Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin

Ayesha at last cover

A big-hearted, captivating, modern-day Muslim Pride and Prejudice, with hijabs instead of top hats and kurtas instead of corsets.

AYESHA SHAMSI has a lot going on. Her dreams of being a poet have been overtaken by a demanding teaching job. Her boisterous Muslim family, and numerous (interfering) aunties, are professional naggers. And her flighty young cousin, about to reject her one hundredth marriage proposal, is a constant reminder that Ayesha is still single.

Ayesha might be a little lonely, but the one thing she doesn’t want is an arranged marriage. And then she meets Khalid. How could a man so conservative and judgmental (and, yes, smart and annoyingly handsome) have wormed his way into her thoughts so quickly?

As for Khalid, he’s happy the way he is; his mother will find him a suitable bride. But why can’t he get the captivating, outspoken Ayesha out of his mind? They’re far too different to be a good match, surely?

My Thoughts

Ayesha at LastAyesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Completely charming, with a cast of sweet and funny characters, and a message about not judging other’s actions – I just loved it!ed it!

Khalid is adorable, kind and honest and trying his best to make his mother happy even though he starts to have doubts about her approach to life and her restrictive views on how to be a Muslim. Ayehsa is intelligent and caring – her family allow her more freedom but she isn’t sure what she wants to do with it.

When Ayesah and Khalid meet at the Bella lounge, Ayesha thinks Khalid is stuffy and Khalid thinks Ayesa is the “wrong” sort of Muslim. But neither of them can deny their attraction to each other.

Add to this a meddling mother, a Shakespeare quoting grandparent, a selfish young cousin, a banished sister and a best friend with her own romantic troubles and the stage is set for a funny and charming tale.

It’s based on Pride and Prejudice – I’ve never read that so I can’t say how faithful an adaptation it is but I have read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (hated it), and there are a few things I can recognise from that story!

There’s a very strong message in this story about not judging others or assuming things about them, and about how there is more than one way to be a good person. Ayesha and Khalid spent a good part of the book with the wrong ideas about each other – they have to see past their pride and their prejudice and learn to stop judging so harshly.

It stays light-hearted and fresh though – the characters are charming and well developed and the plot rollicks along at a fast pace that I just couldn’t stop reading. I very much enjoyed it and it’s hard to believe this is the author’s debut novel. I hope she writes a lot more!

A heartwarming read that I couldn’t put down, I highly recommend this.

I received a free copy from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Ayesha at Last
Uzma Jalaluddin
Fiction
April 4th 2019
Kindle
368

Sunshine Blogger Award

THANK YOU to Mani’s Book Corner for nominating me a Sunshine Bloggers Award!

The 11 questions I was given

  1. Do you read with the dust jacket on or do you remove it first?
    Remove it, I like to keep them nice and they just annoy me when reading with them on, they slides about and are either too high or too low, they never just sit neatly.
  2.  

  3.  Favourite time for reading?
    Anytime I can get. I read at lunchtime a lot but probably Sunday afternoons when I don’t have anything else to do (very rare).
  4.  

  5.  What’s your favourite book of all times?
    I can’t think of just one. Soul Music by Terry Pratchett was always a favourite when I was younger.
  6.  

  7.  Do you prefer to buy brand new or used books?
    New for the smell and the feel but normally I’ll buy used. I like recycling but I also like supporting authors so I’m kinda torn with this one.
  8.  

  9.  Do you use bookmarks to mark your page or anything that comes to hand?
    Anything and everything that’s around me. I have special bookmarks but if one isn’t hand then anything flat will take it’s place.
  10.  

  11.  What’s the first book you owned/brought yourself?
    First book I bought myself… probably a Sweet Valley High book. I was obsessed as a teenager.
  12.  

  13.  Do you read one book at a time or several at once?
    I wish I could say just one.. That’s what I prefer to do but often I end up with 2 or 3 on the go at once.
  14.  

  15.  Do you break the spine or keep it as new?
    New! omg, why would you break it! The worst thing is when I lend books to my mum and they come back with the spine broken!
  16.  

  17.  Have your reading habits changed since you started blogging?
    No, I don’t think so. I maybe think a bit more about how much I’m liking it when I’m reading. I judge books a bit more harshly now.
  18.  

  19.  What distracts you from reading?
    My fiance. He’s always interrupting my reading to tell me about some YouTube video he’s watched. And he has this amazing ability to disturb me when I’m on the last page of a book. Every. Single. Time.
  20.  

