7 Reasons Why You Should Pick up This #OWNVOICES BIPOC Fantasy Right Away!

7 Reasons Why You Should Pick up This #OWNVOICES BIPOC Fantasy Right Away!

Roseanne A. Brown's 'A Song of Wraiths and Ruin' is buoyed by infectious  energy

1. BREATH-TAKING BACKDROPSolstasia afeshiya! This gripping YA fantasy is set against the backdrop of Solstasia, a week-long festival that is celebrated once in 50 years and ushers in a new era! What better setting for a tale where the two protagonists are on a quest to kill each other?

2. SOLID WORLD BUILDING – The world building is PERFECT! Not only is the world building on point, it doesn’t feel info-dumpy at all. ASOWAR in set in the city of Ziran, the capital of Sonande, which heavily draws inspiration from West Africa. The magic system, alignments of the citizens, long-lost and forbidden magic, sorcerers and the myths in this tale are perfectly woven into the plot and they make you want to jump right into the pages and discover more about this world!

3. WELL-EXECUTED ANXIETY AND PANIC ATTACK REP – As someone who has had anxiety and panic attacks, I think it’s safe to say that Roseanne has done justice to the representation. The scenes are well-written and perfectly portray how one feels during an attack. There is also a trigger warning issued at the beginning which I feel is absolutely necessary and all in all, well done!

4. PLOT TWISTS GALORE – I, for one, am a sucker for plot twists! The plot seemed sluggish over the first 150 pages but be warned, that’s the calm before the storm! The author throws a volley of plot twists at you and they will leave you gasping! A new plot twist springs up even before you’ve had time to get over the previous one! And believe me, these plot twists are maaaaaad.

5. WELL-FLESHED-OUT CHARACTERS – The characters in this book have amazing arcs and you can’t help but fall in love with them! Karina, on one hand, is a princess with a carefree attitude and is one hell of a rule breaker while on the other, Malik is my honey sugar plum😭 His love for his sisters, Leila and Nadia shines through the pages and you can’t help but notice how he makes huge sacrifices for his family and puts their needs above his own. He is a GEM. He’s now on my Top 5 Book Boyfriends of All Time! The side characters have their own spotlights in this story and I loved the casual queer rep too!

6. THIS BOOK NORMALISES MEN CRYING. Roseanne, welcome to my list of auto-buy authors. I’m going to read everything you write. Period.

7. #OWNVOICES – Last, but definitely not the least, this is an #ownvoices BIPOC fantasy novel that is based on West African culture, mythology and folklore! Brimming with #browngirlmagic and #blackboyjoy, this is the perfect novel if you’re looking for #ownvoices titles! I don’t think I can emphasize enough how important it is for readers to pick up #ownvoices novels and support authors from marginalised communities!

I hope I have convinced you enough to pick up this beauty of a book. If you happen to read it, hit me up and let’s discuss! I CANNOT wait to read the conclusion to the duology, A Psalm of Storms and Silence! And not to mention, the covers is ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS!

For Malik, the Solstasia festival is a chance to escape his war-stricken home and start a new life with his sisters in the prosperous desert city of Ziran. But when a vengeful spirit abducts Malik’s younger sister, Nadia, as payment into the city, Malik strikes a fatal deal—kill Karina, Crown Princess of Ziran, for Nadia’s freedom.

But Karina has deadly aspirations of her own. Her mother, the Sultana, has been assassinated; her court threatens mutiny; and Solstasia looms like a knife over her neck. Grief-stricken, Karina decides to resurrect her mother through ancient magic . . . requiring the beating heart of a king. And she knows just how to obtain one: by offering her hand in marriage to the victor of the Solstasia competition.

When Malik rigs his way into the contest, they are set on a course to destroy each other. But as attraction flares between them and ancient evils stir, will they be able to see their tasks to the death?

The first in an fantasy duology inspired by West African folklore in which a grieving crown princess and a desperate refugee find themselves on a collision course to murder each other despite their growing attraction.

Have you read any #ownvoices fantasy novels? If yes, did you love them? Let me know in the comments!

The Secret Life of Debbie G. by Vibha Batra – A Review

The Secret Life of Debbie G. by Vibha Batra – A Review

Amazon.com: The Secret Life of Debbie G. (9789353574659): Batra, Vibha:  Books

TITLE: The Secret Life of Debbie G

AUTHOR: Vibha Batra

ILLUSTRATOR: Kalyani Ganapathy

PAGE EXTENT: 296

PUBLISHER: HarperCollins India

GENRE: YA Contemporary Graphic Novel

MY RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

SOURCE: Received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Secret Life of Debbie G is the story of a sixteen-year-old who becomes an online sensation overnight. Except, it’s her online persona that hits big time. Set in contemporary times, where the number of likes/ comments/ shares/ DMs/ followers determine a teenager’s sense of self-worth, the story takes a close look at how social media influences their behaviour and affects their emotional health. Equal parts poignant and fun, this is a bittersweet coming-of-age story.

