Review: All-American Muslim Girl by Nadine Jolie Courtney

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*We received this book in exchange for an honest review*

Allie Abraham doesn’t like confrontation. But when she’s sitting on a plane and someone complains to a flight attendant that her dad was speaking Arabic on the phone, she stands up for him. When the man complaining sees that Allie and her father are related, everything is fine. That’s because Allie is a reddish-blonde girl with fair skin and light eyes. She also happens to be Muslim.

Allie is Circassian-American, an ethnic group originating near the Caucuses. Many Circassian were displaced after the Russo-Circassian War and largely settled in the Levant region of the Middle East. Allie’s mother is of European descent.

When Allie visits her family over the holidays, she feels out of place. All her cousins speak Arabic and Circassian, but her dad wouldn’t teach her either language. Her dad is secular and doesn’t follow religious traditions like the rest of her family. The problem: Allie feels she is too Muslim for her friends at home in Georgia and not Muslim enough for her extended family.

As Allie sees more discrimination of Muslims, she decides she wants to learn about the faith and start practicing it. She starts going to MSA at her school and later joining a Qur’an study group for girls. At the same time, she starts dating her crush Wells Henderson. He’s great and accepts her desire to learn more about her faith. However, she knows his dad would not be as understanding if he found out about her religion. Jack Henderson has a local news show where he spouts anti-immigration and racist rhetoric. At the same time, she’s lying to her dad about becoming a practicing Muslim. If all her secrets come out, everything could explode.

Courtney did an excellent job of taking her own experiences and using them as an opportunity to spread a message of tolerance. Like her MC, Courtney is a light-skinned blonde-haired Circassian Muslim. She gives her readers the chance to learn about a fairly unknown ethnic group and their culture and religion.

Allie was a relatable MC. As a high-school student, she struggles to fit in, especially since she has moved around a lot. Courtney highlights that Allie doesn’t feel “American enough” around her original school friends and doesn’t feel “Muslim enough” around her MSA and Qu’ran study group friends. It takes her a while to realize that she can be both a normal American teenager who dates and goes out with friends and be a practicing Muslim. Not everyone will agree with her, but she later becomes confident in her own beliefs.

One of the best parts of this book was how it explored the diversity of beliefs in Islam. When Allie spends time with her friends in the study group, they debate things like interpretation of the Qu’ran, the hijab and whether dating is prohibited in the religion. These girls are able to civilly debate their differences.

Also, the love interest, Wells, was adorable. Allie showed her own prejudice when she blamed Wells for his father’s divisive beliefs. She has to learn about tolerance as well when Wells convinces her that he and his dad are very different people. Wells is sweet, understanding and patient. Plus, he’s always there for Allie when she needs him!

The only thing we wish Courtney would have done is explain some of the Arabic words more. It should have been an opportunity to teach people who know little about Islam. We have both studied international relations and world religions, so we were familiar with most of the terms. But, a lot of readers will not be. If you read this and don’t know the terms, please look them up!

Overall, this is an important book for the current social and political climate in the United States. Allie’s story will stick with you and encourage you to try to understand people better. Plus, she will inspire you to be yourself and peruse what makes you happy. This book will be released on November 12, 2019!

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5/⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Review: The Burning Shadow by Jennifer L. Armentrout

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The Burning Shadow picks up after the events of the first book, with Evie and Luc trying to get back to normal after Mica’s devastating attack. 

After finding out that she is really Nadia, Luc’s childhood friend and the love of his life, Evie must piece together the pieces of her past…if only she could remember what happened to her in the immediate months after she became Evie Dasher. She has an inkling that her mom is keeping her out-of-the-loop, and with Americans contracting deadly cases of the flu, Evie knows there is more to her story than meets the eye.

With the help of Luc, the broody and charismatic Origin Evie cannot manage to stay away from, and her friends, Zoe, Heidi, and Emery, Evie discovers that she may not be exactly human after all. The government is insisting the new flu is being spread by Luxen, but Evie and her friends discover that the virus is more than the flu: it changes whoever contracts it at the molecular level, creating a new— and dangerous— breed of alien species never seen before. Is the Daedalus back, or is there a new threat brewing? 

