own fashion line someday. He’s also a great craftsman.

The plot itself is nothing special. Thor’s hammer is stolen and the main cast must go on a mission to retrieve it. All the while, Loki is threatening the demigods and trying to achieve his own agenda. It’s a typical Riordan book, fairly predictable but enjoyable nonetheless. There were a few twists I didn’t see coming which was a surprise.

“Sounds like the beginning of a joke, doesn’t it? An atheist and a Muslim walk into a pagan afterlife.”

This is also a book about acceptance and unity. Sometimes you may not understand people and where they are coming from, but you have to respect them, no matter their religion or sex or sexuality.

And of course the best part of the book: Annabeth cameos!

What’s your favorite Riordan series?