Review: Like A Love Story

Review: Like A Love Story

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The most important four-letter word in our history will always be LOVE. That’s what we are fighting for. That’s who we are. Love is our legacy.

In the midst of the AIDS crisis, three friends navigate first love and activism. Reza is about to start high school and is terrified that someone will figure out he is gay, and that a life of living happily is nothing but a dream. That is until he meets classmates Judy and Art. Jude is an aspiring fashion designer, while Art is her rebellious photographer best friend. Reza quickly finds himself involved with the ACT UP movement with the help of Judy’s uncle, Stephen; he sees the community he’s always longed for. That is until he starts dating Judy to hide his identity from his family while having growing feelings for Art. With the movement and protests rising each day, the three friends find themselves facing the hard truth of growing up and falling in love. 

I think this is a difficult review to write because how else can I talk this book other than say, read it yourself, no review can persuade you more than the actual book itself. This book has been quietly sitting on my TBR for quite some time now, and I’m mad at myself for taking so long to read this. 

Set in 1989, Reza is a closeted teenager who has recently moved in with his new stepfather and stepbrother. Reza is quiet and keeps to himself, mainly because he’s scared of what his family will think of him. This is also during the height of the AIDS crisis, so while Reza is struggling to grapple with his sexuality, the only thing he sees about it outside is an illness. But meeting Art and Judy gives him hope, gives him confidence. This is a book that I began to read with no expectations, but I immediately fell in love with. The emotions this story evokes is unbelievable. 

Like A Love Story is grounded in the harsh realities of its time, and while the story is fiction, the history is not, and Nazemian is very clear in the story he’s telling. They won’t teach it in schools. They don’t want us to have a history.” This book’s greatest strength is, quite simply put, everything. Nazemian’s story was incredibly moving and heartbreaking. 

Reza is an absolute sweetheart. Immediately you want to protect him from everything. His character hit me the hardest, his fear and vulnerability are laid to out to bare, and he chooses to become a ghost to keep him safe. To tell his family the truth and understand what it means is beyond all his power. 

Judy’s character was a surprise to me. A well-natured soul who, despite the comments about her body, pushes through expectations and grows into herself. Everyone deserves a friend like Judy. The only moment that didn’t feel right to me was her reaction to Reza’s coming out. I understood where she was coming from, but I felt somewhat shocked her at the response and then understood for plot sake, why it was treated that way.  

Art was something different. Reza is soft, Jude is calm while Art carries himself with a burning passion for change, even if it means burning all his bridges behind him. His love is photography, and his story follows him as he tries to capture all and every moment of the movement. To make sure no one forgets what they’ve been through. He reminds Reza that it’s okay not to be okay, and his feelings are more important than what anyone else thinks. I loved the trio dynamic, especially once they’ve all become comfortable with themselves.   

Overall, I loved Like A Love Story. It was an emotional portrayal of pride, activism and hope, all packaged into this one book. Nazemian captures a time that is not discussed in history lessons and has created one incredibly moving story.  


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Review: All-American Muslim Girl

Review: All-American Muslim Girl

Rating: 3 out of 5.

After diffusing what could have been an unfortunate situation on the plane with her father, Allie Abraham begins to question her own position as a Muslim girl. With her Circassian features and non-practising parents, Allie has grown up keeping her Islamic heritage to herself. But she’s done hiding and wants to embrace her faith, but with the growing Islamophobia in her small town, and hiding her interest in Islam away from her father, Allie is caught between two worlds and must figure her place within it.

I came across this book quite a while ago, and I’ve been sitting on this review for quite sometime. And that was due to the fact that I was analysing this book as part of my third-year dissertation in university. Now that dissertation is done and completed, I finally feel confident to write this review. This book has popped up quite a lot within the online communities I am in and the reaction is quite polarising. Some absolutely love this book, while the other despise it and to weigh in my own perspective, I found myself quite in the middle in terms of reaction. I did have high expectations since a lot of reviewers whose content I enjoy spoke very positively about this book, but the book didn’t exactly exceed or fail to meet them.