TW: Divorce, separation, outing, homophobia, bullying, fat shaming, slut shaming

“I’d been angry a long time. At life in general. At my parents in particular. I’d held on to my anger for so long that it had become a part of me. That’s the thing about rage, it consumes you from within, leaves you hollow. It’s like a parasite that needs a host to live off. Once it infects you, it takes over your mind, impairs your judgment slowly but surely, until eventually you can’t tell right from wrong, friend from foe.”

The Secret Life of Debbie G is probably one of the most relatable books I’ve read of late. This coming-of-age graphic novel follows 16-year-old Soundarya (who, for the record, hates her name and prefers to go by Arya. We are soulsisters, gurl.) who hails from a South Indian family and attends a posh school in New Delhi. She is a plus-sized teen who is unapologetic and embraces her curves (Yay for rep!) This heartfelt story is all about how her plan to get back at the bullies and meanies at school makes her an online sensation in an instant, and how things start going downhill! I don’t want to divulge too much of the plot here. Read the book to find out more!

It amazed me how Vibha Batra has effortlessly managed to step into the mind of the current Gen Z teenager with just the right dose of modern phrases and lingo! Considering how the illustrations are the mainstay of a graphic novel, Kalyani Ganapathy’s illustration style paired with Vibha’s quirky writing made this a joyful and quick reading experience! Arya’s deadpan sarcasm had me giggling!

Arya’s maternal grandparents are your typical judgmental Indian grandparents and had me rolling my eyes multiple times. Vibha has managed to perfectly capture Indian family dynamics, while also dealing with issues such as divorce, separation, remarriage and most importantly, finding love all over again.

Arya’s relationship with her mother, Aishwarya is one of my favorite mother-daughter relationships in YA. Aishwarya, a divorcee, is portrayed as a strong, broad-minded, independent woman with a modern outlook who wants to bring out the best in the people around her. The sub-plot of her falling in love all over again and marrying her new-found love interest shows how such events have to be normalized and how the stigma following the same has to be erased from the society we are a part of.

Nickster and Rucksack (a.k.a Nikhil and Rukhsar) are super endearing and I was constantly looking forward to their hilarious banter with Arya throughout the book! Rukhsar, a budding TV star and Nikhil, who has found a new partner (not talking more about this here because hey, spoilers), are Arya’s two besties and they own storylines highlight some of the evils prevalent in our society.

Most importantly, this book conveys how social media and want for online fame(followers, likes, comments etc.) can have an adverse effect on one’s mental health and emotional wellbeing, and also shows how we might go to extreme lengths for popularity and fame and how things can come crumbling down. In short, the perils of social media and what becoming prey to social media might make us do.

Batra doesn’t shy away from the harsh truths of life and addresses a myriad of sensitive issues in this book, viz. slut-shaming, fat-shaming, divorce, bullying, outing, homophobia to name a few.

This would have been a solid 5-star read for me, if not for the abrupt ending and the absence of a trigger warning. Since this book deals with sensitive issues, I would have appreciated a trigger warning in the beginning. Being someone who has dealt with outing and extreme homophobia, I found those scenes a bit triggering. Trigger warnings are extremely important in books that deal with sensitive topics.

The ending was very abrupt and seemed choppy to me. Had the book been wrapped up on a better note, with some healing time, it would have been the perfect graphic novel for me.

If you’re in the mood for a quick read and want to roll your eyes at judgmental uncles and aunties and relate to how everything was about looking and doing ‘cool’ stuff back in school, pick this one up. Trust me, you’re in for a rollercoaster ride!

Are you a fan of graphic novels too? If you have any recommendations for me, drop them in the comments!

Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam – A Review

Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam – A Review

Punching The Air' Tells A Story Of Hope Behind Bars | WFAE

TITLE: Punching the Air

AUTHORS: Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam

PAGE EXTENT: 400

PUBLISHER: HarperCollins India

GENRE: YA Contemporary (Verse)

MY RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

SOURCE: Received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

From award-winning, bestselling author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam of the Exonerated Five comes a powerful YA novel in verse about a boy who is wrongfully incarcerated. Perfect for fans of Jason Reynolds, Walter Dean Myers, and Elizabeth Acevedo.

