Review: Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating, by Adiba Jaigirdar

I’ve got to admit this was entirely an impulse buy. I don’t really read contemporary YA but the author shared pictures of the paperback on twitter and I just fell in love with it! It’s such a good cover! So I preordered it. I rarely do this because the preorder options here aren’t good, but there was a link to Eason’s (that’s like the Waterstones of Ireland, really) right there on the author’s website, which… if you make it easy for me I’m happier to buy your stuff. That should’ve given it away, but I didn’t realize that this was based in Ireland til I started reading.

Look at this cover! Look at the colours! Isn’t it the best??

The Story

Everyone likes Humaira “Hani” Khan—she’s easy going and one of the most popular girls at school. But when she comes out to her friends as bisexual, they invalidate her identity, saying she can’t be bi if she’s only dated guys. Panicked, Hani blurts out that she’s in a relationship…with a girl her friends absolutely hate—Ishita “Ishu” Dey. Ishu is the complete opposite of Hani. She’s an academic overachiever who hopes that becoming head girl will set her on the right track for college. But Ishita agrees to help Hani, if Hani will help her become more popular so that she stands a chance of being elected head girl.

Despite their mutually beneficial pact, they start developing real feelings for each other. But relationships are complicated, and some people will do anything to stop two Bengali girls from achieving happily ever after.

The Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I’ve just got a sweet spot for stories set in Dublin (or in places I know generally). Reading things like “let’s meet up in Dundrum!” or “We’ll take the Luas” (that’s the Dublin tram, for those of you reading this outside Ireland) is surreal and makes me very happy for some reason. So finding out this was based here and not in the UK or US as I was expecting just made this even better!

But even besides the home sweet home aspect, it’s an adorable, cute, funny little book. I straight up devoured it in 2 days, and with my bad focus, that’s saying something!

Now, as the book will tell you when you open it, it broaches possibly triggering subjects like homophobia/biphobia, racism and islamophobia. Hani’s “friends” are just mean white girls, yall! They were, unfortunately, absolutely believable in their behaviour and comments. But Jaigirdar also takes no hostages, and I especially liked how Ishu was absolutely mad about the things Hani’s “friends” said. It was clear both characters had their issues, with Ishu being way too focused on pleasing her parents (out of legitimate fears of rejection) and Hani hanging on to these toxic friends. So it wasn’t one-sided at all, but I loved when Ishu would tear into Aisling and Deirdre. God those girls are ignorant! And Ishu’s remarks were hilarious.

As you see I’ve a lot of feelings about this novel! I loved the main couple, and how their differences shaped their dynamic but also how they completed each other very well and in a way can give the other a “reality check”. I also loved Hani’s Amma and Abba, best parents a girl could dream of! And really enjoyed how Ishu’s relationship with her sister evolved throughout. It leaves you with a lot of thoughts about family, but in a good way I think? This novel just filled me with a lot of good fuzzy feelings by the end.

Now, I know very little about Bengali culture at all, so for me it was more a learning experience than a “see yourself in it” experience, but it was a good immersion and it reads really well even as a mostly ignorant white person. But mostly I’m really glad that girls like Hani and Ishu have books where they can see themselves in, nowadays. I don’t think I’d have been able to pick up a book like this even 10 years ago, and I’m glad that landscape is changing!

It was an adorable romance, and very funny too! 10/10 would recommend! Just go read it 😀

The Links

Amazon* | Barnes & Noble | Waterstones | more links on the author’s website!

*these are affiliate links, I may receive a small commission for purchases made through these links, at no extra cost to you

Review: Other Words for Smoke, by Sarah Maria Griffin

A bit late for F/F February, but I did finally read Other Words for Smoke. I bought it some time during the summer, where bookshops were no longer in lockdown and you could actually browse. Did not expect it to be in YA (all I knew about it was from following the author on twitter), but it was a gorgeous little book with neon pink edges, and I absolutely loved it. Then it stayed on my shelves for months…

The story

When the house at the end of the lane burned down, none of the townspeople knew what happened. A tragedy, they called it. Poor Rita Frost and her ward, Bevan, lost to the flames. Only Mae and Rossa, Rita’s niece and nephew, know what happened that fateful summer.