This was an excellent book that did not fall victim to the sophomore-slump phenomenon most YA series experience. The book was action-packed from start to finish and we were dying to see where the book would take us next! Armentrout is a writing goddess, possessing the unique ability to keep her readers engaged with wicked plot and character development…and swoon-worthy romances! 

The romance between Evie and Luc was off-the-charts adorable, and we found ourselves falling for Luc right along with Evie. We may even prefer him to Daemon from the Lux series, which is….*gasp* sacrilegious, we know— but its hard not to love Luc! Their banter was great, and Evie is a strong heroine that definitely does not need a man. The side romance in the series between Emery and Heidi was also adorable, and we are rooting for these two. 

The book ended on a major cliff hanger, and we are dying for the third book. JLA cranks out books like nobody’s business, so JLA, if you read our blog, please write quickly! 

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Review: The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh

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Seventeen-year old Celine Rousseau arrives in New Orleans in 1872. Looking to leave her dark past behind in Paris, Celine boards a ship to America to reinvent herself with the help of the Ursuline convent. But when she arrives in America, Celine finds that the city of New Orleans is nothing like she imagined. She becomes enamored with the city’s glamorous parties, delicious food, and lively atmosphere. 

After one of her fellow sisters at the convent is murdered by a serial killer, Celine finds herself sucked into the underworld of New Orleans, known as La Cour des Lions. As she falls for the society’s handsome and fearless leader, the elusive Sebastien Saint Germain, Celine uncovers the deadly secrets of New Orleans…realizing along the way that nothing about this city is as it seems. She discovers an ancient feud between members of the underworld, and that her new friends may be less human than she thought. 

When Celine becomes the murderer’s latest target, she turns to Sebastien and Les Cours des Lions for help in capturing the murderer. Will she uncover the killer’s identity before it’s too late? 

This book was….average. Don’t get us wrong, the book’s plot development and setting captured our attention immediately. Ahdieh did a fabulous job of world building, and we can tell that she did her research on 1870’s New Orleans. The cultural references were spot-on, and we really felt that we were traveling back in time with Celine to 1872. Moreover, the book touched on themes of racism and sexism in 1870’s New Orleans, which we really enjoyed and felt played an important role in furthering the story and character development. Her attention to detail and history should be commended and definitely did not go unnoticed. 

All this being said, the plot did drag at times, and it did not entirely pick up until three-quarters of the way through the story. Also, the love story between the main characters felt a bit insta-lovey, but it was not nearly as bad as other YA books. Celine was a witty, independent, and strong female protagonist, and we truly enjoyed her narration. Her chemistry and banter with Bastien was great, and really added to the development of their love story. Also, we can’t help but mention Michael Grimaldi, the dashing and charming detective in charge of solving the murders. Michael and Celine also had incredible chemistry, and we are excited to see where their relationship goes in the next book. 

We were a bit conflicted on how to rate this book. We loved the world building, Celine’s character, and the shocking twist at the end of the story. Don’t get us wrong, we definitely are going to read the second book after that ending— who wouldn’t?! But, she could also have done without some of the insta-love moments and the unnecessary chapters that made the book drag out. Hopefully Ahdieh removes some of the fluff in the next book. 

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐.5/⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Review: Capturing the Devil by Kerri Maniscalco

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We followed Audrey Rose and Thomas from the streets of London, to the mountains of Romania and on a ship across the Atlantic ocean. Now, we watch them discover New York City and Chicago.

After all of the drama from the RMS Etruria, Audrey Rose and Thomas are ready to rekindle their romance. In fact, Audrey Rose’s dad and aunt, plus Thomas’s sister are on the way to New York so Thomas can officially ask Audrey Rose to marry him.

The details are set and their families have put together the perfect wedding, when Thomas’s father’s meddling stands in the way of happily ever after. Out of anger, Audrey Rose and Thomas try to come up with solutions to get their perfect love story.

However, at the same time, bodies have been found across the city and the killer has a similar style to Jack the Ripper. But Jack the Ripper is dead, isn’t he? After going through the journals of the man who died claiming he was the notorious murderer, dark secrets come to life and the mystery might not have been as simple as they originally thought.

