Reviews

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor Review

Overall Enjoyment: 3/5

Characterization: 4/5

World building: 4/5

Diversity: 3/5

Goodreads Summary:

“Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.

Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti’s stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.

If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself – but first she has to make it there, alive.”

This is a novella that I picked up at the library. It’s a multiple award-winning book and I was excited to give it a read. This book is part one of a three book series. I’m not a huge fan generally of novellas or sci-fi, but I enjoyed this book.

The novella is focused on a character called Binti. She is a member of the Himba people and is SUPER smart. The characterization done in this novel was my favorite part of this novella. We learn so much about Binti through her thoughts and interactions. I love the culture and history that is added to her. She’s truly what I would consider a rounded character.

I also enjoyed the world building. Most of the really interesting bits are at the beginning, but there are different species of beings in space, there is a living spaceship, and there’s a really interesting concept of math being the language of magic. I’d love to learn more about it in the next books.

I’ve started talking about plot versus character driven stories. I would say this is more character driven simply because we just experience so much of who Binti is, but the plot is also moved along at a steady pace. I feel like this novella is fairly balanced between the two. I do feel like there are some pretty powerful themes in this book about belonging and staying the same versus growing into someone new. I feel like to truly appreciate this novella you’d want to read it more than once and give it some thought.

Diversity. This book’s diversity is mainly based in Binti being a woman of color. There are different groupings of people and beings, but there’s not much description of them and because they’re mostly fictional beings I wouldn’t say the differences in this book represent more diversity outside of Binti herself. She’s a compassionate and smart woman and I’m excited to read more of her it in the future.

Overall, I would say this is an enjoyable novella. The introduction of the Meduse seemed a little contrived to me but given the short length and focus on Binti I can easily overlook it and enjoy the book fully. If you enjoy Sci-fi and want to read a quick, but well written novella I think you’d really enjoy this story.

Reviews

Kingdom of Souls Review

Overall Enjoyment: 3.5/5

Characterization: 3/5

World building: 4/5

Diversity: 3/5

Goodreads Summary:

Magic has a price—if you’re willing to pay.

Born into a family of powerful witchdoctors, Arrah yearns for magic of her own. But each year she fails to call forth her ancestral powers, while her ambitious mother watches with growing disapproval.

There’s only one thing Arrah hasn’t tried, a deadly last resort: trading years of her own life for scraps of magic. Until the Kingdom’s children begin to disappear, and Arrah is desperate to find the culprit.

She uncovers something worse. The long-imprisoned Demon King is stirring. And if he rises, his hunger for souls will bring the world to its knees… unless Arrah pays the price for the magic to stop him.”

Kingdom of Souls was a rollercoaster for me. I fell in love with the beginning of this book. The world building was great with wonderful descriptions that really painted a picture for me. The whole being upset because all her family had magic and a lot of it made sense. However, about halfway through the book just stalls.  The descriptions get boring and it just get so drawn out and most of what was compelling about the story disappears. I almost gave up on it, but I pushed through and the last 40-50 pages made it worth reading til the end. I’m even curious about the second book.

I’m in love with the world building. The author did an excellent job of describing the different tribe as well as the city life. The magic and religion are described fairly well. The author also did an excellent job of creating some morally gray characters especially surrounding the mother. It was nice for the world to show that rarely are all people all good or all bad.

Characters. I would say this is where the book struggles the most. Alyna is alright. I found her interesting at the beginning, but then kinda lose interest. She has a complex relationship with her mom, but I don’t ever feel like enough is done with it for it to feel compelling or as interesting as I was hoping for. She has a loving relationship with her dad which I enjoyed, but then that disappeared too. All the other side characters got so little attention they really felt more like plot devices than full, breathing people. I would say this is more of a plot driven story vs a character driven story.

Plot. Normally talk about plot in relation to all the other categories, but I felt like it might be needing its own section. This in my opinion is a plot driven story. There’s lots of interesting stuff happening in the beginning and end of this book that definitely made me want to keep reading. What you really need to worry about in this story is the middle. As I mentioned, it just completely stalls in my opinion. Alyna and family go to a more remote location so there’s no one else to interact with and it’s basically 100 pages of inability for anyone to do anything. It was a part of the book where there was no hope and that made me feel really uninterested in the story. It gets better though so I encourage you to push through if you enjoyed the beginning of the book.

