Book review: Love From A to Z by S.K. Ali

 

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marvel: something you find amazing. Even ordinary-amazing. Like potatoes—because they make French fries happen. Like the perfect fries Adam and his mom used to make together.

An oddity: whatever gives you pause. Like the fact that there are hateful people in the world. Like Zayneb’s teacher, who won’t stop reminding the class how “bad” Muslims are.

But Zayneb, the only Muslim in class, isn’t bad. She’s angry.

When she gets suspended for confronting her teacher, and he begins investigating her activist friends, Zayneb heads to her aunt’s house in Doha, Qatar, for an early start to spring break.

Fueled by the guilt of getting her friends in trouble, she resolves to try out a newer, “nicer” version of herself in a place where no one knows her.

Then her path crosses with Adam’s.

Since he got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November, Adam’s stopped going to classes, intent, instead, on perfecting the making of things. Intent on keeping the memory of his mom alive for his little sister.

Adam’s also intent on keeping his diagnosis a secret from his grieving father.

Alone, Adam and Zayneb are playing roles for others, keeping their real thoughts locked away in their journals.

Until a marvel and an oddity occurs…

Marvel: Adam and Zayneb meeting.

Oddity: Adam and Zayneb meeting.


RATING: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

This book resonated in chambers of my heart I’d never known existed. It stirred memories too deep to claim, and it all poured out of me and onto every surface, taking something vital with it. There is still an expansiveness in my chest that reminds me of how important voices like these are, for readers like us. This feeling is a language all its own: to reach and find, to be reached for and found, to belong to a mutual certainty.

Love from A to Z is one of the most unapologetically Muslim books that I’ve ever read, and I’m so glad it exists. Continue reading “Book review: Love From A to Z by S.K. Ali”

Book review: Descendant of the Crane by Joan He

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Tyrants cut out hearts. Rulers sacrifice their own.

Princess Hesina of Yan has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, dreaming of an unremarkable life. But when her beloved father is found dead, she’s thrust into power, suddenly the queen of a surprisingly unstable kingdom. What’s more, Hesina believes that her father was murdered—and that the killer is someone close to her.

Hesina’s court is packed full of dissemblers and deceivers eager to use the king’s death for political gain, each as plausibly guilty as the next. Her advisers would like her to blame the neighboring kingdom of Kendi’a, whose ruler has been mustering for war. Determined to find her father’s actual killer, Hesina does something desperate: she enlists the aid of a soothsayer—a treasonous act, punishable by
death, since magic was outlawed centuries ago.

Using the information provided by the sooth, and uncertain if she can trust her family, Hesina turns to Akira—a brilliant investigator who’s also a convicted criminal with secrets of his own. With the future of Yan at stake, can Hesina find justice for her father? Or will the cost be too high?


RATING: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Me, while sipping apple juice out of a champagne glass and gazing dramatically into the distance: I’ve had enough of cliffhangers…

What an ending! Such a succession of shattering revelations that sent a wave through my room so strong that I felt its ripple and was rocked on its mooring. Such was the churn and whirl of my thoughts and feelings that I was genuinely incapable of putting two ideas in a row, let alone come into any kind of conclusion—other than that I desperately need a sequel. Continue reading “Book review: Descendant of the Crane by Joan He”

Book review: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

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A big-hearted romantic comedy in which First Son Alex falls in love with Prince Henry of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends…

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?


RATING: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Is it possible for your whole body to grin? The answer is hell yes.

Red, White & Royal Blue is a story lit up like a beacon to the weary and the lost. My heart still swells with so much delight. The notion of memory simply fails to adequately capture the sensation. I know the words but none of them really encompass the feeling of deep contentment, mixed with the kind of frustration one feels at waking from a sweet dream. I promise you that what memories you will keep of this book will warm you in the cold, and taste sweet when the world runs sour. Do not miss it. Continue reading “Book review: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston”

Book review: Middlegame by Seanan McGuire

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Meet Roger. Skilled with words, languages come easily to him. He instinctively understands how the world works through the power of story.

Meet Dodger, his twin. Numbers are her world, her obsession, her everything. All she understands, she does so through the power of math.

Roger and Dodger aren’t exactly human, though they don’t realise it. They aren’t exactly gods, either. Not entirely. Not yet.

Meet Reed, skilled in the alchemical arts like his progenitor before him. Reed created Dodger and her brother. He’s not their father. Not quite. But he has a plan: to raise the twins to the highest power, to ascend with them and claim their authority as his own.

Godhood is attainable. Pray it isn’t attained.


RATING: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

It’s 3 am.

You hear a noise downstairs.

You go to investigate.

It’s me sitting at your kitchen table.

I ask you to sit down.

Slowly, reluctantly, you do. Continue reading “Book review: Middlegame by Seanan McGuire”

Book review: The Fever King (Feverwake #1) by Victoria Lee

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In the former United States, sixteen-year-old Noam Álvaro wakes up in a hospital bed, the sole survivor of the viral magic that killed his family and made him a technopath. His ability to control technology attracts the attention of the minister of defense and thrusts him into the magical elite of the nation of Carolinia.

The son of undocumented immigrants, Noam has spent his life fighting for the rights of refugees fleeing magical outbreaks—refugees Carolinia routinely deports with vicious efficiency. Sensing a way to make change, Noam accepts the minister’s offer to teach him the science behind his magic, secretly planning to use it against the government. But then he meets the minister’s son—cruel, dangerous, and achingly beautiful—and the way forward becomes less clear.

Caught between his purpose and his heart, Noam must decide who he can trust and how far he’s willing to go in pursuit of the greater good.


RATING: 🌟🌟

I relish the risk incurred by picking up a book that might inspire love or hate because both ends are passionate. As a reader, what I dread the most is the middle ground, the lukewarm, the books that lack whatever alchemy is needed to ensure they land on my heart with a sound of impact. Unfortunately, my images of The Fever King are already starting to fray around the edges. The story is a thing I already faintly remember, and soon it would wither, and I’d watch my memories of it yellow and fade as everything fades in the endless wash of days. Continue reading “Book review: The Fever King (Feverwake #1) by Victoria Lee”

Book review: The Lost Man by Jane Harper

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Two brothers meet at the border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of outback Queensland, in this stunning new standalone novel from New York Times bestseller Jane Harper

They are at the stockman’s grave, a landmark so old, no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the scant shadow it casts was the last hope for their middle brother, Cameron. The Bright family’s quiet existence is thrown into grief and anguish. Something had been troubling Cameron. Did he lose hope and walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects…

Dark, suspenseful, and deeply atmospheric, The Lost Man is the highly anticipated next book from the bestselling and award-winning Jane Harper, author of The Dry and Force of Nature.


RATING: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

One of my favorite things about reading is when you pick up a book on a whim, unencumbered by expectations, having barely skimmed the synopsis, and it’s the thrill of leaping without being able to see the ground below you, right before you realize that’s called falling.

This is one of those times. Continue reading “Book review: The Lost Man by Jane Harper”

The Winter of the Witch (Winternight Trilogy #3) by Katherine Arden

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Following their adventures in The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower, Vasya and Morozko return in this stunning conclusion to the bestselling Winternight Trilogy, battling enemies mortal and magical to save both Russias, the seen and the unseen.

Now Moscow has been struck by disaster. Its people are searching for answers—and for someone to blame. Vasya finds herself alone, beset on all sides. The Grand Prince is in a rage, choosing allies that will lead him on a path to war and ruin. A wicked demon returns, stronger than ever and determined to spread chaos. Caught at the center of the conflict is Vasya, who finds the fate of two worlds resting on her shoulders. Her destiny uncertain, Vasya will uncover surprising truths about herself and her history as she desperately tries to save Russia, Morozko, and the magical world she treasures. But she may not be able to save them all.


RATING: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

There are seven wonders in the world, and this book is all of them.

The experience of reading The Winter of the Witch is something akin to being surrounded by magic. Yet, those are still such pale, passive words for what this story was. After the wonder and elation of reading this book and flying in so real-seeming a dream, I now feel such an obscure sense of loss, like something essential is inexplicably gone. A sudden absence, creating a space for the too bright, too sharp world to rush into. I reckon this will not be the last time I read this series—I shall return to it again and again, drawn to it by a wistful, melancholy longing for a life I never had, a nostalgia for a time I didn’t experience, and a desire to once again hold the characters’ hands.

The Winter of the Witch has leapt forward to claim the title of Best Book I’ve Read Yet This Year. And if there’s any series, at all, that you would pick up upon my recommendation, let it be this one. Continue reading “The Winter of the Witch (Winternight Trilogy #3) by Katherine Arden”