Colored Pages Tour: We’re in This Together by Linda Sarsour

Blog Tour Banner for We’re in this Together

Thanks for the free book! @Simonkids @lsarsour and @coloredpagesblogtours

Book Information

Title: We’re in This Together

Author: Linda Sarsour

Publisher: Salaam Reads / Simon Schuster Books

Publication Date: November 29th, 2022 

Genres: Middle Grade, Non Fiction

Synopsis

We’re All in This Together Book Cover

You can count on me, your Palestinian Muslim sister, to keep her voice loud, keep her feet on the streets, and keep my head held high because I am not afraid.

On January 17, 2017, Linda Sarsour stood in the National Mall to deliver a speech that would go down in history. A crowd of over 470,000 people gathered in Washington, DC, to advocate for legislation, policy, and the protection of women’s rights—with Linda, a Muslim American activist from Brooklyn, leading the charge, unapologetic and unafraid.

In this middle-grade edition of We Are Not Here to be Bystanders, Linda shares the memories that shaped her into the activist she is today, and how these pivotal moments in her life led her to being an organizer in one of the largest single-day protests in US history. From the Brooklyn bodega her father owned to the streets of Washington, DC, Linda’s story as a daughter of Palestinian immigrants is a moving portrayal of what it means to find your voice in your youth and use it for the good of others as an adult?

Interview

Amani (me): How can Non-Muslims show up for the Islamic community?

Linda: One of the most incredible things I have ever seen in my entire organizing career was the image of thousands of people who flooded airports across the country when Donald Trump announced the Muslim ban which banned people from some Muslim majority countries. It was a beautiful act of solidarity and an example of how our non-Muslim neighbors can stand with their Muslim neighbors. I want people to explore, learn and build relationships with Muslims and when there are policies or incidents of hate that target Muslim communities – it would be great to see more allies show up, offer support and use their social media platforms to correct misinformation and to also declare that they stand with their Muslim neighbors. Our allies can also volunteer with Muslim-led organizations that do important work about issues they may be passionate about such as refugee resettlement, teaching new immigrants English or organizing around racial justice.

Amani: How can Muslims become more proactive activists?

Linda: As a Muslim American, I believe that activism is a core religious obligation. I believe that all Muslims must work to alleviate harm and suffering and demand justice. Muslims interested in becoming more active can begin by doing community service projects, showing up to protests for issues that impact them and other marginalized people, volunteer at organizations, and donate to causes.

Amani: Do you have any advice for young kids who want to become an activist but don’t know where to start?

Linda: Here are some steps to begin exploring and engaging in activism as a young person.

● Choose an issue that really means something to you.

● Research the issue and learn as much as you can about it.

● Once you feel very knowledgeable about the issue, create a presentation to teach others about it so you can expand the number of people who care about this issue.

● Think about something you can do to help contribute to addressing this issue. This could mean raising funds for an organization that has solutions about this issue. You can organize a bake sale or some other activity that can raise small dollars. You can also organize a rally and invite your friends and their families to share solutions and demand that people in power do something about it. You can organize this rally with the help of adults at your local City Hall or somewhere else that is symbolic.

● Stay connected to an organization that works on this issue. Volunteer with them if there are open opportunities. 

Amani: How do you get your community involved when it comes to being an activist?

Linda: In order to get more people in your community involved in activism and to help address an issue you care about, they need to know about it. You need to be equipped with all the information so they can understand why it is an issue and how it impacts them. You also need to be prepared with an action you want them to take. People and communities are more likely to be more active if they feel well informed and have clear steps.

Amani: What’s your writing routine like?

Linda: I love writing. I write with the intention to inspire people to action through storytelling. Writing is not easy and requires you to make time for it. Because my book was about moments and experiences that moved me, it felt natural and easy and I am so proud to share myself with others.

Amani: Do you plan on writing fiction too in the future?

Linda: I am not yet sure what my plans are around writing more fiction in the future but I hope at least that “We’re In This Together” is widely read by young people across the country who are not just the leaders of tomorrow – but they are the leaders of now. Young people are profound, intuitive, brilliant and I believe have the answers and solutions to address all the social injustice we are seeing if only they were given the chance. I hope my book inspires them to take the risks, defy the naysayers and get to work to make this country truly the greatest nation on earth.

Grab Your Copy of We’re All in This Together

Book links:  

Goodreads

Blackwells

Amazon

Book Depository

Barnes & Noble

My Review

Here’s a link to my review.

About the Author

Linda Sarsour is a Brooklyn-born Palestinian Muslim American community organizer and mother of three. Recognized for her award-winning intersectional work, she served as national co-chair of the Women’s March, helping to organize the largest single-day protest in US history. She is the former executive director of the Arab American Association of New York and co-founder of the first Muslim online organizing platform, MPower Change, as well as Until Freedom, a national racial justice organization working with Black and Brown communities across the country.

Author Links: 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16174784.Linda_Sarsour

Website: https://www.lindasarsour.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/lsarsour Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lsarsour/

Check out the other stops on the tour!

Tour Schedule

November 7th

Colesbooknoom – Review Only

S.a.youngniverse – Favorite Quotes

November 8th

The Girl In Blue Reads – Favorite Quotes

November 9th

Dazzling Writingz – Favorite Quotes

November 10th

PopTheButterfly Reads – Review Only

November 11th

Ravenz Reviewz – Review Only

@secretrhs05 – Review Only

November 12th

letters to the void – Favorite Quotes

November 13th

Mulberryreads – Review Only

Amani’s Honest Reviews – Blog Interview

The Taylor Swift Midnights Book Tag !

Hi, everyone and welcome to the Midnights book tag!! If you decide to do this please tag me so I can see it.

Taylor is waving via GIPHY.
Midnights Book Tag

Lavender Haze

Prompt: “Meet me at midnight!” – Lavender Haze. Find a book where there’s a secret or forbidden romance and the couple has to sneak around.

Example: Twisted Hate by Ana Huang

Maroon

Midnights cover album via GIPHY.

Prompt: A book with a friends to lovers trope. “You were my closest friend.”

Example: It All Comes Back to You by Farah Naz Rishi.

Anti-Hero

Katniss bows and says: “Thank you.” Via GIPHY.

Prompt: A book that makes you root for the anti-hero.

Example : The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

Snow on the Beach featuring Lana Del Ray

Taylor in a cardigan saying : “Wait what?” Via GIPHY.

Prompt: A book written by two authors. Bonus if they’re best friends.

Example: Love & Other Words by Christina Lauren.

You’re on Your Own, Kid

Taylor in her pajamas from the we are never ever getting back together music video via GIPHY.

Prompt: “I’ll run away.” A book where the character runs from their problems.

Example: All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir.

Midnight Rain

Taylor Smiles and does a hair flip via GIPHY.

Prompt: “He wanted a bride, I was making my own name.”

Example: When a Brown Girl Flees by Aamna Qureshi (got to read a very early draft of it and it’s incredible)!!

Question…?

Taylor Swift smiles and shrugs via GIPHY.

Prompt: Find a book that has the miscommunication trope. “Miscommunications and I.”

Example: Seoulmates by Susan Lee.

Vigilante Shit

Taylor Swift doing some vigilante shit via GIPHY.

Prompt: A book where the character goes through a bad breakup.

Example: Salaam, with Love by Sara Sharaf Beg.

Bejeweled

Red Ring is on my finger and the picture is a selfie I took the night of midnight’s release (aka no sleep).

Prompt: “Sadness became my whole sky.” Find a book that made you cry.

Example: You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao.

Labyrinth

Taylor puts her hands up for a heart via GIPHY.

Prompt: A book where the character has a panic attack. “Breathe in, breathe through, breathe deep, breathe out.”

Example: The Cheat Sheet by Sarah Adams

Sweet Nothing

Taylor smiles and gives two thumbs up via GIPHY.

Prompt: “All that you ever wanted from me was sweet nothing.”

Example: Dating Dr. Dil by Nisha Sharma & Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon.

Mastermind

Taylor Swift is wearing headphones, smiling , and nods via GIPHY.

Prompt: A book with a plot twist you didn’t see coming.

Example: Love from Mecca to Medina by S.K. Ali.

C’mon, you didn’t think I’d write a Taylor Swift book tag and forget to mention an S.K. Ali book, now did you?

The 3 AM Edition

Patrick Star says: “Oh boy! 3 am!

The Great War

Taylor Swift is wearing a dark hood via GIPHY.

Prompt: A book with a character that reminds you of this line “I vowed not to cry anymore.”

Example: Foul Lady Fortune by Chloe Gong.

Bigger Than The Whole Sky

The night sky with shooting stars via GIPHY.

Prompt: A book that makes you think of the line: “What should’ve been you.”

Example: P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han.

Paris

Eiffel Tower at night via GIPHY.

Prompt: A book where the character is : “so in love that I might stop breathing.”

Example: The Love Match by Priyanka Taslim

High Infidelity

Taylor Swift in the red dress via GIPHY.

Prompt: A book where the character lies. “I bent the truth too far tonight.”

Example: How We Fell Apart by Katie Zhao.

Glitch

Taylor Swift dancing via GIPHY.

Prompt: “We were supposed to be just friends.” Find a book with a friends to lovers trope.

Example: Right Where I Left You by Julian Winters.

Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve

Prompt: “And I damn sure never would’ve danced with the devil.” Find a book with a bad boy.

Example: Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen.

Dear Reader

Taylor Swift is hiding behind a wall and is smirking via GIPHY.

Prompt: “Dear Reader, the greatest of luxuries is your secrets.” Find a book where the character learns a big secret.

Example: Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean.

If you’re a swiftie, let me know in the comments below what your ranking is for Midnights!

If you read all of this you’re amazing and I hope you have a wonderful weekend! Until next time – byeee 👋.

Taylor Swift smiles and waves via GIPHY.

Lonely Pages Blog Tour: Love from Mecca to Medina by S.K. Ali

Blog Tour Banner

I posted my review on time on Instagram, but as mentioned in previous posts I’ve had to deal with a flood in my apartment building so I’m behind on posting on my blog.

Book Cover

Love from Mecca to Medina Book Cover

Synopsis

On the trip of a lifetime, Adam and Zayneb must find their way back to each other in this surprising and romantic sequel to the “bighearted, wildly charming” (Becky Albertalli, New York Times best-selling author) Love from A to Z.

Adam and Zayneb. Perfectly matched. Painfully apart. 

Adam is in Doha, Qatar, making a map of the Hijra, a historic migration from Mecca to Medina, and worried about where his next paycheck will come from. Zayneb is in Chicago, where school and extracurricular stresses are piling on top of a terrible frenemy situation, making her miserable. 

Then a marvel occurs: Adam and Zayneb get the chance to spend Thanksgiving week on the Umrah, a pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, in Saudi Arabia. Adam is thrilled; it’s the reboot he needs and an opportunity to pray for a hijra in real life: to migrate to Zayneb in Chicago. Zayneb balks at the trip at first, having envisioned another kind of vacation, but then decides a spiritual reset is calling her name too. And they can’t wait to see each other—surely, this is just what they both need.

But the trip is nothing like what they expect, from the appearance of Adam’s former love interest in their traveling group to the anxiety gripping Zayneb when she’s supposed to be “spiritual.” As one wedge after another drives them apart while they make their way through rites in the holy city, Adam and Zayneb start to wonder: was their meeting just an oddity after all? Or can their love transcend everything else like the greatest marvels of the world?

My Review

📚 Spoiler – Free Book Review of Love from Mecca to Medina by @skalibooks 📚

✨ A spoiler review will be posted later – a few months after publication! Thank you to @simonteen for one of my highly anticipated sequels!! It’s my stop on the bookstagram tour for @thetsundokuchronicles & @stars.brite reader street team! This is for the @lonelypagesbooktours Love From Mecca to Medina book tour.

✨ I personally think that getting this arc is even better than eidi. Reading Love from Mecca to Medina gave me the same warm fuzzy feeling that you get when you see family overseas. Love from Mecca to Medina is without a doubt one of the best Muslim contemporary books out this year. I love how everyone from S.K. Ali’s YA book has their story wrapped up perfectly in this.

✨This book will make you laugh, cry, and want to pick it up again just so you can experience it all again. Some of my favorite side characters are Janna, Bertha Fatima, and Sausan. There is one character that will make you fume but other than that I’m not going to say anything else. I loved that Zayneb’s going through it with grad school and that there are a lot of twists I didn’t initially see. I think I only guessed one correctly and it’s a book you don’t want to miss!!

My Rating

5/5 stars

Go get this book- it comes out on October 18th just a few days before Taylor’s new album drops.

TBR & Beyond I Miss You, I Hate This by Sara Saedi

I Miss You I Hate This Blog Tour Banner

Thank you to TBR & Beyond for a copy of this book.

Apologies for the delayed response – my apartment building had a flood as mentioned in the previous blog post. I’ve had to put a lot of things on hold. I’m doing okay now but it was just a lot to deal with.

Book Information

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Publishing date: October 11th, 2022

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indigo | IndieBound

Rep: Iranian-American & Mexican-American

Book Cover

Synopsis

Five Feet Apart meets Kate in Waiting in this timely story of two best friends navigating the complexities of friendship while their world is turned upside down by a global pandemic.

The lives of high school seniors Parisa Naficy and Gabriela Gonzales couldn’t be more different. Parisa, an earnest and privileged Iranian American, struggles to live up to her own impossible standards. Gabriela, a cynical Mexican American, has all the confidence Parisa lacks but none of the financial stability. She can’t help but envy Parisa’s posh lifestyle whenever she hears her two moms argue about money. Despite their differences, as soon as they met on the first day of freshman year, they had an “us versus the world” mentality. Whatever the future had in store for them—the pressure to get good grades, the litany of family dramas, and the heartbreak of unrequited love—they faced it together. Until a global pandemic forces everyone into lockdown. Suddenly senior year doesn’t look anything like they hoped it would. And as the whole world is tested during this time of crisis, their friendship will be, too.

With equal parts humor and heart, Parisa’s and Gabriela’s stories unfold in a mix of prose, text messages, and emails as they discover new dreams, face insecurities, and confront their greatest fears.

Content Warning: Anxiety.

My Review

First of all I absolutely adored Kate in Waiting and Five Feet Apart so this is a book I had very high hopes for!! This book is heartbreaking and a really good book. I loved reading about Parisa & Gabriela. This is the kind of book where you’ll laugh as much as you’ll cry while reading this.

Nick from New Girl says: “So many emotions.” Via GIPHY.

My Rating

4/5 Stars

My Playlist

Look After You- The Fray

You Will Be Found – Dear Evan Hansen

Are You Happy Now? – Megan & Liz

Sad Songs in a Hotel Room- Joshua Bassett

Falling- Harry Styles

Before You Go – Lewis Capaldi

Unsaid Emily- Julie & The Phantoms

Warrior – Demi Lovato

About the Author

Author pic

Sara Saedi is the author of the memoir Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card and the Never Ever series. She is also a television writer, most recently working on the upcoming Green Lantern series for HBO Max. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two sons.

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Check out the other stops on the tour!

Tour Schedule

October 10th
Confessions of a YA Reader – Promotional Post
Amani’s Honest Reviews – Review & Playlist

October 11th
Brinns Books – Review & Favorite Quotes
The Book Dutchesses – Promotional Post
PopTheButterfly Reads – Review

October 12th
Stuck in Fiction – Promotional Post
pluvioreads – Review & Playlist
Melancholic Blithe – Mood Board

October 13th
Nine Bookish Lives – Promotional Post
Sheaf and Ink – Promotional Post
Rae’s Reading Lounge – Review & Favorite Quotes

October 14th
Justice For Readers – Promotional Post
Books Are Magic Too – Review
Jen Jen Reviews – Review

October 15th
bookloversbookreviews – Promotional Post
Boys’ Mom Reads! – Review
One Book More – Top 5 Reasons to Read I Miss You, I Hate This

October 16th
Kait Plus Books – Promotional Post
Phannie the ginger bookworm – Review & Playlist

October 10th
get.outside.and.read – Review & Favorite Quotes
gryffindorbookishnerd – Review
onemused – Promotional Post
hodophile_z – Review

October 11th
allielovestoread – Review & Favorite Quotes
theliteraryhedgehog – Promotional Post
brinnsbooks – Blogger’s Choice
popthebutterfly – Blogger’s Choice

October 12th
writingrosereads – Promotional Post
hoardingbooks.herdingcats – Review & Favorite Quotes
booksinasnap – Top 5 Reasons to Read I Miss You, I Hate This,
pluvioreads – Blogger’s Choice

October 13th
jacleomik33 – Review
wild.legends – Review & Playlist
books_and_dice – Review & Favorite Quotes
ninebookishlives – Blogger’s Choice
sheafandink – Blogger’s Choice

October 14th
tbrandbeyond – Promotional Post
nikki_bookbinges – 15 Reactions While Reading I Miss You, I Hate This
booksaremagictoo – Blogger’s Choice
jenjenreviews – Blogger’s Choice

October 15th
quirkylitlover – Top 5 Reasons to Read I Miss You, I Hate This
dreaminginpages – Promotional Post
bookloversbookreviews – Blogger’s Choice
1bookmore – Blogger’s Choice

October 16th
mulberryreads – Review
torithelibrarian – Promotional Post
the.book.nerd.fox – Review

Colored Pages Tour : Love from Mecca to Medina

Blog Tour Banner

Thanks for the free book! @Simonteen @skalibooks/@sajidahwrites and @coloredpagesblogtours.

Apologies for the delayed post – my apartment building had a flood over the weekend and it’s been pretty overwhelming. AlhA, I’m okay and my family is okay but it’s been a lot of cleaning and sorting through whatever was damaged by the flood.

I’m working on getting back to posting regularly (had to be offline to deal with the flood).

Book Information

Title: Love From Mecca to Medina

Author: S.K. Ali

Publisher: Salaam Reads

Publication Date: October 18th, 2022 

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Synopsis

Adam and Zayneb. Perfectly matched. Painfully apart. Adam is in Doha, Qatar, making a map of the hijrah, a historic migration from Mecca to Medina and worried about where his next paycheck will come from. Zayneb is in Chicago, where school and extracurricular stresses are piling on top of a terrible frenemy situation and making her miserable.

Then a marvel occurs: Adam and Zayneb get the chance to spend Thanksgiving week on the Umrah, a pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia, tracing the hijrah in real life, together. Adam’s thrilled, and Zayneb hopes for a spiritual reset—and they can’t wait to see each other.

But the trip is nothing like what they expect, from the appearance of Adam’s ex in their traveling group to the anxiety gripping Zayneb everywhere they go. And as one wedge after another drives them apart as they make their way from one holy city to another, Adam and Zayneb start to wonder: was their meeting just an oddity after all? Or can their love transcend everything else like the greatest marvels of the world?

My Playlist

Love from Mecca to Medina Playlist (created by me)

Get Your Copy of the Book

Goodreads

Blackwells

Amazon

Book Depository

Barnes & Noble

About the Author

Author S.K. Ali

S. K. Ali is the author of Saints and Misfits, a finalist for the American Library Association’s 2018 William C. Morris Award and the winner of the APALA Honor Award and Middle East Book Honor Award; and Love from A to Z, a Today show Read with Jenna Book Club selection. Both novels were named best YA books of the year by various media including Entertainment Weekly and Kirkus Reviews. She is also the author of Misfit in Love and Love from Mecca to Medina. You can find Sajidah online at SKAliBooks.com and follow her on Instagram @SKAliBooks, TikTok @SKAliBooks, and on Twitter at @SajidahWrites.

Author Links: 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15615126.S_K_Ali

Check out the other stops on the tour!

Tour Schedule

October 9th

Amani’s Honest Reviews – Playlist

October 10th

Melancholic Blithe – Review Only

The._bookarazzi – Review Only 

October 11th

sanjariti reads – Review Only

October 12th

Letters to the Void – Mood board + recommendations

October 13th

Zainab Chats – Review Only 

October 14th

My World of Wonders – Review Only

 The Keysmash Blog – Review Only

October 15th

READING (AS)(I)AN (AM)ERICA – Review Only

October 16th

Readingwithprachi – Playlist

October 17th

Delilah Here’s To You – Playlist

October 18th

the moonchild pages – Journal Spread

October 19th

Cassiesbookshelves – Book recommendations based on the book

October 20th

The Book Witch Of Hogwarts – Review Only 

October 21st

Desolateblogs – Review + artwork

October 22nd

Ramblings – Playlist

Top 5 Book Recs if You Love The Parent Trap

Blog Banner created by me.
The parent trap scene where Annie said: “Your birthday’s on October 11th?” Via GIPHY.

1. Bhai for Now by Maleeha Siddiqui

Bhai for Now pic

Ashar is busy with the ice hockey team, studying to get into the best school, and hanging out with his friends.

Shaheer and his father are always moving, following his dad’s jobs. Shaheer has given up hope of finding a place where he can put down roots, a place that feels like home.

The two boys have nothing in common.

But when they meet on Shaheer’s first day at his new school, it’s like looking in a mirror.

They quickly figure out that they’re twins, separated as babies. And they are determined to do whatever it takes―including secretly switching identities―to get to know the parent they’ve been separated from.

This is the story of two long-lost brothers who, while they might not like each other, just might need each other.

This book is a modern-day retelling of The Parent Trap but with twin boys instead of twin girls.

Let’s Get Together from the original Parent Trap via GIPHY.

2. The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

The Upside of Unrequited

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful. 

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him.

Right?

This book has twin girls and it’s so much fun!

Annie & Hallie by the pool via GIPHY.

3. I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

I’ll give you the sun book pic

At first, Jude and her twin brother are NoahandJude; inseparable. Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude wears red-red lipstick, cliff-dives, and does all the talking for both of them.

Years later, they are barely speaking. Something has happened to change the twins in different yet equally devastating ways . . . but then Jude meets an intriguing, irresistible boy and a mysterious new mentor.

The early years are Noah’s to tell; the later years are Jude’s. But they each have only half the story, and if they can only find their way back to one another, they’ll have a chance to remake their world.

This book has twins but they’re estranged and that’s a fresh take. Usually the books that have twins are ones that are attached at the hips or really love spending time with each other.

Annie & Hallie hug via GIPHY.

4. The Lying Game by Sara Shepard

The Lying Game book 2

Shortly before her seventeenth birthday, Emma discovers she has a long-lost twin named Sutton Mercer. She contacts Sutton, who agrees to a rendezvous but never shows up.

Curious at first, Emma slips into Sutton’s ultra-glamorous life, assuming her identity. When it becomes clear that Sutton is not coming back, that someone made sure she never could, Emma plunges in to investigate who could have wanted her sister gone (a fairly long list, she discovers).

Unfortunately, taking over Sutton’s life means innocent little Emma has inherited all that bad blood—and then some.

This has The Parent Trap vibes if The Parent Trap was a thriller.

The Lying Game via GIPHY.

5. The Beauty That Remains

The Beauty That Remains via GIPHY.

We’ve lost everything . . . and found ourselves.

Loss pulled Autumn, Shay, and Logan apart. Will music bring them back together?

Autumn always knew exactly who she was: a talented artist and a loyal friend. Shay was defined by two things: her bond with her twin sister, Sasha, and her love of music. And Logan has always turned to writing love songs when his real love life was a little less than perfect.

But when tragedy strikes each of them, somehow music is no longer enough. Now Logan can’t stop watching vlogs of his dead ex-boyfriend. Shay is a music blogger who’s struggling to keep it together. And Autumn sends messages that she knows can never be answered.

Despite the odds, one band’s music will reunite them and prove that after grief, beauty thrives in the people left behind.

This is one that’s HIGH on my tbr!!

Annie and Hallie said : “You know I hope you’re right, Dad. Because you wouldn’t want to bring the wrong kid all the way back. Now would you ?“ via GIPHY.

Here’s How Netflix’s “Start-Up” is Different From an Actual Hackathon

Start -Up via GIPHY

Nam Do San makes AI technology sound romantic, but hackathons are so much more than that

Start-up takes place in South Korea’s fictional Silicon Valley, called Sandbox, and shows how people can get their start in the world of startup companies. The korean-drama kicks off when Dal-mi becomes the CEO of Do-san’s company during the hackathon titled “Sandbox.” A Hackathon is a major event where people meet to collaborate on computer programming projects. Some hackathons even have a theme.

Dal-Mi at the hackathon via GIPHY.

In “start-up” the protagonist, Seo Dal Mi,  intends  on pursuing her dream of becoming Korea’s Steve Jobs. Bae Suzy acts as Seo Dal Mi. She was recently in the korean drama Vegabond. Dal-Mi is  an adventurer and wears her heart on her sleeves. She also has experience working part-time working at her grandmother’s store while she pursues her dream.

Seo Dal Mi’s childhood lover is Nam Do San.  Nam Joo Hyuk plays as Nam Do San and his recent korean drama was “The School Nurse Files.” Nam Do San is the founder of Samsan Tech. He was once the pride of his family as a math genius, but for the past two years, he’s been going nowhere with his company’s investments. It turns out that Seo Dal Mi remembers him as her ‘cool first love’, and he decides to begin a startup in the hope of turning Seo Dal Mi’s misunderstanding into reality.

Han Ji Pyung starts a startup company to pay off his debt to Seo Dal Mi’s grandmother for taking him in when he was an orphan. Pyung is portrayed by Kim Seon-ho. Han is a team leader at a company he owns, Pyung was given the nickname, “the Gordan Ramsay of investments”. He has a bit of a past and is nice to one person who took a chance on him when he was a homeless kid.

Han Ji Pyung via GIPHY.

Finally, there is CEO Won In Jae has everything society respects: the educational background, stunning, and comes from a prominent family. She considers her background as a weakness and tries to pretend it never happened. She used to be Dal-Mi’s sister before their parents got a divorce. However, she ends up being used and thrown away by her step-father, and in order to stop being a disposable piece on her step-father’s chess board, she throws herself into a startup.The korean-drama kicks off when Dal-mi becomes the CEO of Do-san’s company during the hackathon titled “Sandbox.”

Won In Jae is smiling via GIPHY.

As someone who is a marketing team member for a non-profit organization called TechTogether, I can weigh in on what a hackathon is actually like in comparison to the drama.I became interested in coding when I had to learn how to do it for a summer job. It’s important for women to participate in hackathons just like it is shown in the korean drama.

Compiling coffee into code via GIPHY.

Here’s how the fictional hackathons are different from the real ones:

  1. You don’t have to be an expert to enter the hackathon like they make it seem in Start-Up. In the show start-up Nam Do San and his friends are skilled coders who are exceptional at what they do. Dal-mi has to learn the ropes and the others worry that she won’t be able to keep up. However, when you actually attend an event most people are willing to help and if anything you can always go to a volunteer for guidance if you need it.
  2. Hackathons are a social event!

You’re not there to sabotage the other team’s project. You probably won’t even have any extra time. Throughout the show, Inajee’s company and crew mates try to sabotage Dal-mi’s. This is an unlikely occurrence at an actual hackathon. You will be so focused on your project and the time limit that you won’t have time to deal with any other drama.

A guy says to another guy : “Go make some friends!” Via GIPHY.
  1. Hackathons are usually free and you get free food!

According to various medium articles and hackathon sites hackathons are usually free. You also get a place to sleep and food for the duration of the hackathon. In the show, the contestants visit home often but since it’s usually a weekend (this varies on who is hosting the hackathon), you won’t have time to head home.

My Favorite food is free food via GIPHY.
  1. They are hosted in universities or various places, but it is not usually as fancy as the location for “Sandbox.”

Now that most hackathons are virtual this year due to covid-19, you probably won’t even have to worry about driving to the hackathon. A lot of hackathons will have slack channels or other means for you to get to know other participants.

  1. You don’t always have to have an idea when you enter. Oftentimes, hackers will figure it out during the weekend.
A woman says : “Just go with it!” Via GIPHY.

It is okay if you don’t have an idea of what you’re doing right away. In the korean drama Nam Do San and his crew have an idea but it is later changed as the show goes on to something else which is probably one of the most accurate things the show got about hackathons. This isn’t a jab at the show – I actually love the show, but as someone who was involved with planning a hackathon last year I think these are things you should be aware of.

The important thing is to have fun and to socialize with other coders. You’ll learn a lot about programming and hackathons by attending events. If you’d like to learn how to code try this site. You can also find tutorials on YouTube. Furthemore, if you would like to join a virtual hackathon, sign up here. I’m a huge fan of the show and I also hope it gets more people interested in coding!

Start -up via GIPHY.

Turn the Pages Tour : SERWA BOATENG’S GUIDE TO VAMPIRE HUNTING

Blog Tour Banner

Apologies for being behind on posting! I’ve been traveling and then got sick on a trip back (thankfully not Covid related).

Synopsis

Book Cover with a graphic I made

About The Book:

Title: SERWA BOATENG’S GUIDE TO VAMPIRE HUNTING (Serwa Boateng #1)

Author: Roseanne A. Brown

Pub. Date: September 6, 2022

Publisher: Rick Riordan Presents

Formats: Hardcover, eBook

Pages: 400

Find it: GoodreadsAmazonKindleB&NiBooksKoboTBDBookshop.org

 

Best-selling author Rick Riordan presents best-selling YA author Roseanne A. Brown’s middle grade debut about a pre-teen vampire slayer with a strong helping of Ghanaian folklore.

For most kids, catching fireflies is a fun summer activity. For twelve-year-old Serwa Boateng, it’s a matter of life and death.

That’s because Serwa knows that some fireflies are really adze, shapeshifting vampires from the forests of Southeastern Ghana. Adze prey on the blood of innocents, possessing their minds and turning them into hulking monsters, and for generations, slayers like Serwa and her parents have protected an unknowing public from their threats.

Serwa is the best adze slayer her age, and she knew how to use a crossbow before she could even ride a bike. But when an obayifo (witch) destroys her childhood home while searching for a drum, do Serwa’s parents take her with them on their quest to defeat her? No. Instead, they dump Serwa with her hippie aunt and cryptic-obsessed cousin in the middle of Nowheresville, Maryland “for her own safety.” Now, instead of crossbows and battle armor, she’s dealing with mean girls and algebra, and for the first time in her life she doesn’t have to carry a staff everywhere she goes, which is . . . kind of nice, actually.

Just as Serwa starts to get the hang of this whole normal girl who doesn’t punch vampires every day thing, an adze infiltrates her school. It’s up to her to whip some of her classmates into monster-fighting shape before all of them become firefly food. And when she uncovers a secret that upends everything she thought she knew about her family’s role in the slayer vs. adze war, Serwa will have to decide which side of herself–normal girl or slayer–is the right one.

After all, seventh grade is hard enough without adding vampires to the mix.

My Review

This is a fun, fast-paced book for Middle Grade students. I loved the fact this has. A lures and also has a family dynamic in a fantasy book. If you’re a fan of vampires, then this is for you! I loved reading about Serwa.

My Rating

4/5 stars

About the Author

Author Roseanne A. Brown

Roseanne “Rosie” A. Brown was born in Kumasi, Ghana and immigrated to the wild jungles of central Maryland as a child. She graduated from the University of Maryland with a Bachelor’s in Journalism and was also a teaching assistant for the school’s Jiménez-Porter Writers’ House program. Her debut novel A Song of Wraiths and Ruin was an instant New York Times Bestseller, an Indie Bestseller, and received six starred reviews. She has worked with Marvel, Star Wars, and Disney among other publishers.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | TikTok | Goodreads | Amazon | BookBub

Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive a finished copy of SERWA BOATENG’S GUIDE TO VAMPIRE HUNTING, US Only.

Ends October 7th, midnight EST.


Rafflecopter Link:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/e2389ba21524/?

 

Tour Schedule:

Week One:

9/1/2022

booksaremagictoo

Review/IG Post

9/2/2022

More Books Please blog

Review/IG Post

9/3/2022

xbookwormcafe

Review/IG Post

 

Week Two:

9/4/2022

BookHounds YA 

Excerpt/IG Post

9/5/2022

wiltedpages

Review/IG Post

9/6/2022

The Real World According to Sam

Review/IG Post

9/7/2022

GryffindorBookishNerd

IG Review

9/8/2022

Eye-Rolling Demigod’s Book Blog

Review/IG Post

9/9/2022

Feed Your Fiction Addiction

Review/IG Post

9/10/2022

hodophile_z

IG Review

 

Week Three:

9/11/2022

Wanderingwitchreads

TikTok Review/IG Post

9/12/2022

Log Cabin Library

Review

9/13/2022

Lifestyle of Me

Review

9/14/2022

@lexijava

Review/IG Post

9/15/2022

A Backwards Story 

Review/IG Post

9/16/2022

Confessions of a YA Reader 

Review 

9/17/2022

@meetcuteromancebooks

IG Review

 

Week Four:

9/18/2022

Nerdophiles

Review 

9/19/2022

The Bookwyrm’s Den

Review 

9/20/2022

hauntedbybooks

Review/IG Post

9/21/2022

onemused

IG Spotlight

9/22/2022

Ya Books Central

Excerpt/IG Post

9/23/2022

@thebookishfoxwitch

IG Review

9/24/2022

@jacleomik33 

IG Review

 

Week Five:

9/25/2022

The Momma Spot

Review/IG Post

9/26/2022

PopTheButterfly Reads

Review/IG Post

9/27/2022

Two Points of Interest

Review

9/28/2022

@ReadsReaders 

YouTube Review/IG Post

9/29/2022

@drew_ambitious_reading

IG Review/TikTok Post

9/30/2022

The Clever Reader 

Review/IG Post

TBR & Beyond Post: Amira & Hamza

Amira & Hamza Blog Tour Banner

Hi, everyone! Apologies for the late post – I’ve been sick and haven’t been feeling well. I’m SO excited to share my stop which is a mood board.

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Publishing date: September 20th, 2022

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indigo | IndieBound

Rep: Indian American & Muslim

Book Cover

Synopsis

Amira and Hamza are back in this epic sequel, which takes readers on a thrilling magical adventure as the siblings face their most terrifying and formidable opponent yet.

All human and jinn kind shall bow down to me. Control the Ring, control the worlds.

Amira and Hamza have returned from Qaf, the magical Jinn world, as triumphant heroes—and life has been pleasantly quiet. Too quiet. Hamza is determined to have one last monumental, epic adventure before summer ends. But when sneaking off to explore an old, abandoned castle goes from life-changing adventure to potentially deadly, Amira and Hamza find themselves in the middle of another dangerous quest to save the worlds. One they didn’t bargain for.

The siblings are brought face to face with the evil dev, Ahriman, angry and out for revenge. And if Amira and Hamza thought Ifrit was bad, his dad Ahriman, the last in an ancient line of fire spirits, is far worse. Ahriman kidnaps Hamza and forces him to help locate the lost Ring of Power, an ancient and mysterious artifact that will allow him to rule the universe. Desperate to save her brother, Amira must outsmart perilous traps and confounding puzzles in a race against time to retrieve the artifact before Ahriman does or say goodbye to Hamza and their world forever.

MoodBoard

Amira & Hamza Moodboard created by me

About the Author

About the Author Samira Ahmed

Samira Ahmed is the bestselling author of Love, Hate & Other FiltersInternmentMad, Bad & Dangerous to Know, and  Amira & Hamza: The War to Save the Worlds, as well as a Ms. Marvel comic book mini-series.  Her poetry, essays, and short stories have appeared in numerous publications and anthologies including the New York TimesTake the MicColor Outside the LinesVampires Never Get Old and A Universe of Wishes.

She was born in Bombay, India, and grew up in Batavia, Illinois, in a house that smelled like fried onions, spices, and potpourri. A graduate of the University of Chicago, Samira has taught high school English in both the suburbs of Chicago and New York City, worked in education non-profits, and spent time on the road for political campaigns.

Samira currently lives in the Midwest. When she’s not reading or writing, she can be found on her lifelong quest for the perfect pastry.

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

TBR & Beyond Book Tour: The Final Gambit Tour

The Final Gambit Blog Banner Tour

Hi, everyone! Sorry I couldn’t post during the tour. I’ve been sick (thankfully not Covid).

Book Info:

The Final Gambit (The Inheritance Games #3) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Genre: Young Adult Mystery

Publishing Date: August 30, 2022

Synopsis

Avery’s fortune, life, and loves are on the line in the game that everyone will be talking about.

To inherit billions, all Avery Kylie Grambs has to do is survive a few more weeks living in Hawthorne House. The paparazzi are dogging her every step. Financial pressures are building. Danger is a fact of life. And the only thing getting Avery through it all is the Hawthorne brothers. Her life is intertwined with theirs. She knows their secrets, and they know her.