  21.  What bad book habits do you have?
    Buying too many… I’m not sure that’s a bad habit though? Piling them up in places about the house.

2018 Year in Review

2018 favourite books

Happy 2019 everyone! I hope you all had a good Christmas and New Year. I wanted to take a bit of time before diving into my new year reading to share my favourites (and worsts) from the last year.

What was your favourite book you read?

1) Best 10 books

2) For which book did you have expectations that were dashed?

Troll or Derby. A young adult fantasy where the main character plays roller derby – I thought I was going to love it but it was very disappointing.

3) Best new discovery, author or book?

Zoraida Cordova, author of the Brooklyn Brujas series.

4) What genre have you read the most?

Fantasy, again! Closely followed by Sci-Fi and Romance.

5) Worst books you’ve read in 2017

Seven Princes and Altered Carbon. I finished them both but I don’t know why I bothered.

6) What book surprised you?

Sabriel. I thought I was going to hate it, I actually tried very hard to dislike it, but I just couldn’t. I liked Sabriel as a character, I liked her magic, the supporting characters and the plot in general. I was happily suprised by it!

7)The book with the most interesting plot, characters, or structure

The Nakano Thrift Shop. Odd little plot, and if you want interesting characters then this book has them in spades.

8)The book that started off slow, but really picked up

Do you Dream of Terra-Two by Temi Oh. I enjoyed the slow pace though so I don’t know if it counts.

9) Favourite series

I have two – Brooklyn Brujas by Zoraida Cordova and Jewelfire Trilogy by Freda Warrington.

10) Favourite stand-alone

Do you Dream of Terra-Two by Temi Oh. Properly loved it.

Do You Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh

do you dream of terra-two cover

A century ago, scientists theorised that a habitable planet existed in a nearby solar system. Today, ten astronauts will leave a dying Earth to find it. Four are decorated veterans of the 20th century’s space-race. And six are teenagers, graduates of the exclusive Dalton Academy, who’ve been in training for this mission for most of their lives.

It will take the team 23 years to reach Terra-Two. Twenty-three years spent in close quarters. Twenty-three years with no one to rely on but each other. Twenty-three years with no rescue possible, should something go wrong. And something always goes wrong.

My Thoughts

Do You Dream of Terra-Two?Do You Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Do you Dream of Terra-Two? gets off to a slow start taking it’s time to introduce all the different characters and the relationships between them. It sounds like a bad thing but it’s really not because it’s so well done. There is a large cast but they’re not hard to follow and all of them have something to like about them.

I was hooked right from the start when these young wannabe astronauts have to deal with the suicide of one of their number. One minute they are bright young things featuring on the front of magazines and being envied by most of the teenagers in Britain; the next they are having to deal with grief and loss whilst leaving behind their homes (and the plant!) to spend 25 years in close confinement with only about 10 other people. They don’t know what they will find when they get to Terra-Two or even if the planet is habitable and they all deal with the stress in different ways.
The language is beautiful – read slowly for full enjoyment – and I loved all the science in it. The balance between science and human emotions is perfectly right, a note that is often hard to hit in a sci-fi novel.

I got used to it being about people and the way they might deal with leaving their homes and families and everything they know behind. So the turn of events near the end surprised me.

I thought it was just going to be a character drama – and there’s nothing wrong with that, only the blurb made me expect an action-adventure – and the author lands a hit from out of nowhere with a drama filled ending. It shakes things up just when the story felt a bit like it was treading and retreading the same ground. It gets a little bit predictable but it also makes the story a lot more exciting.

I was debating between rating this 4 or 5 stars – the events at the end are a bit too convenient but you know what? I really loved it and that tips it over into 5 stars for me even if it’s not completely perfect.

Do you Dream of Terra-Two? is beautifully written and a perfect blend of sci-fi and humanness. I highly recommend adding this to your to-read list.

I received a free copy in return for an honest review.

Do You Dream of Terra-Two?
Temi Oh
Sci-Fi
March 7th 2019
Kindle
528

Angel of the Blockade by Alex Wells

Angel of the Blockade Cover

Nata spends her time zipping through the black in her ugly yet bad-ass spaceship, taking pride in being the best smuggler the Imperial regime has never caught. When she takes on an expensive mystery cargo, however, the risk reaches far beyond her pride.

