Review: Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik

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Author: Ayisha Malik
Publisher: twenty7
Release date: 3rd September 2015
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Fiction
Pages: 464
Source: purchased copy
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"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 . . . ?
Ayisha Malik's Sofia Khan is Not Obliged is labelled a 'heartwarming romantic comedy' and I can't think of anything that better encapsulates what this story is about. I wasn't expecting to laugh as much as I did when reading this book but it was hilarious, (like laugh-out-loud on the tube and have people stare at you for the next three stops, funny).

So, the story follows Sofia Khan while she attempts to write a book about Muslims dating which has many (hilarious) twists and turns. Ayisha Malik manages to honestly portray a lifestyle of the average, Western, Muslim woman without generalising or attempting to suggest all Muslim women who live in London are a carbon copy of this main character, She explores the lifestyles of a number of different Muslim women and men in a single story, portraying a realistic painting of the different roles religion plays in individual lives.
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As a young Muslim woman who lives in London, I really connected with Sofia Khan on many levels and just as a main character, she made me laugh and I instantly loved reading from her perspective. She's sarcastic and snarky, and a lot of the issues she faced being a hijabi in a Western society, from family members and strangers alike, I have also experienced, so I felt a strong sense of empathy and attachment towards her.

Sofia Khan is Not Obliged was honestly addictive and I cannot wait for the second book, and anything else Ayisha Malik writes in the future. Will definitely be shoving this on to all of my reader and non-reader friends.

Favourite quotes:
"Where's your umbrella?"
"Why do you think I wear a hijab? Part religious reasons, part good sense."
Rating: ★★★★★

ARC Review: Windfall by Jen E. Smith

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Author: Jennifer E. Smith
Publisher: Macmillan Children's
Release date: 4th May 2017
Genre: YA, Romance, Contemporary
Pages: 432
Source: review copy from LoveReadingUK
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Alice doesn’t believe in luck—at least, not the good kind. But she does believe in love, and for some time now, she’s been pining for her best friend, Teddy. On his eighteenth birthday—just when it seems they might be on the brink of something—she buys him a lottery ticket on a lark. To their astonishment, he wins $140 million, and in an instant, everything changes. At first, it seems like a dream come true, especially since the two of them are no strangers to misfortune. As a kid, Alice won the worst kind of lottery possible when her parents died just over a year apart from each other. And Teddy’s father abandoned his family not long after that, leaving them to grapple with his gambling debts. Through it all, Teddy and Alice have leaned on each other. But now, as they negotiate the ripple effects of Teddy’s newfound wealth, a gulf opens between them. And soon, the money starts to feel like more of a curse than a windfall. As they try to find their way back to each other, Alice learns more about herself than she ever could have imagined . . . and about the unexpected ways in which luck and love sometimes intersect.
At one point a couple of years ago when I first started hardcore bingeing YA books, I stumbled across one of Jennifer E. Smith's books. I can't remember which one exactly, but I remember after the first, I went back to the store and bought two more of her books. She quickly became one of my favourite contemporary YA writers, and even now when my TBR is 99% YA fantasy, I still get super excited for her books. (Along with Jenny Han, Rainbow Rowell and Catherine Doyle). Windfall was no exception!

The story follows Alice, her cousin Leo - who is more like her brother since she's been living with his family, and Teddy. Alice had a difficult childhood, both her parents died a year apart and so she's been living with her cousin Leo's family. I think we’ve all either been asked, or have asked the question ‘what would you do if you won the lottery?’ 
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Alice buys a ticket for her best friend, Teddy, on his 18th birthday as a joke and they actually win. They hit the jackpot, winning millions and millions. Alice and Teddy both had rough childhoods. For Alice, her parents died a year apart, which has made her fear change. For Teddy, it was an absent father with a gambling addiction. Winning the lottery is the best thing that could have happened – at least, that’s what Teddy thinks. Alice on the other hand isn’t so sure and this makes for a fantastic, uplifting adventure that explores young romance, friendship, embracing change, and fate. 

