A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole

So Ledi is in grad school, studying to become a badass scientist whilst working multiple jobs. She’s been getting these weird emails saying she’s the long lost betrothed of some African prince and her neighbour across the hall has gone on holiday and some guy who worked with her for a day, terribly, is doing some sort of AirBnB with the neighbour. And things just go from weird to weirder.

I really loved Ledi, she was such a fantastic MC. SHe’s whip smart and doesn’t take any nonsense. I’m so here for any book that has women in STEM, and that is intensified if it is a romance book or a POC lady and this is a black romance novel, so yes lot’s of excitement about the representation.

The relationship between the two MCS both romantic and non romantic was really sweet and playful. They were always ribbing each other and even when they were upset with each other you could still tell they had feelings.

If you’re worried about this being an arranged marriage, do not worry because like most arranged marriages there is no force involved and they are super sweet with each other.

Thabiso’s assistant, whose name escapes me was a force of nature as well. She definitely made the book even more enjoyable. She wasn’t just an assistant who would roll over and do whatever her boss said without argument. And she wasn’t afraid to tell him he was being an idiot. She was also a lesbian and it was just casually mentioned without being made a big thing and I love that.

I really liked Cole’s writing. It flowed really well and I didn’t have any bored patches. I loved that she took the characters to Africa as well instead of just staying in New York. It would be so easy to just have it set in the US.

I cannot wait for the sequel but I’m also hesitant because the love interest is Scottish and we all know how I feel about inaccurate Scottish depictions, but I feel like she can do it.

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Final Draft by Riley Redgate

Thank you to Amulet books and netgalley for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review! I was so glad I was approved for this because it was definitely one of my most hyped books.

Laila is a teen writer and her English teacher is her biggest fan. She is forever giving him her new stories and he tells her how much he adores them. Until her teacher gets in a big car accident and she gets a substitute. To start Laila is excited as the new teacher is also an award winning writer, but she is very hard on Laila and this causes her to struggle with not only her writing but her identity.

The main character of this story is pansexual. Do you know how much that means to me? Laila really struggles with this part of herself as she has been raised to believe that girls should be ashamed of their sexuality. This is said on page. And this is the first time I’ve actually been able to comment on sexuality representation from an experienced perspective and I’m so happy about this. I absolutely adored the representation. I wish this book had been around when I was younger because I think I may have realised I was pan much sooner than I did. She also is plus size and has anxiety, so I related to Laila so much to be honest. And if you consider yourself to be any of these things I would thoroughly recommend reading it. Laila is also half Ecuadorian, but obviously I can’t speak on this representation. However it was plainly obvious that the author wanted to make this an important part of the novel. All throughout there is discussions over being mixed race and being Ecuadorian, and not knowing where she fit in. I’ve never read an Ecuadorian MC and I found that so refreshing. I did try to find a review from an Ecuadorian person but I could not, if you know of any let me know!

This book is sapphic, but I don’t want to spoil that for you. However the one thing for me that let this book down for me and meant it wasn’t a favourite was that the romance was just a little too subtle for me. I kind of didn’t recognise it happening at all until about 70% of the way in. And that might be great for you! That might be the type of romance you like. I’m more of a heavy hitting romance type.

The narrative of this novel is very much internalised, there is a lot of Laila’s struggles with her writing, her friendships and her anxiety. Sometimes I struggled with reading the book because of this, not in a bad way but it could get heavy occasionally and I wasn’t quite in the mood for that.

As this was my first Riley Redgate novel I wasn’t sure what to expect, and whilst people were hyping it up, I was pleasantly surprised (I have trust issues with hyped books). Now I need to catch up on all Redgate’s books!

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Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

Content warnings: abuse, parental abuse, runaways, homophobia, eating disorders, depression

Frances is obsessed with a podcast of outer space adventures, and she is known for doing incredible fan art, in her spare time between studying for her exams to get into Cambridge.Then she meets Aled, who is the writer and voice behind her podcast and they realise who each other are and begin to collaborate. But then life takes a bit of an unexpected turn.

Radio Silence wasn’t what I expected. I saw a lot of people I follow on twitter talking about it throughout my time in the book community and I thought it would be some sort of thriller contemporary but it was not. And whilst I was a bit confused for a lot of this book, like a thriller would be, but it was more just figuring out what’s going on with characters and why they choose to act the way they do.

There were some super strong friendships between people of the same gender and of different genders and I loved that about this book. As well as a diverse range of sexualities, including our MC being bisexual and Aled being either ace or demi. And there is lots of on page discussion of sexualities and feelings and what not and it was good to read.

I wasn’t really sure what to make of the writing style. It didn’t grab me as much as I would’ve liked. It took me a while to finish this book. And I would say it started off really slow and whilst it eventually got going about the midway point it didn’t have the pace I normally like from novels.

I liked that there was discussion of fandoms as well as podcasts. As someone who is an avid listener of My Favourite Murder, occasionally Lore and Serial and some others it was cool to read about a viral podcast.

There is also a lot of discussion of abusive behaviour from behaviour that is not physical and is about forcing your children to do things through manipulation. Whilst this could be triggering for some folk I feel like it could also be helpful depending on where your mind is at.

All in all I would recommend Radio Silence if you’re into more character driven stories, and I’ll definitely be checking out more of Alice Oseman’s work.

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China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan

Hi hello I’m back, you probably wondered where I went as I’m normally pretty on top of posting regularly. Basically I just changed jobs and had an essay due at the same time so I had a lot of stress and decided to put the blog on a mini hiatus.

Mild Spoilers for CRA ahead!

Also I’m sorry I listened to this on audiobook whilst driving and walking so didn’t take any notes on content warnings.

At the time of writing this I have finished the whole CRA trilogy and though I adored the whole thing China Rich Girlfriend was probably my least favourite of the series, mainly because of the focus as it’s not in Singapore so you don’t get as much interaction with Nick’s ridiculous family.

In CRG we meet Rachel’s side of the family who turn out to be super rich and as much of a mess as Nick’s family. I love Carlton, he was just such a well meaning dude. Colette is a nightmare and written so well in that role and the drama between the pair and Nick and Rachel is so good. But I just felt it lacked a little compared to the Singaporean drama.

We see more of Michael and Astrid in this book and man alive do I HATE Michael. He is just an all round terrible husband, father and human and he does not deserve the goddess that is Astrid. If you don’t ship Astrid and Charlie after this book then idk what planet you are on.

I think what pale in comparison to the others for me, with this book, is that it took a while for a plot to get going, like there was vague lines of it running throughout but it wasn’t until like two thirds of the way through that anything big started happening. It was just little arguments and fights. Even Kitty felt a little bit lacklustre.

That isn’t to say that I didn’t like this book. I think this whole series is the funniest I’ve read in a long time and I look forward to whatever Kwan writes next and want everyone to read it.

 

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Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai

content warning: sex

This was another book that I saw being raved about by a few people that I follow on twitter who love romance and I was kind of desperate to read it.

Every year Livvy and Nicholas would meet up on her birthday to have a 1 night rekindling of their old relationship. But then one year she didn’t show up and Nicholas was ready to move on and run his empire. Until Livvy moves back to town.

I adore romance books because they just take me away from how awful I’m feeling but I often feel like there’s just something missing from them that I can’t say they’re a favourite. But this one was. This was my perfect romance novel.

For me this book was a perfect mix of sex and plot. Like sometimes romance books are wither too plot heavy or there’s too much sex but not this one. It’s like when it knew when I was ready to read some sexy times and when I was ready to just read some plot. It didn’t have any wild plot lines like some romances do, it was so believable

I loved the family dynamics in this story. It had that kind of Romeo and Juliet feel without being as dodgy in content as R&J. The flow of this was perfect, both the plot and the romance moved at a good pace that I didn’t feel bored.

I’m desperate to read the rest of this series because if they’re anything like this one I’ll love them

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Bad for the Boss by Talia Hibbert

content warning: mild Bdsm, sex, racism, alcohol, drugs, kidnapping, boss/worker romance (aka power imbalance)

I bought this because I saw someone on twitter talking about it and I’m always open to trying new romance novels, especially if they’re written by WOC because the publishing industry isn’t really great for WOC so I want to help.