The diversity is okay. We’re set in a fantasy Africa setting so obviously all our characters are people of color. We have a woman of color as our lead which is excellent. There’s so mentioned of lgbtq+ characters, but its so vague and fleeting that its almost not worth mentioning. We have some characters who have definitely experienced trauma and have some PTSD, but again it feels so vague I’m not sure if you’d truly count it as representation.

Overall, it was an alright book. I tend to prefer character driven stories which is really what kept me from truly enjoying this story as much as I was hoping to. However, if you prefer a novel that really focuses on the development of the plot rather than focusing on characters, I think you could really enjoy this book.

Reviews

It was Meh – Only Mostly Devastated Review

Overall Enjoyment: 3/5

World building: 1/5

Characterization: 3/5

Diversity: 4/5

Goodreads Summary:

“Summer love…gone so fast.

Ollie and Will were meant to be a summer fling—casual, fun, and done. But when Ollie’s aunt’s health takes a turn for the worse and his family decides to stay in North Carolina to take care of her, Ollie lets himself hope this fling can grow to something more. Dreams that are crushed when he sees Will at a school party and finds that the sweet and affectionate (and comfortably queer) guy he knew from summer isn’t the same one attending Collinswood High.

Will is more than a little shocked to see Ollie the evening of that first day of school. While his summer was spent being very much himself, back at school he’s simply known as one of the varsity basketball guys. Now Will is faced with the biggest challenge of his life: follow his heart and risk his friendships, or stay firmly in the closet and lose what he loves most. “

What really first pulled me into this story was the idea of this being a gay, modern spin on grease. My curiosity was peaked. This is a fairly lighthearted story that deals with a couple of heavier topics in there too. If you’re looking for a slice of life story about a boy finding love while dealing what other events high school throws at him I think you will enjoy this story. I think what threw me off from completely loving this story was just how much this story had in it. There was the relationship that needed to be worked out not only with Ollie, but also his friends, there was serious family stuff going on, and each character had their own stuff going on too. All this extra stuff in the book was meant to round all of the characters out, at least the girls and Ollie. I felt like the boys were a bit flat and had some behaviors that weren’t fully addressed, but overall a pretty enjoyable story.

Let’s start with world building. This was a contemporary real world setting so there wasn’t much world building needed, but I felt like there could have been more. North Caroline didn’t really get any description other than not as progressive as California. The school is much the same with the school being pretty cookie cutter.

The characters. Ollie is what kept me going in this book. He has little comparisons that I found interesting and was generally just a sweet guy. There was drama, but in generally this character was really mature. Lara, she grew on me. I would say honestly one of the more complex characters. Wasn’t a huge fan of her at first, but she grew on me. Will, what a confused dude. He frustrated me some times, but while he can be not the greatest he grows. The thing that bothered me a bit were the basketball guys. They definitely make some not great comments/ jokes about Ollie only to be like “it’s was just a joke” and that was the end of it. Not really a huge fan of that easy solution, but I guess it’s easier to deal with than them actually being 100% homophobic.

Diversity: There are a few lgbtq+ characters in this book and many people of color. The focus is definitely the gay relationship in the story. While there are people of color it doesn’t really seem to affect anything and is mentioned so briefly you could have missed it. Maybe you enjoy that, maybe you don’t.

Overall, if you’re looking for an overall, light feel good read I think you’ll enjoy this. As mentioned, there are a couple heavier issues, but overall I would say the book has a light feel to it that makes it easy to enjoy if not a little underwhelming.

Reviews

The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark

Overall enjoyment: 5/5

Characterization: 4/5

World building: 4/5

Diversity: 5/5

Amazon Summary:

“In an alternate New Orleans caught in the tangle of the American Civil War, the wall-scaling girl named Creeper yearns to escape the streets for the air–in particular, by earning a spot on-board the airship Midnight Robber. Creeper plans to earn Captain Ann-Marie’s trust with information she discovers about a Haitian scientist and a mysterious weapon he calls The Black God’s Drums.

But Creeper also has a secret herself: Oya, the African orisha of the wind and storms, speaks inside her head, and may have her own ulterior motivations.

