Hana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin (ARC Review)

Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group
Page Count
: 368
Release Date: April 13, 2021

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

CW: racism, Islamophobia, racially motivated hate crimes, loss of a loved one

Hana Khan Carries On releases soon and I cannot wait for everyone to get a chance to read this book. Set in one of my favorite places on this planet (Toronto), the book is a bold romantic comedy playing out in the world of rivaling halal restaurants, but it is also so much more than that. Let me explain!

Hana is a fantastic narrator, which makes sense as she hosts her own podcast and pursues a career in the radio industry. I loved following her thoughts and quarrels from the get go. We quickly learn that she is a South Asian Muslim woman in her twenties and daughter to immigrant parents, who juggles many things in her life even before the real drama starts. While there were always hints at what all this book would ultimately deal with, it starts out with all the makings of a romantic comedy that promises rivals to lovers excellence. There was an immediate attraction and familiarity between Hana and Aydin even when they clashed. They are not afraid to play dirty in order to come out on top, which leads to many a regretful decision. The fire and sparring between them was definitely fun, even when it was easy to guess the big revelation they’d both eventually have to face.

Around the halfway point of the book, the story shifts into something more serious though. As I said, the groundwork for this was laid, because this book was never going to be “just” a romantic comedy. While out with Aydin and her cousin, Rashid (who is visiting from India), Hana encounters a group of hate-filled racists and the situation soon escalates on a much grander scale than she could have ever anticipated. It’s never easy having to come to terms that there are people out there who want to harm you and push you out of a country you were literally born in. It was even more painful when no one came to Hana’s aid (please never be that person when you see someone being attacked. Not doing anything is being complicit), that is until she found the courage to seek refuge in her community.

As much as Hana Khan Carries On is about love and finding your place in the world, it is also about family – the one you are born with and the one you choose. This was an excellent example of how gratifying being part of a community can be and how they can help you through the darkest times. Hana always had to deal with people who were willing to talk over her (a boss using covert racism to undermine her ideas, a co-worker so desperate to fit in that they sold out and a myriad of other characters that show up and will have you wringing your hands not to punch them), but she also had people in her corner willing to go to bat for her and you were right there with them, rooting for her when she found her voice and spoke up. And that’s not an easy thing to do, to stand up to people knowing that it will leave you vulnerable. But she had a life made up of choices, choices she was very grateful to have, and she wanted to make the right ones.

I really loved reading this book and to follow along as Hana uncovers family secrets and finds her voice. I cannot possibly put myself in her shoes, but I was filled with pride and joy at her development regardless. There’s no denying that I would understand if people would rather not be faced with reliving that particular trauma when seeking out a romantic comedy, but I personally appreciated that there was no sugarcoating of racist situations like it happening still. Those parts will never get easier, but we’re not doing anyone a service by ignoring them either.

Fazit: 4/5 stars! An amazing romantic comedy, if you are also prepared for hard-hitting reality.


Would you like to read Hana Khan Carries On? I seem to pick up at least one “You’ve Got Mail”-esque book per year now and I have no regrets! Let’s talk!

My Year Abroad by Chang-rae Lee (eARC Review)

Publisher: Riverhead Books
Page Count
: 496
Release Date: February 2, 2021

Further synopsis taken from Goodreads:

In the breathtaking, “precise, elliptical prose” that Chang-rae Lee is known for (The New York Times), the narrative alternates between Tiller’s outlandish, mind-boggling year with Pong and the strange, riveting, emotionally complex domestic life that follows it, as Tiller processes what happened to him abroad and what it means for his future. Rich with commentary on Western attitudes, Eastern stereotypes, capitalism, global trade, mental health, parenthood, mentorship, and more, My Year Abroad is also an exploration of the surprising effects of cultural immersion–on a young American in Asia, on a Chinese man in America, and on an unlikely couple hiding out in the suburbs. Tinged at once with humor and darkness, electric with its accumulating surprises and suspense, My Year Abroad is a novel that only Chang-rae Lee could have written, and one that will be read and discussed for years to come.

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

CW: parental abandonment, suicidal ideation, mental illness, forced labor, forced sexual intercourse, sex work

Let’s get it out of the way. Unfortunately, I was not the right reader for this book.

I had been very eager to pick up this novel, because of my own experiences abroad. Be it during my formative High School years or later on in life, every time I went to a different country for a longer period of time, I learned something about the world, about people and most importantly myself. No matter where I stayed, it changed me and taught me valuable lessons. I cherish those experiences and thought it would be a great connection to this story. But no matter how hard I tried, I constantly found myself losing interest.

