Review: Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating

Review: Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

*I received a copy from the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

When her friends question her bisexuality, in a panicked state, Hani Khan tells them she is dating someone: overachiever Ishu Dey who is the complete opposite of Hani. But Ishu agrees to help on the condition that Hani would help her become Head Girl in hopes of convincing her parents she will not become like her sister. The guide made and rules set down; all they need to do is last a couple of weeks. As the weeks go on, Ishu can’t understand why Hani allows her friends to mistreat her. Hani can’t understand why Ishu won’t trust her older sister. But when they really start falling for each other, things get messy, and rules are broken. 

I was not the biggest fan of Jaigirdar’s The Henna Wars, so I went into Hani and Ishu’s story quite hesitant, but I can definitely say my expectations exceeded a lot. Jaigirdar has improved a lot, and it shows in Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating because this was such an adorable read! 

Hani and Ishu take the fake dating trope and gives it a fun, refreshing (and desi) twist. Despite being out to her parents, her friends give her trouble when Hani decides to finally come out as bisexual to them. She already struggles to explain her religious and cultural background to them, so they aren’t too supportive when it comes to her sexuality. There she decides to blurt out that Ishu Dey is her girlfriend. Coming from similar backgrounds (They are both desi, Hani is Bangladeshi, and Ishu is Indian), Hani soon convinces them it’s real; now she just needs Ishu to get on board. Ishu Dey is top in her classes, low on the social pecking order. When her sister returns home and shatters their parent’s expectations, she is desperate to not look like a failure under their eyes. And dating Hani gives her the attention she needs to boost her social standing. 

I loved how wholesome this story was. Hani and Ishu are trainwrecks in the best way possible. They appear incompatible, but Hani helps Ishu open up in ways that she never thought was possible after spending some time together. Even telling her why she feels like the need to compete with her older sister. Ishu opens Hani’s eyes to the way she’s been mistreated by her friends and begins to make her realise that she doesn’t need to hide parts of herself, her religion and culture because they chose to not listen. Her friends will frustrate, but it’s so natural for a lot of young Muslim teens.

Overall, Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating was a fantastic read. So wholesome and highly entertaining! A story of two girls discovering themselves and becoming more comfortable in their own skin. A great quick read for young teen readers!


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR

[Blog Tour] Zara Hossain Is Here

[Blog Tour] Zara Hossain Is Here

Hi! And welcome to the Zara Hossain Is Here Blog Tour! I am extremely grateful for Hear Our Voices and their work for setting this tour up! I’m so excited to show off this new YA contemporary from Sabina Khan! I was huge fan of The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali so I jumped at the opportunity to share with you her newest book, Zara Hossain is Here!


Zara’s family has waited years for their visa process to be finalized so that they can officially become US citizens. But it only takes one moment for that dream to come crashing down around them.

Seventeen-year-old Pakistani immigrant, Zara Hossain, has been leading a fairly typical life in Corpus Christi, Texas, since her family moved there for her father to work as a pediatrician. While dealing with the Islamophobia that she faces at school, Zara has to lay low, trying not to stir up any trouble and jeopardize their family’s dependent visa status while they await their green card approval, which has been in process for almost nine years.

But one day her tormentor, star football player Tyler Benson, takes things too far, leaving a threatening note in her locker, and gets suspended. As an act of revenge against her for speaking out, Tyler and his friends vandalize Zara’s house with racist graffiti, leading to a violent crime that puts Zara’s entire future at risk. Now she must pay the ultimate price and choose between fighting to stay in the only place she’s ever called home or losing the life she loves and everyone in it.

From the author of the “heart-wrenching yet hopeful” (Samira Ahmed) novel, The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali, comes a timely, intimate look at what it means to be an immigrant in America today, and the endurance of hope and faith in the face of hate.

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Review: Cinderella Is Dead

Review: Cinderella Is Dead

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Two hundred years after Cinderella met her prince, every young girl of Mersailles must appear at the Annual Ball, where the Kingdom’s men select their future wives. All the girls know that they risk disappearing, never to be heard from again if they’re not chosen. Sophia yearns to marry her childhood best friend, Erin, who fears the repercussions their union would bring. An incident at the ball sends Sophia on the run, the King’s men hot on her heels. When she finds safety in Cinderella’s abandoned mausoleum, she comes face to face with one of the last descendants of Cinderella’s family, Constance. The two girls must work together to defeat King Manford’s reign of terror or risk their story be rewritten. 