To start off positive, I really enjoyed the perspective we got from Allie, which is rooted in the author’s own experience. Her “reddish-blond hair, pale skin, hazel eyes” makes Allie feel like a “traitor dripping in white privilege.” No one thinks she’s Muslim because she doesn’t fit the popular stereotype. And she’s very much aware of the privilege while the rest of her family faces overt Islamophobia. But then again, to Allie, she’s “barely Muslim”. Upon arrival of her new school, her new friendship group has her questioning and speaking up a lot. She decides she wants to learn more about her faith and culture that has often left her disconnected from her family. Allie expresses her disappointment that she is unable to speak Arabic to her grandmother because her father refuses to teach her. So she reaches out to the other Muslims in her school community and finds herself joining a Qur’an class with other Muslim girls. Here is where I enjoy the novel the most, I really appreciated the way Allie and the other Muslim girls communicated with each other. It wasn’t always nice but it was refreshing to see different perspectives and to see an active discussion between these girls and their interpretation of faith. “Everyone’s on their own journey, at their own pace.” The final moments of the book were so heart-warming and truly my favourite part of the novel. I just felt a little underwhelmed by most of what came before it all.

One thing I found rather odd was that the story uses the discovery of Jack’s father as a sort of plot twist but within all the summaries online, it is told told outright to the readers who his father is which sort of defeat the purpose of setting it up as a shocking point in the story. No hate to the story, just an odd choice for whoever wrote the book’s blurb. Jack Henderson is our love interest. I didn’t find him particularly interesting as first, but I felt really bad for him because Allie talks about his father, an alt-right leader, a lot and makes him feel bad for having a pretty shitty dad. He’s very much aware of it, and it causes him quite a lot of distress, to the point where he has a full on panic attack after they have dinner. He does eventually stand up to his father, but the way Allie is so harsh on him felt a little unfair. Allie is right to argue that not speaking up is equal to upholding terrible values, and in most situations, she had a legitimate point, but she came across as being way too unfair to Wells. Especially since she discusses a lot about nobody realising she’s a Muslim and how she benefits from white privilege which makes her “safe for bigots”. Maybe it was my fault for assuming she would extend the same branch to Wells too. Considering their relationship is a major aspect in the novel, I didn’t feel for them, nor rooted for them to stay together. There was just a lack of communication that had me wanting to ask Allie why would she even continue dating Wells after learning his father’s identity. Also, this book also brings up many complex issues in terms of religion and I don’t think it really offered great advice. While I loved the introduction of Allie and her Qur’an circle, I feel like this book begins a discussion that it doesn’t want to continue. Like mentioning different things without pondering on it for a moment more.

Overall, All-American Muslim was okay, but I felt like it could’ve been more. I’m not writing off this story completely because it is based off the author’s own experiences and I am in no way invalidating that. I felt quite emotional involved and it’s a great perspective to share. There were parts that really resonated with me but so much of the book was very unfavourable that I couldn’t find myself fully invested in this story. 


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Resources on the Black Lives Matter movement, and what you can do to support basic human rights:
https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co

Resources for UK citizens:
https://blm.crd.co/ (Specifically aimed towards UK & Ireland citizens)
– Black Lives Matter UK (https://blacklivesmatter.com/)
– Show Racism The Red Card (https://www.theredcard.org/)
– Runnymede (https://www.runnymedetrust.org/)
– Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust (https://www.stephenlawrence.org.uk/ab…)

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Review: American Panda

Review: American Panda

Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

At seventeen, Mei is a freshman at MIT and on the road to complete her parent’s dreams for her: become a doctor, marry their preapproved suitor and continue their family line with children. Living in fear of being disowned like her older brother, Mei can’t seem to bring herself to tell her family her real dream lies with dance. Now she’s away from home and falling in love and learning the truth that could possibly shatter her future forever.

I’m not going to lie, I was surprised by how much I loved this book. I was genuinely thrown off by how much I ended up liking this. The narrative was so compelling as we watch Mei struggle with her overbearing parents and how cultural differences clash with what she wants to achieve – I really enjoyed the emphasis on the issue not being with cultural differences but how her parents use it to put their happiness over Mei’s. Even though Mei as a character and myself are worlds apart, I found her journey so relatable and it had me in tears at so many moments.

Honestly, Mei’s development was one of the best parts of this entire novel. We watch her try to struggle between being a good daughter while also wanting to follow her dreams and you get caught up very quickly in her emotions. She starts off as a sheltered kid who does her best to keep up with her parent’s expectation to slowly learning that it’s okay to not be the perfect image she’s expected to upkeep. And she slowly learns to get rid of the initial stereotypes she holds over other. Chao does an excellent job of portraying the drama between her and her family, which was so heartbreaking to read. Mei’s mother took a long time to grow on her, but you honestly develop a sense of appreciation for her, especially towards the end of the book and how the very same family issues and cultural values that affect Mei has had an impact on her.

The background characters all have my heart. And I loved how Mei’s personal development with all of them ended so happily. Especially with Darren and Nicolette.

Overall, Chao’s debut novel is a hit for me. It was such an emotional rollercoaster and a profoundly personal read that I recommend to anyone.


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Content warning: ableist language, fat-antagonism, the death of a family member and mentions of suicide. (If you’ve read the book and felt like I’ve missed something out, please tell me!)

Review: When Dimple Met Rishi

Review: When Dimple Met Rishi

Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3/5)

[I found this review hidden in the pits of my drafts, how it managed to stay hidden is beyond me 😂]

Promised to each other by their parents, Dimple and Rishi finally meet at a programming course. Only, Dimple has no idea that she’s being set up while Rishi thinks he’s meeting his future wife.

I would say I was severely disappointed by When Dimple Met Rishi. I really wished the plot made sense. If it were just a little bit clearer, it would’ve improved this story so well. Dimple and Rishi both enter this programming course but the lack of them is doing what they came for is odd. The story is supposed to follow their romance, but I wished it was a bit more consistent in its background. Like there’s an app contest which later leads to a talent show which leads to even more confusion.

I think I’ve come to the decision that I liked these characters separately, but not together, they’re a damn mess that really doesn’t work well.

Dimple was a very irritating main lead. Just because the lines “Not like other girls” wasn’t used, doesn’t mean that wasn’t there. Dimple literally never fails to mention how different she is to other girls because she’s into STEM subjects and how she’s not like those art girls. I wished this book celebrated girls in STEM without throwing girls who don’t go into those subjects under the bus. Dimple is constantly putting down loads of the “mean girls” in this book, which is literally almost all the remaining girls in the book. Most of the time I really enjoyed her character, mainly because she’s ambitious and career-motivated, but the amount of girl hate indeed clashed for me, personally, about her character.

I feel bad for Rishi, he’s trying the most to be on his best behaviour and to get Dimple to fall in love with him. It was a bit creepy at first, and I didn’t enjoy the fact he ends up having to put up a lot with her behaviour. Especially in one scene, there’s an annoying invasion of Rishi’s privacy that’s immediately brushed away in the plot.

Overall, I would say When Dimple Met Rishi was a sweet read, despite my shortcomings about it. A fun, culturally diverse read but I wouldn’t really rush to recommend it.


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Book Review: Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout

23961611you can find the book at:
GoodReads
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Author website

my review:

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

In an attempt to escape her music royalty family, Grace Wilde transfers into a Korean boarding school and finds herself falling for a K-Pop star.

If you want a novel with proper representation of Korean culture mixed with likeable characters, I suggest you don’t even bother putting this book on your TBR list. Why? Because this has none of that.
Continue reading “Book Review: Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout”

BOOK REVIEW: Fire Colour One by Jenny Valentine

you can find the book at:

GoodReads
Amazon
Barnes and Noble (unavailable)
Author Bio

goodreads summary:

Iris’s father, Ernest, is at the end of his life and she hasn’t even met him. Her best friend, Thurston, is somewhere on the other side of the world. Everything she thought she knew is up in flames.

Now her mother has declared war and means to get her hands on Ernest’s priceless art collection. But Ernest has other ideas. There are things he wants Iris to know after he’s gone. And the truth has more than one way of coming to light.

my review:

Rating:★★★★☆

~ARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review~

The title, Fire Colour One,  refers to the Yves Klein painting FC1, I googled it- it looks cool, but the book is Iris who lives with her mother, Hannah, and stepfather in America until Hannah announces one day that they are returning to the UK to see Iris’s father, Ernest, who is dying. Hannah is desperate to get her hands on Ernest’s art collection. Iris has no recollections of her Dad other than what her mother has told her. She has grown up with the knowledge her father wanted nothing to do with her. Gradually, Iris and Ernest start to bond and Iris hears Ernest’s side of the story, and the life he has lived ever since her mother left him years ago.

Continue reading “BOOK REVIEW: Fire Colour One by Jenny Valentine”