The story that I thought

was my life

didn’t start on the day

I was born

Amal Shahid has always been an artist and a poet. But even in a diverse art school, he’s seen as disruptive and unmotivated by a biased system. Then one fateful night, an altercation in a gentrifying neighborhood escalates into tragedy. “Boys just being boys” turns out to be true only when those boys are white.

The story that I think

will be my life

starts today

Suddenly, at just sixteen years old, Amal’s bright future is upended: he is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and sent to prison. Despair and rage almost sink him until he turns to the refuge of his words, his art. This never should have been his story. But can he change it?

With spellbinding lyricism, award-winning author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam tell a moving and deeply profound story about how one boy is able to maintain his humanity and fight for the truth, in a system designed to strip him of both.

“All because
we were in the wrong place
we were in the wrong skins
we were in the wrong time
we were in the wrong bodies
we were in the wrong country
we were in the wrong
were in the wrong
in the wrong
the wrong
wrong”

What happens when you are in the wrong place at the wrong time? AND you’re black? You can guess the answer. To end up in prison for a crime you didn’t commit.

Punching the Air is a powerful novel written in verse that follows Amal Shahid, a black Muslim teenager who is sent off to a juvenile facility for a crime he didn’t commit and why? The answer is pretty obvious. He is black. This book heavily draws inspiration from the life of Yusef Salaam, who was also wrongly convicted in the Central Park Jogger Case back in 1989 and is now one of the members of the “Exonerated Five”. (Want to know more about it? You’re just a Google search away.)

Brimming with hard-hitting metaphors and imagery, this novel in verse is narrated from Amal’s perspective and is scattered with illustrations throughout that amplify this novel’s impact. This gut-wrenching novel deals with racism, police brutality, bullying, blind discrimination against the Black community and hate. This book will open your eyes to the unfairness of the situation in the world today and will make you want to stand in solidarity with the Black community!

Amal is an innocent teenager who is in art school and loves painting and poetry. This book goes on to portray how someone who should be enjoying his high school years while pursuing his passion and his crushes (wink wink) is serving a sentence in jail out of sheer injustice and racism.

Does the brutality end once the person is behind bars? Not at all. This novel sheds light on the fact that racism, brutality and bullying are prevalent IN prison as well. GAH WHY IS THE WORLD SO UNFAIR?

“How dare you say such a thing, Amal?
You are not alone in this fight
I’m here with you always
Your struggle in my struggle
Your hurt is my hurt
I’m hurting because you’re hurting, Amal- ”

I was looking forward to the visiting day scenes as these show the heartwarming interaction between Amal and his mother and how powerful and strong a woman Amal’s mother is. A simple hijab-clad woman with a heart of feathers and a will of steel! The friendship that blossomed between Amal and Kadon in prison was bittersweet!

I think this is the perfect time to pick up this book. With the #blacklivesmatter movement and recent incidents of police brutality and racism, there has never been a better time to pick it up! Ibi and Yusef have definitely packed a punch with this one! It might take all of 2 hours to read but it will leave a mark on your soul! You just CANNOT stop thinking about this book and you’ll end up wanting to hug Amal and tell him it’ll all be okay.

“Yusef and I wanted people to know that when you find yourself in dark places, there’s always a light somewhere in that darkness, and even if that light is inside of you, you can illuminate your own darkness by shedding that light on the world.”

PLEASE PICK UP THIS BOOK. This book is a NEED.

In short, Punching the Air punches you in the gut and leaves you gasping for air!

What are some of your favorite novels in verse? Let me know in the comments below!

The Wild Way Home by Sophie Kirtley – A Review

The Wild Way Home by Sophie Kirtley – A Review

Buy The Wild Way Home Book Online at Low Prices in India | The Wild Way Home  Reviews & Ratings - Amazon.in

TITLE: The Wild Way Home

AUTHOR: Sophie Kirtley

PAGE EXTENT: 256

PUBLISHER: Bloomsbury Children’s Books

GENRE: Middle Grade

SOURCE: ARC provided by the publisher in return for an honest review

MY RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

When Charlie’s longed-for brother is born with a serious heart condition, Charlie’s world is turned upside down. Upset and afraid, Charlie flees the hospital and makes for the ancient forest on the edge of town. There Charlie finds a boy floating face-down in the stream, injured, but alive. But when Charlie sets off back to the hospital to fetch help, it seems the forest has changed. It’s become a place as strange and wild as the boy dressed in deerskins. For Charlie has unwittingly fled into the Stone Age, with no way to help the boy or return to the present day. Or is there … ?

What follows is a wild, big-hearted adventure as Charlie and the Stone Age boy set out together to find what they have lost – their courage, their hope, their family and their way home.