Cinderella Is Dead is perfect in its concept. A dark, imaginative reinterpretation of the well-loved fairy tale.  Prince Charming turns cruel, and his successors follow his actions two hundred years later, forcing girls to appear at an actual ball searching for their future spouse. Once married, they are nothing but property to their husbands. They all must abide by a curfew, and nothing they own is genuinely theirs. Sophia has despised this system for a while and finally has a chance to escape during the ball. But the execution of, quite frankly, everything in this novel left me disappointed and underwhelmed. 

To start, the story was doomed from the very beginning. It begins strong with Sophia begrudgingly preparing for the Ball; she makes a point whenever she can that is very much against the system, while her parents dissuade her from speaking too loudly in fear of being accused of treason. She plots her escape and takes a chance during the ball and meets Constance, who confirms that the Cinderella story that the Kingdom has passed down generations is false. From then on, the story takes on a very tepid journey of Sophia and Constance journeying through a forest and plotting to take down the King. No tension and sadly really dull. If anything, I enjoyed the smatterings of fights scenes and seeing Constance and Sophia work smart to evade capture. But the rest of the plot fails to capture any good attention. I felt like I was being dragged from one plot point to another and told to deal with it. 

The characters were highly disappointing. Sophia is a selfish character who continually acts first and thinks later, leading to other people getting harmed. She’s aware that her actions can get her in trouble, but plot armour saves the day for her while everyone gets hurt. We also know nothing about her. Her likes, dislikes, quirks, nothing makes her stand out aside from her decision to go up against the King. Erin is rarely on-page but was the most interesting for me. She wants to be with Sophia, but her fear of the society around her creates an internal struggle that I would have loved to develop. And then comes Constance, mysterious and funny, but the possibility of what could’ve been is squandered for insta-love and no development. 

I’ll end this review with a disappointing sigh. Never have I seen a book with such potential fail to follow through on its promises. It’s an easy read, albeit grim in some select scenes. Sophia’s journey barely goes beyond its surface level, and the characters are wasted and discarded just as they’re introduced. A promising premise that needed to go back to the drawing board. 


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR

Review: The Descent of the Drowned

Review: The Descent of the Drowned

Rating: 4 out of 5.

*I received a copy from the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

Raised as a vessel for the goddess Lamia, Roma finds herself questioning the path set out for her and must fight for survival without condemning her fellow sisters. Leviathan, the bastard son of an immortal tyrant, was raised to kill in his father’s name. But they both cannot run from their past forever as they find themselves inexplicably linked as the tyrant’s search for power threatens the world as they know it. 

When finishing The Descent of the Drowned, my first thought was the books’ blurb really does not do this book justice. The catalyst event that the blurb suggests (Roma’s brother being sold) does not occur until well over the story’s halfway mark, which may confuse some readers. The story does take some time to take off truly. That being said, I still really enjoyed this book. Lal Din paints a brutal world. This book is hefty in terms of the story, touching upon rape, suicide and human trafficking. (see Halla’s content warnings for more) The story highlights the caste system, abuse of the trans community, ethnic cleansing and colonisation. And Roma is just one of many women suffering under its harrowing grip. 

The Descent’s story is split between Roma and Leviathan (Levi) as their paths slowly converge together. Roma is counting down the days until she is given to another male patron. Her last time being a few years prior, which resulted in her harming herself. She finds herself questioning her position and whether her spot is truly divine given or not. But when everyone around her is adamant in their belief, she must be careful where she treads or risk endangering her temple sisters and brother’s lives. Levi was raised a killer but found himself struggling to forget his past when most of the blood he sheds are members of his mother’s clan. He tries his best to help, but the persecuted clan wants nothing to do with him. When a rescue plot turns awry, Levi finds himself chasing up on the elusive White Wolves, an opposition group working towards taking down Levi’s father.  

It takes some time for the two to meet. I found it fun reading their perspectives because it felt like reading two different stories, but I don’t mean that in a bad way. Roma’s story highlights the lives of the oppressed and casteless. At the same time, Levi’s strengthens the worldbuilding beyond what Roma is never allowed to see. I, personally, preferred Roma’s side of the story, partly because it had taken me some time to warm up to Levi. Roma grows more in the story in a consistent way, while Levi takes some time to appreciate. He’s not a bad character; he just makes some decision that I didn’t agree with that soured my opinion of him. 

What I loved the most about their story is each protagonist’s respective group. Levi has his own brothers-in-arm. As mentioned, Levi does not make good decisions, deeply affected by his past trauma, but his friends, Junho and Malev, will do anything to help reel him back in. Roma’s side consists mainly of her temple sisters. Despite her conflicting opinion, Roma truly cares for her sisters. Her actions are rooted in making sure they face the least amount of harm, but she can’t stay silent forever, and one wrong move puts her entire family at risk. I personally found the story very slow, but the characters make up for it in abundance. 