My Thoughts

Angel of the BlockadeAngel of the Blockade by Alex Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“The bar smells like old socks, sour beer, and just an edge of mustiness, which means the air filters are probably a couple weeks past due. Starting to go moldy, but not bad enough to actually give anyone a respiratory infection. It almost overwhelms the weird, dirty cinnamon scent that characterizes Corona Nine Station and never leaves the back of your throat once you’ve sucked in your first lungful.”

I loved the setting; Alex Wells has a gift for creating unique and believable worlds and universes and this one is brought to life in the first few paragraphs. It is vaguely reminiscent of Firefly but grittier and more grown up. The writing brings the story to life so much I can picture myself there.

The story is exciting and drew me in straight away. Nata is a brilliant character and I liked the way her situation is explained subtly without us being told about her by info dumps.

The only thing that stopped me from rating this higher is that I felt it tried to fit too much in. The time devoted to setting the scene at the start is probably my favourite part of it because the rest ended up too rushed and crammed in at the end. I got a bit lost with the story and I really wanted more from it. I wish it had been longer!

Give this one a go and if you like it check out the authors Ghost Wolves series, one of my personal favourites.

Angel of the Blockade
Alex Wells
Sci-Fi
September 6th 2017
Online
29

The Bone Magician (Tales From The Sinister City #2) by F.E. Higgins

March 7th 2008)

Pin Carpue is on his own in the world. His mother is dead and his father is missing after being labeled a suspect in a rash of murders. Pin finds a job working for the local undertaker as a body watcher, making sure people are really dead before they’re buried. The body he’s supposed to be watching tonight is currently surrounded by three people engaged in a most unusual ceremony. An old man, a bone magician, and his young female assistant are waking a woman so her grieving fiancé can have one last goodbye with her. Pin can’t believe it will work, but then the dead woman sits up and speaks.

Pin is determined to discover how the magic works. He cannot believe they are raising the dead. He cannot believe his father is a murderer. Then Pin himself nearly becomes the killer’s next victim.

As this mysterious tale unfolds with delicious creepiness, Pin will learn more about the bone magician, the girl Juno, and a hideous creature called the Gluttonous Beast that is kept in a local tavern where people pay for a glimpse.

My Thoughts

The Bone Magician (Tales From The Sinister City, #2)The Bone Magician by F.E. Higgins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“A corpse on the cusp of putrefaction could hardly be considered the most entertaining company on a winter’s evening, but Pin Carpue didn’t do what he did for the conversation. He did it for the money”

I’m being slightly generous by giving this 3 stars but I did enjoy the author’s sense of humour and it’s a fun read.

The plot relies too much on coincidences to push the mystery forward. Sure, it’s a children’s book and maybe they won’t notice? But personally, I think children deserve a bit more respect and a plot that’s better thought out.

It’s the second in a series, I think maybe the first one explains some of the things in this book that go unexplained. This can read as a stand-alone but I wasn’t entirely sure what the story was supposed to be about – Pin’s father’s murder, the silver apple killer, or the bone magician. I think some parts of the plot could be explained by reading the first book and I wouldn’t have been wondering the whole time when it would be explained. Because I hadn’t there was too much going on and it felt like it kept jumping back and forth between two or three completely different stories. I don’t know why I didn’t read the first book first, I even have it on my shelves somewhere.

Anyway, this ended up not being about the bone magician at all, despite the title. He’s barely in it.

I didn’t like the journal entries, they felt out of character for Pin, too mature and too posh. Also, they were really hard to read because they are all in italics with a dark background! I got really irritated by them.

It’s clearly heavily influenced by Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series and his Ankh Morpork city. This is not a bad thing, and F.E. Higgins manages to bring the sense of silly in the right way humour that’s needed and even put her own spin on it. She brings her city to life, I especially loved the descriptions of the river!

But it delights in being ghoulish and light-hearted and fun and that makes up for a lot. There’s a lot of the macabre in the story – Pin works in an undertakers and his job is to watch the corpses to make sure they are really dead.

Lots of interesting characters keep it all moving and the plot is lively and fun even if it is crammed with too much. It kept me entertained for a while and it’s not hard to read.

Give this a go if you are looking for a ghoulish and fun children’s book, but don’t expect too much from it.

The Bone Magician
Tales From The Sinister City
F.E. Higgins
Children's Fantasy
March 7th 2008)
Paperback
304

Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge

cuckoo song cover

The first things to shift were the doll’s eyes, the beautiful grey-green glass eyes. Slowly they swivelled, until their gaze was resting on Triss’s face. Then the tiny mouth moved, opened to speak.

