Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Review for Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik

Sofia Khan is Not Obliged 
by Ayisha Malik
Publisher: Twenty7
Release: 14th January 2016
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Source: Copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

" "Brilliant idea! Excellent! Muslim dating? Well, I had no idea you were allowed to date.' Then he leaned towards me and looked at me sympathetically. 'Are your parents quite disappointed?

Unlucky in love once again after her possible-marriage-partner-to-be proves a little too close to his parents, Sofia Khan is ready to renounce men for good. Or at least she was, until her boss persuades her to write a tell-all expose about the Muslim dating scene.

As her woes become her work, Sofia must lean on the support of her brilliant friends, baffled colleagues and baffling parents as she goes in search of stories for her book. In amongst the marriage-crazy relatives, racist tube passengers and decidedly odd online daters, could there be a a lingering possibility that she might just be falling in love...?"

Sofia Khan is Not Obliged is a book that I fell in love with from the first few pages. Sofia’s voice is so warm and likeable that you quickly get sucked into her crazy life and root for her like you would a friend.

The book is told in a diary format and follows Sofia’s adventures as a modern muslim woman. After breaking off her engagement with a man a little too close to his family, Sofia swears off men for good to the horror of her relatives. When her boss at the publishing house where she works offers Sofia a book deal she agrees- she might not have a husband but she will have a bloody book! The only problem is the book in question is a tell-all on muslim dating and to write it she’s going to have to throw herself back into the London dating scene for research. With marriage crazy relatives, her friends’ disastrous love lives and a writing deadline Sofia’s about to dive hijab first into the world of romance whether she likes it or not.

Sofia Khan is Not Obliged is a fresh take on Women’s Fiction, I loved getting to take a look at a different way of life that I haven’t seen represented before in this genre. The book tackles some serious themes at times. I got particularly angry at a scene where Sofia is called a terrorist on the tube! But for the most part, the book is warm and funny whilst still shedding light on Sofia’s lifestyle.

As well as the wonderful Sofia Khan, there are so many other brilliant secondary characters to get to know and love. There’s a large cast but every single character is fleshed out and vibrant. Sofia’s relationships with her family and friends were one of my favourite things about this book. I especially loved the relationship that Sofia has with her dad.

Sofia Kahn is Not Obliged is one of those rare books that made me both laugh and cry. Sofia Khan is one of my new favourite heroines - she makes every page sparkle with her funny and intelligent outlook on life. If you’re a fan of Helen Fielding or Mhairi McFarlane, Ayisha Malik may just be your new favourite author. I can’t wait for the sequel!

Friday, 12 February 2016

What’s a Heroine without a Hero?

The other day one of my blog readers got in touch with me. She explained that she was going through a break-up and wanted some YA book recommendations that didn’t feature a romance. Well, I was stumped. I gave her a list of the few books I could think of and since then I’ve been thinking a lot about romance in YA.

Compared to other genres, YA is very romance heavy to the point where I’m actually surprised if a book doesn’t feature some kind of romantic relationship.

I want to start by saying that I think that romance in YA books is important to represent. First love can be passionate and messy and it’s so important that teenagers can explore that in books and read about first time dates, kisses, love and sex. When romance is done right, I love to read about it.

But does every YA book need a hero?

I’ve read so many books where the main character hasn’t got a parent, or a best friend, but it’s unlikely that I ever stumble across a book where the heroine doesn’t have some form of love interest. It seems funny to me because growing up not all of my friends had boyfriends. Sure, boys featured in our lives from time to time, but it was our friendships that were the most important thing to us. As a teenager (and even as an adult) your best friends can be the real loves of your life and I’d love to see that represented more in YA.

I think that it’s important to show young girls that they can be a heroine without a hero.

There are so many massive life events that happen as a teenager that don’t involve a boy being at your side. Sometimes I feel like romance is added in for the sake of it and as a selling point. After all, the big YA books all feature an epic love story.

There are so many wonderful and inspiring books that I’ve read that cover new topics and bring fresh ideas to the table that still feature a romance that’s usually so small that I can’t help but wonder what it’s doing there in the first place. Is it really needed? Does it add anything to the story?

Just as we need books that represent diverse characters, I feel that we also need books that represent young single women. I think that it’s important to show that a happy ending doesn’t always involve that long awaited kiss with your crush. Your life and achievements can be enough; your story is just as valid and important despite not having a boyfriend. There’s so much more to a young woman’s story than her love life.

I think it’s about time that we showed girls that their voices matter, with or without a hero.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Early Bird Review: Underwater by Marisa Reichardt

Underwater by Marisa Reichardt
Publisher: Macmillan
Release: 7th April 2016
Genre: Contemporary, Mental Health
Source: Copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

"In order to move on after a traumatic experience, Morgan must learn to forgive - first someone who did something that might be unforgivable, and then herself.

But Morgan can't move on. She can't even move beyond the front door of the apartment she shares with her mother and little brother. Morgan feels like she's underwater, unable to surface. Unable to see her friends. Unable to go to school.

When it seems Morgan can't hold her breath any longer, a new boy moves in next door. Evan reminds her of the salty ocean air and the rush she used to get from swimming. He might be just what she needs to help her reconnect with the world outside.

Underwater is a powerful, hopeful debut novel about redemption, recovery and finding the strength it takes to face your past and move on."

There are so many books out there about the horrors of high school shootings, but what made Underwater stand out for me is that this book takes place months after the shooting showing the long term effect trauma has on people’s lives. One moment can change you forever.

Underwater follows Morgan who, in the months after the shooting at her high school, has become a recluse. For months Morgan hasn’t stepped foot outside of her home, her world has shrunk to a routine of online schooling, grilled cheese lunches, daytime TV and afternoon visits with her therapist. When it takes all of your energy to control your panic attacks and triggers daily life can be overwhelming. Underwater is Morgan’s journey in learning to live again after the very worst has happened.

Underwater was a very personal read for me. Although my situation isn’t the same as Morgan’s, I too have panic attacks and PTSD that make it difficult for me to leave my house. I found that so many passages of this book were relatable to me – a sure sign that Marisa Reichardt has done her research and that the story rings true to the struggle of mental health recovery.

When I first discovered that there’s a romance in this book I was worried that it’d be a case of ‘girl meets boy and magically recovers from her mental health problems’ but I’m happy to report that that wasn’t the case at all. This is very much Morgan’s journey in working through her fears, finding inner strength and learning how to live again. The romance is a very minor aspect of the story as Evan joins Morgan’s mom, brother and therapist cheering her on from the side-lines.

As well as Morgan’s relationship with Evan she has so many other wonderful connections in this book. It’s something that Marisa Reichardt really excels at in her writing. Morgan’s mom and brother were so supportive and I loved reading about Morgan’s sessions with her therapist. I think that the most interesting relationship to read about was the relationship Morgan had with her dad and how after his time in Afghanistan their stories parallel.

Underwater was such an emotional read about learning to swim and push through the rough waters that try to hold you down. This book is about courage, second chances and forgiveness. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a realistic and sensitive portrayal on mental health recovery.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Blog Tour: Review for The Sleeping Prince by Melinda Salisbury

The Sleeping Prince 
by Melinda Salisbury 
Publisher: Scholastic
Release: 4th February 2016
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Source: Copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

"Return to the darkly beautiful world of The Sin Eater's Daughter with a sequel that will leave you awed, terrified . . . and desperate for more.

Ever since her brother Lief disappeared, Errin's life has gone from bad to worse. Not only must she care for her sick mother, she has to scrape together rent money by selling illegal herbal cures. But none of that compares to the threat of the vengeful Sleeping Prince whom the Queen just awoke from his enchanted sleep.

When her village is evacuated as part of the war against the Sleeping Prince, Errin is left desperate and homeless. The only person she can turn to is the mysterious Silas, a young man who buys deadly poisons from Errin, but won't reveal why he needs them. Silas promises to help her, but when he vanishes, Errin must journey across a kingdom on the brink of war to seek another way to save her mother and herself. But what she finds shatters everything she believed about her world, and with the Sleeping Prince drawing nearer, Errin must make a heartbreaking choice that could affect the whole kingdom."

The Sleeping Prince is a companion novel to The Sin Eater’s Daughter offering a different vantage point to the world that Melinda Salisbury has created. In this book we follow Errin – a clever, resourceful, Tregellan girl. Although new to us, Errin isn’t an entirely new character, she’s sister to Lief who we met in The Sin Eater’s Daughter.

As a Tregellan, Errin has lived a life of logic and science as an apprentice apothecary in her village. But the legends that she thought were fairy stories are starting to come true.

After a trip into the woods Errin’s mother becomes sickly with blood red eyes and a vicious temper. Errin is convinced that her mother has turned into a beast from one of her books.

When the sleeping prince awakens and begins a war with his army of golems, Errin leaves behind everything she thought she knew as she gets sucked into a new world of myth and legend and becomes a vital piece in a war fought with poison, potions and blood.

All too often I give up on reading a series, not because I’m not enjoying it, but because I forget what’s happened in previous books so I was thrilled to find that The Sleeping Prince follows a new set of characters and a new storyline. At first The Sleeping Prince and The Sin Eater’s Daughter feel quite separate, but the stories begin to connect later on as you see how Errin fits into the bigger picture.

I loved that this book delved deeper into the religions and myths that make up this world that I was so curious about when reading the first book. I also found the alchemy aspect fascinating. All of the potions, poisons and cures are so interesting to read about and bring an element of science to a fantastical world.

Melinda Salisbury has really showcased her skills as a writer with The Sleeping Prince. Her writing has gone from strength to strength and was absolutely stunning to read. The plot was expertly crafted with clever twists and heart-stopping surprises that I didn’t see coming.

The Sleeping Prince is part fairytale, part fantasy and isn’t quite like anything I’ve read before. Be warned that the ending is a cruel one: Mel is an awful tease and leaves you desperate for the third instalment.

If you love rich worlds, dark fairytales and magical alchemy don’t miss out on the imagination of Melinda Salisbury.

About the Author

When not working on her next novel, Melinda Salisbury is busy reading and travelling, both of which are now more addictions than hobbies.


The Sleeping Prince is out today and is available to buy here.

Monday, 1 February 2016

January Round Up and Book of the Month

So, I set my Goodreads goal to read 125 books in 2016 and in January I got off to a great start! I read 18 books which I think is the largest amount of books I've ever read in one month! Admittedly, a lot of them were graphic novels, because I've been on a bit of a graphic novel kick lately, but I enjoyed all of the books I read last month so it's all good! Here's my wrap up of my reading for January.

 January's Book of the Month is 13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough

I read so many fantastic books in January and gave most of the books I read a 4 or 4.5 star rating but 13 Minutes is my first (and so far my only) 5 star read of the year *throws confetti.* If you like thrillers or books about toxic female friendships then you're going to LOVE this book! I described it in my review as "Mean Girls on crack" and totally stand by that. I couldn't put this book down and was in awe of how well crafted it was. If you're a fan of shows like Scream Queens or Pretty Little Liars then you have to check this book out! You can read my full review for 13 Minutes here.

Read in January 
1.) Keep the Faith by Candy Harper (4*)
2.) Amulet: The Last Council by Kazu Kibuishi (4.5*)
3.) The Young Elites by Marie Lu (4.5*)
4.) Amulet: Prince of the Elves by Kazu Kibuishi (4*)
5.) Spectacles by Sue Perkins (4*)
6.) 13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough (5*)
7.) Amulet: Escape From Lucien by Kazu Kibuishi (4*)
8.) Underwater by Marisa Reichardt (4*)
9.) The Rose Society by Marie Lu (4.5*)
10.) Giant Days by John Allison, Lissa Treiman, Whitney Cogar (4.5*)
11.) Princeless by Jeremy Whitley, M. Goodwin (3.5*)
12.) Lumberjanes Volume 1 by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Brooke A. Allen, Maarta Laiho (3.5*)
13.) In Real Life by Cory Doctorow, Jen Wang (4*)
14.) Wayward Volume 1 by Jim Zub, Steven Cummings, John Rauch (4*)
15.) Lumberjanes Volume 2 by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters, Brooke Allen, Maarta Laiho (4*)
16.) Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris (4.5*)
17.) The Sleeping Prince by Melinda Salisbury (4*)
18.) Wayward Volume 2 by Jim Zub, Steven Cummings, Tamra Bonvillain (4*)

Monthly Book Awards 
Best Plot: The Young Elites by Marie Lu
Best Writing: 13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough
Best Cover: The Sleeping Prince by Melinda Salisbury
Best Characters: Giant Days by John Allison, Lissa Treiman, Whitney Cogar
Best Ending: The Sleeping Prince by Melinda Salisbury
Best Romance: Underwater by Marisa Reichardt
Best Friendship: Spectacles by Sue Perkins
Most un-put-down-able: Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris
Most Memorable: 13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough
Best Moral: Underwater by Marisa Reichardt

Top 3 Most Recommended Books: 13 Minutes, Behind Closed Doors, Giant Days

Books I’m Looking Forward to Being Released in February 
How Hard Can Love Be? by Holly Bourne
A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab
Stars Above by Marissa Meyer
The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury
Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman
Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard
Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
The Case of the Blue Violet by Robin Stevens
Amulet: Firelight by Kazu Kibuishi
The Little Shop of Happy-Ever-Aft​er by Jenny Colgan

 What was the best book you kicked off 2016 with? 
And what are you looking forward to reading in February?
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