But as the clock ticks down to the moment when Avery will become the richest teenager on the planet, trouble arrives in the form of a visitor who needs her help—and whose presence in Hawthorne House could change everything. It soon becomes clear that there is one last puzzle to solve, and Avery and the Hawthorne brothers are drawn into a dangerous game against an unknown and powerful player.

Secrets upon secrets. Riddles upon riddles. In this game, there are hearts and lives at stake—and there is nothing more Hawthorne than winning.

Mood Board

The Final Gambit Mood Board

Top 5 Reasons to Read The Final Gambit

1. There are more riddles and plot twists in this!

2. Avery grows a lot as a a character.

3. Perfect for fans of Karen M. Macnamus but with rich kids & a Cinderella vibes to it.

4. For fans of dangerous mystery books.

5. For fans of love triangles!

Amani’s K-Corner: Extraordinary Attorney Woo

Amani’s Honest Reviews K: Corner Animated Blog banner
Extraordinary Attorney Woo – attorney woo has her hands up and is smiling via GIPHY.

Synopsis

Woo Young-Woo (Park Eun-Bin) is extremely smart and she also has autism spectrum disorder. She never forgets what she sees, but she lacks in social skills and empathy. Woo Young-Woo begins to work as a trainee lawyer at a large law firm. While working there, she faces prejudice and irrationality against her, but she solves cases with her own unique perspective and grows as a lawyer.

Attorney Jung holds the door open for Attorney Woo via GIPHY.
Simpsons saying: “SPOILER!!!” Via GIPHY.

Spoilers ahead – you’ve been warned!

Feel free to come back later once you’ve watched Extraordinary Attorney Woo!

My Review

This is my favorite legal drama since awhile You Were Sleeping!

Lee Jong Suk eating celery and smirking via GIPHY.

I loved how this drama included Attorney Woo’s special interest: Whales!

Whales swimming via GIPHY.

I adored the soundtrack, learning about Attorney Woo’s friends, and the court cases were so compelling!! This is a relatively fast-paced K-Drama and I thoroughly enjoyed all of the plot twists. I have to admit – I predicted some like the storyline about who leaked the anonymous blog post. I learned a lot about whales in this too. I really loved that this was a bit lighter than It’s Okay Not To Be Okay.

My favorite episode was the case Attorney Woo took with her friend. It also showed how complicated family relationships can be. It was so good to finally see that on TV. Family can be supportive, unsupportive in other ways, messy, but there for each other at the end of the day. I liked that the show didn’t shy away from talking about hard topics.

This show also doesn’t hide the fact that people often overlook those with disabilities. Attorney Woo was top of her class but because she has autism, many companies refused to hire her. A very real struggle from what I’ve read on The Mighty.

Disability is not a dirty word via GIPHY.

Typically in K-dramas I love the crew more than the couple and this was the case for this one too! I absolutely adored seeing Attorney Woo interact with her friends and the nice colleagues. Woo’s Team (except one) looked out for each other as they got to know one another. It was incredible to watch them grow closer to each other as each episode went on!

Attorney Woo via GIPHY.

The romance was also super cute! Jung is one of the few walking green flags for a boyfriend. I really want to see more positive relationships in K-Dramas. Their chemistry is undeniable and I love that Woo eventually cares for him as much as she loves talking about whales.

Final thoughts: This was so good! I’ve been sick with a sore throat so I’ve been trying to do less than usual (which is hard for me, lol). I loved this K-drama and if you’re a fan of Suits or other legal dramas then you’re going to want to watch Extraordinary Attorney Woo.

Jung listens to Attorney Woo talk about Whales via GIPHY.
Mr. Rogers says: “See You Next Time!” Via GIPHY.

TBR & Beyond Tour : As Long As The Lemon Trees Grow by Zoulfa Katouh

As Long as The Lemon Trees Grow TBR & Beyond Banner

Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction
Publishing date: September 13th, 2022

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indigo | IndieBound

Rep: Canadian Syrian & PTSD

Synopsis

Salama Kassab was a pharmacy student when the cries for freedom broke out in Syria. She still had her parents and her big brother; she still had her home. She had a normal teenager’s life.

Now Salama volunteers at a hospital in Homs, helping the wounded who flood through the doors daily. Secretly, though, she is desperate to find a way out of her beloved country before her sister-in-law, Layla, gives birth. So desperate, that she has manifested a physical embodiment of her fear in the form of her imagined companion, Khawf, who haunts her every move in an effort to keep her safe.

But even with Khawf pressing her to leave, Salama is torn between her loyalty to her country and her conviction to survive. Salama must contend with bullets and bombs, military assaults, and her shifting sense of morality before she might finally breathe free. And when she crosses paths with the boy she was supposed to meet one fateful day, she starts to doubt her resolve in leaving home at all.

Soon, Salama must learn to see the events around her for what they truly are—not a war, but a revolution—and decide how she, too, will cry for Syria’s freedom.

Content Warning: on page death and sexual assault. As well as, descriptions of torture, child abuse and torture, PTSD, starvation, and general descriptions of the horror that comes with war.

My Playlist

As Long As The Lemon Trees Grow Playlist made by me

The Top 5 Reasons to Read As Long As The Lemon Trees Grow

  • Salama’s persistence and charm shows throughout the book
  • Kenan is one of my favorite characters and you’ll get to meet him
  • They bond over Studio Ghibli movies
  • It’s set during the Syrian revolution
  • It’s a life-changing book!
Anime egg frying scene via GIPHY

About the Author

Author Zoulfa Katouh

Zoulfa Katouh is the only person in her family who can’t roll her tongue, but that’s okay because she writes characters who can do so. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy and is currently pursuing her master’s degree in Drug Sciences. She is trilingual in English, Arabic and German. Zoulfa currently resides in Switzerland where she finds inspiration in the Studio Ghibli picturesque scenery.

Ever since her Mama gave her a copy of Anne of Green Gables when she was eight years old, she discovered the beauty of books. Soon enough she was sneaking books under her school desk to read while teachers went on about Math and Physics. Her imagination grew, and one day, she had the courage to pen down the stories that roam her mind. And she never stopped!

Her speculative contemporary YA debut AS LONG AS THE LEMON TREES GROW comes out September 13th by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and September 15th by Bloomsbury Kids & YA UK, making her the first Syrian YA author to be published in the US and UK.

She is represented by the warrior queen Alexandra Levick at Writers House.

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Spotify

Social Butterfly PR Blog Tour Post :Gotta Be Bayou by Erin Nicholas

Blog Tour Post

Synopsis

How do you get over a woman you never should have been, ahem, under in the first place?

 

Gotta Be Bayou, an all-new grumpy-sunshine, small town romance from New York Times bestselling author Erin Nicholas is now available!

 

Just when FBI special agent Spencer Landry had decided to forget about investigative journalist Maxine-Max-Keller and their one hot night together, there’s a threat made against her and Spencer’s protective instincts get all riled up. Again.

So now they’re shacking up on the Louisiana bayou and pretending to be in love so he can keep Max safe until the guy is apprehended.

Considering their chemistry and that he can not stop thinking about the gorgeous-and-doesn’t-know-it, smart-mouthed, bold-and-yet-vulnerable redhead, this could be a fun few days, right?

Nope. She’s all wrong for him.

And she hasn’t forgotten he can be kind of a jerk.

Sure, the naked-times are great, but he told her exactly what he wants— a bubbly, sweet school teacher who bakes him brownies and loves to cuddle—and Max ain’t it.

