Book Review: The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar – A Soft Yet Powerful YA Contemporary Featuring an F/F Romance that Battles Discrimination and Celebrates the Art of Henna

The Henna Wars, by Adiba Jaigirdar. Reviewed by Joce, (at) The Quiet Pond.

Summary:

When Nishat comes out to her parents, they say she can be anyone she wants—as long as she isn’t herself. Because Muslim girls aren’t lesbians. Nishat doesn’t want to hide who she is, but she also doesn’t want to lose her relationship with her family. And her life only gets harder once a childhood friend walks back into her life.

Flávia is beautiful and charismatic and Nishat falls for her instantly. But when a school competition invites students to create their own businesses, both Flávia and Nishat choose to do henna, even though Flávia is appropriating Nishat’s culture. Amidst sabotage and school stress, their lives get more tangled—but Nishat can’t quite get rid of her crush on Flávia, and realizes there might be more to her than she realized.

Joce’s review:

When CW told me that we were going to have Adiba Jaigirdar visiting the Pond, I was overjoyed because I am just so… moved by The Henna Wars. It is a young adult contemporary novel featuring an F/F romance, and also has its roots firmly planted in destroying homophobia, racism, bullying, and cultural appropriation. After I was done reading, I sat on the couch filled with warm, fuzzy feelings, but also feeling empowered to get this book in the hands of younger readers everywhere.

Read More »

Book Review: Forbidden Promises by Synithia Williams – One of the Best Romances I’ve Ever Read

forbiddenpromises.jpg

Blurb:

What do you do when you want the one person you can never have?

Get in and get out. That was India Robidoux’s plan for this family visit. But when her brother needs her help with his high-profile political campaign, India has no choice but to stay and face the one man she’s been running from for years—Travis, her sister’s ex-husband. One hot summer night when Travis was still free, they celebrated her birthday with whiskey and an unforgettable kiss. The memory is as strong as ever—and so are the feelings she’s tried so hard to forget.

Travis Strickland owes everything to the Robidoux family. There’s nothing he wouldn’t do for them—his divorce could never change that. Still, he has one regret. Impulsive and passionate, India always understood him better than anyone else. And the longer they work together on the campaign, the more torn he is. Coming between her and her sister is out of the question. But how can he let love pass him by a second time?

Joce’s review:

It comes as no surprise that I love romance novels. However, one of the most difficult tropes to execute is the forbidden love trope, and I’m so happy to say that Forbidden Promises, the first novel in the Jackson Falls series, is a rare gem in Synithia Williams’s execution of this trope. The cover (and the people on it) is beautiful, which is indicative of the true beauty of the content inside, from the suspenseful plot points, to the complexity of the family relationships and each character’s coping with trauma, to the happily ever after which felt like the first gulp of cold Gatorade after a long marathon.

Read More »

Book Review: Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi – An Escapist and Resonant “Slice of Life” Story

Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi. Reviewed by Joce, The Quiet Pond.

Summary:

On paper, college dropout Pablo Rind doesn’t have a whole lot going for him. His graveyard shift at a twenty-four-hour deli in Brooklyn is a struggle. Plus, he’s up to his eyeballs in credit card debt. Never mind the state of his student loans.

Pop juggernaut Leanna Smart has enough social media followers to populate whole continents. The brand is unstoppable. She graduated from child stardom to become an international icon and her adult life is a queasy blur of private planes, step-and-repeats, aspirational hotel rooms, and strangers screaming for her just to notice them.

When Leanna and Pablo meet at 5:00 a.m. at the bodega in the dead of winter it’s absurd to think they’d be A Thing. But as they discover who they are, who they want to be, and how to defy the deafening expectations of everyone else, Lee and Pab turn to each other. Which, of course, is when things get properly complicated.

Joce’s review:

Permanent Record is a novel that takes its time. It acknowledges the reverberation of unresolved parental marital issues that trickles down into parenting styles, in minute and nuanced ways. It’s not a book that spelled everything out for me, but that’s the way I like things: kind of like a slice of life manga or anime. It’s a snippet into these people’s lives as opposed to A Story with exact plot points where you can see the outline, and the perfect novel for a hazy rainy day.

Read More »

Book Review: The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu – A Genre-Blending Tale of Music, Magic, and Quiet, Defiant Feminism

kingdomback_skye

Summary:

Two siblings. Two brilliant talents. But only one Mozart.

Born with a gift for music, Nannerl Mozart has just one wish—to be remembered forever. But even as she delights audiences with her masterful playing, she has little hope she’ll ever become the acclaimed composer she longs to be. She is a young woman in 18th century Europe, and that means composing is forbidden to her. She will perform only until she reaches a marriageable age—her tyrannical father has made that much clear.

And as Nannerl’s hope grows dimmer with each passing year, the talents of her beloved younger brother, Wolfgang, only seem to shine brighter. His brilliance begins to eclipse her own, until one day a mysterious stranger from a magical land appears with an irresistible offer. He has the power to make her wish come true—but his help may cost her everything.

Skye’s review:

My favorite kind of books are the ones that take you completely by surprise. The ones where you don’t realise you’re in too deep until you surface for air and it’s already somehow already the next day. The ones that make you, per the good old YA adage, exhale a breath you didn’t realise you were holding—and friends, the experience of reading this book was both the exhilaration of the dive and the clean, desperate breath of air that always follows after.

The Kingdom of Back returns us to the childhood of the Mozart siblings, both on the precipice of greatness in the world of music. We know one of these names, of course: history remembers and cherishes Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. But his elder sister, fondly nicknamed Nannerl, is an unknown figure, lost to obscurity. What if I told you that she too was a child prodigy on the harpsichord, that she also dreamt of greatness and legacies? What if, frustrated by a world that refuses to recognise her talent, she makes a dark deal with a faery princeling to realise her ambitions?

These are the questions that Marie Lu invites us to explore in this book, and the questions that kept me rapt until the final measure of the story concluded in a triumphant finale.

Read More »

Five Reasons to Read: Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger – A New-Adult Urban Fantasy that Blends Cocktails & Monster Hunting

Last Call at the nightshade lounge by Paul Krueger. Reviewed by CW, the quiet pond.

Summary:

College grad Bailey Chen has a few demons: no job, no parental support, and a rocky relationship with Zane, the only friend who’s around when she moves back home. But when Zane introduces Bailey to his cadre of monster-fighting bartenders, her demons get a lot more literal. Like, soul-sucking hell-beast literal. Soon, it’s up to Bailey and the ragtag band of magical mixologists to take on whatever—or whoever—is behind the mysterious rash of gruesome deaths in Chicago, and complete the lost recipes of an ancient tome of cocktail lore.

CW’s Review:

I read Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge because someone – I now, regretfully, forget who – recommended this to me. I had no idea what this book was about going in, but despite this, I had the best fun reading Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge. If you like the sound of an urban fantasy with monsters that roam the night, monster hunters that gain power from drinking magical cocktails, and have relatable ‘new adult’ themes, then read on further — because today, I’m going to give you five reasons of why you should pick up incredibly fun book.

Read More »