Haven – A Brooding Man, a Sarcastic Woman and a Happy me

Haven

Series : Beards and Bondage #1

Publication date : April 25th, 2017goodreads

Publisher : Self-published

Genre : New Adult | Romance – Erotica

Page Count : 228

Synopsis : A week-long getaway…

City girl Claudia Cade’s carefree life is plunged into chaos when a camping trip with her brother in the national forests of Northern California turns into a deadly dash for her survival.
A solitary world turned upside down…
Nature photographer Shepard Olsen has resigned himself to a quiet existence, with only his dog by his side, until a woman in need of his protection shows up on his doorstep and throws his universe into disarray.
Two lives linked by tragedy…
Claudia is desperate to heal from her traumatic loss, but can’t stop thinking about her run-in with evil….or the grizzled mountain man whose quick thinking and good aim saved her life. When she shows up on Shep’s doorstep again, she finds she isn’t the only one who can’t move on.
…saved by bliss.
The two begin an intense, passionate relationship of Dominance and submission, pleasure and pain, but with dark memories haunting them and decisions about the future rapidly approaching, Claudia can’t help but wonder…how long can they be each other’s haven?

Rating : 4.5 stars

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Content Warning; Assault and Murder (at the very beginning)

*I got a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange of an honest review*

(No Spoilers)

OH. WOW. I’ve seen a few of my friends over on twitter talking about how good this book is and I thought “I’ll add it to the TBR and maybe get to it one day” but THEN, I was told that it was on Netgalley and literally run to get it and I SO DON’T REGRET THAT DECISION because it’s just so good, it has all the element a good smut book needs and then some, I think I’ve said this in EVERY New Adult book review I’ve written but I am SO glad to be back on this horse, I don’t even know why I stopped reading them in the first place *cough* same characters *cough* same things happening *cough* boring, but the ones I’ve picked up lately are truely a blessing.

Back to the book at hand. The writing is blunt and straight forward, the sex scenes are far from being sugar coated, it’s very graphic. The author isn’t afraid of using the words as they are and I really appreciated that. You know me by now, I like my flowery writing BUT I only do when it’s needed, which wasn’t the case here, it wouldn’t have made sense with the content of the book, so the writing style is exactly what’s needed.

I loved how Haven starts, it throws you right into a very fast paced action scene that gets your heart rate going. And no, NOT the sexy kind of action, I’m talking more of a being chased by a murderer kind of action. And even after that, the story takes its time to show the two characters coping on their own before bringing them together and giving us all the smut we need in our lives.

Listen, you’re not ready for how sex positive this book is. I know I wasn’t. I’ve read my fair share of BDSM books where I cringed and felt uncomfortable because of how unhealthy the dominant/submissive relationship was *cough* 50 shades of cringe *cough*. The consent lines are blurred, the rules aren’t set and it’s just a very harmful depiction all around. And BLESS, that wasn’t the case here, there are on page conversations where Shep who is old to the lifestyle explains in full detail what’s done and what isn’t and asks Claudia if she was comfortable with it all.

AND THE SWEET SWEET ROMANCE. Excuse me if I’m enthusiastic about this book to the point of throwing all caps here and there but it’s just such a well balanced story, hot sex on one side and swoon worthy love on the other. Their chemistry is so palpable, and their banter AMAZING, it just flows naturally with teasy back and forths, serious conversations where they help each other cope with what they went through, literal netflix and chill nights and so on. I honestly loved how domestic and cozy the non-sex scenes were, with lots of cooking, spooning, watching The Originals and other things that don’t involve leaving the house. I’m all for that. I laughed, I swooned  and I was close to sheding tears towards the end.

That being said, I wanted MORE of this, of the banter, and simple things, I wouldn’t say they were overpowered by the sex but it was very close. I’m greedy like that, I loved them so much together that I wanted more.

Shep is a brooding, cranky mountain man but at the same time such a soft bear, he made my heart so mushy. When not in his dominant “persona”, he was a gentle, caring and a very attentionate person who was set on taking care of Claudia and genuinely loved doing that, he knew not to overstep, he knew when no meant no and didn’t press. He also tried his best to help Claudia grief and heal BUT he was fully aware that he wasn’t the answer to all her problems.

Claudia is literal goals. She’s an ambitous black woman who knows what she wants, how she wants it and stat. She has ambitions for her career that she didn’t throw away for a relationship. She’s such a strong woman that I lowkey look up to, she is honest, snarky and just the best, okay? I LOVED how confident she is about her sexuality, again, she knows what she likes, makes it known and is super comfortable in her body. I loved how the PTSD was delt with, it wasn’t brushed aside, you could clearly see that she was struggling and bonus point for her having to go to more than one therapist to find the right one for her.