Told between alternating timelines of now and the adventure that got Tiller to his present situation, I couldn’t always quite make the connection between the different scenarios. I felt that the story was disjointed and didn’t evoke the emotional effect I had hoped for. The journey abroad and its aftermath were so important, yet Tiller doesn’t even leave his country until about 40% into the book.

While everything Tiller describes has a purpose, it’s still hard to follow him as he finds value in situations you wish he had never gotten into. I don’t think anything ever goes smoothly when you set out for something potentially life-changing, but where he found himself along the way was among the worst that could happen. There are some clear themes around parenthood, taking action (which Tiller does very late in the book, mostly being an inactive protagonist who things happen to rather than someone who makes things happen – but that’s all part of the journey!) kinship and the privilege of certain opportunities. And yet, I still couldn’t always grasp the fondness for certain people and experiences I would have rather never thought of ever again, while Tiller had them on the highest of pedestals.

Ultimately, I think that this style of writing just wasn’t for me. I can see many literary fans rejoicing in the details, but I found myself drifting off mid-sentence as the descriptions became ever more elaborate and lengthy. In general, this book was just too long, offering pages of minute details of various foods and drinks or other things, just information on top of information, but not the connection to me as a reader I really sought. I am certain others will be able to appreciate Lee’s craftsmanship and skill more than I could. 

Fazit: 2/5 stars! Unfortunately, My Year Abroad failed to capture me.


Have you spent some time abroad? What was it like for you? Can you see yourself picking up a book like this?

Don’t Tell a Soul by Kirsten Miller (eARC Review)

Publisher: Delacorte Press
Page Count
: 384
Release Date: January 26, 2021

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

CW: parental death, sexual assault/rape, drug/substance abuse, mentions of suicide, mentions of non-descript mental illnesses, gaslighting, parental neglect

I’ve been slowly but surely drifting into a territory of picking up one book after another revolving around what sounded like haunted houses, but with a much more complex stories underneath. I am not quite sure what draws me to these kind of books, but Kirsten Miller managed to create a wonderfully creepy ambiance reminiscent of gothic classics. There’s an unease in the house and especially in the beginning, you have no idea what to expect from it. As often as the people of Louth keep saying that they don’t believe in ghosts, it still seems like something is off about the manor.

People say the house is cursed.
It preys on the weakest, and young women are its favorite victims.
In Louth, they’re called the Dead Girls.

When you first meet Bram, it becomes instantly apparent that something bad has happened to her. Even without knowing the details, you just know. That girl has built up a wall of defense a mile high and while that was completely understandable considering her history and upbringing, it still felt irritating during some earlier points in the story. The way she went from starting to like and warm up to people to completely distrusting them and looking for weapons to defend herself in case of an emergency could give you whiplash, although I again want to stress that it makes sense because of her past. But still, as long as you don’t know her, it makes it hard to warm up to her entirely sometimes. Her reasons for wanting to be in the manor so badly kind of eluded me at first, because I did not completely understand her obsession with what happened, but then this also gets explained and uncovered. I think one of the main objectives with the book is to just stick with it and things will eventually get resolved.

Aside from Bram, there was an assortment of interesting characters, all keeping you on your toes the entire time. I feel like we could have gotten to know a couple of them better, but with Lark’s wall up, you get most of your information through second-hand gossip and later confrontations. Trust is a scare commodity in Louth, especially with so many girls having vanished and/or died in the small community over the years. However, my initial feeling for most people was correct, which either made the novel predictable or my gut instinct is just rocking.

Overall, I enjoyed many of the twists and was far from guessing everything. I felt a certain distance to the characters and the story for a long time, but it did all come together in the end. Some might say it came together a bit too conveniently, but I didn’t mind that too much. Just be prepared for a story full of gaslighting and people blaming mental illness for all sorts of things, without anyone being diagnosed or actually having a mental illness in some cases. It can easily rub you the wrong way, but is a huge part of exposing who the good and bad guys are in this story.

Fazit: 3/5 stars! A whirlwind of a resolution!


Have you heard of Don’t Tell a Soul? Do you plan on picking it up? Let’s chat!

Admission by Julie Buxbaum (eARC Review)

Publisher: Random House Children’s Books/Delacorte Press
Page Count
: 352
Release Date: December 1, 2020

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

I have not read any book by Julie Buxbaum before, but know a couple of friends who quite enjoy her style and I was excited to check out Admission. As far as I gathered, this story was inspired by the very much real admission scandal but is an entirely fictitious version of similar events. Neither research nor any association with real people exists and since the author makes a point of mentioning that very clearly, I thought I should too.

Julie Buxbaum did not choose an easy topic, that much was obvious from the get go to me. You have this family steeped in privilege and while you do want to allow the reader to connect to the characters, you don’t want to redeem them or excuse their actions. I am not quite sure how, but Buxbaum managed this balancing act phenomenally.

With an alternating Now and Then POV, you get to explore the events that led up to Chloe’s life and that of her family imploding, while at the same time seeing the very concrete fallout from it. I didn’t really wonder whether Chloe knew what was going on or not, but I enjoyed the debate on what it means to be complicit. Buxbaum managed to humanize her without sugarcoating that she is the villain in a lot of people’s stories. I feel like a lot of authors have that need to not just give their characters a redemption arc, but also one that absolves them of their wrong-doing, which thankfully wasn’t done here. I don’t want to say you empathize with what happened, because I was downright disgusted by some of the conversations that family had, because screw them for their entitlement, but it made you understand how their thought process was and that weirdly made sense in turn.

I don’t think this is one of those books where you fall in love with very many characters, however, I have found great pleasure in the way friendships and family are portrayed. I liked how inconsequential the romantic love interest was, because in the end, it’s very doubtful that it would be a priority in such an extreme situation. Instead it focused on so many different kind of relationships and I especially appreciated the one between Chloe and her best friend Shola as well as the one to her sister Isla (both of which were my favourite characters if I am being completely honest).

While definitely not the easiest of topics and quite frustrating to read about sometimes, it was still a page turner I quite enjoyed. I’m glad that no excuses were made and consequences were implemented. It once again made me really, really, really glad that I did not have to deal with the stress of going to university/college in the US though.

Fazit: 4/5 stars! An intense look at how far some people go for their children and how it all blows up!

Do you want to read Admission? Do you have university admission horror stories of your own? Feel free to ask questions about the system in my country if you want to!

Dear Justyce by Nic Stone (eARC Review)

Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Page Count
: 288
Publication Date: September 29, 2020

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

CW: racial profiling, police brutality, incarceration, domestic abuse, mention of sleep paralysis, anxiety and depression

I have been a huge fan of Nic Stone’s novel Dear Martin and while I didn’t expect for there to be a sequel (or companion novel?), I was excited to get the chance to revisit these characters. However, this book isn’t as much about Justyce as it is about Quan, a boy with a very different life.

Right from the beginning, the author explains why she decided to write this book. As much as Dear Martin had quite the impact, the more readers Nic Stone met, the more she realized that a lot of people don’t get the same chances and opportunities as Justyce. There are people who feel trapped with a label that got stuck on them early on and like there is no escape from a possible future as a delinquent. People who are often at the wrong place at the wrong time and have no one in their corner. Things don’t always go right and one can feel powerless in the circumstances that you find yourself in. And they, too, deserve for their stories to be told and will hopefully see themselves in Quan’s experience.

Reminiscent of the format in the first book, we still have a bit of a mixed media style going on (letters, prose, etc.) and I found that specific writing style very engaging. It keeps the story flowing at a nice pace, without every getting confusing when it comes to timelines and so on.

Often, I am drawn to stories where characters need to find their family, their people, because for whatever reason their home life isn’t it. There might be a lack of support or an abusive environment the character will try to escape, but I rarely considered that finding a family – because you so desperately want someone to look out for you – can also end in a bad way. Quan makes some stupid choices, but once you hear how he went from one bad situation to another and at some point you are just done with the cards life deals you, you can’t help but feel for him and root for him. I was so happy to see that he had people in his corner, that truly only had his best interest at heart, even when he didn’t think he deserved them going to bat for him.

I appreciated Nic Stone’s letter to the reader and author’s note so much. She really put a lot into this book and I like that the she acknowledged how much of it is fiction and how Quan’s case would have probably ended differently in real life. But a lot of the story is about how we need to belief in people and let them know that we do, how it creates hope and a mindset that there can be a difference – that’s why I am glad the book ended the way it did! I think it will help create more open minds and hearts as well, as we all can believe in and support the people around us!

Dear Justyce is just as raw and real as its predecessor and can easily stand on its own. It shows how different experiences can be, but how far a little support can go. I hope that it will encourage people to reach out to those who struggle and prevent things from escalating the way they did for Quan.

Fazit: 5/5 stars! I think I liked this better than Dear Martin (not that they are really in competition though).

Are you planning on reading Dear Justyce? How did you feel when you heard there was a sequel to Dear Martin? Let’s chat!

Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power (eARC Review)

Publisher: Delacorte Press
Page Count
: 352

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

CW: death, murder, arson, vomiting, unplanned pregnancy

I was supposed to read this book about two months ago, before it’s release in early July, but it was a struggle getting here. I want to start by saying that I have not read Wilder Girls and therefore had no expectations concerning the author’s writing style or way of storytelling. All I thought this would be was a family drama, which it was in part, but there is definitely so much more to it that I feel like I didn’t sign up for.

I’ve been trying to gather my thoughts for a while now, but can’t seem to make sense of it all yet. I think my main issue was that I went into this book thinking I’d get a twisted tale of a torn family, but really, it was more along the lines of horror? Those of you who know me, realise that in 9 out of 10 cases, I would not pick up a horror book on purpose and it was off-putting here as well.
I was prepared for an otherworldly, thick with the scent of buried secrets atmosphere (which Power manages to create quite well), however, I was not prepared for it to be so decidedly not our world in the end. When you start this novel, the characters take some getting used to, but it seems like we are here, in our reality. It takes almost half the book to come to the conclusion that you are not and at that point you are just confused.

This book features queer characters, a strained family relationship, a rural/small town setting – all factors that would usually entice me to read a book! So, why exactly didn’t it work for me?

Burn Our Bodies Down is told through the inner monologue of the main character Margot. She is a strange girl with very intense mood swings, something that didn’t always make it easy to follow her thought process. We get snippets of her personality as well as a bit of exploration of her sexuality (is she a lesbian? bisexual?), but it all gets dropped in favor of the “mystery” of the plot. And that mystery is really all that kept me propelled to keep reading, because I surely wasn’t able to connect or like any of the characters very much. I wanted to know how it would be resolved. I had my guesses early on and even though at that time, I had still thought this was just regular reality, I was right. That just added to me not feeling very satisfied by the pay off, because what else could it be?

Before I end this review for good, I just want to say that I saw a lot of people enjoy this book. It’s probably a very me-thing that I didn’t and which I mostly base on the inability to connect to any of the characters while reading. I highly recommend you check out varying reviews if you are still unsure whether you want to read this book or not.

Fazit: 2/5 stars! This was not meant for me.

Have you read this book? Do you want to? Have you read Wilder Girls? Let’s talk!

I Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn & Allison Raskin (Book Review)

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Page Count
: 352

**I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!**

I am a fan of Allison Raskin’s and Gaby Dunn’s YouTube channel Just Between Us (and their earlier work on Buzzfeed) and when they announced that they wrote a book together, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. I Hate Everyone But You is told in emails and text messages, a format I very much enjoy because it flows easily and mostly turns out to be a super fast read. From the beginning, I thought it represented both Allison’s and Gaby’s voice really well, in fact so much so that their characters seem like teen copies of themselves. Having that base knowledge of them, I felt like I understood when they joked or when they were serious about something. I definitely understand the people that were offended by some of the remarks, but I pretty much read the entire book in their respective voices and for the most part that worked quite well for me. Both, Ava and Gen, are deeply flawed in some of their ways of thinking, but at the same time try to grow (when they are not being completely stubborn and self-centered). I think they become better people because of each other, while also learning how to depend less on each other while exploring the world around them … if that makes any sense.

Having said that, I am not entirely happy with the book. They really tried to pack everything there is in this one book (approaching topics such as finding your place in the LGBTQ+ community, anxiety, depression, mental health, addiction and many more), but at the same time didn’t really have an engaging or comprehensive plotline. I am serious, if you would ask me to summarise what it was about in one or two sentences, I would really struggle to say anything more than a timid “friendship?”. I’ve read quite a couple of novels that were character driven instead of plot driven and it worked fine for them, but because of the message format, I feel like there wasn’t enough room for development and us getting to know the characters in depth to warrant such an approach. The two girls always knew more about each other than we would ever find out about them as the reader.

Ultimately it was a fun and fast read, but it could have been better in some aspects.

Fazit: 3/5 stars! I guess I expected more?

Have you read I Hate Everyone But You? What are your thoughts?

Mindstormer by A.J. Steiger (eARC Review)

Publisher: Oneworld Publications
Page Count
: 320

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

As you know, I’ve read the first book in this duology (?) only recently. You can check out my review for Mindwalker HERE!

While I wasn’t the biggest fan of the predecessor of Mindstormer, I was pleasantly surprised by the beginning of this one. It really switched things up and kept you wondering what had happened. Lain having lost her memory sort of resets all her relationships back to when book one started, but since you know how she is “supposed to feel” towards certain characters, it really creates an interesting dynamic.

