Book Review: Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta & Cori McCarthy

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Title – Once & Future #1

Author – Amy Rose Capetta & Cori McCarthy

Publication – March 26th, 2019.

Publisher – Rock the Boat

Genre – Science Fiction, Fantasy & Young Adult Fiction

I’ve been chased my whole life. As a fugitive refugee in the territory controlled by the tyrannical Mercer corporation, I’ve always had to hide who I am. Until I found Excalibur.

Now I’m done hiding.

My name is Ari Helix. I have a magic sword, a cranky wizard, and a revolution to start.


When Ari crash-lands on Old Earth and pulls a magic sword from its ancient resting place, she is revealed to be the newest reincarnation of King Arthur. Then she meets Merlin, who has aged backward over the centuries into a teenager, and together they must break the curse that keeps Arthur coming back. Their quest? Defeat the cruel, oppressive government and bring peace and equality to all humankind.

No pressure.

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Set in space and way into the future where the earth isn’t inhabited and the current way our world functions is a thing of the past and people just live their life and love without discrimination.

Gender fluid and disabled? Check. Lesbians? Check. Gays? Check. Asexual? Check. Pansexual? Check.

This book is diverse through and through, where there’s a common and oppressive evil organisation called Mercer who wouldn’t rest until it completely controls and robs the world, Ari…King Arthur lives in of all resistance to its power.

Merlin is sure if that happens the world will be completely doomed and it’s up to him to shape King Arthur and her mismatched band of knights to save humankind from doom, but is it?

Amy Rose and Cori have pulled off quite a feat writing about a female King Arthur and interweaving the old tale including Lancelot, Percival, Sir Kay, Guinevere, Merlin, Morgana and Lamarack in a futuristic setting that is interesting to read.

Oppression is a huge theme in this book, so are power, greed, capitalism and hope. I know a lot of people want to read books which tackle on the problems of society and whatnot, but I’m also fine with it being in the background of a story, I personally get a headache when politics and etc. are highly focused on in books not to talk about fictional young adult books.

After all, I have shared can you imagine the antics and how everything plays out in this very unique book? Because there’s a lot going on in this book, with the limelight shining on Ari and Merlin.

I was intrigued by the blurb of this book because a female King Arthur, in my mind I was wondering how does this work? I didn’t know I was going to get a whole lot more representation, so I am highly pleased because of that.

It took me a bit to really get into the story but once I got through the first few parts of the story to where the action really started I settled in and finally finished the book in one sitting.

The pacing of the story is a bit wonky and instances that were pretty surreal, I had to ask myself did that happen and finally many times I found the story to be dragging and all I wanted was to get on with it and get to the part where everything finally goes down, which is really all the cons I can think about this book.

I really fell in love with Morgana and wish Ari and her could get together but like I understand it’s not possible and could be icky because after all Morgana is Arthur’s sister and that’s all I have to say regarding  Ari’s love life.

I found Merlin gay relationship to be sweet and just found Merlin to be eye-rolling cute. Both he and Ari arc growth from the start to finish of the novel which was perfectly executed and I am really glad I was given a copy of this book to read.

Once & Future is a light read and I can’t wait for book 2! This is a book that’s worthy of support! Buy, borrow and read it, while dropping a review or sharing your opinions as well, because it does a lot of good for the literary world and it would encourage the authors to write more inclusive stories and publishers to publish more like this one!

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Book Review: Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin

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Title – Ayesha at Last

Author – Uzma Jalaluddin 

Publication – April 4th, 2019.

Publisher – Corvus

Genre – Muslim Romance Fiction

A smart young Muslim Canadian woman navigates the complexities of career, love, and family in this lively homage to a Jane Austen classic. “While it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single Muslim man must be in want of a wife, there’s an even greater truth: To his Indian mother, his own inclinations are of secondary importance.” With that nod to Pride and Prejudice firmly in place, Jalaluddin lays the groundwork for a raucous story that mixes a zany cast of characters with a tightly wound plot.

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I really didn’t know what to expect when reading Ayesha at Last, all I knew it was a Muslim romance and I was sold, especially because on the cover Ayesha is clearly wearing a hijab.

I am a Muslim, so I really have a soft spot for Muslim romance, but if I am being honest with myself I haven’t read a lot and the ones I have read features Muslims from the Asian communities.

This one is not any different, but it is different because this is the first romance I am reading with a Muslim who wears the hijab and I love how it isn’t made a big deal of because honestly wearing the hijab or tying a scarf is as natural as wearing normal clothes to many Muslim females.

Ayesha is in her late twenties and isn’t married, which according to all her aunties means she’s old and may never get married. I’m twenty-three and all my “aunties” are always asking me about my boyfriend and when I’m going to get married and I’m very single lol, so I could relate with Ayesha here because just like her I am currently focused on my career and making sure I am chasing my passion.

Ayesha is such a wonderful character, and I’m so happy we share the same name because she is my favourite character in a book this year.

Then there’s Khalid the male main character, the Muslim brother that takes Islam very seriously and doesn’t want to commit haram, which made me come across as stand-offish and a fanatic, but I stan…I can get with a Muslim brother like that, that would you know make me a better version of myself and let me love Islamic religion more in a not overbearing way.

There’s a lot of drama in the book, that has to do with family, I can’t remember the term but religious intolerance at work, haram, you know what the side stories/drama is too much for me to list out, why not read and find out yourself.

This review is brief and not exactly a review, but me just gushing about this book which I completely adore, because it makes me want the kind of relationship Ayesha and Khalid have. I 100% recommend this book to everyone who is looking for a fluffy beautiful romantic read.

5

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Book Review: ‘A Toast to Life’ A Memoir by the Actress Juliet Ibrahim

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Title – A Toast to Life

Author – Juliet Ibrahim

Publication – August 2019.

Publisher – Prestige, Kachifo 

Genre – Memoir

From Liberia to Lebanon, Ivory Coast to Ghana, Juliet Ibrahim survives the upheaval of war across countries, being torn away from the familiar and losing memories. But this is only the beginning of her story.

In A Toast to Life, Juliet is a child with body-esteem issues, a teenager dealing with abuse in silence, a young woman making mistakes in love and an adult finding cause to celebrate life.

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Reading Juliet Ibrahim’s book A Toast to Life is very insightful into knowing about occurrences in the life of the model, actress and activist which shaped her into the woman she is today.

The book begins from when she was a  little girl, what it was like for her growing up, how many times over due to war her family had to start over and become immigrants in countries that wasn’t their own. Her battle with unwanted attention from men from an early age due to her skin and many more things.

I love how hardworking and determined Juliet Ibrahim is, whatever she did, she gave her all and did it with passion, a true businesswoman. Not only was she a model, she started a modelling agency, then started a salon with the help of her mother, then she moved into beauty, where she sold her own eyelashes, all the while still acting and last but not the least is she has her own NGO to help people with cancer and many more deadly diseases.

Her many love affairs and how the media/people forget that celebrities are mere human beings, which the book succeeded in doing, painting her as a normal human being, who just happens to be in the entertainment industry.

The book talks about the things that have happened to her, from the beautiful to the ugly, especially by humans, and it’s awesome how steadfast she has been able to be all her life and how she lets nothing deter her, instead she trudges forward. It is very motivating and I will surely remind myself not to settle, sell myself short or not dream big because there’s always a way of making the dream become my reality.

Because of the above, it made me aware of something the memoir was missing. We all make mistakes, mistakes that are entirely our fault due to a bad call of judgement or feelings of destructive emotions such as anger/pettiness/jealousy. These mistakes are the ones we learn from, which shapes us and make us better people. There’s none of that in this book, where Juliet Ibrahim makes a mistake that hurt other people, and how she fixed it or how it affected her self growth and development.

As a woman, I found myself relating to many instances in Juliet Ibrahim’s childhood, that makes me connect and understand the stories she shares, I have taken some life affirmations from this book which I am glad I accepted a review copy of.

Was the book enjoyable? Yes, I mean it’s reading about a rich, famous and successful woman, a personal account, narrative-nonfiction. Her story is easy to follow, the writing is not bad at all. The chapters deal with different aspects of her life, although a little more tweaking and the flow would have been superb, which doesn’t take from the story at all.

I have made it that I don’t rate memoirs and the likes, especially of respectable humans, because how do I rate another person’s life experiences?