They follow the killer from New York to the World’s Fair in Chicago, where a lot of young women have gone missing, but no bodies have been found. The real Jack the Ripper might be closer than they think, having more of a connection with the two forensic scientists than they ever thought possible. Will Audrey Rose and Thomas be able to stop the person who has been watching them for months and finally walk down the aisle?

This book did not disappoint. We loved this series overall, even though portions of Escaping From Houdini annoyed us. This book made up for it, with Cressworth being stronger than ever.

We won’t spoil the ending, but Maniscalco wrapped everything up nicely. Although, we’d love to see more of Cressworth’s future endeavors, we accept that this story has come to an end. 

Maniscalco also did a good job of tying the books together. We loved how she brought back Jack the Ripper and that she still had surprises in store from that mystery. 

Overall, the plot moves quickly and the reader can see how much these characters developed from the beginning of the series. Audrey Rose is strong, intelligent and ahead of her time. Thomas is witty, loyal and the perfect companion. Their unconventional love story set among forensics and dead bodies was the story YA readers needed.
If you haven’t tried reading this series, go out and buy them immediately. Now that all of the books are out, spend your weekend binge-reading. You know you want to! 

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐/⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Cressworth forever!)

Review: Tweet Cute by Emma Lord

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*We received this book in exchange for an honest review*

Pepper’s mother owns a fast-food chain called Big League Burger. It used to be a mom and pop place in Nashville, but when it got popular, it expanded throughout the country, leading to Pepper and her mom trading in country life for the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

Jack attends the same fancy private school as Pepper, but he doesn’t have the same money as his classmates. His twin Ethan, mom, dad and grandma, all run a deli called Girl Cheesing in the East Village. They are famous for their Grandma’s special grilled cheese sandwiches.

One day Jack wakes up to find out that Big League Burger stole Girl Cheesing’s special grilled cheese recipe. Out of anger, he starts a Twitter war with Big League Burger. Big League Burger replies instantly, starting a back and forth that gains national attention through its thousands of retweets. Little does Jack know that his classmate, Pepper, is behind most of the criticizing tweets.

At the same time, since Pepper is on the swim team and Jack is on the dive team, the two find their lives intertwined. The two end up realizing quickly that the other is behind the tweets and they agree to keep things as civil as possible. Except, Pepper’s mother keeps trying to be hostile. Plus, the internet found out who the two people behind the accounts are and it seems the whole country starts shipping Jack and Pepper. Will these two be able to start a real relationship, or will the conflict between their parents over business and twitter war cause an irrevocable rift?

We had high expectations going into this. The summary sounded cute and the reviews so far have been great. But, we were left disappointed. This book can be described best as cheesy (pun not intended). First of all, their names are Pepper and Jack (pepperjack cheese) and the war is over a grilled cheeses recipe. Second, Pepper’s mom was the worst! She wanted her daughter to forgo school responsibilities to tweet for her company, when she has a hired social media team. Third, there wasn’t a ton of character development. We didn’t feel like we got a sense of who Pepper was. She liked making dessert and was described as a constant over-achiever, but she lacked depth.

However, we did like Jack’s character a lot and his point of view was much more interesting to read. He felt his family had his life planned for him by wanting him to take over the Deli. Plus, he struggled with having a popular identical twin, who everyone mistook him for. He had to work hard to be seen as an individual.

Overall, this was a fun and lighthearted story, but don’t expect any plot twists or tons of swoon-worthy chemistry. It’s a quick read with a decent ending that resolves everything. Tweet Cute will be released on January 21, 2020. 

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐/⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Review: Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

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After fleeing her coven for the city of Cesarine two years ago, Louise le Blanc (Lou) has been living as a thief, using her quick wit and intellect to survive. In Belterra, magic is forbidden and white witches are hunted by the Chasseurs, witch hunters who have sworn allegiance to the Church. Lou and her best friend, Coco— a blood witch— are looking to pull of a heist: stealing a magical ring from a powerful Vicomte. The ring is the last chance Lou has to protect herself from her coven, because with every day that passes, they grow closer to catching her. 