Inspired by Pre-Islamic Arabian mythology, The Descent of the Drowned is a thrilling yet terrifying read. Roma’s journey is powerful and heartbreaking. If anything, the story ends too soon, with its worldbuilding taking up most of the page. Regardless, I’ll anticipate its sequel because this story feels like the stepping stone to something extremely remarkable. 


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR

Review: The Jasmine Throne

Review: The Jasmine Throne

Rating: 4 out of 5.

*I received a copy from the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

Princess Malini finds herself banished to the Hirana, a once-powerful temple, now a decaying ruin after refusing to bow down to her dictator brother. With each passing day, she grows sick, waiting for the opportunity to be free finally. When Priya agrees to be one of the very few who make the treacherous journey to and from the Hirana to attend to Malini, she doesn’t anticipate revealing the secret and power she holds to her own enemy. And the two must work together for any chance for freedom or lose everything that is dear to them. 

The Jasmine Throne blew my expectations out of the water. Such a powerful and sweeping read. While I had some difficulty settling into its fantasy world, it more than makes up for it with its thrilling plot and impeccable characters. Suri writes with a desirable writing style that makes every dialogue and emotion come off the page. 

The characters in this are incredible. I loved how truly complex they all are. Malini, a princess turned prisoner, is slowly being poisoned to fit her brother’s plan. But her influence still lingers, and she must escape before it’s too late. Priya wants nothing but to save her people from genocide, and when she returns to the Hirana, the temple where she was born and raised, she feels the magic within her awaken. But when her powers turn her into a target, Malini might be her only choice for survival. Anyone looking for a morally grey sapphic couple, you’ll find it with them. They stand on opposite ends, Malini’s people caused the downfall of Priya’s, and they should want nothing more but the other dead. Malini is pragmatic and willing to do and risk anything to fight her brother’s claim to the throne. But she is haunted by the past, and those ghosts continue to hover. Priya was the main highlight for me. Her resilience and her desire to reconnect with her people, even if it means betraying her own loved ones, were nothing short of inspiring to me. Her desire and motivation were realised and fascinating. I am excited to see what becomes of her in the series. 

Chapters are interspersed with others’ perspectives: Ashok, a key to Priya’s past, Bhumika, a fellow temple sister who had once saved Priya’s life. Rao, a follower of the Nameless God, an ally to Malini,  whose true name is concealed until the time is right. 

This is my first time reading a book by Suri, and I definitely know it won’t be the last. The Jasmine Throne is one book you will need to get your hands on. You are accompanied by unique perspectives, a charming yet complex cast, and an immersive writing style that hits all the right beats—a start to an epic fantasy trilogy that undoubtedly will be a staple in people’s bookshelves. Expected release for July 8th!


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR

Review: The Infinity Courts

Review: The Infinity Courts

Rating: 2 out of 5.

*I received a copy from the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

Nami Miyamoto was ready to start the rest of her life until she is murdered. When she wakes up, she discovers she’s in the Infinity. In this place, human consciousness goes when the physical body dies. Everything seems perfect until she realises that Ophelia, the (Siri-like) virtual assistant used on Earth, has taken over, forcing humans to serve her the way she had served them on earth. And she is close to destroying all human consciousness permanently. Nami must work with a band of human rebels to stop it all before they lose everything.

A part of me is so disappointed that I have to write this review mainly because I was so excited about this book. From the outset, everything is right up my alley. When I finished this book, my first thoughts were, maybe I’m too harsh, but after sitting on my thoughts for some time, The Infinity Courts was disappointing. There are some moments where the book got my attention, but that was only towards the end. 

To start, the writing was not working for me at all. I have read Bowman’s previous works, her writing is brilliant and it’s a shame I couldn’t feel it here. In fact, I would implore you to check out her other books and don’t let this review put you off her work. The writing just didn’t feel right, the story drags itself, and Nami’s voice is so dull. 

What I liked most about the story was the concept. What makes this book different is how Bowman takes the idea of what lies beyond death, and it hooks you in straight away. Nami immediately discovers something is not right within the Infinity. I was definitely rooting for her from the start until her thinking just doesn’t add up. She shows a lot of sympathy to the enemy, who we are told are not good people. Hell, they’re not even real. I actually respected her position on finding a middle ground, especially since Ophelia is the real cause of damage between them. Her being upset that she is thrust into a chosen one position is understandable. But she just doesn’t seem to show any sympathy towards the human cause. Her attitude was rather frustrating and confusing, and it made me not want to be invested in her journey at all.

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