Fans of Piers Torday, Geraldine McCaughrean and Stig of the Dump will love this wild, wise and heartfelt debut adventure.

“I think about how things aren’t always what they seem; how bad things can sometimes just happen and there’s nothing you can do about it, no matter how hard you try to forget…or how far you run.”

My eyes were wet with happy and sad tears at the same time as I flipped the last page. If there is one middle grade book that’s heartwarming yet brutally honest at the same time, it’s this one.

The Wild Way Home follows Charlie Merriam, our 12-year-old protagonist who has always longed for a younger sibling. When Charlie’s brother Dara is born with a malformed heart, Charlie runs off into the woods nearby only to realize that it’s not the same anymore! Guess why? Charlie has walked right into the Stone Age! Yes, you heard it right! I have read quite a few Middle Grade books that feature characters going away to far flung places, magical lands and hidden cities but this was the first time I read a book set partially in the Stone Age!

Charlie discovers a boy clad in deerskin lying face-down in the river with a wound on his forehead, and this is where the unforgettable friendship between the two begins. This book takes you on a wild journey of grit, survival and loss, at the base of which is the power of family and friendship. This is a tale full of action, adventure, tragedy and definitely packs a punch! Sophie hits you with the right feels and makes you want to jump into the page just you give these characters a warm hug!

I loved the fact that this book features a gender-neutral protagonist. Throughout the book, there is no mention of Charlie’s gender and it’s entirely up to the reader to assume Charlie as male, female or neither. The author emphasizes how gender is not at all a factor when it comes to friendship but the emotional bond between the two people is of utmost importance. The friendship between these two young jellybeans who are separated not by years or centuries, but millennia altogether, is something I will reminisce time and again.

Harby’s broken English was super cute and adorable! I found myself giggling every time I read his broken English. The phrase “make safe” will stick with me for long. This shows how friendship surpasses language barriers as well! Charlie’s confusion and struggle to interpret Harby’s words was fun to read!

It didn’t escape my notice how Sophie has managed to expertly layer the past over the present. Charlie is familiar yet unfamiliar with the forest at the same time. However, I would have loved to read more on the time travelling aspect as such. Since this is a character-driven story more than a plot-driven one, I wouldn’t hold it against the book. For a debut novel, this book speaks volumes about values, friendship, family and grief all with a gripping storyline!

Sophie doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities of life. If there is one thing this book effortlessly manages to convey, it’s that life is not rainbows and unicorns all the time. Life is not a smooth road, it’s a gravel path full of stones, pot holes and multiple other obstacles and that we do not run away from it, we face it with our chests puffed out and our heads held high.

“Maybe that’s what spirit song is made of – it’s not made of words or even of music – it’s made of the spirits of us creatures who are brave enough to look each other square in the eye and say this is me and this is you and we’re both fierce and we’re both afraid. Equals. As one.”

If you’re in the mood for a tearjerker of a tale that also makes you smile and keeps you on the edge of the couch with anticipation, pick this one up! And if that outright gorgeous cover doesn’t tempt you enough, I don’t know what will!

Have you read books that feature time travel? If yes, do let me know in the comments!

Maya and the Rising Dark – Rena Barron | Book Blitz | TBR and Beyond Tours

Maya and the Rising Dark – Rena Barron | Book Blitz | TBR and Beyond Tours

Maya and the Rising Dark by Rena Barron is one of my most anticipated reads of 2020 and I SQUEALED when I received the confirmation email for this Book Blitz!

Click here to check out the rest of the posts on this Book Blitz!

Maya and the Rising Dark cover

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Pages: 304

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Published: September 22nd, 2020

Click on the following links to purchase this book!

Goodreads || Amazon || Barnes & Noble || Book Depository || Indigo

In this highly anticipated contemporary fantasy, twelve-year-old Maya’s search for her missing father puts her at the center of a battle between our world, the Orishas, and the mysterious and sinister Dark world. Perfect for fans of Aru Shah and the End of Time and The Serpent’s Secret.

Twelve-year-old Maya is the only one in her South Side Chicago neighborhood who witnesses weird occurrences like werehyenas stalking the streets at night and a scary man made of shadows plaguing her dreams.

When Papa goes missing, Maya is thrust into a world both strange and familiar as she uncovers the truth. Her father is the guardian of the veil between our world and the Dark—where an army led by the Lord of Shadows, the man from Maya’s nightmares, awaits. Now that the veil is failing, the Lord of Shadows is determined to destroy the human world and it’s up to Maya to stop him. She just hopes she can do it in time to attend Comic-Con before summer’s over.