Unfortunately that was only the first part and then there is an entire flashback to the three months we missed. That’s when things sort of turned generic for me again and constantly kept reminding me of things I had read or seen before. I was also very frustrated with Lain and Steven’s behaviour during that time. I seriously started to think that Ian would become a valid option, simply because Lain and Steven didn’t interact with each other whatsoever. People change when they are thrown into extreme circumstances and it would not have been far fetched for me if they had simply grown apart, but apparently that wasn’t the master plan behind it. I just got so annoyed with their very opposite beliefs clashing, both of them being stubbornly idealistic in their own ways.

Something about this series just rubs me the wrong way. I am not sure I can really put a finger on it, but the portrayal of the countries and their relationship was odd to me (Like, can you imagine Canada building a wall to the US and then becoming one of the countries with the harshest internment camps on the planet?). In addition to that, I could not really agree with either form of suggested government and whenever Lain proposed a less violent approach, not even she could come up with concrete ideas on what they were actually supposed to do.

In the end, I was glad that the characters didn’t come out of this unscathed. Events like the ones they went through leave a mark and they’ll have to live with their actions forever. Ultimately, I liked it better than the first book, but it will never become one of my favourite series.

Fazit: 3/5 stars!

Would you read this series? Did you check out the sequel?

Words In Deep Blue by Cath Crowley (eARC Review)

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Page Count
: 288
Publishing Date: June 6, 2017

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

This beautiful tale, told in the alternating POVs of former friends Rachel and Henry, was simply EVERYTHING I could have hoped for. I wept through the majority of it and by the end, I  was simply in love with the book.

Words in Deep Blue is a love story, but it’s also about loss and grief. It’s about family and time. It’s about all the things we might not appreciate enough while we have them. And it’s a story that will have you falling in love with books all over again. There are countless references to classics as well as contemporary fiction. I am a person who always keeps her books in meticulous condition, but this made me want to write in the margins, underline quotes I saw myself in and write letters to strangers. The fact that it’s written not only in prose, but that we also get to see some of the letters and notes that are exchanged and where they are left is something I simply adored.

It was so easy to connect to the characters, even the secondary ones. They are not perfect, sometimes even flawed to a point where I would call them immature, but they are incredibly real. Their feelings were all out there and you were with them each step of the way. I just wanted to hug them, comfort them, cry with them or point them in the right direction.

In addition to everything I’ve already mentioned, the secondhand-bookstore setting is the perfect place for every bookworm out there. It almost felt like a character in itself, because it had so much life in itself. So much history. I would gladly pick up any future book Cath Crowley will write and for the record, I really want a Letter Library in my most frequented bookstores.

Fazit: 5/5 stars! I just want to buy this book a dozen times, write letters and leave them for strangers to be found.

Are you interested in reading Words In Deep Blue? Have you heard of it before?

Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith (eARC Review)

Publisher: Delacorte Press
Page Count
: 432

**I was provided with an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!**

This isn’t Jennifer E. Smith’s first book, however it is the first time I got to read one of her stories myself. I was immediately intrigued by the story, found the relationship between the characters beyond cute and sat on the edge of my seat with excitement for the first quarter of the book … but then it just sort of fizzled out.

Alice is very closed off and doesn’t even admit to all her feelings to herself. I am very glad that we got a view of why that was and how it changed as she realised that she didn’t have to always keep those walls up. She was smart and kind and even though I was sometimes frustrated with her when she got a little judgy, I generally really enjoyed her POV and growth. Her past was so heartbreaking, but I could definitely relate to her struggles. I know that the memory of a person can be warped over time and how you tend to put them on a pedestal or try to make them proud, even if you might have chosen a different path if it hadn’t been for them. I loved how, layer by layer, Alice found more to herself and didn’t need the approval of someone who wasn’t even there anymore.

The people in Al’s life were the best! Leo and Max deserve their own story or companion novella or something. But also the adults felt real and flawed but mostly present – something I always value in my books, be it YA or adult fiction. Unfortunately, I struggled a bit with Teddy though. I knew from the beginning that him and Alice would be endgame and that Sawyer, no matter how sweet he was, wouldn’t be a viable option. Nonetheless, I just didn’t really like Teddy. I don’t think it necessarily only boils down to just being his behaviour after he received all the money, but in general he had moments where he was just a jerk. It got better towards the end, but I wasn’t always 100% behind the motivation of his actions.

All in all I very much enjoyed the read, but most of the initial excitement soon gave way as the story took on a more predictable course.

Fazit: 3.5/5 stars! A cute story!

Have you read Windfall or other books by Smith? Do you want to?