Only they know about the owl in the wall, the uncanny cat, the dark powers that devour love and fear. Only they know about the trials of loving someone who longs for power, for freedom, for magic. Only they know what brought the house tumbling down around them. And they’ll never, ever breathe a word.

The Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I finally unearthed this book from my TBR, and the first thing I’ll say is, it’s so satisfying, aesthetically? The neon pink edges, the foil leaves, the grey artwork on some of the pages… and to top it all the pink edges meant the pages kinda stuck together and made the most satisfying noise when pulling them apart. Thoroughly happy I got a physical copy!

Second thing is, I wasn’t really expecting this to be horror? Or to be set in Dublin (well, in a tiny village at the foot of the Dublin mountains). It worked very well, it landed where it needed to land, but what worked the best for me was that the setting was so familiar, and so authentic. And the story, while focusing on two very modern children, also ties into the reality of Magdalen laundries and how that is still a very current topic here. I thought it was very good to have Rita as an older character, and to see her point of view as well, and Audrey’s, and to learn about what happened to their friend. Without spoiling too much, it was fitting that such a horrible and traumatic event is what triggers the horror aspects of the novel.

As for the horror itself, it’s not really my thing normally, so I’m not a good judge of it. But it was believable in that it resonates with realistic situations like abusive relationships or addiction, where Sweet James is truly bad for Bevan but she does not necessarily see it, and gets carried away.

It was very much F/F, as advertised (by friends. It’s not really advertised as such), but not in a way you’d normally see it. Mae sure has a crush on Bevan, and that’s pretty central to her character arc, but for me the most important relationship of the book, as understated as it was, was the relationship between Audrey and Rita. I say understated, but I think subtle would be a better term. And I loved that Audrey makes a point of calling herself queer and explaining there was no space for her when she left (Ireland/Dublin). But it’s not a definitive statement either, as we see the possibilities for all the queer characters in the future – both Rita and Audrey, but also Mae. So it is both a very modern book, and one that is deeply entrenched in its history, and deeply Irish. In all the best ways possible.

Get the book

Alan Hanna’s (IE) | Kenny’s (IE) | Amazon UK* | Waterstones (UK) |

*these are affiliate links, I may receive a small commission for purchases made through these links at no extra cost to you

Rise of One

The story

As zombies roamed, the earth went quiet. It is as if every critter knew that the only way to stay safe was to lay silent.

Rise and his coven were running out of fresh blood to feed on. With only one human – albeit pampered beyond belief – at their disposal, there wasn’t enough food to go around. He must find other human survivors if they want to avoid succumbing to the blackness of oblivion.

When the human survivors he rescued were infiltrated by Warwolves, an ancient order of vampire hunters, Rise soon realizes the danger he brought upon his kind. With the full intent to survive, Rise must purge all threats to his vampire race.

The world, although decimated, is ripe for rule. If he wished to set history on a new path, he must triumph — starting with the rise of one individual.

The review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Disclaimer: I was given an ARC in exchange for a fair review

 This is one that is going to take me some time to digest.
First I’d like to say that I rarely read vampire books anymore, and zombie ones even less so, but there’s something intriguing about the two mixed together.
I was not entirely convinced at first, especially because I didn’t – still don’t – really know what to think of the main point of view character. And not everything the characters did made sense to me.
But the story threads all seem to pull together in the final act, and suddenly I couldn’t stop turning the page.
It’s inventive, there’s great morally grey characters who, although you may really disagree with them or think they’re assholes, really make you want to know what happens to them next. I’m not sure what I think of Rise, or Cypriot, or even what the hell was going on with Elaine and Marnie, and I feel like the author kept a lot hidden, perhaps for the next volume in the series. At the same time I really enjoyed the characters anyhow – and the fact that it was made clear when Rise was being callous and unaware of his privilege. Although I often find it hard to get interested in a book that’s got an unlikeable POV, and this was no exception – the first half or so was kinda hard for me to get into. If I’m being honest, what I really want next is a book centered on Salter and Annette.
In short: not really my kind of read, but still a good and interesting novel with a lot of potential for the next books. 

Get the book – it’s out today!

Amazon & Kindle |