“But to me, math was about as interesting as watching paint dry, which was actually a thing I had to do for art class once.”

When I read this sentence, I KNEW I would end up loving this book! I could relate to Maya on a whole new level!

Maya and the Rising Dark follows Maya Janine Abeola, a 12-year-old comic nerd from the Chicago South Side who is living a normal life, until things start going topsy-turvy. She starts seeing out-of-the-ordinary things like black lightning, weird dreams and even encounters a pack of werehyenas before she finds out she is a godling! Yes, you heard it right! She is half-god and half-human (much like the Greek demigods)!

When you have a badass heroine, you definitely need a villain! When the Lord of Shadows kidnaps Maya’s father, she sets outs on a journey with her two best friends, Frankie and Eli, and encounters a ton of creatures and has a whirlwind of adventures in the Dark, which is a parallel plane that coexists with the human plane! If you want to get a better idea, think of Upside Down from Stranger Things!

This is a high-stakes, action-packed, nail-biting #ownvoices contemporary fantasy with an all-brown cast, richly steeped in West African Folklore that is bound to keep you on the edge of your seat! Believe me when I say this, THERE IS NOT A SINGLE DULL MOMENT IN THIS BOOK! The story draws you in from the very first page, doesn’t drop you off in between and leaves you craving for more!

I have read quite a few middle grade contemporary fantasies inspired by various mythologies but this was a first for me! I have always wanted to discover more about West African mythology and folklore, and Maya and the Rising Dark helped me with just that! This book is teeming with magical abilities, orishas, darkbringers, aziza and many more characters from West African folklore that you will remember long after you have flipped the last page!

AND OH MY GOD. THIS BOOK IS SO FULL OF EMOTIONS. The relationship between Maya and her father was outright one of the BEST father-daughter relationships I have come across in Middle Grade! Maya’s father, who happens to be the Keeper of the Veil that separates our world from the Dark, trains Maya with the staff! He is honestly such a gem and their dynamic made me all jelly! GIVE ME MORE OF THIS IN BOOK TWO PLEASE.

 I had a MAJOR déjà vu moment while reading this book! Maya, being a comic nerd, is super excited for her very first Comic Con! This took me right back to 2012 when I was super excited for MY first Comic Con! Honestly, Rena hit me with all the feels in this book!

“Every kid should be so lucky to have friends who believe in you even when you don’t believe in yourself. Friends who accept you exactly the way you are and help you be brave when you didn’t know that you could.”

Friendship plays a pivotal role in this book. This book paints in bold letters that there is POWER AND MAGIC IN FRIENDSHIP. Maya’s two besties, Frankie and Eli, embark on the journey with Maya and stay by her side right up to the end! Frankie is a science geek and Eli is a paranormal buff and their bickering throughout the book had me giggling! Frankie’s science talk reminded me of the seventh-grade me, haha!

This book is not only full of BIPOC characters, there is casual LGBTQ+ representation as well. What better way to normalise LGBTQ+ people than include them in Middle Grade books and instill the right thoughts in the minds of the younger generation of readers? Maya’s school principal Ollie in non-binary and Frankie has two moms! Yay for queer rep!

THIS BOOK IS SUPER IMPORTANT IN THE PRESENT DAY SITUATION. This book is a gift to all the brown kids out there who felt at any point that they aren’t enough. Well, YOU ARE. This book highlights the African-American community in a super-positive sense and I want ALL MIDDLE SCHOOLERS to read this book! I really wish I had books like these back in middle school! A book with a brown heroine and full of brown characters? Count me in ANY DAY! This book is so full of warmth and joy. Rena has managed to capture the right emotions of family, friendship and most importantly, community! Maya’s locality is full of BIPOC families and these brown kids have my entire heart!

I would give this book super-shiny, super-sparkly, super-glittery 4.5 stars!

Phew! This review turned out longer than expected! If you are reading this, thank you so much for staying with me until the end. I hope I have motivated you enough to pick up this book! So, what are you waiting for?

Rena Barron grew up in small-town Alabama where stories of magic and adventure sparked her imagination. After penning her first awful poem in middle school, she graduated to writing short stories and novels by high school.

From a very young age she loved reading stories where kids saved the world, tamed dragons, wielded magic, flew spaceships, became the chosen one. She desperately searched for characters in books who looked like her and was always disappointed to find none, which fueled her early interest in writing.