Bad for the Boss is an office romance, following Jen and her boss Theo. Jen grew up poor, going through a lot of heavy things that a lot of people wouldn’t imagine ever going through, this has left her closed off and very goal orientated. Theo only wants to be successful as well but somehow they end up with an explosive romance.

The subheading of this book is a “BWAM” romance, this mean Black Woman Asian Man which I didn’t realise until I was reading. Which I really enjoyed considering mainstream romance is so white that having 2 POC in one book and them being different races was refreshing for me, despite how much I try to buy lesser known and diverse romances. On top of this, Jen is fat which is desperately needed in the genre.

In terms of story line, this fell a little flat for me. There is a story about Jen’s past catching up with her involving kidnapping and it just kind of made me roll my eyes. Personally I find dramatic story lines like this a bit unnecessary in romance, but that’s just me. I was also kind of just bored for some of this novel. On top of that whilst there is lots of consent discussion there was a couple of dirty talk lines that were like ownership and kind of made me feel a bit icky, but again that’s me.

However, I really liked Hibbert’s writing and would definitely try something else of hers I think maybe this one just wasn’t for me.

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Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Content warnings: police brutality, racism

This book is like the brother of THUG. Like I’m not going to compare them and say other this was better in this way and pit 2 black women against each other that’s not what I’m here to do. But it deals with similar topics but very different perspectives.

So Justyce is trying to look out for his ex girlfriend who is drunk when a police officer comes along, accusing him of trying to do the worst to a drunk girl and puts him in cuffs. Weeks later that same cop shoots Jus’ best friend Manny. Justyce doesn’t know where to turn, he had been heading to Ivy League schooling and now he doesn’t even know whats happening in his life.

This book is super short but so hard hitting. I couldn’t believe how much this made me feel in a short space of time. The pacing is so heavy hitting, things happen quickly like they do in real life. One minute you blink and someone is killed.

There is some talk of gangs, from an outsiders perspective to the perspective of Jus when he starts to get involved with gangs following everything that happens to him. From someone who has never had any involvement with gangs, I mean I’m a white, Scottish girl, the narrative felt so real.

As with all my reviews of diverse novels, I cannot speak on representation of racial issues and the like. I have read in reviews that the representation is really good, which you would hope from an own voices book.

Throughout the novel we read letter that Jus write to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about reading these, if maybe they would take away from my read through but they didn’t. They gave a really good insight to the thoughts of teenagers going through incidents like this.

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Love Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

Thank you to Hot Key Books and Netgalley for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Content warnings: terrorism, islamophobia

This was one of my most hyped books of the year, I can’t tell you how many emails I sent to the publisher asking for an arc (I think I have the wrong email for them so clearly it never mattered).

Maya is an American born Indian Muslim growing up in the suburbs of Chicago. She doesn’t know how to tell her parents she wants to go to school for film and she doesn’t know how to tell them she likes a white boy. But then her life changes when there is a terrorist with the same name as her and her community turn against her.

Now I’m not Muslim or Indian so I cannot talk about the rep for this book but I have found reviews for this conflicting for representation. From Fadwa absolutely adoring the book, to Ilsa not being convince by the representation, so just be aware.

I absolutely adored this book. I liked that it wasn’t completely centred on the terrorism and Islamophobia, though it plays a huge part, but just about the life of a Muslim Indian girl growing up in America. It’s part of it, because hey terrorism is so part of all our lives now and it’s so important to show that from the perspective of someone who is POC in America. But we also see her life as your average teenage girl and I think Ahmed balances both part of the novel perfectly.

I read this book super quickly and could not put it down. At times I wish it had been just a little bit longer but that’s just me.

This book is, cute, poignant and heartbreaking and along with books like THUG should be core reading for anyone growing up in today’s world, and adults too.