‘What are you doing here?’ It was uttered in tones of outrage and surprise, and in a voice as cold and musical as the clinking of cups. ‘Who do you think you are? This is my family.’

When Triss wakes up after an accident, she knows that something is very wrong. She is insatiably hungry; her sister seems scared of her and her parents whisper behind closed doors. She looks through her diary to try to remember, but the pages have been ripped out.

Soon Triss discovers that what happened to her is more strange and terrible than she could ever have imagined and that she is quite literally not herself. In a quest find the truth she must travel into the terrifying Underbelly of the city to meet a twisted architect who has dark designs on her family – before it’s too late.

My Thoughts

Cuckoo SongCuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cuckoo Song is a dark, creepy fairy tale that comes out like Diana Wynne Jones’ The Time of the Ghost but then twists itself into a very dark and atmospheric fairy tale.

It’s told from the point of view of the ‘monster’ – the fake Triss that is created by magic and made from twigs and ribbons and hair to cover up the kidnap of the real Triss. She doesn’t know what she is at first, she wakes up with no memories and can’t understand why nothing in her life feels quite right and why her little sister hates her.

Underneath the fairy tale story is a story about a family falling apart. Triss’ older brother Sebastion was killed in the war and her parents are devastated, turning all their attention on protecting sickly Triss and ignoring her little sister Pen, who can never behave herself. They are distant and cold and all the love has gone from the family.

I was wary of starting this one after I didn’t like the first Frances Harding book I read, The Lie Tree. I’m glad that I gave it a chance though, in this book the oddness that I couldn’t get to grips with in The Lie Tree was done perfectly with a decent and layered story to back it up.

Frances Harding manages to make me have sympathy for the villain. Ok, he’s crazy scary and way too obsessed with revenge, but the root of his motivation is that he is trying to help his people find a place to live where they won’t be persecuted. As much as I want not-Triss to stop his plans and save real Triss I also understand why he’s done most of what he’s done.

Pen and Violet are two of the best characters I’ve read about all year; Violet is sensible but a total badass and I adore how fierce and wilful Pen is.

I loved it, I loved the characters, I loved the story, I loved everything about it. It’s a strange and dark and odd story and I couldn’t stop reading.

Cuckoo Song
Frances Hardinge
Young Adult Fantasy
May 8th 2014
Paperback
409

The Last Children of Tokyo by Yōko Tawada, Margaret Mitsutani (Translator)

Last Children of Tokyo Cover

Yoshiro celebrated his hundredth birthday many years ago, but every morning before work he still goes running in the park with his rent-a-dog. He is one of the many aged-elderly in Japan and he might, he thinks, live forever. Life for Yoshiro isn’t as simple as it used to be. Pollution and natural disasters have scarred the face of the Earth, and even common foods are hard to come by. Still, Yoshiro’s only real worry is the future of his great-grandson Mumei, who, like other children of his generation, was born frail and grey-haired, old before he was ever young.

As daily life in Tokyo grows harder, a secretive organisation embarks on an audacious plan to find a cure for the children of Japan – might Yoshiro’s great-grandson, Mumei, be the key?

A dreamlike story of filial love and glimmering hope, The Last Children of Tokyo is a delicate glimpse of our future from one of Japan’s most celebrated writers.

My Thoughts

The Last Children of TokyoThe Last Children of Tokyo by Yōko Tawada
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nothing much really happens in this little novella but it felt like it packed more into its few pages than most manage to get into three books.

It’s set in Japan in the near future where older people are living longer lives and enjoying great health. But the children being born are old before their time, they have problems eating and walking and can’t play properly. Their bodies decay quickly and they die young but the children seem wiser and more accepting of their status then the adults do.

I like the slow, contemplative pace. The lives of Yoshiro and his grandson Mumei are examined minutely and laid bare for us to see. As sad and difficult as Yoshiro finds the situation, Mumei just accepts his lot in life and carries on as if it’s normal. And for him, it is.

The message of the book seems to be to encourage us to think about what we are doing now: living it large and using up all the resources and polluting the environment is going to leave future generations with a trashed planet and serious health issues.

I’m not sure that much happens but it feels like it does and it’s all very sad.

