Review: “Love, Hate & Other Filters” by Samira Ahmed

31207017Rating:
4 stars

A searing #OwnVoices coming-of-age debut in which an Indian-American Muslim teen confronts Islamophobia and a reality she can neither explain nor escape–perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Jacqueline Woodson, and Adam Silvera.

American-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home, and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe (just maybe) pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school, a boy who’s finally falling into her orbit at school.

There’s also the real world, beyond Maya’s control. In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates alike are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs.

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Maya quote

Trigger Warnings: Suicide, Islamophobia

A huge thank you to Soho Teen and Edelweiss for a free copy of this awesome book!

I wish I hadn’t waited so long to review this book because I’m sure I won’t be able to remember everything I want to talk about.

The book follows Maya, a Muslim-American teen who wants to one day make films. She is very unapologetic about her love for her hobbies and her opinions on certain issues like sexism and prejudice. The main conflict of the bombing doesn’t happen for a good chunk of the book which I liked because we get to see what Maya’s every day life looks like and how much it changed afterwards.

The family dynamic is very realistic. Maya’s parents are first generation immigrants so there is a cultural barrier between her parents and herself. Her relationship with her mother is strained, neither one understands each other’s perspectives (or likes it). Her mom wants Maya to be the perfect Indian daughter: quiet, obedient, married young to another Muslim-Indian. Her mom doesn’t understand Maya’s goals and dreams, Maya doesn’t understand why her mom can’t leave her ideals back in India and just support Maya. I liked reading their scenes together because you understand Maya’s frustrations with her mother, and most of us have been in similar situations (if not as drastic as Maya’s) so we’re able tot sympathize with her.

Maya has a great relationship with her aunt (her mom’s sister) who she sees as the opposite of her mother. Her aunt is unmarried, lives alone and is on her way to become a famous graphic designer. Her aunt is breaking the Indian cultural norm and inspires Maya to do the same.

I have to say I was a little disappointed by the lack of care Maya gives her religion. Yes her parents are Muslim and she experiences Islamophobia but there isn’t much in the book that show us shes’s Muslim. I do understand that not everyone is religious and people have their own ways of participating in their faith. But I wanted there to be something more than just her parents tying her to Islam, especially since I went into the book expecting a Muslim main character.

Personal preferences aside, the book itself is great. Maya is a good main character, she’s passionate and driven, and does what she wants to do. And I loved both love interests, Kareem and Phil were both sweethearts. I liked the plot and how it dealt with issues of racism and Islamophobia. A book like this was long overdue and I’m glad Samira Ahmed decided to write this story.

Have you guys read this? Do you want to?

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Mini reviews: Warcross, Wonder Woman and Gentleman’s Guide

I’ve read all three of these books a while ago and didn’t want to write individual full reviews so mini reviews it is! All of these had been on my TBR list for a while and fortunately I loved all three of them!two lines

29385546“Warcross” by Marie Lu

4.5 stars

“Every locked door has a key. Every problem has a solution.”

Oh wow, this was a good book. Marie Lu never disappoints! Warcross is the first virtual reality book I’ve read and I have to say, I am a fan. It doesn’t hurt that the protagonist Emika is a hacker and as someone who’s studying computer science, hacking has always been something I’m interested in.

If you’re read Marie Lu’s Legends trilogy and remember Alaska in Champion, Warcross is an even grander version of that. I wanted her to do a spin-off of that book series just to get to know that society more and Marie Lu has answered my calls.

Emika, after a little hack gone wrong, finds herself as a wildcard in this year’s Warcross games. The technology in this book is so well weaved into the story, I was impressed (and also very concerned about where our world is headed).

  • Emika and Hideo were the cutest together
  • There were two huge plot twists, I saw one coming but the second surprised me
  • Seriously, the technology, so good
  • Emika has rainbow colored hair and it’s mentioned one too many times

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29283884“The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue” by Mackenzi Lee

4 stars

“God bless the book people for their boundless knowledge absorbed from having words instead of friends.”

I loved this book but I was very conflicted while I was rating it. After I finished The Gentleman’s Guide, I just sat there and thought, what the heck did I just read? I went into the book expecting a historical contemporary and it was that but there were elements of other genres thrown in that I wasn’t expecting (like fantasy).