I wanted to mention a few secondary characters as well, like May Bell and Jad, the old neighbors who basically adopted Shep and were like family to him, checking up on him and worrying about him. Liz, Claudia’s bestfriend is a true gem, I loved how positive their friendship was, she’s a keeper.

I was genuinely sad when I finished the book because I didn’t want it to end, I loved the characters and their story so much that I wanted more, I still do. My hopes and dreams are that the second book in the series will be about Liz and that we’ll get glimpses of Claudia and Shep through that. A girl can dream, right?


That’s it until next time.

Did you read Haven? If so, what did you think?

Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.

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Written in the Stars – Heartbreaking, Realistic and so damn Brilliant

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Publication date : March 24th, 2015goodreads

Publisher : Nancy Paulsen Books

Genre : Young Adult | Contemporary

Page Count : 277

Synopsis : This heart-wrenching novel explores what it is like to be thrust into an unwanted marriage. Has Naila’s fate been written in the stars? Or can she still make her own destiny?
Naila’s conservative immigrant parents have always said the same thing: She may choose what to study, how to wear her hair, and what to be when she grows up—but they will choose her husband. Following their cultural tradition, they will plan an arranged marriage for her. And until then, dating—even friendship with a boy—is forbidden. When Naila breaks their rule by falling in love with Saif, her parents are livid. Convinced she has forgotten who she truly is, they travel to Pakistan to visit relatives and explore their roots. But Naila’s vacation turns into a nightmare when she learns that plans have changed—her parents have found her a husband and they want her to marry him, now! Despite her greatest efforts, Naila is aghast to find herself cut off from everything and everyone she once knew. Her only hope of escape is Saif . . . if he can find her before it’s too late.
  .
(From Goodreads)

Rating : 5 stars

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Trigger Warning: Rape, physical and emotional abuse, starvation, drugging.

(No Spoilers)

Oh boy, I don’t know where to begin with this review. This book touched me in such deep ways that I have no clue how to put those feelings into words but I’m going to trying my hardest because I adored it and I need everyone I know, their mother, thei neighbor and their neighbor’s dog to read it. I’m even mad at myself because I’ve had it for MONTHS but for some reason haven’t picked it up, I’m grateful to Ramadan Readathon for making me pick it up though.

The writing is so simple and easy to follow that at first I thought it was too simplistic, but as I read along I realized that the book wouldn’t have worked with more intricate writing, the themes are too heavy for that. I also noticed that as the story progressed and as things got worse and the MC got more desperate and hopeless, the writing became urgent and in a horrible way, beautiful. I loved the descriptions of places, food and people, they were really vivid and animated, they made everything more tangible.

Written in the Stars isn’t a happy story, it isn’t your cute arranged marriage working out at the end. It starts off light hearted and what not but once it hits the halfway point (give or take) it becomes a nightmare, something so intense and terrifying that no one would ever want to go through. This is parents starting off as wanting to keep their honor (which is very common in non-western cultures) but who end up being deceitful, and manipulative and tricking their daughter into a marriage she never wanted and not taking no for an answer. I shudder just thinking about it and thinking about girls going through it in real life, because this is more than a book, it’s the story of hundreds of girls around the world.

This book hit me harder than I ever expected, because truth is I didn’t expect it to be as true to reality as it was. I felt trapped, and frustrated because the situation was so bad and I just read about it helplessly because everything Naila went through was horrifying. Even with the themes being so heartbreakingly realistic, I loved the way the author wrapped up the story with a hopeful, light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel kind of ending.

Naila is such a strong, resilient character. I really, genuinely loved her and as much as I hated how much her traumatic experiences changed her, it was just what the book needed to stay true to reality (I feel like I said that a lot). At the start she was this girl who’s full of joy and who cares about the little things in life to become brutally mature. What I loved most of all is that through it all, she never lost hope in finding away out of her misery.

All the side characters felt entirely like real people. There was depth and thought put into each and every one of them and that mission was a success. One thing I have a deep appreciation for and that made me fall in love with the book even more is how nothing was sugar coated, the author depicted things as they are, as people go through them.

I know this may come as a cultural shock to people who have never been exposed to arranged marriages, but they usually aren’t forced -I feel like this needs to be specified- the two have to agree to being set up, so what’s in this book is an extreme that no one wants to ever be in. And I love how in the author’s note, Aisha reminded people of that, herself being in a happy arranged marriage. It was a nice touch to remind people that arranged =/= forced.


That’s it until next time.

Did you read Written in the Stars? If so, what did you think?

Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.

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Do Reviewers have a responsibility towards readers?

Responsibility

Hello Guys !

It’s been SO long since I wrote a discussion post that I’m not sure I know how to navigate them anymore. I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING. That being said, I’ve been meaning to talk about this particular topic since before I went on a hiatus so here goes nothing.

Over the past few months (year-ish?) and the rise of diverse books (it’s really just a tiny rise to be honest, we NEED more of them, so so much more), we started getting the representation we deserve to see and with that we started seeing how flawed and problematic some books we cherished for very long, as well as books who are still coming out, are so we naturally started calling them out and as reviewers, I think that’s the right thing to do (my post about problematic content). And that’s when I realized that having a platform comes with certain responsibilities. And that I needed to move my bum and live up to that, or at least, try my damn hardest to do so.

I want to say that THIS is my own opinion and if you don’t agree with it, don’t bite my head off for it. I feel like this is what I need to do with my blog and if the way you see things is different, you do you and I do me and let’s let each other be happy with what we’re doing.

That being out of the way, here’s what I think comes with having a voice in the community. I’m not saying I’m influencial, but if a review of mine helps one person, I call that a success. I also want to add that this won’t be about writing style, plotting or characterization as it seems that no one has trouble pointing out when those are not so great. Without further rambling, here are the respoinsibilities I feel like I have:

Responsibility 1

Yes this is a no brainer but I feel like sometimes we’re biased. I’ve been guilty of it, multiple times. But we need to do better. I don’t think my favorite author is exempt from criticism, I don’t think my favorite series is, I don’t believe anyone or anything is. If they mess up, you bet I need and will say it in a review. Does that mean I need to hate it now? NO. We all have those books we’re emotionally attached to for one reason or another BUT that doesn’t mean we’re allowed to pretend the issues don’t exist. Because they do. And people can be potentially hurt by them. So I’d rather feel a bit uncomfortable because my favorite isn’t perfect than sit around and watch people who trust my opinion get hurt. That happened to me before. And I felt betrayed.

I know, we’ve all as reviewers, started this journey for ourselves. Or at least, I did. My bio (which is from over a year ago) says it, I wrote that reviewing the books I read “will primarily be to record my thoughts and be able to come back to them whenever I want to” and although this may be true, my priorities have shifted, yes I record my thoughts, and yes they are *my* thoughts so I can come back to them whenever. but as my following grows (which I’m super happy about sobs) and people add books to their TBRS and pick books up because I’ve read and loved them (this legit makes my day and I’m super humbled by it), I realized that it wasn’t just for me anymore and if people actually care about what I have to say, I should care about whether or not a book does them justice.

Responsibility 2

We’re humans, we’re not perfect, we make mistakes. We’re also not part of every group of people that exists, which means that we’re bound to miss things that to us seem “normal” but that might be offensive to the people it actually is about. So that’s when listening comes in. If a person approaches you about one of your glowing reviews telling you that the book isn’t so glowing don’t be offended, it’s not about you, it’s about them, and about the book hurting them.

So listen to what they have to say, no “but I didn’t read it like”, no “but my friend is X so I know what I’m talking about” because that just doesn’t make sense. *You* as a person who isn’t part of a marginalized group can’t know better than a person who is part of it. Real life experiences >>> Text book definitions. Also, there is no such thing as an opinion when it comes to problematic content, because it’s based on facts. You wouldn’t say “well, in my opinion the earth is flat” so you can’t say “I don’t think this is racist” when you’ve never been subject to racism

There’s also the fact that people of a certain group are not a monolith so again, if someone from said group calls out a book don’t reply with “but I know this person who’s also of the same marginalization who’s read it and didn’t think it was problematic” because we all experience things in different ways so we don’t have a right to invalidate someone’s feelings with someone else’s, they’re both valid and should both be acknowledge in your review.

What I do when I realize I messed up and missed a book’s issue is that I go back to my review, change my rating if I feel like the rating isn’t accurate anymore and add an edit at the top with the date and the issue that was brought to my attention and what’s more important is to link to an #ownvoices review written by someone who actually knows what they’re talking about because no matter how extensive my explanation is, it cannot be as accurate as that person’s.

Responsibility 3

I’m a firm believer of messing up. We are allowed to miss problematic content, we aren’t born with the necessary baggage to spot all that’s hurtful and offensive, privilege as well as not being exposed to said marginalization shields us from it. But I also believe you need to learn from it and not makes the same mistake twice, it is your responsibility to do better for the readers who trust you because otherwise it’s safe and honest to say that you could lose credibility with them. If they keep getting hurt by books *you* recommend, they have a right to protect themselves and stop listening to you. Just like you have a right to do the same if someone keeps ignoring your feelings.

I know there are people I trust a lot and other I trust less, several I had to unfollow just because I just didn’t like the way they handled problematic content. So if a person I really do trust tells me X book could hurt you, maybe it’s better for you to skip it, I do and will more often than not. I don’t want “to form my own opinion” at the expanse of mental exhaustion, it’s just not worth my time and energy.

As much as this is a hobby -and yes at the end of the day, I don’t get a cent from it so it *is* a hobby- I think, us reviewers, have a responsibility, a responsibility to protect marginalized readers, especially teen readers from unnecessary hurt. I’d like to believe that they read my reviews because they trust me and I’d like to keep it that way. You may think what I’m saying is too “over the top” or that I should “just chill” because “books are just books” but we all know they’re more than that to people who are as passionate about them as we are.

So if you review books, please read critically as much as you read for enjoyement. Yes, smile, laugh, cry with the book but don’t forget that there will probably be a person who’ll pick it up because of you so, please, make sure it’s safe for them to read.


That’s it until next time.

What do you think a reviewer’s responsibility is? Do you think we should be careful when reviewing and recommending books?

Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.

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Future Leaders of Nowhere – Romance and Competition in the Middle of Nowhere

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Series : Future Leaders of Nowhere #1

Publication date : March 15th, 2017goodreads

Publisher : Ylva Publishing

Genre : Young Adult | Contemporary

Page Count : 270

Synopsis : “Finn’s solid. Not in body, but in being. She’s gravity and kindness and all those good things that anchor.”
“Willa’s confusing. Sometimes she’s this sweet, sensitive soul. Other times she’s like a flaming arrow you hope isn’t coming for you.”
Finn and Willa have been picked as team leaders in the future leader camp game. The usually confident Finn doesn’t know what’s throwing her more, the fact she’s leading a team of highly unenthusiastic overachievers or coming up against fierce, competitive Willa. And Willa doesn’t know which is harder, leaving her responsibilities behind to pursue her goals or opening up to someone.
Soon they both realise that the hardest thing of all is balancing their clashing ideals with their unexpected connection. And finding a way to win, of course.
(From Goodreads)

Rating : 3 stars

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*I was provided an eArc of this book by the publishers in exchange of an honest review*

(No Spoilers)

When I first got approached to review this book, I got so darn excited because 1) F/F romance and 2) in a leaders camp which promises lots of competition and drama and what not. And it did live up to that in a sort, for me the book checked both those boxes perfectly BUT I still had a few issues with it and was although I did enjoy it, I was overall disappointed, but not because of the story itself. So read the rest of the review to know how and why.

The writing is easy enough to follow and the chapters are very short and fast paced but I had a problem for half of it. When it’s from Finn’s POV, the 3rd person use didn’t work, it felt unpersonal an detached, I sometimes got confused as to who the “she” reffered to. Which is weird because once that switched to Willa’s POV the problem was resolved, her part was just so well written, raw and beautiful, I really loved it, I could feel her emotions through the way they were narrated, which wasn’t the case for Finn’s part.

One other problem I had with the writing is that it had a lot of ableist langage, I know it’s normalized in books and in life (which shouldn’t be the case) but for one I have no patience for it and two, it was in every other page so at some point I was just too annoyed. Dumb, stupid and idiot were EVERYWHERE and that can be so easily taken out of the text and it would change nothing about it. It would’ve changed my reading experience though, it would’ve made it much better. Also, there was this sentence that made me cringe, at one point a character says to Willa:

 “But, you know, it is nice to know that you’re human. And that you have good taste. That Finn’s a cutie.”

and… this is not okay, as if not being attracted to anyone makes people less human, and it is hurtful to people on the ace/aro spectrum. Again, it could’ve been avoided easily without changing anything to the story.

The story starts from Finn‘s POV, on the way to the camp where she feels unsure of herself, like she lost herself, that little spark that made her her and what not and seeing her snap out of that and go back to herself was really impressive. She’s a kind-hearted, smart and resourceful person, and I loved how she had values and principles and she didn’t let anyone make her waver from them. I really admired that. Willa is the kind of person who’s got all kinds of doubts and uncertainties but to people seems confident and like she has it all together, I loved how kick-ass she was and didn’t take shit from anybody. She stood up for herself and others.

Their romance was so freaking adorable!! I loved how the girls took it slow and spent their time together just together, doing nothing but being with each other. Their was this sweet innocence to their relationship with cute soft kisses, light touchs and I LIVED FOR THAT. The dual POV had an added value in this case because I could see what they both saw in each other that other people didn’t.

I liked the leaders’ competition aspect of the story and the way it wasn’t side tracked by the romance. It was lots of ploting and strategy and I love that sort of things.There’s a thing bugged me though, it’s that there seemed to be some things that were mentionned at some point but never after, like for example, Willa’s team won some kind of advantage from a competition they had which she could use to ask for anything she wants but we somehow never know what she did with it and what’s more than that is that it was as if it never existed, nothing was added to the team and that was a shame.

All in all, I really liked the content as you can see but had a problem mainly with the writing so that was a bit of a let down. That being said, I will pick up the sequel once it’s out (sometime at the end of the year) to see where the story takes Finn and Willa because despite everything, I really got attached to them.


That’s it until next time.

Did you read Future Leaders of Nowhere? If so, what did you think?

Which POV did you like best?

Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.

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Ramadan Readathon : My TBR & 20+ Recommendations

Ramadan Readathon

Hello guys !

Ramadan has began a few days back ago and it’s going rather smoothly for me *stomach noises* yes very smoothly. How is it doing for my muslim friends out there?

I’ve never ever done a readathon before just because they either do not appeal to me or the ones that do interest me happen in times where I literally cannot add any amount of stress to my already freaking out self so Ramadan Readathon is the first. AND I AM SO EXCITED. AH !!

RR 1

I thought I’d start with the basics in this post. Ramadan is our holy month and the ninth month of the Islamic Lunar Calendar, most widely known as a month of fasting (sawm) which is one of the five pillars of Islam, but it’s more than that. It’s a month where muslims abstain from eating, drinking and sexual intercourse from dawn (our morning prayer: Fajr) until Sunset (our dusk prayer: Maghreb), as well as some other things like frivolous entertainement, smoking, gossiping, lying etc…

The main goal here is to strenghten our faith and relationship with God and become a better person, through prayer, reading lots of Quran, doing good, helping those in need among other things. This obviously is mendatory for all muslims unless it’s kids, elderly, during menstruations abd pregnancies, or people who can’t fast for a reason or another. Not going to get into the details, because this alone would need a whole post.

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From the creators:

The purpose of this readathon is to celebrate Muslim authors who have written anything from comics to poetry to fiction. It is a way for people to support marginalised writers and raise awareness about the importance of diversifying our bookshelves. Note: the purpose of this readathon is to celebrate Muslim authors rather than books written about Muslims. Some of the books on these lists aren’t written by Muslims.

Ramadan Readathon

So JOIN US ! From June 1st to June 30th. It’ll be lots of fun. Spread the word so that more people participate, make a TBR, maybe find someone who’s reading the same book and buddy read, write posts, make lists, the possibilities are endless. But mostly read and promote books by Muslim authors because their voices deserve to be heard.

Here you can find the Announcement post, the twitter and the events’ schedule.

RR 3

I not only wanted to read book my Muslim authors this month but I wanted to make sure that most of them fit for one of the #DiversityBingo2017 squares and it’s actually a success, and easier than I expected. So here are my books:

Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed : I’m honestly so excited about this. All my friends who have read it LOVE it. I started it yesterday and I’m already hooked, the story is compelling although I know that I am set for heartbreak and I AM NOT READY.

Saints and Misfits by S. K. Ali : This is honestly one of my most anticipated books of 2017 and probably of my life. I can’t wait to read it. Its spot in my TBR isn’t a sure one because I don’t have and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get it this month. We’ll see.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir : This one is long overdo. I’ve yet to read a Fantasy by a Muslim author (not like there’s a lot of those) and I’m super excited to see if this one lives up to the hype.

Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi : AAH! First of all, this will be the first MG I’ve read in years and second, not gonna lie, what made me decide to read it this month is seeing the cover of whichwood, the companion novel. SO GORGEOUS.

She Wore Red Trainers by Naima B. Robert : This is probably the oldest one on my TBR, as well as the first book by a Muslim author that I discovered so it’s about time I get to it. Sounds like lots of fluff and cuteness and I’m all for that.

When Michael Met Mina by Randa Abdel-fattah : I… don’t know what to say about this one? Other than the fact that I can’t wait to dive into it and it sounds lowkey heart breaking? I’ll keep you posted on that.

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You can find a bunch in my post about Muslim Representation, which I won’t be re-using in this post. Some of them are not out yet, but I thought I’d use this post as a reference of recommendations.

Middle Grade and Young Adult

Adult

Non-fiction

I actually discovered quite a few books myself while researching for this post, so YAY !!


That’s it until next time.

Are you Participating in the Readathon? What books are on your TBR?

If you have any other recommendations, leave them in the comments.

Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.

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