The language and the writing is beautiful and encourages a slow contemplation of the world. I read slowly because I was trying to take it all in but I still don’t think I understood everything in it – this is one I think will benefit from rereads. I’m sure I missed things in it.

A beautifully written sad and moving look at a scarily possible future.

The Last Children of Tokyo by
Yōko Tawada
Sci-Fi
June 7th 2018
Paperback
144

Strain of Resistance by Michelle Bryan

strain of resistance cover

I was 12 years old when the world ended. For eight years I’ve survived in this craphole once known as earth. Fighting the alien parasite that mutated most of the population into blood-thirsty freaks, while the rest of us became the lunch special on their alien menu.

Now things are changing, and not for the better. The parasite is evolving. Becoming smarter, stronger and deadlier.

They’ve already stolen everything from me. My home. My family. Even the man I loved. It’s time for this bullshit to end once and for all.

My name is Bixby and I’m the resistance.

My Review of Strain of Resistance

Strain of Resistance (Strain of Resistance #1)Strain of Resistance by Michelle Bryan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
A twist on the new adult genre and zombie fiction

Strain of Resistance is a new adult story set in a zombie infested post-apocalyptic world. The zombies in this story are a bit different from the normal, run-of-the-mill zombie. In Strain of Resistance, these zombies have worm / slug-like creatures that grow out of their mouths and have taken over their brains. These worms were implanted in their bodies by a strange fog that settled over the world one morning.

Bixby is one of the few survivors, people that seem to be immune to the fog. She has taken refuge with a group of people living in what was once a five-star hotel and she spends her days risking her life to go out into the zombie-infested world and hunting for supplies.

Now, I kinda hated Bixby. She’s mean, arrogant and generally just unpleasant to everyone around her. But, that also kinda made me love her too. It gets tiresome to read book after book where the heroine is self-sacrificing, cares about everyone and only risks her life to help others. It’s also fun to read a character that doesn’t care about upsetting anyone and just does what she wants.

The plot is fun and well paced. The action is constant and the story and the tension ramps up throughout the book. A little more character growth would have fleshed it out a bit, the relationships between the people in the story are explained very briefly. Just enough to set the scene really.

Interestingly, the main action and conflict at the end don’t come from what is the actual conclusion to the storyline; it happens in what is almost a side plot at the end. A brave choice, but changing things up like this worked well and stopped it being predictable.

Strain of Resistance is fun and exciting and I’ve already put the sequel on my TBR list!

Strain of Resistance
Strain of Resistance
Michelle Bryan
Sci-Fi
March 1st 2016
Kindle
208

The Obsidian Tower (Jewelfire #3) by Freda Warrington

obsidian tower cover

In this final volume of the Jewelfire trilogy, all seems lost for the humans of Aventuria. The shape-changing Bhahdradomen have invaded and Queen Helananthe has been forced to step down or see her mother and brother murdered. Meanwhile Tanthe is attempting to rescue her sister, Ysomir.

My Review of The Obsidian Tower

The Obsidian Tower (The Jewelfire Trilogy #3)The Obsidian Tower by Freda Warrington
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It is not ok to play with my emotions like this Freda Warrington! Excuse me while I go sob in the corner, please.

So, at the start of The Obsidian Tower, everything looks bad. The Bhahdradomen have invaded and taken the throne, Helan, Tanthe and the others are in captivity and Rufryd has been left for dead. Well, things only get worse from here!

I’ve grown to love this series. I wasn’t convinced by the first book but it grew on me and I ended up heavily emotionally invested in it. The writing is lush. The descriptions of the worlds are beautiful: this world is alive in my head, I could almost step into it.

And there is SO much character growth. Characters I hated at the start ended up being my favourites and characters that I thought were going to be the heroes or the villains are anything but. There are no truly good or bad people in the worlds Freda Warrington creates. There are no superheroes and no evil villains. Her characters are very real, often messy and usually contradictory. And don’t get too attached to any of them because Warrington is not averse to killing off the people that seem like the stars of the show. None of them is safe!

The storyline is very, very clever. There are lot’s of different characters and different stories going on but they all weave in together and bring a very satisfying, if bittersweet, resolution with all the different storylines rounded up and finished off.

I got off to a wobbly start with this series but by the end, I’d fallen in love with it. It’s clever, dark and as realistic as high fantasy gets. Give it a go, it’s worth the investment.

The Obsidian Tower
Jewelfire
Freda Warrington
Fantasy
2001
Paperback
708