Soon, Creeper, Oya, and the crew of the Midnight Robber are pulled into a perilous mission aimed to stop the Black God’s Drums from being unleashed and wiping out the entirety of New Orleans.”

This book popped up in the suggestions for another book I was looking at. The summary had me interested, but I’m not a huge fan of science fiction or novellas. However, as you can tell by ratings above this story really blew me out of the water! I tend not to like novella because I feel like a lot is left out and the story is annoyingly bare bones because its so short. The Black God’s Drum puts all those fears to rest and more

There are two main characters is this story. The first character you meet goes by Creeper. You don’t even learn her name until later in the book, but she paints us an immersive picture of what life is like for her in New Orleans. She’s a strong, street savy girl that knows the community around her. She is paired with the Orisha goddess, Oya, who has been with her since she was born. Then, you have a character that goes mainly by Captain. She’s a captain of an airship and pairs up with Creeper when they are after similar goals. Both characters get chunks of personal history throughout the book that creates well rounded, interesting characters. Very lovely characters for a novella.

The world building threw me off at first, but I acclimated to it within the first 20 pages. The world is set in what I would consider an alternate New Orleans during the civil war period with steampunk elements, mainly, air ships. The main world building that happens in this novel is setting up what would happen if civil war ended differently or at least was a tentative truce. The amount of history put in this novella without info dumping is truly skillful. There’s even some writing done about the African gods and how the drums work that I really enjoyed.

The diversity in this book was great. There were a host of diverse characters in the background, but I tend not to count them since they don’t get much attention. Creeper is a young black girl. Captain is where the real diversity is at. I’ve been disappointed by the general lack of intersectionality in most characters I’ve been reading, but Captain is a strong black, bisexual woman who also has a metal leg. Wow. I’m in love with her.

Overall, if you’re looking for a well written, but quick read with some great, intersectionality I couldn’t recommend this book to you more.

ARC

ARC Review- The Unspoken Name by A. K. Larkwood

Overall Enjoyment: 4/5

Characterization: 4/5

World building: 5/5

Diversity: 4/5

Goodreads summary:

What if you knew how and when you will die?

Csorwe does — she will climb the mountain, enter the Shrine of the Unspoken, and gain the most honored title: sacrifice.

But on the day of her foretold death, a powerful mage offers her a new fate. Leave with him, and live. Turn away from her destiny and her god to become a thief, a spy, an assassin—the wizard’s loyal sword. Topple an empire, and help him reclaim his seat of power.

But Csorwe will soon learn – gods remember, and if you live long enough, all debts come due. “

I requested this book because of the summary. Csorwe seemed like she’d be interesting, and I was curious at the culture that would encourage sacrifice of a person (orc). I enjoyed this book. This book felt massive to me though. There were many arcs within this book with an overarching story, but there was so much going on and it was so long that at the end I lost a bit of interest in it. This is book 1 of 3 from my understanding and I must admit I’m really not sure how this story will continue for 2 more books.

The world building was a bit confusing to me in the beginning. This is a book that explains elements only when it becomes relevant to the story and not just in the interest of world building. However, when you need answers the author is very deliberate about explaining the necessary information or leaving it for later as a twist later. There is a small element of cyberpunk with the technology of this world with flying ships which was the part that got the least attention and was the most confusing for me. The three main sentient species in this story were orcs, humans, and elves (black elves specifically). Each group is given its own religion which is what is given the most attention in this story and is really a major driving force throughout this fiction. The religions are a bit darker than I’m use to, but they were well thought out and interesting. A very interesting grouping of worlds.

For characters I felt that everyone had a pretty distinct voice with enough story to the main characters that I felt like they were very well rounded. Csorwe is a character I really enjoyed though I didn’t fully understand all the time. She’s very loyal in a way that was unquestioning and then she suddenly wasn’t. I like the character development with her though at the beginning it didn’t make much sense. Then, Tal. I didn’t like him at first, but he grew on me. I think I liked him a bit more simply because he felt more relatable to me. He’s just trying to do his best and is just getting the rough end of deal most of the time. There’s also Oranna who I guess you could say could be consider the villain, but within the world she just comes off as a very strong-willed determined lady. You also have Shuthmili and Sethannai, but while they both play very important roles within the story, I feel like they don’t get as much attention.