Windfall makes for a fantastic, laughter-filled and uplifting adventure that explores young romance, friendship, embracing change, and fate. As always, Jennifer E. Smith is the Queen of Contemporary. This book isn't only about embracing change, but creating our own luck and fate. It's warm, moving, and ends on a note of hope and optimism.

(Honestly, exactly what I needed, finishing up my last term at uni).

Rating: ★★★★
Favourite quote:
"We have all sorts of words that could describe us. But we get to choose which ones are most important." 


INK Blog Tour: Guest Post by Alice Broadway

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The cover for INK by Alice Broadway (which was released Feb 2nd) has to be one of the most stunning covers I've ever seen, and the story sounds absolutely fantastic and a little dark so I'm definitely looking forward to reading it. As part of the blog tour, the wonderful Alice Broadway has put together a fan cast for her characters in INK. But with a twist. Instead of a typical fan cast, she's taken her own approach and added a quirky twist...

It is so lovely to be here to talk a bit about the characters in my debut YA novel, Ink. I have a bit of a thing about putting faces to fictional characters: it’s one of my favourite things to do as a reader – I love having a picture in my mind of the characters I read. For that reason, I’m not going to tell you who my characters look like in my mind or attempt to fan-cast them (I know, cop out). I’ll leave that treat for you. But, I’m a nosy type and I wondered if you’d like to know what some of my main characters keep in their pockets.

Leora (aged 16, trainee inker):
In Leora’s pocket she keeps a drawing of her and her best friend Verity, a note from Oscar (she would be mortified if you knew she’d kept it), a stub of pencil, plus random bits of change from her last trip to the market. When you read Ink, you’ll discover that Leora finds something else in her pocket – something she didn’t put there.

Verity (Leora’s best friend and a trainee in the government):
Very would definitely have a hair tie, and even if she put her hair up in a messy bun, she would still look awesome. She would have a spare, folded map of the government building – not that she needs it, but it’s always best to be prepared. She’d also have a napkin from the cake she ate earlier – it was made by her bother, Seb and she can’t resist his baking.

Oscar (a mysterious new friend):
The only thing in Oscar’s pockets are his hands, but he has a scruffy leather satchel which he carries everywhere. It is filled with beautiful paper, random scraps of leather and twine and his bookbinding knife.

Obel (Leora’s boss):
In Obel’s back pocket is a small worn out, leather bound notebook which is tied closed. He’s used an intricate knot: he would know if you’d tried to open it.

Mel (Leora’s mentor and town storyteller):
Mel’s uniform means she has no pockets, which she is resigned to. On her desk are piles of books and she would love to be able to take them around with her. As it is, she is story enough.

Mayor Longsight (He’s in charge of Saintstone):
Well, you have to be wearing clothes to have pockets, and Mayor Longsight isn’t that into clothing.

I hope that gives you enough to intrigue you? If I showed you what was in my own pockets, it would be an unimpressive array of tissues, receipts and shopping lists, it wouldn’t tell you much about me except that I buy a lot of tea and croissants. Ink is about a world where the story you leave behind when you die is the one thing worth living for. But is it worth dying for?

This has to be one of the most interesting guest posts I've had (I think I'm already attracted to Oscar simply by what's in his pockets, is that weird?) I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I did! I'm looking forward to diving in to INK and I hope you are, too.

Every action, every deed, every significant moment is tattooed on your skin for ever. When Leora's father dies, she is determined to see her father remembered forever. She knows he deserves to have all his tattoos removed and made into a Skin Book to stand as a record of his good life. But when she discovers that his ink has been edited and his book is incomplete, she wonders whether she ever knew him at all.
(summary from Goodreads page)

About the Author
Alice Broadway drinks more tea than is really necessary loves writing in her yellow camper van. She hates being too cold or too hot, and really likes wearing lipstick and watching terrible Christmas movies.


Wintersong Blog Tour: Favourite Retellings

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Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones is one of my most anticipated releases this year and the summary sounds fantastic, I can't even lie. And I have great news, Wintersong is out TODAY and to celebrate, I have a guest post written specially by S. Jae-Jones on her favourite fairytale retellings!

If you slap the word “re-telling” on a book jacket, chances are high that I’ll pick it up immediately. I enjoy reading another author’s take on a familiar tale; it’s like listening to different musicians cover the same song. Everyone has their own interpretation, and I love experiencing what each artist has to bring to the table.
There are many, many re-tellings I love—from the incredibly faithful to the “loosely inspired by”—and the following are a handful of favorites which have been significant in my life.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
I remember the first time I picked up Ella Enchanted; I was 10 years old and browsing the children’s section of my hometown bookstore. I pulled this slim hardback from the shelves and started reading, hooked from the first lines: “That fool of a fairy Lucinda did not intend to lay a curse on me. She meant to bestow a gift.” Ella Enchanted is delightful. There’s simply no other word for it. It is charming, funny, and adorably romantic, but moreover, it turns the much-martyred-and-put-upon Cinderella into a feisty, willful heroine. I still reread this as an adult, and it still makes me chuckle every time.

Beauty by Robin McKinley
I would be remiss if I did not mention Beauty by Robin McKinley, which was an enormous influence on my own book. As far as re-tellings of Beauty and the Beast, this was far and away my favorite (even above her other re-telling of the same story, Rose Daughter). The Danish have a word, hygge, which loosely translates into a warm, cozy feeling. Beauty is my re-telling hygge. It doesn’t stray far from the original fairy tale, but it adds some lovely touches here and there, such as Beauty’s close relationship with her sisters. Everyone in this book is so likeable, I want the best for them. Rereading this book is like spending time with a group of people I love.

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire
Cinderella isn’t a favorite fairy tale of mine, yet there are two re-tellings on my list. This was one of the first re-retellings I ever read that was set in an actual past instead of a nebulous “once upon a time.” What I loved most about Confessions is that Gregory Maguire showed me that fairy tales could grow up with me, become morally ambiguous, and shed light on abuse as skillfully as other literary works.

White as Snow by Tanith Lee
To be honest, I’m not sure what to make of this re-telling of Snow White, and perhaps that why this book as stuck with me as long as it has. There is a dream-like quality this book, and by dream-like, I mean a strange, shivery, unsettling quality. This re-telling is dark and examines hard and uncomfortable themes in ways that I’m not sure I like, yet can’t quite forget. Despite how troubled this book made me feel, it’s the darkness within I loved best.

I hope you enjoyed reading that as much as I did! I'm a huge fan of fairytale retellings and I can't wait to read Wintersong! You can find the summary and links down below.

About the book
Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.
All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.
But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.
Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.
(summary from Goodreads page)
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About the Author
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S. Jae-Jones (called JJ) is an artist, an adrenaline junkie, and erstwhile editrix. When not obsessing over books, she can be found jumping out of perfectly good airplanes, co-hosting the Pub(lishing) Crawl podcast, or playing dress-up. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she now lives in North Carolina, as well as many other places on the internet, including Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, and her blog. Wintersong is her debut novel. 

January Wrap Up!

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It has been a long month. Exams, beginning my last term of uni ever, the current political state of 99.9% of the world... Yes, I'm talking about He Who Shall Not Be Named. A few people have agreed with me that we've thrown ourselves into personal projects this month just to escape some of what's going on. (Though I think it's important to remain informed and active, #selfcare is just as important). So here's a post on what I've been reading this month, and some other going-ons that brought a smile to my face.

I have been reading a lot more poetry recently.  I was never really a fan of poetry when I was in school. They were interesting, and fun if they rhymed, but they never held my interest the way a full length novel could. Not until very recently, anyway. It all started when I randomly found myself reading an eBook of The Princess Saves Herself in this One by Amanda Lovelace in December, and fell in love. This led me to checking out a few more poetry eBooks which are all actually quite cheap on Kindle. Here are the ones I read this month:

Rating: ★★★★

Rating: ★★★★

Rating: ★★★★

I'm glad for my newfound admiration of poetry and I can't wait to read more. One of my absolute favourites not included in this list because I read it in December is Salt by Nayyirah Waheed. It was so powerful and raw, and I just don't have the words.