Max not only doesn’t bake, no one has ever called her sweet. And cuddling? Shudder.

Plus his bossiness is super annoying for someone who’s been taking care of herself all her life. But now they’re stuck together and dammit, besides being hot and very good with his mouth, Spencer is pretty irresistible with baby goats, little kids, and attempts at baking. And don’t forget alpha-protective. All of which makes her stomach feel very swoop-y. No wonder her clothes keep falling off.

But this is a temporary situation and they’re only faking it. So falling for the guy is a terrible idea.

She really should have kept that in mind.

My Review

Max has a traumatic childhood. Spencer and Max assumed they’re polar opposites. Spencer was someone Max could rely on and I loved how cute they were together.

My Rating

4/5 stars

Grab Your Copy!

Read today!

Amazon: https://amzn.to/34ySUhi

Amazon Worldwide: http://mybook.to/gottabebayou

Apple Books: https://apple.co/3uRlzZw

Nook: https://bit.ly/3JA8AQl

Kobo : https://bit.ly/3uJWr7e

Google Play: https://bit.ly/3BuCTqv

Amazon Paperback: https://amzn.to/3qJQHqZ

Nook Paperback: https://bit.ly/3eGq1Eo

 

Add to your Goodreads Shelf: https://bit.ly/3JuPdIg

About the Author

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Erin Nicholas has been writing romances almost as long as she’s been reading them. To date, she’s written over thirty sexy, contemporary novels that have been described as “toe-curling,” “enchanting,” “steamy,” and “fun.” She adores reluctant heroes, imperfect heroines, and happily ever afters.

Erin lives in the Midwest, where she enjoys spending time with her husband (who only wants to read the sex scenes in her books), her kids (who will never read the sex scenes in her books), and her family and friends (who claim to be “shocked” by the sex scenes in her books).

Connect with Erin

Website: http://bit.ly/2NkB2uF

Facebook: http://bit.ly/2tdTM8e

Twitter: http://bit.ly/2QLd1Pr

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/3a3rnm4

Instagram: http://bit.ly/36NqV9y
Website: http://bit.ly/2FM3Doo
Stay up to date with Erin Nicholas by joining her mailing list:
http://bit.ly/38a5Fv5

 

 

Turn The Pages Tour : Lizzie Blake’s Best Mistake

Turn the Pages Blog Tour Banner

Book Information

TITLE: Lizzie Blake’s Best Mistake

AUTHOR: Mazey Eddings

PUBLISHER: St. Martin’s Press

RELEASE DATE: Sept. 6, 2022

GENRES: Adult Romcom

BUY LINKS:

https://read.macmillan.com/lp/lizzie-blakes-best-mistake/

Synopsis

Lizzie has made endless mistakes. Kitchen fires, pyramid schemes, bangs (of the hair and human variety), you name it, she’s done it… and made a mess of it too. One mistake she’s never made is letting anyone get closer to her than a single hook-up. But after losing yet another bakery job due to her uncontrolled ADHD, she breaks her cardinal rule and has a two-night-stand that changes everything.

Once burned, twice shy, Rake has given up on relationships. And feelings. And any form of intimacy for that matter. Yet something about charming, chaotic Lizzie has him lowering his guard. For two nights, that is. Then it’s back home to Australia and far away from the pesky feelings Lizzie pulls from him. But when Lizzie tells him she’s got an unexpected bun in the oven, he’ll do whatever it takes to be a part of his child’s life… except be emotionally vulnerable, obviously. He’s never going to make that mistake again.

Through a series of mishaps, totally “platonic” single bed sharing, and an underground erotic baking scheme, Lizzie and Rake learn that even the biggest mistakes can have the most beautiful consequences.

Scrabble letters spell : “ANXIETY!” Via GIPHY.

Book Review

I loved the ADHD rep in this. Lizzie is an adult MC who is living with ADHD which was something I rarely see in adult contemporaries. I loved A Brush With Love and this was pretty high on my radar. Apologies for the late post as I’m still sick and recovering so I’m a bit behind in posting. Rake & Lizzie are adorable together. The trope in this book (which I won’t say what because it’s a spoiler) is not one of my favorites but I really liked how this particular book turned out!!

I plan to be more active on here once I’m feeling better.

You can check out Turn the Pages Tour post here.

My Rating

4/5 stars

About the Author

Author’s website: https://linktr.ee/romance.in.the.wild

Author’s instagram: https://instagram.com/mazeyeddings?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y=

Author’s twitter: N/A

Giveaway

Pusheen cat says Giveaway Time! Via GIPHY.

There is a giveaway for three (3) copies! Please direct your followers to the following link to enter.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/1e4a114d73/?

RockStar Blog Tour: The Man or The Monster by Aamna Qureshi

THE MAN OR THE MONSTER

The Man or the Monster Blog Tour Banner

I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the THE MAN OR THE MONSTER by Aamna Qureshi Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway! 

Synopsis

Title: THE MAN OR THE MONSTER (The Marghazar Trials #2)

Author: Aamna Qureshi

Pub. Date: August 30, 2022

Publisher: CamCat Books

Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, Audiobook

Pages: 320

Find it: GoodreadsAmazonKindleAudibleB&NiBooks,KoboTBDBookshop.org

Order a signed copy directly from Aamna!

Letters to Juliet movie with the caption: “Do you believe in destiny?” Via GIPHY.

 

She made her decision. Now she has to live with it.

Durkhanai Miangul sealed her lover’s fate when she sent him through a door where either a lady or a lion awaited him. But her decision was only the beginning of her troubles. Durkhanaiworries that she might not be the queen her people need or deserve when conflict threatens her kingdom.


Her presumed-dead father comes back with a vengeance and wishes she join him in his cause. But her family’s denial of his revenge forces Durkhanai to take matters into her own hands and she must decide whether to follow the traditions of her forefathers or forge a new path on her own.

Buy Book 1, THE LADY OR THE LION now!

Forbidden romance via GIPHY.

Review

This book was SO freaking good and I actually finished this in two days!! Aamna Qureshi’s books are the perfect combination of romance and fantasy. I love that this has political intrigue and is a Pakistani Inspired fantasy. This book is filled with so many twists and turns! I can easily read any of Aamna’s books and I know it’s going to be a good time. Barnes & Noble is currently having a sale so you should definitely take advantage of it and get your copy!

This book is ideal for Pride & Prejudice fans!

Pride & Prejudice via GIPHY.

My Rating

5/5 stars

 

About Aamna Qureshi

Aamna Qureshi

Aamna Qureshi is a Pakistani, Muslim American who adores words. She grew up in a very loud household, surrounded by English (for school), Urdu (for conversation), and Punjabi (for emotion). Through her writing, she wishes to inspire a love for the beautiful country and rich culture that informed much of her identity. When she’s not writing, she loves to travel to new places where she can explore different cultures or to Pakistan where she can revitalize her roots. She also loves baking complicated desserts, drinking fancy teas and coffees, watching sappy rom-coms, and going for walks about the estate (her backyard). She currently lives in New York. Look for her on IG @aamna_qureshi and Twitter @aamnaqureshi_ and at her website aamnaqureshi.com.

Giveaway

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon | BookBub

1 winner will receive a finished copy of THE MAN OR THE MONSTER, US Only.

Ends September 20th, midnight EST.

Rafflecopter Link:

Giveaway Time via GIPHY.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/e2389ba21516/?