Ultimately this memoir succeeds in showing the humanity in Juliet Ibrahim, who isn’t just a face behind the screen, she is also a human, who goes through the motions of living and struggle that comes with being a human female, no matter her status.

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Book Review: ‘La Bastarda’ An Unapologetic African Queer Tale by Trifonia Melibea Obono

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Title – La Bastarda

Author – Trifonia Melibea Obono

Translator – Lawrence Schimel

Publication – August 2018.

Publisher – Modjaji Books

Genre – African LGBT+ Literary Fiction

The first novel by an Equatorial Guinean woman to be translated into English, La Bastarda is the story of the orphaned teen Okomo, who lives under the watchful eye of her grandmother and dreams of finding her father. Forbidden from seeking him out, she enlists the help of other village outcasts: her gay uncle and a gang of “mysterious” girls reveling in their so-called indecency. Drawn into their illicit trysts, Okomo finds herself falling in love with their leader and rebelling against the rigid norms of Fang culture.

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First of all, even though I am extremely thrilled La Bastarda was translated into English, I still feel like I’m missing its full magic, I can only imagine how beautiful it would read in its original language if only I understood Spanish.

La Bastarda by Trifonia Melibea Obono is the first novel by a female Equatorial Guinean author that has been translated into English. It’s an amazing fit because of this book is African, loudly queer and proud!

I haven’t read or known about many published fictional works featuring African queers in African nations written by African queers in Africa nations, so when I read the blurb I knew I needed to read it a bonus because it’s not a lot of pages, so I knew it would be an enjoyable and quick read.

Judging from the title it’s obvious the main character has been labelled La Bastarda, a bastard, not knowing her father/unwanted by her father Okomo is a sixteen-year-old girl living in a small rural Fang village in Equatorial Guinea. She is being raised by her grandparents after her mother died giving birth to her outside of wedlock. How she wishes she knew who her father was, but he’s a taboo topic that only brought the wrath of her maternal family if she brought it up.

A Fang woman is worthy if her womb is fruitful, if her hair and face is made up beautifully to attract men-especially a rich man, to feed him, marry him and keep them in her bed, while giving birth to children and maintaining the household, with little or no physical/mental assistance from the man, who is very good at posturing, boasting and wasting the day away with their fellow man friends.

The culture and traditions of the Fang people in the village are so deeply embedded in them, it is all overzealous. Which is why they frown upon the man-woman, Okomo’s Uncle Marcelo, she is too young to understand he is gay, nevertheless, Okomo loves him with all her heart because he is the only family member of hers that treats her with love and affection, one who loves her unconditionally.

One day she follows three girls that her grandma has warned her away from because they are ‘indecent’ into the forest to fetch woods and there she becomes friends with the girls who are just like her, lesbians. They make her understand that there is nothing wrong in loving a girl even though they know they would face the wrath of their village of if they are ever discovered, they also explain to her why the village hates her uncle.

She develops deep feeling for one of the girls, who returns the feelings for her, this love although freeing is very dangerous and they all pay the price for it in the end, because even though the village acknowledges that there is such a thing as a man-woman, they don’t even want to acknowledge that there could be a relationship between women, that didn’t include a man.

There is more to the story, but what I have written is enough.

The pacing of the story is fast, and it felt like I was drifting through time and just seeing things through the surface, there’s no deep character development, but the message the story is sharing is very clear and I stand by it. The story is easy enough to read and I am very glad that I have read it and I hope more people read it because it’s wonderfully translated and edited.

Quick fact: This book is a Banned Book, Equatorial Guinea has banned the book because queerness is such a scary and dangerous thing in many African nations *eyes rolling*

3.5

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Book Review: Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

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Book: Holding Up the Universe

Author: Jennifer Niven

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers 

Published: October 4th, 2016.

Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed “America’s Fattest Teen.” But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to know who she really is. Following her mom’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for every possibility life has to offer. In that moment, I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything. 

Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin, too. Yes, he’s got swagger, but he’s also mastered the impossible art of giving people what they want, of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a newly acquired secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He’s the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone.

Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game—which lands them in group counseling and community service—Libby and Jack are both pissed, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world, theirs and yours.

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