Moving on to the books I read this month... I actually didn't read much this month but there were two books I have got to mention. Probably two of my most anticipated and favourite books of 2017, even though it's only January. Are you ready?

YES. You read that right. I read Traitor to the Throne, the sequel to the fantastic Rebel of the Sands. I'm still trying to get myself together enough to actually finish drafting my review but I CANNOT. It was so good and more than I could've hoped for and just such an epic, kickass adventure.

Cries. I can't believe it's the end. Someone hold me while I rock back and forth. You can read my full review of the last book in the Blood for Blood trilogy here!

What else happened this month?

Guess who got Hamilton (London) tickets?!
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I got to ask the wonderful Stephanie Garber, creator of Caraval which is out this month, a bunc of quesstions! It was a lot of fun and I learnt a lot about her writing process, tips she'd give to aspiring authors, and even what her carnival performer name would be. You can check the Q&A out here!
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Hope you all had a bearable January, sometimes it's helpful to just look back at the good things amongst the scary. Let's hope for the best for the rest of the year...


Author Q&A with Stephanie Garber

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If you follow me on twitter or keep up with my reviews, you probably know that I am a huge fan of Stephanie Garber's new debut, Caraval and have been raving for literal months. Well, I have fantastic news. This wonderful book is out in the world now!

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So, thanks to the wonderful Jenni over at Chapter5Books/Hodderscape, I was given the opportunity to ask Stephanie Garber a few questions. One of my closest bookish friends, Shazina, also got the opportunity, so we thought hey, why not work together and make it a two-part extravaganza?! So we brainstormed a bunch of questions, cut it down to 5 which then turned into 6 questions... (sorry Stephanie Garber for any family events that were ruined during the Christmas holidays by you answering our questions). If you'd like to see part one of the Q&A, which I HIGHLY recommend because I loved reading Stephanie's reponses, check out Shazina's post over at The Book Chapter here!

Now, over to our main act...

1. Do you listen to music while writing? Could you provide one song that you think fits with Caraval quite well?
Yes! I am almost always listening to music, and it's a must-have when I write. When I first drafted Caraval I listened to the Sherlock Holmes soundtrack by Hans Zimmer obsessively, especially the first song on it, Discombulate. It's quirky, peculiar, a little sinister, and for me it set the opening tone for this book. I wish that everyone could listen to that song as they read chapter two, because it is what I wrote to.

2. Top 3 tips you'd give to struggling writers?
Write the book you want to read. I think, especially in those stages where you're struggling to get published it can be easy to try and write trends, or to work on a story because you think it will sell. But I urge, write the story that you are dying to read and become immersed in, because if the tale really speaks to you and your heart, it will speak to others too. When I first wrote Caraval I was told by more than one person that the fantasy market was getting saturated and that it was a bad idea to write a book that had a circus-feel to it, because it had been done before. But this was the story I'd been wanting to experience, so I ignored the advice and I went with what was burning inside of my heart.
Read everything you possibly can. I find reading other people's work to be so inspiring, every time I fall in love with a book it makes me want to write even more. I also think it's good to read a lot, so that you can be aware of what tropes and trends are being overused. It's difficult to avoid a cliche if you don't know it's a cliche.
Make friends with other writers. Writing is a wonderful and magical thing, but it's also a very challenging industry to work in. Before Caraval sold I wrote five other books that didn't sell, and received countless rejections. I would have given up without my friends, they encouraged me, and they also helped me to grow as a writer. Also, everything is better with friends; the difficult times are easier when you have friends to cheer you up and cheer you on, and the joyful times are better when you have friends to cheer with.
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3. If you could jump into any fictional world, which would you pick?
Oh, there are so many fictional worlds I'd love to see. But I think if I could visit any, I would want to be a student at Hogwarts. I want to take a potions class, drink butterbeer, visit Diagon Alley, hang out in the Hufflepuff common room, see if I could conjure a Patronus, try to spot a dragon!