Before HarperTeen acquired her Young Adult Epic Fantasy, Kingdom of Souls, Rena spent 10 years in the query trends–writing across multiple genres and age groups in the pursuit of publication. In 2017, she entered Pitch Wars, a popular and highly sought-after online mentorship program that included an agent showcase round. Rena’s entry (then titled “The Last Witchdoctor”) received multiple offers of representation. She signed with Suzie Townsend at New Leaf Literary shortly after, and the manuscript went on to sell in a heated auction.

In addition to the Kingdom of Souls series, Rena also has written a middle grade epic fantasy titled Maya and The Rising Dark debuting in Spring 2020, pitched as Stranger Things meets Percy Jackson, that sold in a pre-empt to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. On a personal note, Rena loves all things science fiction and fantasy, ghosts, and superheroes. When she’s not writing, she can be found reading or brushing up on her French.

Website || Twitter || Instagram || Facebook || Goodreads

Do you love Middle Grade books as well? What are some of your favorite Middle Grade titles inspired by mythology and folklore? Let me know in the comments!

Going Wild by Lisa McMann – A Review

Going Wild by Lisa McMann – A Review

TITLE: Going Wild

AUTHOR: Lisa McMann

PAGE EXTENT: 400

PUBLISHER: Harper Kids

GENRE: Middle Grade

MY RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Charlie Wilde knew her life would change forever when her family moved from the city of Chicago to the suburbs of Arizona…and that was before she found the bracelet. After putting it on, she notices odd things start to happen. Suddenly Charlie seems to have the speed of a cheetah and the strength of an elephant—and that’s just the beginning. She would be thrilled about her transformation if she had any idea how to use the device or control her amazing powers. So Charlie is forced to put her trust in new friends to help her uncover the surprising truth behind the mysterious bracelet.

THIS IS THE SUPERHERO NOVEL I DIDN’T KNOW I NEEDED IN MY LIFE.

Charlotte Wilde is just your normal middle-schooler who is whining about relocating to dry and hot Arizona from Chicago because her mother landed a good job at the local hospital. She is apprehensive about the move and doesn’t want to leave her best friend Amari. Wait, did I say NORMAL? Well, she was, until she unpacks a parcel with a bracelet that was dropped off at her house just before the move.

The book started off a bit sluggish at first, and before I realized, I was hurtling through the book! The bracelet grants Charlie superpowers such as cheetah speed, elephant strength and starfish healing! And the bracelet just doesn’t come off! Charlie is your perfect neighborhood superhero! She is also a soccer player, and as someone who is extremely challenged as far as sports are concerned, I learnt quite a lot about soccer and the terms associated with the sport hahaha!

This is a super-fun, action-packed read with the right amount of middle school drama! There wasn’t a single boring moment in the book and it had me up reading till 2 AM! The side characters are well-developed and are given the perfect dose of spotlight! McMann surely is no stranger to middle grade fiction and yet again shows her prowess in this one!

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With The Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo – A Review

With The Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo – A Review

TITLE: With the Fire on High

AUTHOR: Elizabeth Acevedo

PAGE EXTENT: 400

PUBLISHER: Hot Key Books

GENRE: YA Contemporary

MY RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

With her daughter to care for and her abuela to help support, high school senior Emoni Santiago has to make the tough decisions, and do what must be done. The one place she can let her responsibilities go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness. Still, she knows she doesn’t have enough time for her school’s new culinary arts class, doesn’t have the money for the class’s trip to Spain — and shouldn’t still be dreaming of someday working in a real kitchen. But even with all the rules she has for her life — and all the rules everyone expects her to play by — once Emoni starts cooking, her only real choice is to let her talent break free.

“I just take another bite of my sandwich, close my eyes, and savor, because I can’t think of a single way to make my life more how I imagine it, but I can imagine a hundred ways to make this sandwich better. And sometimes focusing on what you can control is the only way to lessen the pang in your chest when you think about the things you can’t.”

With the Fire on High is the heartwarming tale of Emoni Santiago, a seventeen-year-old mother staying with her Abuela and her daughter Emma in Philadelphia after her father left. Emoni aspires to become a chef and is having a hard time juggling senior year of high school, motherhood and college submissions.

THIS BOOK WAS JUST WOW. Considering the fact that Acevedo’s books are well-accepted and loved, this came as no surprise to me. I KNEW right from the first page that I’m going to fall in love with this book and I had a smile plastered on my face throughout.

“I’m not ashamed of my baby. I’m not ashamed I had a baby. I’m not ashamed I’m a mother. I lift my chin higher.”

Emoni is one of the strongest protagonists in YA. She could have chosen to abort her baby when she found out she was pregnant at fourteen. But she did NOT. She put up with all the sneers and rude comments hurled at her and decided to continue with the pregnancy whatsoever. If that isn’t the purest form of love, then what is? I ADORED the scenes featuring Emoni and her daughter Emma (whom she fondly calls Babygirl) and boy, Emma is one lucky girl! She has the BEST mom!