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The Wrath and The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

I saw a lot of buzz from this book on booktube last year and then I read Flame in the Mist and felt like I had to read this series because I really liked Ahdieh’s writing, so I was preemptively excited. And whilst it didn’t quite live up to the hype this was still an enjoyable read.

content warning: whilst I wouldn’t consider their sexual relationship as rape, it could be trigger if you are a victim of sexual abuse, death, uhhhh I’ve forgotten what else there is but if you’re interested and have a trigger, message me and I’ll look into it for you!

Every time the Caliph, Khalid, takes a new wife she is found dead the next morning. Shazi decides that she will be the next bride after her best friend is killed, in a move that she plans to use to take vengeance. To put off getting killed Shazi tells the Caliph a story every night. But there is more than meets the eye with Khalid and slowly Shazi begins to discover that he isn’t the murderous brute she believed him to be.

The best part of this for me is the world building and the writing. The writing itself isn’t poetic, flowery or anything like that, it’s pretty to the point but it was sooo easy to read, and I read it so quickly that I had to read the novellas and take the second book out from the library immediately. The characters are super fleshed out as well. Shazi is a kickass lead who I loved reading from, Khalid is super dark and interesting and whilst I’m mixed about how I feel about him as a romantic leadI loved reading about him and his inner turmoils. I also just loved Jalal, he’s the perfect side character, who cares about the good of everyone involved.

I honestly don’t know how to explain my feelings about the romance in this book. It could be described as insta-love as it happens over the span of a few weeks, but because there is so much happening it feels like longer. On top of all that you have the weird way they have entered the relationship, knowing full well that every woman he has married has died. They have sex a few times before romance even happens, and for both of them it’s very much like procedural, they do it because they feel like they have to, it’s never romanticised at this point. There’s even a point where he asks if she wants to have sex and she’s like “we’ve done it before”, but he still asks. I just have very confused feelings. I was very wary of the sexual relationship before the romantic relationship that I have flagged every time they had sex prior to beginning to like each other, so again if you need warnings or anything let me know and I’ll read over these pages to make sure what’s involved.

One thing I would say is that if the story this is based on is a story you grew up knowing you might not want to read this as Fadwa told me that it’s changed a lot from the original story and what she’d heard about it she didn’t like so just bear that in mind.

Book Depository | Amazon

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The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton | Blog Tour | Review

Synopsis

In the opulent world of Orléans, the people are born grey and damned, and only a Belle’s powers can make them beautiful. Camellia Beauregard wants to be the favourite Belle – the one chosen by the queen to tend to the royal family.

But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favourite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that her powers may be far greater – and far darker – than she ever imagined.

THE BELLES is the book Dhonielle always wanted to write, a must-read critique of the way teenage girls are taught to think about beauty and body image.

Review

CW: death, people disillusioned with their own looks, mental illness.

I really enjoyed this book. The writing style fits perfectly, a lot of the time I struggle with fantasy because the writing style is too heavy, which is fine if you have the time for it, but I don’t. This isn’t full of flowery language or huge off-shooting paragraphs, it’s straight and to the point and I loved it.

Clayton writes the novel in a way that to begin with you’re a bit confused but she slowly lets you into the world until you completely understand what it’s about and what’s going on without having a big explanation chapter or being taken out from the story to be explained to. My one problem came from this though as I felt that because of the way it was done, the pacing struggled a bit. The last half of the novel was super fast paced but the beginning didn’t have much going on. However I feel like this makes it a really good first novel in a series, I think the next book is going to be super involved and have a lot going on.

The way Clayton wrote the world I am desperate to read more about it. I want to know more about the Belles, I want to find out how the world got to be the way it is, I want to know why people are born grey and discovered how Belles and Arcana existed.

I liked Camille enough, despite growing up in an oppressive environment where you are supposed to do just what you are told she goes against the grain. The character I loved the most, however, was Sophia, she was terrifying. She’s one of the most convincing villains I’ve read in a while. She’s only a teenager but she’s so unbalanced that you literally have no idea what she’s going to do next and it’s actually really scary.

Something else that stood out to me in this novel was how seamlessly LGBT+ characters were in it. People just spoke completely off the cuff about same sex relationships. This shouldn’t be a big thing, but for fantasy this is rare and it made me happy to see that in my favourite genre.

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Thank you to Stevie Finnegan for arranging the tour!

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