Reviews

A Tough Read- The Love and Lies of Rukshana Ali

Overall enjoyment: 2.5/5

Characterization: 3/5

World building: 3/5

Diversity: 5/5

Goodreads Summary:

“Seventeen-year-old Rukhsana Ali tries her hardest to live up to her conservative Muslim parents’ expectations, but lately she’s finding that harder and harder to do. She rolls her eyes instead of screaming when they blatantly favor her brother and she dresses conservatively at home, saving her crop tops and makeup for parties her parents don’t know about. Luckily, only a few more months stand between her carefully monitored life in Seattle and her new life at Caltech, where she can pursue her dream of becoming an engineer.

But when her parents catch her kissing her girlfriend Ariana, all of Rukhsana’s plans fall apart. Her parents are devastated; being gay may as well be a death sentence in the Bengali community. They immediately whisk Rukhsana off to Bangladesh, where she is thrown headfirst into a world of arranged marriages and tradition. Only through reading her grandmother’s old diary is Rukhsana able to gain some much needed perspective. 

Rukhsana realizes she must find the courage to fight for her love, but can she do so without losing everyone and everything in her life?”

Review

I started this book think while there might be a little teenage hardship in this book it would be a fairly light read. I was WRONG!!!! Normally I don’t give book warnings since everyone has their own personal triggers and opinions, but this one got unexpectedly dark. There were definitely times were I almost put this book down. Maybe it was because it hit a bit too close to home for me, but there’s some serious homophobia in this book. If you’re sensitive to that I would encourage you to read with caution. This book starts out light with normal teenage concerns and then hits on some serious topics.

The characters.  Rukshana herself was an interesting character and I love that we were introduced to some of her Bangladesh culture and how that affects her as someone who is a first-generation teenager living in the US. I think it also was very open and honest about the different cultural pressures some girls with more traditional family may experience. There are of course other characters, but they seemed pretty shallow to me. I would say Rukshana’s family gets a little depth especially her grandmother, but I was left wanting more especially about Rukshana’s girlfriend.

World building was minor in that it takes places in the modern world, but there’s so much cultural bits in this book that I feel I was given a look into another experience of what life could be had I been born into a different family. I very much enjoyed it.

Diversity. This book was focused on Rukshana, a Desi lesbian. It also includes other LGBTQ+ characters as well as her family which is as mentioned originally from Bangladesh. Definitely a diverse read!

Overall, I AM GOING TO GIVE SPOILERS! PLEASE SKIP IF WANT TO AVOID!!!!!

I loved the cultural elements of this book and I was really excited to read it, but how the LGBTQ+ elements were handled in this book made it almost impossible for me to enjoy. First, there is really no meaningful relationship between Rukshana and Ariana in my opinion. They’re together in the book, but we never learn how they met or really why Rukshana even loves Ariana so much. They’re either making out, arguing, or apologizing. It was flat for me and really disappointing. Once the mother catches the two girls together Rukshana is tricked into going to Bangladesh with her parents where they hire someone who basically tells the family that Rukshana is controlled by a jinn and they need to do and exorcism. Now, while this was horrifying to read I understand that there can be some importance to having this experience in the novel. I’m not sure if this is being practiced in any part of Bangladesh or anywhere today, but if so then I would want people to know about it and understand what experience men and women from these areas may be having. What I didn’t appreciate was that once Rukshana’s parents realize they were wrong the follow through of regaining trust, apologizing, etc. seemed too brief and easy to me. I wanted more conversation and depth, but it sped all too quickly for me. I also had mixed feelings about the death of Sohail, a closested gay man that Rukshana’s parents want her to marry. I think the author was maybe trying to open our eyes to the struggles of LGBTQ+ youth in Bangladesh and if this character had been more of a focal point with more backstory maybe it would have felt more powerful to me, but I felt like Sohail was only in the books so that his death could make Rukshana’s parents realize how awful it would be if their daughter was murdered. This then makes them realize that they’d rather accept her rather than see her killed. He was a plot point and I have a hard time with that. So, maybe I’m still too raw and emotional about this book to see it objectively. If you see it from a different angle I wouldn’t mind hearing your thoughts and maybe discussing it. I want to like this book and I do love the cultural aspects, but the rest is hard to swallow.

SPOILERS OVER

What do you think about the book? Did you enjoy it? Is it on your TBR? I’d love to hear what you think!

Reviews

A Review- A Faire Encounter By A.M Valenza

Overall Enjoyment: 2.5/5

Characterization: 5/5

World building: 2/5

Diversity: 5/5

Goodreads Summary: Elena is working the Renaissance Faire with her cousin Luís when she spots the Cutest Girl Ever, a yawning, shivering, chubby little thing dressed up in a dragon onesie. The only problem is getting her attention. She comes up with a plan: impress that adorable dragon girl at all costs. A little magic wouldn’t hurt either.