Tour Schedule

Week One:

8/22/2022

BookHounds YA 

Guest Post/IG Post

8/23/2022

A Dream Within A Dream

GuestPost

8/24/2022

Sadie’s Spotlight

Excerpt/IG Post

8/25/2022

Lisa-Queen of Random

Excerpt/IG Post

8/26/2022

Ya Books Central

Guest Post/IG Post

8/27/2022

Author Z. Knight’s Guild

Excerpt 

 

Week Two:

8/28/2022

The Erudite Labyrinth 

Review

8/29/2022

Epic Book Society

Review/IG Post

8/30/2022

Books and Kats

Excerpt 

8/31/2022

Fire and Ice

Review

9/1/2022

@allyluvsbooksalatte

IG Spotlight

9/2/2022

Writer of Wrongs

Excerpt

9/3/2022

The Reading Life

Review/IG Post

 

Week Three:

9/4/2022

The Underground 

Review 

9/5/2022

Rajiv’s Reviews

Review/IG Post

9/6/2022

@jodieangell_author

IG Review

9/7/2022

Laurenreads._

Review/IG Post

9/8/2022

@meetcuteromancebooks

IG Review

9/9/2022

Locks, Hooks and Books

Review

9/10/2022

Nagma | TakeALookAtMyBookshelf

IG Review

 

Week Four:

9/11/2022

One More Exclamation 

Review/IG Post

9/12/2022

Book-Keeping 

Review/IG Post

9/13/2022

@jacleomik33 

IG Review

9/14/2022

The Momma Spot

Review/IG Post

9/15/2022

More Books Please blog

Review/IG Post

9/16/2022

GryffindorBookishNerd

IG Review

9/17/2022

@jypsylynn

IG Review

A Black woman says : “There You Have IT!” Via GIPHY.

Book Review on For Butter or Worse by Erin La Rosa

Book Blog banner on For Butter or Worse by Erin La Rosa
Joy from Inside Out is Smiling and Waving! Via GIPHY

Hey, everyone! I know it’s been awhile and I’ve been trying to get my life back on track.

Question for those who are reading this: What are you currently reading, or watching? Let me know in the comments below – I’d love to add some recs to my list.

Things have been insanely busy and I’ve had to drop out of a couple of things that no longer sparks joy for me.

A Black woman says Let me tell you something via SNL GIPHY

As of today I submitted my two week’s notice for Pop Culturalist so that I can focus on my grad school program and also because I want to focus on growing an audience for my podcast, Raise Your Words.

I want to be able to interview authors on my own terms and publish posts when I want to. I’m excited for this new chapter in my life.

I’m proud of how far I’ve come and the author list that I have contacts for thanks to being a book influencer – @ meetcuteromancebooks on Instagram.

Anyway, back to the review!

An Asian woman says : “These are details!” Via GIPHY.

In For Butter or Worse, Nina Lyon is an aspiring chef who wants to make it big in the culinary world. Nina is a cohost of a reality TV series called The Next Cooking Champ! The only downside is her co-host is Hollywood’s smug jerk Leo O’ Donnell. Leo never intended to annoy Nina, but it seems to happen the second the cameras start rolling due to his anxiety. So when his joke goes too far he’s shocked when Nina quits on live TV. Unfortunately for them, they’re caught in what seems to be a scandalous situation by the paparazzi. A hidden romance might be the thing to skyrocket the tv ratings. All they have to do is pretend to be in love without killing each other. Nina’s convinced she can do this without catching feelings. Easier said than done. The trigger warnings in this book are sexism, anxiety, panic attacks, on-page grief, and the death of a parent due to breast cancer. This book also includes the death of a father and off-page cyber-bullying.

Someone is holding freshly made pasta via GIPHY.

This is a cute book that includes the fake dating trope. The fake dating trope is typically a hit or miss, but for me, this was a miss mainly because of how awful Leo is. Leo is sexist towards Nina and says a lot of things that even Nina herself admits are not something she can completely forgive him for. Ultimately, Nina still loves Leo despite everything he puts her through. The declarations of love and the witty banter were something I absolutely adored in this book. Erin La Rosa writes the tension between Nina and Leo very well. Nina and Leo would love to strangle each other if they were left alone for too long.

Veronica says to Betty : “Oh my god, swoon!” via GIPHY.

This book does not shy away from exploring a character’s mental health. More romance books should address it especially since it is something a lot of people can resonate with. The cooking show premise was honestly what drew me in and this book delivers!

World Mental Health 2022 via GIPHY.

Nina’s a headstrong protagonist and my favorite character in this book. She’s doing the best she can to be on top of everything.

However, she’s still coping with her grief and I love that the author shows what Nina is going through and how it affects her in her work and personal life. Nina just has a lot going on. She’s trying to earn a promotion but has to deal with Leo’s antics that get on her nerves. When paparazzi snap a picture of them in a scandalous position, pretending to date each other might be the only thing that could help them save their jobs. There’s just one problem… will they be able to fool their audience into thinking they’re in love once the cameras start rolling?

A Black Woman says “We got this!” Via GIPHY.

On the other hand, Leo always felt like he could never measure up to Nina’s critiques so he focuses on his humor. Leo’s also coping with his own battles. His thoughts and actions are a direct correlation to his anxiety. Once he’s anxious about something it’s like a light switch flips and he’s a different person. He doesn’t mean to act like a grade-A jerk to Nina. He’s always ignored his mental health until he realizes he shouldn’t. He cracks jokes to ease his anxiety not realizing the effect it has on Nina.

A Latina woman says “I’m having anxiety.” Via GIPHY.

Overall, this book tackles a lot for a romance. It delves into what Nina and Leo are dealing with emotionally which correlates to how they act. This book has a slow start and is relatively predictable. It’s a fun beach read, though.

Even though it took me more than half the book before I stopped despising Leo, I understand why he did what he did in the book (redacted due to spoilers). Nina’s an incredibly fun character. Everything goes downhill for them when they have to pretend to like each other for the sake of their cooking show which is their jobs. The stakes are high and their livelihoods are on the line if the audience doesn’t buy their romance. For butter or worse.

My Rating

3/5 stars

This was a 3/5 stars. I liked it, but I didn’t LOVE it.

An Asian guy says “I guess that’s it for today!” via GIPHY.

Blood Like Fate Book Review

Thank you so much to SimonTeen for a copy of Blood Like Fate.

Blood Like Fate is resting on a computer.

Blood Like Fate by Liselle Sambury is about a girl named Voya Thomas who is struggling to save her country from a horrible future. Voya’s finally a full-fledged witch, but the price she had to pay was bigger than anything she’d ever imagined. She lost her grandmother and her cousin despises her. To make matters worse, her family doesn’t believe she has the courage to lead everyone. Voya’s feelings for Luc haven’t disappeared and what sucks is that Luc thinks Voya killed his dad- Justin Tremblay! Justin a genius billionaire. As a result, Luc wants absolutely nothing to do with her. Voya’s crushed when even her own ancestors don’t answer her calls. 

Despite all of this, Voya’s determined to prove to everyone that she has what it takes to be a good ruler. Everything she’s worked hard for falls apart when she gets a vision of a horrifying future. With a new goal in mind, Voya has to do whatever it takes to bring her broken community together and put an end to what’s coming for them before it’s too late. Even if it involves stopping the boy who she still has feelings for and who could potentially be the mastermind behind this tragedy.

The world-building in this book is my favorite part! I loved that Voya acted her age. She’s an incredibly intelligent character in the book. On top of that, she also has to deal with a cousin who loathes her. The family drama added another layer of depth to this book that took it to the next level. