Review: Dial A For Aunties

Review: Dial A For Aunties

Rating: 4 out of 5.

When Meddelin Chan accidentally kills her blind date, she enlists the help of her mother and aunties to get rid of the body. Things become tricky when the body is accidentally shipped to the wedding destination that her family business is working on. The wedding that is supposed to skyrocket their reputation, and Meddelin must make sure that not even a dead body can get in the way of her aunts’ antics. They are almost out of the woods until Meddy’s college love re-enters her life. Can Meddy fix her relationship, pull off a wedding and get away with murder all in one day? 

This book is a weird one. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book this ridiculous. But I loved every moment of reading this. Meddelin Chan is a 26-year-old photographer working for her family’s wedding business run by her mother and aunts. Meddy believes in the Chan Family Curse, where all the men in their family end up leaving and is adamant not to abandon her family like her father, uncles and male cousins. Even if it meant giving up Nathan during university, but now her mother thinks she’s ready to get married and poses as Meddy on an online dating site, snagging a date with the local hotel owner, Jake. 

Meddy agrees to go on a date, and when Jake goes too far, Meddy tases him while driving, causing them to crash. Panicking, she tells her mum the truth, who brings in her aunts, and they begin to work on dealing with Jake. One mistake sends the body to the island resort, and not only does Meddy have to deal with the wedding and the blood on her hands, she learns that her ex-boyfriend Nathan is the owner of the hotel that is hosting the wedding, and he’s ready to try again. 

Dial A For Aunties is a mish-mash of things that usually wouldn’t work for me. But somehow, Sutanto makes it work, and it’s hilarious. When I reached that final page and read the author’s note, I’ve never been so excited to see that there’s already a film adaptation in the works. This book is pure chaos that I hope translates well into film. 

The comparison to Crazy Rich Asians is apt. Meddy can hardly believe they snagged the wedding of billionaires Tom Cruise Sutopo and Jacqueline Wijaya. A guest line goes into the thousands and gifts that could pay off Meddy’s college debt in a single swipe. Amid the chaotic storyline, the story’s heart lies in the sacrifices Meddy and her aunts make in the name of family. Sutanto delves into the familial relationships of the Chan family line and the difficulties most immigrant families face for the betterment of their loved ones. Meddy is constantly thinking about her family, even choosing to break up with Nathan despite her own wants. She undergoes some serious character development and begins to understand how to speak up for herself.  

Overall, Dial A for Aunties was hilarious and entertaining. The story is so strange that I found myself speechless at the absurdity of this entire plot. Despite the chaos, it is a story of family, sacrifice all wrapped up in an absurd murder mystery that will have you shaking your head at every turn of the page. I couldn’t even believe there is a sequel to this mayhem. I’ll be waiting for the return of the Chans.


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR

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

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: Clap When You Land

Review: Clap When You Land

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Carmino Rios counts down the days until her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But when she arrived at the airport, she is faced with news of his death. In New York, Yahaira Rios is called out of class, where she is informed of her father, her once hero, has died in a plane crash. Separated by their father’s secret, two girls, miles away from each other, must face a new reality together. 

The life of Camino and Yahaira is torn wide open when their father dies in a flight crash and, in preparation for his funeral, reveals sisters who hadn’t known the other had existed. Their father’s secret dangles over them as they’re left with the aftermath. Both desperate and confused about the man they called Dad, his secret burrows deep under and reveals more about themselves than they could ever imagine. Acevedo breathes life into these sisters so effortlessly. Carmino only ever sees her father for a few months of the year, living her life in the Dominican Republic with her tita, going to school and evading watchful eyes who are eager to get their hands on her now that her father is gone. Yahaira has been distant from her father for the past year. The man who taught her chess was not the man she thought he was. They loved him in their own way and in their grief; could they ever forgive him? 

Real events inspire Acevedo’s story: November 2001, a flight scheduled to leave for Santa Domingo crashed, taking 260 lives, a majority of the death being of Dominican descent. This story is about “forgotten” tragedies, out of sight and mind by the majority public but has a significant effect on communities it did affect. Acevedo brings the community and its culture to life and builds a community that was beautiful to read. I loved the contrast in how each communal side reacted in the wake of their father’s death. Acevedo navigates grief with ease in each girls’ perspective; you’ll feel for the struggle of Carmino and Yahaira. And you’ll root for the sisters as they realise what they’re missing, and while they can’t change their father’s past, they can work on their future together.

Alternating between the girls’ perspectives with such emotion and clarity,  Acevedo returns with a brilliant new story. Clap When You Land is a moving novel in verse that explores grief, family and forgiveness in such a concise way, making it a must-read.


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Review: Ace of Spades

Review: Ace of Spades

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.*

Niveus Private Academy is for the rich and powerful, where the students run their own, and anyone less than perfect is destined for nothingness. Head Girl Chiamaka is only a year away from graduating, on the path to the best future she could ever imagine. Devon is months away from making it to Julliard, hoping to support his family. Two different worlds collide when they both become victims to an anonymous texter named Aces, who slowly release their private information, and it becomes a race to discover their identity because they someone gets hurt. 

Oh, wow. Okay, Ace of Spades was something else. I had a lot of fun reading this. I laughed, sighed, and gasped at every twist and turn this story took. What I liked about the story is that it gets you feeling anxious. With every new week, something new is released about our main leads, and it haunts you. Suddenly, everyone they meet is a threat, and you quickly begin to question every sudden movement. Àbíké-Íyímídé is extremely good at making you second-guess your own guesses, writing in a way that wants you to keep reading whatever the conditions. I had stayed up until three am wanting to see the ending. 

Ace of Spades introduces you to Chiamaka and Devon, young teens nearing the end of their time at school. Both have different plans for their futures, barely knew the other existed until the targeted attacks. This book is a thriller, but it manages to tackle a lot more than you’d expect, without losing the momentum. We see Chiamaka and Devon having to tackle the Aces while also dealing with toxic environments, domestic issues and their own sexualities. They are both such sweet kids that were dealt the worst hand. Chiamaka is headstrong, but she’s still fighting tooth and nail to be given the same respect as her white counterparts. Devon is lowkey, working for a future that his mother works so hard to provide for him. And when the texts hit at them and their classmates, they’re the ones going down hard. Even amongst the dark and gritty scenes, there were light-hearted moments that were a joy to see. You want to keep them in those moments, but alas, Aces strike again. 

Gossip Girl meets Get Out in this dangerous debut that highlights everyday and institutional racism. It is intriguing and well written. It takes you on one hell of a ride as it challenges white supremacy embedded in academia. Ace of Spades is one book you’ll definitely want in your hands. 


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR