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!

ARC

ARC Review- Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Overall enjoyment: 4/5

Characterization: 5/5

World building: 4/5

Diversity: 3/5

Note: A free copy of this book was given to me through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This book will be officially released on July 23, 2019.

When I first requested to read this book through Netgalley I thought it was a present-day retelling. Not the case, this novel is set in the 1920s. It’s not a bad thing, but just something I thought might be of interest for others to know. I really enjoyed this story. I love most mythology themed novels, but this one dug deep and asked us to really consider what it means to be human and what it might mean to be a god.

The characters, as always for me, were a huge selling point. I think the author did a fantastic job of making her characters dynamic. There was no all good or all bad. I really vibed a lot with what Casiopea was feeling as a young woman and I think that really endeared her to me. She’s got a temper, but in this case, it was to her benefit. Then, Hun-KamÉ, honestly, he was probably my favorite. I loved the exploration between godhood and humanity that Moreno-Garcia did with him. While I love stories wrapped in myth I’m also very picky how gods are portrayed. This was a representation I really enjoyed.

World building was minor in that it was 1920s Earth, but the mythology and how it would interact with the world today was beautifully done. It was seamlessly woven. I feel like I learned a lot about certain parts of Mayan mythology.

Diversity. This was based purely on Hispanic/Mayan characters. Casiopea was also our main character. So, double points for having a woman of color as the protagonist!

Overall, if you enjoy the modernization of old gods I’d say you will definitely enjoy this book. Also, if that isn’t your cup of tea, but you enjoy a book that gives you some little bits to think over then you could still very much enjoy this book. It’s deeper than what you first might expect. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for its release this July!

lists

My Top Three 2019 Books…So Far

When you read a lot of books throughout the year it can be hard to keep track of them all not to mention come up with a short list of your favorites. One of my goals this year was to do a top three list of my favorite books for each quarter of this year in order to more easily share with you some books I really enjoyed. This list is only of the books that I’ve read and have been published this year.

  1. Fever King by Victoria Lee. This book is all about power, immigrants, and choices. I think it speaks powerfully to the current political climate the USA is experiencing. This is not an unbiased book. This is a clear calling out in many ways. But, I loved that about it.

2. The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson. This book I think asks the deep question of would you rather have freedom or be well provided for? Maybe a simple question for some, but I appreciated the strong female characters with the traces of fantasy woven in.


3. The Wicked King by Holly Black. There might not have been any large thought provoking questions here, but dang do I enjoy Jude. She’s scrappy and not always morally clean, but I think that’s why I enjoy her so much. The twist always make me happy as well.


Are any of these books among your favorites? If not, what books are on your 2019 top three so far?

lists

Top Five Anthologies to Get Excited About

Hello lovely readers! If you’ve been keeping an eye on my reviews for this blog you will notice that I only post reviews for novels. This is my preferred reading material and I tend to stick with. However, this year I’ve found some anthologies that I think I going to be well worth the read. Note: I haven’t read most of these so I’m going on summary alone.

  1. How long ’til Black Future Month by N. K. Jemisin. I’ve been watching to read this author’s works for a long time, but just haven’t gotten to it. This collection focuses on African Americans who are put into fantastical situations. The summary of this anthology is what really sold me on it.
  2. New Erotica for Feminists by Caitlin Kunkel, Brooke Preston, Fiona Taylor, and Carrie Wittmer. I was intrigued by the title and once again drawn in by the summary. A retelling of some old stories, but also answers to some common questions. It’s cooler than what I make it sound
  3. Black Enough: Stories about being young & black in America by Ibi Zoboi, Tracey Baptiste, Coe Booth, Dhonielle Clayton, Brandy Colbert, Jay Coles, Lamar Giles, and Leah Henderson . As someone who works with a lot of young people I’m always interested in reading about their experiences. I’ve heard lots of good things about this one.
  4. Proud by Juno Dawson, Dean Atta, Fox Benwell, Caroline Bird, Tanya Byrne, Moira Fowley-Doyle, Simon James Green,and David Levithan . A collection of stories and poetry by lgbtq+ authors about the theme of pride
  5. Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women & Witchcraft by Tess Sharpe, Jessica Spotwood, Brandy Colbert, Zoriada Cordova, Andrea Cremer, Kate Hart, Emery Lord, and Elizabeth May . diversity and witches? I’m sold.
Authors, Friday Feature

Friday Feature: Author Kellie Doherty Interview

Kellie Doherty is a queer science fiction and fantasy author living in Eagle River, Alaska. Her work has been published by Desert Palm Press, Queer Sci Fi, and Pathos Literary Magazine, among others. She currently works full time as an office assistant and part time as a freelance editor. In her (mostly non-existent) spare time, she likes to read, play games, and watch way too much YouTube.


Published Books

Sunkissed Feathers & Severed Ties– Recently released on March 27th!

Losing Hold (Cicatrix Duology book 2)- Published April 2017

Finding Hekate ( Cicatrix Duology book 1)- April 2016

You can purchase all three books at Desert Palm Press here!


Interview

What inspired you to write Sunkissed Feathers & Severed Ties?

Well that’s a little bit of a story, actually! I got the idea for my fantasy series back when I was teenager. I thought it would be fun to have four distinct main characters each with their own stories, their own failures and triumphs, and then have them come together at the end. I started with Sunkissed Feathers & Severed Ties because Misti, my main character, was the first of the four characters to really stand out to me. I knew her the best. I was inspired by the type of magic she wields (though I call it crafting in my world), and she has a really cute companion animal so that helped me, too. So really, I was inspired by my main character to write her story first.

Is there anything you really want readers to know about your recently released novel, Sunkissed Feathers & Severed Ties?

I’d like readers to know that Sunkissed Feathers & Severed Ties is the beginning of a new five-book fantasy series, where, while the story is about Misti during her adventures you’ll also get to meet the other three main characters of the upcoming books. The first four books will be standalones, but you’d probably need to read one of the first four before reading the fifth. The character arcs will be intertwined in some way (think: bumping into one of them on the side of the road) but also unique, too.

Your previous two published novels are science fiction and your recently released novel is fantasy. Do you do any research before and/or during your writing process or is it all from your imagination?

Most of it is from my imagination, but for my science fiction work I did research how certain technology would work and what living on a spaceship would be like. (Oh, and if watching Firefly, Star Trek, and Stargate reruns counts as research then I did a lot of that, too!) For my fantasy work I researched sword fighting vs. dagger fighting styles, mythological creatures from various cultures, fun plant-life, things like that. (I watched a bunch of Critical Role while writing my fantasy work, too, which helped!) I also do research on various worldbuilding aspects—unique foods, interesting fashions, cool settings—and sprinkle that into my writing, too.

As a queer author, how important is representation in books to you?

So, so, so important. I can’t stress that enough! Diversity is a huge conversation happening in the publishing world right now and I am thrilled that we’re finally talking about it—and doing something about it! We need more diversity of all kinds—queer, POC, disabled folk, etc.—in all areas of publishing, writing, marketing, social media, design, etc. Representation is so important to readers, too, being able to see yourself in the books you read. I didn’t get to see many queer main characters in fantasy and science fiction works when I was growing up and even into the beginnings of adulthood so being able to add positive representation is lovely. It’s one of the reasons I write!

What other authors have inspired you?

Wow, there are so many awesome authors out there—V.E. Schwab, Becky Chambers, Tomi Adeyemi come to mind right now. The other authors at Desert Palm Press are constant sources of inspiration for me, and my friends who are yet-unpublished-but-are-amazing-writers are super motivating, too!


Want to Know More?

You can check out Kellie’s website here. She also has a twitter.

ARC

ARC Review- The Bird King

Overall enjoyment: 4/5

World building: 4/5

Characterization: 5/5

Diversity: 3/5

Goodreads Summary:

Set in 1491 during the reign of the last sultanate in the Iberian peninsula, The Bird King is the story of Fatima, the only remaining Circassian concubine to the sultan, and her dearest friend Hassan, the palace mapmaker. 

Hassan has a secret–he can draw maps of places he’s never seen and bend the shape of reality. When representatives of the newly formed Spanish monarchy arrive to negotiate the sultan’s surrender, Fatima befriends one of the women, not realizing that she will see Hassan’s gift as sorcery and a threat to Christian Spanish rule. With their freedoms at stake, what will Fatima risk to save Hassan and escape the palace walls?

As Fatima and Hassan traverse Spain with the help of a clever jinn to find safety, The Bird King asks us to consider what love is and the price of freedom at a time when the West and the Muslim world were not yet separate.

Review

I was given a free copy of The Bird King by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I started this novel with some hesitation. The concept sounded interesting, but historical fiction is hit or miss with me. This novel was definitely a hit. I would say until towards the end the novel is fairly slow paced. I enjoyed it, but if you’re looking for some fast-paced crazy action this generally won’t be for you. The amount of love and care that I felt from this book was incredible. Just the amount of historical facts sprinkled within the novel was wonderful and then the fantasy elements just blended seamlessly together.

World building. The detail described throughout the book is wonderful. I read it and definitely could imagine the world. I’m not familiar with that time period in history or that particular area at the time, but it was easy to imagine. As a speculative novel there wasn’t anything to crazy from our normal world when it comes to governments, religion, etc.

Characters. This is what really sells the book to me. Wilson focuses most of her attention on mostly three or four character at a time and its perfect. Fatima is amazing. A concubine who was educated and uses that to power her through a tough journey. Hassan, our devote Muslim who draw fantastical maps. I don’t want to give a ton away, but I feel like you do get to really see into who these characters are and to watch them grow. They’re messy and imperfect, but there’s just something I find so interesting about all the characters we meet in this novel. Maybe it’s the realism, but I fall in love with them.

Diversity. This books diversity is mainly through Hassan I would say. He’s a devote Muslim who also happens to be openly gay. There are other characters in the book who are also Muslim in the first half of the book. Fatima I believe would identify as Muslim if asked, but she’s not very religious.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The ending left me feeling a little unsatisfied, but I think it was a realistic way to end it and it is probably the best way to end it. Fatima has some great quotes about women that I really enjoyed. I would call her a determined feminist. If you have any interest at all in historical or speculative fiction I would highly recommend this book! It will be released on March 12th.

Friday Feature

Friday Feature-G. Willow Wilson

G. Willow Wilson is an American-born, Muslim author who is the author of both the recent Ms. Marvel comics, a memoir, and two fiction novels. She grew up in the US, but spent most of her 20s in Egypt where she was an English teacher. In 2009, she returned to the US where she lives now.

What’s so great about her?

What a fantastic woman! First, she was the writer for the Ms. Marvel comics. These comics feature a young Muslim girl who has the ability to shrink and enlarge parts of her body. Wilson has been very upfront in interviews about how carefully she planned this character and the care she took to represent the Muslim community. It’s this thoughtful, own voices writing that I think we all need more of. She’s also wrote Alif the Unseen which won the world fantasy award for best novel. Her upcoming book release The Bird King is a gorgeous historical fiction novel. I loved it. She says, “It’s a love song and I wrote it for you.” It makes my heart soar.

Books/Comics

Ms. Marvel-comic

Mystic: The Tenth Apprentice-comic

Cairo-comic

Air-comic

Vixen:Return of the Lion-comic

The Butterfly Mosque-memoir

Alif the Unseen-novel

The Bird King-upcoming novel


I got all information from two sources: G. Willow Wilson’s website here and this The New Yorker article here.

I hope you check her out! Let me know if you’ve read any of her writing and what you think of it!