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Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon – A Review

Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon – A Review

TITLE: Of Curses and Kisses

AUTHOR: Sandhya Menon

PAGE EXTENT: 384

PUBLISHER: Hodder UK

GENRE: YA Contemporary

MY RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐.75

The first novel in a series set at an elite international boarding school, that’s a contemporary spin on Beauty and the Beast.

Will the princess save the beast?

For Princess Jaya Rao, nothing is more important than family. When the loathsome Emerson clan steps up their centuries-old feud to target Jaya’s little sister, nothing will keep Jaya from exacting her revenge. Then Jaya finds out she’ll be attending the same elite boarding school as Grey Emerson, and it feels like the opportunity of a lifetime. She knows what she must do: Make Grey fall in love with her and break his heart. But much to Jaya’s annoyance, Grey’s brooding demeanor and lupine blue eyes have drawn her in. There’s simply no way she and her sworn enemy could find their fairy-tale ending…right?

His Lordship Grey Emerson is a misanthrope. Thanks to an ancient curse by a Rao matriarch, Grey knows he’s doomed once he turns eighteen. Sequestered away in the mountains at St. Rosetta’s International Academy, he’s lived an isolated existence—until Jaya Rao bursts into his life, but he can’t shake the feeling that she’s hiding something. Something that might just have to do with the rose-shaped ruby pendant around her neck…

As the stars conspire to keep them apart, Jaya and Grey grapple with questions of love, loyalty, and whether it’s possible to write your own happy ending.

Add dollops and dollops of cuteness, one handsome, broody British Prince, one law-abiding, graceful Indian princess, two teaspoonfuls of romance, sprinkle a beautiful backdrop and then add a dash of magical realism, and voila – You have Of Curses and Kisses!

When I found out that this book is a contemporary retelling of Beauty and the Beast, I was intrigued! I have read a lot of retellings and they have all been fantasy-based, so I was super excited to see Menon’s take on this!

Our protagonist is Jaya Rao, who is the Princess of Mysuru and has stepped into St. Rosetta’s Academy, a posh school nestled in the hills which is brimming with students from the rich and famous families. She is a law-abiding daughter who is extremely concerned about her family’s reputation and would do anything to uphold her culture and values.

One thing I LOVE LOVE LOOOOVE about Sandhya’s books is the fact that all her books feature Indian characters! (YAY, representation!) What I found reaaaaally endearing is that Jaya is from my state and I was beaming with pride at all the Kannada lingo scattered throughout the book! I felt so so represented! (Jaya and I also share a common surname. Hi-five Jaya!)

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The Carpet Weaver by Nemat Sadat – A Review

The Carpet Weaver by Nemat Sadat – A Review

TITLE: The Carpet Weaver

AUTHOR: Nemat Sadat

PAGE EXTENT: 304

PUBLISHER: Penguin India

GENRE: LGBT Fiction

MY RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Afghanistan, 1977. Kanishka Nurzada, the son of a leading carpet seller, falls in love with his friend Maihan, with whom he shares his first kiss at the age of sixteen. Their romance must be kept secret in a nation where the death penalty is meted out to those deemed to be kuni, a derogatory term for gay men. And when war comes to Afghanistan, it brings even greater challenges-and danger-for the two lovers.
From the cultural melting pot of Kabul to the horrors of an internment camp in Pakistan, Kanishka’s arduous journey finally takes him to the USA in the desperate search for a place to call home-and the fervent hope of reuniting with his beloved Maihan. But destiny seems to have different plans in store for him.

Intimate and powerful, The Carpet Weaver is a sweeping tale of a young gay man’s struggle to come of age and find love in the face of brutal persecution.

Believe me when I say this: After reading this book, I am NOT complaining about the state of affairs of the LGBT community in India ever again. This book was truly an eye-opener for me. Why? Read on to find out.

The Carpet Weaver follows 16-year-old Kanishka Nurzada, a gay Muslim teenager from Kabul, Afghanistan in the 1970s. He is the son of an esteemed carpet weaver in the capital. Gay people are referred to as ‘kuni’ in the local language, which is a belittling term meant as an insult. The society is extremely intolerant towards homosexuality and looks down upon gay men. Kanishka falls in love with another teenager, Maihan Melatyar and their forbidden love is portrayed perfectly: stolen moments and secret kisses. This story encompasses Kanishka’s strife in a strictly homophobic society and how he overcomes various hardships.

Firstly, being a queer person myself, I could step into Kanishka’s shoes right from the very first page and could relate to his circumstances in a way only an insider can. Coming from an orthodox family, I could feel the heartache and pain Kanishka endured in the 1970s as a gay teenager.

If you’re thinking this is just another gay love story, think again. Sadat seamlessly merges a gay love story with politics, war, loss, grief and a lot more serious topics which aren’t all that easy to discuss, to create a beautiful and heart-warming story. He doesn’t shy away from describing the brutality faced by the protagonist and trust me, it was so painful. SO SO PAINFUL. This book sucked me in like a blackhole and I lost track of time while reading this book (wait, is that how black holes work? Not much of a physics person here, haha.)

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This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada – A Review

This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada – A Review

TITLE: This Mortal Coil

AUTHOR: Emily Suvada

PAGE EXTENT: 464

PUBLISHER: Penguin Books UK

GENRE: Young Adult Science Fiction

MY RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Catarina Agatta is a hacker. She can cripple mainframes and crash through firewalls, but that’s not what makes her special. In Cat’s world, people are implanted with technology to recode their DNA, allowing them to change their bodies in any way they want. And Cat happens to be a gene-hacking genius.

That’s no surprise, since Cat’s father is Dr. Lachlan Agatta, a legendary geneticist who may be the last hope for defeating a plague that has brought humanity to the brink of extinction. But during the outbreak, Lachlan was kidnapped by a shadowy organization called Cartaxus, leaving Cat to survive the last two years on her own.

When a Cartaxus soldier, Cole, arrives with news that her father has been killed, Cat’s instincts tell her it’s just another Cartaxus lie. But Cole also brings a message: before Lachlan died, he managed to create a vaccine, and Cole needs Cat’s help to release it and save the human race.

Now Cat must decide who she can trust: The soldier with secrets of his own? The father who made her promise to hide from Cartaxus at all costs? In a world where nature itself can be rewritten, how much can she even trust herself?

WHOA. WHOA. WHOA. WHERE DO I EVEN BEGIN? THERE ARE SO MANY THOUGHTS CLOGGING MY BRAIN AFTER READING THIS BOOK. I HADN’T BRACED MYSELF FOR AN IMPACT OF THIS MAGNITUDE! DAMN!

A deadly virus. Super deadly. Causes people to DETONATE. Yes, like a BOMB. Causes healthy people to EAT the flesh of infected people to stay immune by invoking what is called THE WRATH. Has forced most of the population into underground bunkers. The world is about to end. Shit is about to get real. Emily Suvada definitely knows how to set the bar super high and jump over it! She doesn’t shy away from brutality and knows EXACTLY where she is taking this whirlwind of a story!

This story is set in a dystopian world and our protagonist, Catarina Agatta is an expert hacker who hacks into the servers of an evil organization called Cartaxus and stays alone in a cabin after her father, the world-famous geneticist Lachlan Agatta was taken away by Cartaxus. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot here because its best to dive in UNPREPARED!

THIS IS DYSTOPIAN WORLD-BUILDING AT ITS BEST. People have panels embedded in their forearms that regulate every single bodily function and has apps to modify every aspect of the body, everything being genetically coded! The panel sends what are called Nanites into the body through wires that grow out from the panel which is only a chip that’s embedded when a person is born. LIKE HONESTLY, HOW DID EMILY COME UP WITH THIS AMAZING GEEKY CONCEPT? Being a medschool student, my jaw dropped with awe (LITERALLY!) as I was reading all of this crazy genetic stuff. I began to wonder, DOES EMILY HAVE THIS VERY SAME TECH SECRETLY EMBEDDED IN HER BODY, BECAUSE DAMN, HER BRAIN IS A MARVEL!

If there is an award for the most number of plot twists in a book, this book undoubtedly deserves it! There are a TON of plot twists in this book. It had me GASPING and shouting “WHAT IN SEVEN HELLS JUST HAPPENED?” in almost EVERY chapter! The story is going in a particular direction and you’re happy that things are progressing smoothly and BOOM! Emily throws a grenade at you (and probably evil laughs – haha reader! Didn’t see that coming, did ya? (insert evil face emojis here) ) EMILY IS A PLOTTING QUEEN!

THIS BOOK IS A LITERARY MARVEL. Honestly, this underrated book deserves all the hype, because trust me, it’s THAT GOOOOOD! I picked this book up with bucketloads of expectations and it didn’t disappoint me ONE BIT! It even exceeded my expectations, to be very honest! It is so high-paced you won’t realize yourself fretting and frantically turning the pages to know what happens next!

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