Monty was a complicated character, at times I loved him and at times I wanted to punch his guts. He is bisexual in a society where that was absolutely unacceptable. He is in love with his best friend. He’s also irresponsible, takes his inheritance for granted and gets drunk for living. And he also takes his white male privilege for granted, very much so and at time his comments made me want to slap him. But Monty does go through a lot of character development in the book and he learns to get better at listening.

  • Felicity (Monty’s little sister) was my favorite and I loved that girl so much
  • Percy was also great and I loved him too
  • Monty and Percy ARE SO ADORABLE TOGETHER IT HURTS
  • Felt like there was too much happening sometimes

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29749085“Wonder Woman Warbringer” by Leigh Bardugo

5 stars

“You can’t live in fear. You make things happen or they happen to you.”

I had high expectations going into this book after absolutely loving Wonder Woman’s movie and my expectations were met and then some. This was SO GOOD. Yes it has some clichés but it’s a superhero story retelling so it’s bound to have some clichés. That’s not to say Bardugo didn’t put her own little twists and turns into a story we all love (or at least I do).

I’ve said this before but only Leigh Bardugo can introduce five new characters in a book and make me care about every one of them. Even though the book is about Diana growing into her Amazonian self, it’s also about friendship and dedication and doing what’s right. Also I LOVED the diverse casting, that’s not something I see often in superhero retellings (basically every main character but Diana was a POC).

The story picks up once Diana gets to New York with Alya. Diana starts to question a lot of the racism and prejudice that happens in society. I also love her cluelessness when it comes to technology and confusion to slang and modern film references.

Female superheroes are just empowering. This book especially, Diana is Wonder Woman but you have two other strong female characters. Alya is intelligent and brave and fierce. Her best friend Nim is hilarious and loyal and as fierce as Alya.

  • Also, FEMALE FRIENDSHIPS! GIMME MORE! Alya and Nim’s relationship is the sweetest!
  • Nim is a fat bisexual South-Asian character and I absolutely loved her!
  • Tyler is also a sweetheart
  • So usually I see plot twists coming but I did not see this one coming

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Have you read any of the books mentioned? Are you planning to?

Review: “Turtles All the Way Down” by John Green

35504431Rating:
4.5 stars

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

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Turtles try 3

Trigger Warnings: OCD (obsessive thought spirals specifically)

Turtles All the Way Down is a hard book to read. It feels very personal in a way only an #ownvoices book can feel. The antagonist in this book is Aza’s own thoughts and Aza goes through a constant struggle of trying not to let her OCD get the better of her but is sometimes forced to comply with her thoughts anyway.

The book does not glorify mental illness. Aza isn’t a great detective because of her mental health issue but the opposite to where her mental wellness often gets in the way of her goals. She is selfish without meaning to be, she is always stuck in her own head so she often overlooks other people’s problems. This isn’t intentional on her part, it’s just something she isn’t aware of for a long time. But she tries to do well and to be well and I was rooting for her the entire book.

One of my favorite things to find in a YA book is female friendships and Aza and her best friend Daisy have a great one. They have their ups and downs but when it comes to it, they try to understand each other and are there for each other when it counts.

The romance is not a big part of the plot and is more of a side story which is different from a typical John Green book and I liked it. Davis is the son of a billionaire who goes missing and there’s a reward for finding him. Aza and Davis used to go to camp together so Aza’s friend Daisy thinks that could help them solve the case. Davis is a sweetheart, he is witty and smart and like all other John Green love interests, deeply philosophical.

Turtles mentions a lot of artwork and artists and incorporates that into the story. I’m not someone who knows a lot about art but I did end up looking up some of the art that are mentioned. Aza describes her thought process by comparing it to a particular art piece of a spiral and how it goes on and on without stopping.

Technology use is also portrayed really well and that’s so rare! The characters used Google Maps to get to places, they texted each other constantly, their phones didn’t suddenly run out of battery. It was relatable and normal.

Mini spoiler for the ending ahead, skip if you hate spoilers!

Ultimately, the mental health portrayal felt real and debilitating but not hopeless and untreatable. Aza gets help from her therapist. She continues to struggle with it her entire life. She has her ups and downs, she gets better and she gets worse. There is no sudden treatment, she doesn’t sporadically “get well” but she learns to deal with it.

Have you read this one? What’s your favorite John Green book?

 

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?

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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Release Date: November 14, 2017Arrow

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?

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes and NoblesArrowSaints and Misfits quoteTrigger Warning: attempted rape, stalking

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?