Review

I picked up this book because it was set at a ren faire. I love renaissance faires. I think they’re so fun and nerdy. I enjoyed the beginning of this book, but the more I read the more it just became a little too silly for me.

The best thing about this book was the characterization. Ines was a shy, asexual who got pulled into the whirl wind known as Elena. While I enjoyed Ines, Elena was too much for me to enjoy. She was supposed to be at least an older teenager, but she responded like someone much younger than that and I found that very disappointing. Each of these characters had very distinct voices though and I did really enjoy that.

The world building in this story was fairly minor. As I mentioned before it is set at a renaissance faire with the surprise that witches are real. There’s very little explanation about the witchcraft other than its normal to be happening at the faire.

Diversity is where this novel also really shines. There’s representation for some different sexual orientation, diabetes, mutism, etc. While I appreciated it I also felt like it was a little bit of fan service. The story was short enough and I felt like while we met a diverse cast we really just got a snapshot of them before moving on. I always find that a bit unsatisfying, but it wouldn’t be any different with any other minor character in a relatively short novel.

Overall, I wasn’t satisfied. There are such few f/f novels that I find that I want them to all be magnificent to encourage more people to read and enjoy them. This novel was light, fluffy and if you don’t mind crazy characters you could enjoy this story. If you’re looking for something deeper you’re going to be disappointed.

Reviews

Stunning- How Long ‘Til Black Future Month by N.K. Jemisin

Overall Enjoyment: 4/5

Characterization: 5/5

World building: 5/5

Diversity: 4/5

Goodreads Summary: In these stories, Jemisin sharply examines modern society, infusing magic into the mundane, and drawing deft parallels in the fantasy realms of her imagination. Dragons and hateful spirits haunt the flooded city of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In a parallel universe, a utopian society watches our world, trying to learn from our mistakes. A black mother in the Jim Crow south must figure out how to save her daughter from a fey offering impossible promises. And in the Hugo award-nominated short story “The City Born Great,” a young street kid fights to give birth to an old metropolis’s soul.

Review

I chose this book mainly based on the summary, but also because I’ve heard such great things about N.K. Jemisin’s writing, but was having a hard time committing fully to reading one of her full length novels. I’m generally not a fan of short stories, but Jemisin really impressed me. She has an amazing ability to pull you straight into a world in a very short amount of written words. She definitely introduced a lot of new ideas in fantasy and syfy that I hadn’t considered or thought about before, but really enjoyed. There was a large mix of stories and topics that were covered in this anthology. Most I really enjoyed though there were a few in the mix that I didn’t care for.

Characterization: I can’t go into detail about all the characters because there are so many for them, but even though most of these stories are no more than 10-ish pages I still felt drawn into all the characters lives that were exposed to me. These stories contained so much detail and at times emotions that it is hard not to root for most of the characters.

World building: Jemisin just throws you into her worlds with really no build up. When most authors do this it leaves me confused and left to muddle through it until everything is slowly revealed which I personally find frustrating. But, not here! Jemisin has talent to not only throw you into multiple different worlds through her stories, but also the skill to have it all make sense with little to no explanation. A mastery of the craft.

Diversity: This book focused mostly on characters of color with a variety of thoughts and sexualities. I would say we definitely had a lot of different enjoyable viewpoints.

Overall: I would say its definitely worth the read even if, like me, you’re not a fan of short stories. These stories have left me satisfied with their completeness as well as uniqueness.


Have you read this book? Is it on your TBR? Let me know what you think!

Reviews

Haunting- The Wicker King by K. Ancrum

Overall enjoyment: 3/5

World building: 2/5

Characterization: 3/5

Diversity: 3/5

Goodreads Summary: When August learns that his best friend, Jack, shows signs of degenerative hallucinatory disorder, he is determined to help Jack cope. Jack’s vivid and long-term visions take the form of an elaborate fantasy world layered over our own—a world ruled by the Wicker King. As Jack leads them on a quest to fulfill a dark prophecy in this alternate world, even August begins to question what is real or not.

August and Jack struggle to keep afloat as they teeter between fantasy and their own emotions. In the end, each must choose his own truth.

Review

I have confused feelings about this. I feel like I misinterpreted the summary and so had an unrealistic expectation for this book. This book is all from August’s point of view and while Jack does have an elaborate hallucinatory fantasy world that is not really the focus nor in my opinion is the quest. The focus is August’s attachment to Jack and how Jack’s hallucinations not only deeply affect Jack, but also deeply effect August. This was hard book to read, not because it was poorly written, but because it is so well written. This is not a book that makes mental illness look pretty. This book that looks at what the reality of untreated mental illness and it’s hard. This is not a light, fluffy book this is a bit of a wake up call for everyone who doesn’t get it, myself included.

World building. I’m going to be honest. There is next to none. We get a brief description here and there of the surroundings. We’re in our modern world. Jack’s fantasy world is briefly explained. I think this was done very intentionally though. None of the stuff I just mentioned was meant to be the focus of this story and it could’ve taken away from the impact of the real message if too much time had been spent on it. It is a rare day that I will say that minimum world building was a good move for a book, but I think this was an intentional move and I think it was for the benefit of the book.

Characters. Oh, August and Jack. I hurt for them. There are some background characters, but they’re not much worth mentioning. I hurt for the characters, but they were personally hard for me to connect with. I think Jack is a bully and I say that because I think he was that way before his hallucinations really started and August isn’t described as super likable either. However, I think again it was intentional and actually a good part of the characterization. These two have been neglected and the only thing holding them both up are each other. That doesn’t always create a healthy relationship. I would say they both have very distinct voices that stay consistent throughout the entirety of the book.

Diversity. Both August and Jack are bisexual. Jack also has a hallucinatory disease for most of the book. I haven’t read many books with mental illness rep so it was nice to see even though it was hard to read.

Overall, I think the book was very well written. Ancrum does an amazing job. It was so hard to read though and while that was the point of the book I can’t say it was one of my favorites. If you want a book with flawed, hurting characters that gives a realistic view on what serious mental illness looks like I think you could really enjoy this book. If your looking for something more focused on fantasy or escapism this is not something I would recommend.

Reviews

The Fever King by Victoria Lee

Overall Enjoyment: 5/5

World building: 4/5

Characterization: 5/5

Diversity: 5/5

Goodreads summary:

In the former United States, sixteen-year-old Noam Álvaro wakes up in a hospital bed, the sole survivor of the viral magic that killed his family and made him a technopath. His ability to control technology attracts the attention of the minister of defense and thrusts him into the magical elite of the nation of Carolinia.

The son of undocumented immigrants, Noam has spent his life fighting for the rights of refugees fleeing magical outbreaks—refugees Carolinia routinely deports with vicious efficiency. Sensing a way to make change, Noam accepts the minister’s offer to teach him the science behind his magic, secretly planning to use it against the government. But then he meets the minister’s son—cruel, dangerous, and achingly beautiful—and the way forward becomes less clear.

Caught between his purpose and his heart, Noam must decide who he can trust and how far he’s willing to go in pursuit of the greater good. 

Review:

So, I’ve been excited about this book for awhile. Magic as a virus rather than a cool mystical force? I was sold. I’ve had the book for a week or two before finishing up my previous book in order to get started on this book. This book didn’t disappoint and I can’t wait for the sequel! This is definitely a relevant book for the current culture of the USA.

The characters. What I think I love most about Lee’s characters is they all have backstories. We might not have fully gotten all of them in this book, but we’ve gotten hints of them. These characters have had it rough maybe not in all the same ways, but they all have reasons for being the way that they are. Let’s start with Noam. I adore Noam. He reminds me of a student I use to have. He’s young and he’s got big ideas and he’s willing to put himself on the line to accomplish what he sees as needing to be done. A+ character. Then we have Dara. We don’t necessarily get a ton of information about him until the end, but I still like him. He’s been in this whole mess of the plot since he was young and he’s got some serious stuff going on. Then, there’s Lehrer. Wow, this dude. I don’t want to spoil anything so I’ll leave it at that. If you want characters with sad backstories then you’re going to enjoy this. The one thing I was a little bit disappointed about was Noam and Dara. I wanted more build-up and interaction between them where they weren’t at each other’s throats. The ending with them was amazing, but I’m just not quite sure how they got to that level with each other.

Worldbuilding. This is a dystopian futuristic world with hints of fantasy. I initial started reading this book with the assumption that it was more of a fantasy novel, but it’s definitely more speculative fiction. There’s lots of elements that tie into what elements are currently happening in our own world which I personally enjoyed; especially, in regards to immigrants legal or otherwise. It’s hard to describe without going into too much detail, but Lee took the time to craft an interesting, dark history for her world that really spoke to me.

Diversity. It’s everywhere and I love it! Lee via twitter says Dara is Persian. Noam is a bi man whose half Jewish, half Colombian. There are other characters with other elements of diversity throughout the novel that you’ll find out about as you read, but this is probably the book with the best inter-sectional diversity that I’ve read so far. Major props.

If interested you can buy The Fever King by Victoria Lee here.


Have you read this book? Does it sound interesting? What do you think? Is it on your TBR?

ARC, Reviews

ARC Review – Wild Country by Anne Bishop

Overview

Overall Enjoyment: 4/5

Characterization: 3.5/5

World building 4/5

Diversity 2.5/5

Personal Summary: The 7th book is The Other series.

Bennett was a town wiped out the Namid’s Teeth and Claws, but it won’t stay that way for long. Humans are returning and with it the terra indigene are taking notice.

Jana wants to be a cop, Virgil has a grudge, and they’re going to have to learn to work together if they want to keep Bennett safe from humans that may have less than friendly intentions.

Note: This book can technically be read alone, but makes a lot more sense if you’ve read books 1-5.

Review

Note: I received Wild Country by Anne Bishop for free from NetGalley in exchange for a honest review.

First, let me say that I’m in love with the world of the others. It’s an urban fantasy like I haven’t read before and I just love it. There are many different types of werecreatures in this book and there’s so much going on. I must admit that while I did enjoy this book I will say that books 1-5, the original story line, are still very much my favorites.

Let’s start with the characters. There are so many. I loved those that I would consider the main characters. You have Jana whose always wanted to be a cop and has enough spunk to handle Virgil. I wasn’t sure at first if I’d like Virgil, but he definitely grew on me and he’s a big softy at heart. He bark is worse than his bite (usually). I particularly like his voice within the book. It gives a unique perspective that I really enjoy. Tolya, he’s basically the equivalent of a vampire, and he was kinda bland at first. He has a lot of dealings with Jesse though and it really brings out his character when he’s with her. Jesse is really great too. I loved all these characters, but there were also so many more characters. Honestly, too many characters for me. We were introduced to A LOT of characters and I don’t feel like some of them were really necessary unless there’s another book in this particular town (which I don’t believe is the case) and it left me with some questions that I never felt answered.

World building was good for an urban fantasy based novel. It’s based loosely on the world we have now only instead of humans being the dominant species the terre indigene (mostly what I would call werecreatures) are. The terre indigene are what really draws me into the story. Bishop gives them all a unique voice that I find really enjoyable.

The plot was a bit scattered to me. There was a lot going on in this book and again it was almost too much. I won’t say much on that because I don’t want to spoil things, but be ready. This book also has some western book-inspiration that I didn’t think I’d like, but actually enjoyed.

The diversity in this book. I’m unimpressed. Now, there was a gay couple and there was a neurodivergent child so let me explain why I was unimpressed. They felt forced and that they were only there to say the book had diversity. I doubt that was the author’s intent, but the diverse characters are introduced and then just kinda fade away or are in the background and never really given much attention. They had no really point in the book and I found that disappointing.

If you’d like to purchase Wild Country by Anne Bishop it’ll be released on March 5th and you can buy it here.

Reviews

Sizzling- A Review of Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

Overall Enjoyment: 5/5

World building: 4/5

Characterization: 5/5

Diversity: 4/5

Personal Summary: Lei is of the paper caste, completely human in a whole full of hybrids and demons. Life may not be easy, but it is the only life Lei has known. That all changes when a group of demons abducts her to take her to the palace as one of the king’s paper girls. At the palace Lei is faced with new challenges, but also finds a love that strengthens her is ways she didn’t realize were possible. Together they may just be able to defeat the king and gain their freedom.

Review

I fell completely in love with this story about five pages in. This is the first book I’ve read with an f/f pairing that I’ve really enjoyed. It was a sizzling romance my readers and it was glorious.

The world is set in a Malaysian-inspired fantasy world full of humans, hybrids, and demon. I really enjoyed this world. There were smatterings of history throughout the book that really pulled everything together, but never got to the point of overwhelming. What I think I really enjoyed were the cultural nuances of this book. This book is full of its own cultural practices and beliefs and while I can see how some of it is based on real world cultural practices it didn’t take away any of my enjoyment. If you want a non-European fantasy world this book is a really great choice.

Characterization. I had mixed feelings about this rating. Lei and Wren had great characterization. I would say most of the characters that are more than just passing characters do, but sometimes I wanted a little bit more history from some of them. Many of them have a rough back story that’s alluded to, but never fully explained that I was hoping for.

Diversity. Full of women of color and are main characters are lesbians in an Asian-inspired world. It was beautifully done.

So, if you want a fantasy book featuring a diverse setting featuring two strong and brave lesbian lovers I couldn’t recommend this book enough for you. You can purchase it here.


Have you read this book yet? What did you think of it? I’d love to hear your thoughts!