4 star, YA

Review: The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

Series: Deathless #1

Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.

But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity–and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.

Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki–near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat.

Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she’s ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be–not even Deka herself.



This one has been floating around the YA sphere even before it published recently and I can see where all the hype is coming from for it is very well deserved. The Gilded Ones is a female-empowering story that show girls are not only worth more than a subservient role in a patriarchal society, but they are strong and will fight until another day to survive.

Deka was raised in the Northern area of the kingdom although her appearance resembles that of her mother, a Southerner. Already deemed different in this way alone, she’d always wanted to fit in. The Ritual of Purity for every girl come of age would determine if they were pure or impure based on the colour of their blood. Deka was determined to fit in and finally be approved by her village. Of course, nothing goes as planned right?

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4.5 star, YA

ARC Review: Counting Down with You by Tashie Bhuiyan

A reserved Bangladeshi teenager has twenty-eight days to make the biggest decision of her life after agreeing to fake date her school’s resident bad boy.
How do you make one month last a lifetime?

Karina Ahmed has a plan. Keep her head down, get through high school without a fuss, and follow her parents’ rules—even if it means sacrificing her dreams. When her parents go abroad to Bangladesh for four weeks, Karina expects some peace and quiet. Instead, one simple lie unravels everything.

Karina is my girlfriend.

Tutoring the school’s resident bad boy was already crossing a line. Pretending to date him? Out of the question. But Ace Clyde does everything right—he brings her coffee in the mornings, impresses her friends without trying, and even promises to buy her a dozen books (a week) if she goes along with his fake-dating facade. Though Karina agrees, she can’t help but start counting down the days until her parents come back.

T-minus twenty-eight days until everything returns to normal—but what if Karina no longer wants it to?



**Counting Down with You comes out May 4, 2021**

Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

I will first say that I do not know too much about Bangladeshi people and culture except the stories I hear from a good friend of mine in grad school. What I do know is that with every culture, there are hardships and this resonated with me in so many ways. Counting Down with You was the emotional rollercoaster romance story centred around a protagonist I could root for and empathize with at the same time in her struggles to fight for herself. This own-voices story was everything I didn’t know I needed in 2021, and I am ecstatic to have found it.

Karina, nicknamed by her family as Myra, has just waved her parents off for a 1-month stay with relatives in their home country of Bangladesh. While they are gone, she finds the sudden freedom from the harsh restrictions her parents have placed on her with regards to school and social life. Normally, she had a curfew to be back from school – yes, not a night-out curfew but to come home directly from school unless she was in the Pre-Med Society meeting. Even tutoring was frowned upon unless it was for something related to STEM. So English, you can kiss that goodbye. As is already obvious, Karina struggled with the sciences and maths while English was her true passion. The premise of this story draws Karina into the path of bad-boy Ace whom she has to tutor in English at the request of her favourite teacher.

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4 star, YA

Review: A Pho Love Story by Loan Le

If Bao Nguyen had to describe himself, he’d say he was a rock. Steady and strong, but not particularly interesting. His grades are average, his social status unremarkable. He works at his parents’ pho restaurant, and even there, he is his parents’ fifth favorite employee. Not ideal.

If Linh Mai had to describe herself, she’d say she was a firecracker. Stable when unlit, but full of potential for joy and fire. She loves art and dreams pursuing a career in it. The only problem? Her parents rely on her in ways they’re not willing to admit, including working practically full-time at her family’s pho restaurant.

For years, the Mais and the Nguyens have been at odds, having owned competing, neighboring pho restaurants. Bao and Linh, who’ve avoided each other for most of their lives, both suspect that the feud stems from feelings much deeper than friendly competition.

But then a chance encounter brings Linh and Bao in the same vicinity despite their best efforts and sparks fly, leading them both to wonder what took so long for them to connect. But then, of course, they immediately remember.

Can Linh and Bao find love in the midst of feuding families and complicated histories?

When Dimple Met Rishi meets Ugly Delicious in this funny, smart romantic comedy, in which two Vietnamese-American teens fall in love and must navigate their newfound relationship amid their families’ age-old feud about their competing, neighboring restaurants.



A true ode to Vietnamese culture and cuisine, A Pho Love Story delivers an insightful look into foods shared and eaten and the dynamics of family who have survived the horrors of a civil war. While you may instantly think this is a Romeo and Juliet kind of retelling, I am here to tell you that it is so much more.

Linh and Bao work at their respective family restaurants which are unfortunately situated across the street from each other. Told from childhood that they should never, ever interact with the enemy, they were like two passing ships in the night only seeing one another from afar but never interacting even at school. Looking at this synopsis, of course you would think this is just a simple own-voices kind of romance story. It is, I agree, but there is just so much more about Linh and Bao than a sit-in Juliet and Romeo with feuding restaurant families.

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