4. One book you always find yourself shoving into the hands of others? (New or old)
I am always shoving books at people. This last year I was probably the most aggressive with The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman, which I always describe as a Victorian Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with a very swoon worthy love interest (Lord Carlston can have my heart any day). This next year I have a feeling I will be telling everyone to read A Potion Dark and Drowning by Jessica Cluess, which also takes place in an alternate Victorian London, full of monsters, magicians, sorcerers, and so many surprises!

5. What is your favourite (non-spoilery) line or scene in Caraval?
My favourite line has stayed the same since the moment I wrote it, it's from the middle of the book, and I don't think it's spoilery, so I'll share it: "Not quite sure how far she'd already fallen, she imagined loving him would feel like falling in love with darkness, frightening and consuming yet utterly beautiful when the stars came out."
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6. What would your (carnival) performer act and name be?
This is such a fun question! I would totally want to be a fortuneteller. Maybe I'd go by Stephanie Strange, and claim to be related to the fictional Lazlo Strange of Laini Taylor's Strange the Dreamer - this is the book I'm currently reading and it is utterly fantastic.

I hope you enjoyed this Q&A as much as I did! It's such an honour having one of my new favourite authors over on my blog - and as my first ever author Q&A! If you guys haven't yet read my fangirling over Caraval, you can read it here!

And you can grab yourself a copy of this amazing book at these links:
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My favourite place in the world is Disneyland because it's the one place on earth where I feel as if the fantastical stories I love to write could actually come to life.
When I'm not writing, I teach creative writing at a private college in Northern California, where I've been known to turn assignments into games and take students on field trips that involve book signings. I'm also a blogger on PUB(LISHING) CRAWL. But I probably spend most of my time on Twitter where I tend to overuse exclamation points and emojis.
My debut YA fantasy novel, Caraval will be published January 2017 (Flatiron Books/Macmillan - US and Hodder & Stoughton - UK). Caraval has sold in twenty-five foreign territories and the move rights were pre-empted by Twentieth Century Fox.
Find Stephanie over on: Twitter Instagram | Goodreads

Whatever you've heard about Caraval, it doesn't compare to the reality. It's more than just a game or a performance. It's the closest you'll ever find to magic in this world...

Welcome, welcome to Caraval - Stephanie Garber's sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel father. Now Scarlett's father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett's long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With  the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval's mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season's Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever find her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.
(Summary from Goodreads)
image: Chapter5Books


Wing Jones Photo Blog Tour

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Wing Jones is the much anticipated debut novel from Katherine Webber, publishing 5th January 2017 in the UK. With a grandmother from China and another from Ghana, fifteen-year-old Wing is often caught between worlds. But when tragedy strikes, Wing discovers a talent for running she never knew she had. Wing's speed could bring her family everything it needs. It could also stop Wing getting the one thing she wants…

Katherine Webber was born in Southern California but has lived in Atlanta, Hawaii, Hong Kong and now in London. For several years she worked at the reading charity BookTrust, where she worked on projects such as The Letterbox Club which delivers parcels of books to children in care, and YALC, the Young Adult Literature Convention. You can find her on Twitter @kwebberwrites!

Throughout January, over 40 bloggers will be participating in the #WJphototour – a photo blog tour documenting Katherine’s path to publishing her debut novel. From childhood memories that inspired her writing to her time living in Atlanta and Asia that influenced the book to authors she’s met over the years right up to receiving her first finished copy of the book, follow along to see Katherine’s author life unfold! Keep an eye on the hashtag to see the latest photos!

I’ll never forget when I saw my first proof of WING JONES. It was a real book! The first person I gave a proof to was amazing Malorie Blackman at YALC. So exciting!
I actually love that I randomly got this post because it's a picture of one of my first favourite authors and one of my new favourite authors! If you haven't picked up Wing Jones yet, what are you doing?! Links are provided below, and if you'd like you can also check out my full review here!

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