After a run in with broody Chasseur, Reid Diggory, turns into a potential embarrassment (read: compromising situation) for the Church, Lou and Reid are forced to marry. The only problem? Chasseurs live by one principle: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. A war is brewing between witches and the Church, and Lou is caught in the middle. As she grows closer to Reid, she risks exposing herself to a man that has sworn to kill her. When the witches reveal their hand, Lou and Reid are sucked into a dangerous game— one that may change their lives forever. 

Serpent & Dove is the first book in the series by Mahurin…and boy did we love this book! It had everything we love: excellent world building, dimensional characters, romance and witty banter. The side characters, Ansel, Coco, the Archbishop, and Madame Labelle, were excellent and played pivotal roles in the book. Lou and Reid were also fabulous main characters and we really enjoyed that the book had multiple point of views. This technique helped us to better understand their inner thoughts and feelings. Their chemistry was off the charts and if you love a good hate-to-love trope, then this is the book for you! It definitely gave us A Court of Thorns and Roses vibes. 

The plot was also spectacular and well-paced. Mahurin did an excellent job of creating a dynamic world and that— combined with the character development— really made a difference in plot development. There were never any boring chapters, and we guarantee you will be left dying for the next one at the end! 

Do yourself a favor and definitely pick this book up in October! 

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐/⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Review: The Lady Rogue by Jenn Bennett

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*We received this book in exchange for an honest review*

Istanbul, Turkey. The year is 1937. Theodora Fox’s tutor has just quit, running off with her money and any hope of leaving this godforsaken city. To top it off, she’s alone and hasn’t heard a peep from her father in days, even though he promised to be back by now. 

When she arrives back at the hotel after an unfortunate mix-up involving the Turkish authorities, a surprise is waiting in her room. A surprise named Huck Gallagher, aka Huck. The boy who left without a word last year. The boy who broke her heart. The boy she’d never thought she’d see again after a terrible event she now calls “Black Sunday.” 

Turns out, her father had not only been in contact with Huck since that fateful Sunday, but also lured him into joining his idiotic adventure in Turkey— without a word to Theo on the subject. When Huck returns to Istanbul without her father in tow, Theo realizes something is wrong— really wrong—  and that her father is in trouble. Honoring his word to her father, Huck promises to take Theo to the planned meeting place in Romania— but nothing goes to plan. Armed with her father’s journal, Theo must decipher his notes and piece together the details of his secret adventure. 

She quickly learns that last summer, her father was a hired by a Hungarian man to track down the ring of Vlad the Impaler. Her father believed that three rings were made, one real and two fake, and that one might hold supernatural powers. 

On the way to Romania, men have been tracking Theodora and Huck, forcing them to abandon the train and fight for survival in both the Bulgarian and Romanian wilderness. When they finally make it to Bucharest, Theodora’s father has not been seen or heard from. Huck wants to get Theodora to safety, but she is determined to find her father and solve the mystery of the ring using his journal. 

Unfortunately, things don’t go as planned and the truth about the rings may be darker and more surprising than Theodora thought possible. In a freighting game of cat and mouse across Eastern Europe, Theo learns about the past of the infamous Dracula. 

Regular readers know that we read Jenn Bennett’s YA Contemporaries, so we were ecstatic to see her write Historical Fiction. This book is non-stop excitement with a plot that moves at a rapid pace. You’ll quickly be cheering Theodora on as she discovers history’s hidden secrets before anyone else. Bennett did an excellent job of weaving in historical context throughout the book, and we were captivated by her engaging writing style. 

The romance also added a nice touch to the book. Theodora and Huck have unresolved feelings from the last year, which play an important role in the story. The two have to learn to trust each other again as men from a secret society are trying to kill them. In between the violence and mystery, they realize how horrible it was to be without each other. Also, we must say that they had hilarious banter and their chemistry was palpable. Their romance gave us major Alex, Approximately vibes in this respect. 

The side characters and plot development were also fabulous. We came to sympathize with Theo and really understood her complicated relationship with her father, who is not always present in her life. The side characters include a witch, occultists, and creepy twins who run a traveling antiquities store.

Do yourself a favor and pick up this mystery just in time before Halloween. Fans of Kerri Maniscalco will love the mix of history and suspense. 

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