The diversity in the book was refreshing. The main characters are mostly people of color and there are sprinklings of queer characters throughout the book including the main characters.

Overall, even though there were points where the book was slow, I think the book was really well written. The worlds were carefully written and built, and the story line was interesting. If you’re looking for a diverse adult fantasy book, then this book is for you. The book will be published on February 11th. Keep a look out for it!

Note: I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Reviews

A Must Read Sequel – Storm of Locust by Rebecca Roanhorse Review

Overall enjoyment: 5/5

World building: 4/5

Characterization: 5/5

Diversity: 3/5

Goodreads summary:

“It’s been four weeks since the bloody showdown at Black Mesa, and Maggie Hoskie, Diné monster hunter, is trying to make the best of things. Only her latest bounty hunt has gone sideways, she’s lost her only friend, Kai Arviso, and she’s somehow found herself responsible for a girl with a strange clan power.

Then the Goodacre twins show up at Maggie’s door with the news that Kai and the youngest Goodacre, Caleb, have fallen in with a mysterious cult, led by a figure out of Navajo legend called the White Locust. The Goodacres are convinced that Kai’s a true believer, but Maggie suspects there’s more to Kai’s new faith than meets the eye. She vows to track down the White Locust, then rescue Kai and make things right between them.

Her search leads her beyond the Walls of Dinétah and straight into the horrors of the Big Water world outside. With the aid of a motley collection of allies, Maggie must battle body harvesters, newborn casino gods and, ultimately, the White Locust himself. But the cult leader is nothing like she suspected, and Kai might not need rescuing after all. When the full scope of the White Locust’s plans are revealed, Maggie’s burgeoning trust in her friends, and herself, will be pushed to the breaking point, and not everyone will survive.”

This is the sequel to the book Trail of Lightning, and I loved this book more than the first one! Roanhorse really is a very talented writer. We’re introduced to a couple new characters and get an even deeper look at who Kai and Maggie are. Be prepared for an interesting new story line with the same beloved characters. So, buckle up you’re in for an exciting and enjoyable ride.

Characters. Maggie is back and as interesting and complex as ever. Maggie is still a no-nonsense monster hunter, but she’s been taking some to look a bit deeper at who she wants to be. I think what I love most about Maggie is that she is a tough character, but also Roanhorse allows her to also be hurt and vulnerable. This I think is what makes Maggie a dynamic character and why I love her so much. She’s so strong most of the time, but when you look inside she’s lonely and hurt by the loss that she’s experienced. Kai, still the absolute best! You don’t see much in this novel. He’s away doing some stuff, but you hear about him through other characters. He sounds as loving and generous as when readers first met him. Also, there’s a scene. Wow, this guy is powerful. I love what he can do. This would honestly make an excellent movie. You see more of Rissa as well. She’s just as complex as Maggie and just as not-to-be-trifled with. You get a bit more of her backstory as well. It comes in handy though not in a way I would anticipate. We also meet a new character, she goes by Ben. She’s young and hurt, but bring a bit of youthfulness to everything.

The world building continues to be interesting although it takes a darker turn in this book. Maggie is leaving the safety of the walls of Dinétah and is introduced to the dangers of the outside world. I don’t want to say too much more than that because I think it could give away some spoilers, but Roanhorse does an excellent job at creating a dangerous, apocalyptic world. I would warn that this content could be a bit triggering depending on your personal experiences, but Roanhorse keeps the worst to vague description so I would be aware, but not too concerned. I think it hits on some serious real world issues. We also learn a bit more about clan powers and how they manifest which was really eye opening when it came to the plot.

The diversity continues to be mainly racial with indigenous and black characters leading the story. I have really enjoyed the look into indigenous beliefs and gods. I’m unfamiliar with Navajo beliefs so I’m not quite sure how true versus fantasy-based Roanhorse’s writing is, but I really enjoyed the continuing of indigenous-inspired fantasy. I also really enjoyed how female driven this particular book was. This series is of course focused on Maggie, but this book really puts many of our male characters in the backseat and really lets the women shine!

Overall, if you like the first book or haven’t read it yet I would highly recommend this series. The characters and their development are excellent, the world is interesting, and the plot is immersive. Go check it out!


Have you read this exciting series yet? Have you read this book of A Trail of Lightning? Is it on your TBR?

Reviews

All the Feels – A Review of Heartsong by TJ Klune

Overall Enjoyment: 5/5

World building: 3/5

Characterization: 5/5

Diversity: 3/5

Goodreads Summary:

“All Robbie Fontaine ever wanted was a place to belong. After the death of his mother, he bounces around from pack to pack, forming temporary bonds to keep from turning feral. It’s enough—until he receives a summons from the wolf stronghold in Caswell, Maine.

Life as the trusted second to Michelle Hughes—the Alpha of all—and the cherished friend of a gentle old witch teaches Robbie what it means to be pack, to have a home.

But when a mission from Michelle sends Robbie into the field, he finds himself questioning where he belongs and everything he’s been told. Whispers of traitorous wolves and wild magic abound—but who are the traitors and who the betrayed?

More than anything, Robbie hungers for answers, because one of those alleged traitors is Kelly Bennett—the wolf who may be his mate.

The truth has a way of coming out. And when it does, everything will shatter.”

I have been waiting for the third book in this series for a while. I love these characters and I love reading about how these characters end up getting together. One of the staples of this series is that the focus couple always go through a struggle before they get together. We get that again in Kelly and Robbie’s story too although with a different spin on it than has been taken in the past two books. If you have like the first two books in this series, I believe you with like this one as well. It brings some parts of our story closed while opening open another. I can’t wait for the final book in this series!

The world building in this story is always tricky to quantify. It has paranormal elements within a modern world. I gave it an average rating because Klune really does a great job about giving us descriptions of not only places of interest, but the grouping of witches and werewolves all have a bit of culture and our characters have an explored backstory that I always enjoyed. There’s a lot of magic in this book that I feel like was a bit handwavy at points compared the previous books, but I didn’t feel like it took a ton away from the story.

The characters and their bonds with one another are the true reason why I read these books. They have lots of jokes, but few books have characters that are so vocal about their love for each other outside of the romantic couple. These characters shine with love for each other and I feel like this book particularly focuses on the pack’s relationship to each other even more so than normal. Robbie finally gets his moment to shine in this book. It really is his story for a large part of the books so if you have been hoping for more of him then you’re in luck you really get the most of him. Kelly too. Oh, my goodness, the sweetest of the brothers in some respects or perhaps the softest. There is a letter in this book that will just melt your heart.  

The diversity is still minimum outside of the lgtbq+ element. Kelly is asexual. We have a latinx character that is given a bit more attention.  There is also a black woman introduced but her role is so minimal I’m not really sure why she was included at all unless she has more importance later on.

Overall, I’m just in love with this series. It has all the character feels that I crave in a book. The plot outside of the romance element is compelling and is great at keeping you on your toes. It’s the whole package really so if you like werewolves, close families, and beautiful love I couldn’t recommend this enough for you.


Have you ever read a novel in the Green Creek series? Have you ever read anything by TJ Klune? What do you think of this book? Would you put it on your TBR?

Reviews

Another Magic School novel: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Overall Enjoyment: 3.5/5

Characterization: 4/5

World building: 2/5

Diversity: 2/5

Goodreads Summary:

“Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen.

That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he starts something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around, wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here — it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.

Carry On – The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow is a ghost story, a love story and a mystery. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story – but far, far more monsters.

Review

I picked this book up because of the cover. I was interested in the possibility of there being a dragon-type character. Well, there really wasn’t, but this book was still pretty good. I’m going to be honest and say that at first I did not enjoy this book. I’m not a huge fan of Rainbow Rowell. I think most of her books are boring and this just seemed like a stereotypical magic school book. BUT, if you can make it to the middle of the book and especially the end then you find a little bit more substance to this book.

Let start with the characters. There’s Simon, the chosen one who can’t actually control his own powers. He’s impulsive and fiery and that normally gets him in trouble. Simon also has the typical orphan chosen one status. Every summer he goes from foster home to foster home without true family. I really enjoyed this part of Simon’s character. Now because I like orphan stories, but because it explains a little bit around why he may be so fiery and impulsive. Then, you have Baz who is about the exact opposite. The relationship between them was okay. I wouldn’t say it’s anything too crazy simply because it seems pretty quick to me after years of antagonism, but most say love and hate are closer than we usually think. Rowell does do a great job though of filling you in on the characters history together. You get to read a lot about their feuds and pranks. What really kept me reading though was the villain. The villain that has the face of Simon as a child. Just think about what that could mean for a second. There’s not a ton about the villain, but how he’s connected into the story really moved me into thinking about the cost of power and what some people may be willing to pay for it.

The world building was almost nonexistent. There was a magic world, but it is basically like ours and so didn’t really contain anything new or unexpected from our own world.

The diversity was mainly with Baz and Simon would were lgbtq+. Others most characters are white and pretty uneventful.

Overall, I rated this book so high because of the final half of the book. It does have some interesting plot elements that I didn’t expect and there are some twists that I didn’t expect right away. I would say if you really enjoy magic school novels than you could really enjoy this book. If you’re looking for a new and exciting spin on the magic college thing or an epic romance this probably is not the book for you.

Reviews

A Heartfelt and Deep Romance- Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Overall enjoyment: 5/5

World building: 2/5

Characterization: 5/5

Diversity: 3/5

Goodreads Summary:

“What happens when America’s First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales?

When his mother became President, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius—his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There’s only one problem: Alex has a beef with the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.

Heads of family, state, and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: staging a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instragramable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations and begs the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through? “

Review

This book has had a lot of media hype and so I was interested. I read the summary and was intrigued, but book readers if you like romance books or (like me) you aren’t a huge fan of romance, this book is amazing! I generally don’t enjoy romance, because having a plot focused on romance is generally uncompelling to me. This book had so many elements that I enjoyed though. One, it was a relationship that was actually built on deep feelings. Alex and Henry don’t get along at first. The reason seems a bit petty, but we’ve all been there I suppose. But, after they take that first step of friendship it just slowly builds into more. They talk about their families, their worries, and eventually secrets with each other. It’s just beautiful and is so much of what I’ve been trying to find in any book that has a bit of romance in it at all. It made me feel so warm inside. This is the healthy relationship I want to see in novels.

               I want to talk more about these characters. Alex is a biracial man who is the son of the president of the USA. It’s smart, fun, and a bit clueless about his feelings. We get him at his best and sometimes not his best. He’s so full of hope and has big dreams of change. I wish he was real. He’s also bisexual though he doesn’t quite realize that at first. However, this is not a gay for you story. Those always make me a bit squinty eyed and uncomfortable. No, Alex has had an attraction for both genders for a long time, but it just didn’t really sink in. I love this aspect of him. As someone who is also bisexual if nice to read about the confusion and sort of eureka moment in someone who’s in their 20s. It felt more relatable to me since that’s when it also sort of clicked for me.  Then, we have Henry. Henry is soft, anxious, and deep. We don’t even get Henry’s POV, this book is purely from Alex, but we still learn so much about him. Henry has had the weight of being in the royal family really take its toll on him. He shares the hardship with anyone who is told to lie about who they are or pretend to be something they’re not. There’s also a group of family members and friends throughout the book that are just really great. Most everyone if so supportive of these two that it makes me want to cry. Also, we don’t get a ton about him, but just wait until you read about Pez.

               There’s not much world building in this novel since it’s contemporary; however, there was enough with creating a completely new first family and monarchy that I thought it deserved at least a bit of recognition. What I love most about this book and its mirror world of ours is that it’s so hopeful. The current state of the USA has really been hurtful and frustrating and honestly so embarrassing. This book makes me feel hopeful though. That even though there might be those out there who want to be so conservative and traditional that if we pull together out of love and respect for each other we could really build a country that is headed in a direction I would like to see. It gave me a bit more faith in us again for better or worse.

The diversity is nice in this book. Alex is a bisexual who is also biracial. Henry is very gay. We also have some supporting characters who are gay and bisexual as well. Henry also has some briefly mentioned anxiety which is some minor mental health rep.

Overall, this book lived up to the hype. I am in love with it and hope to see more from this author soon. The characters are well-rounded and lovable. The plot is great, a read through it so quickly and easily. It gave me so much hope and all the warm fuzzies. If you have even a little interest in romance (for more than the sex) then I think you will so easily fall in love with this novel. Couldn’t recommend it enough!


Have you read this book? What do you think? Do you love it, hate it, somewhere in between? I’d love to hear your thoughts/feelings.

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!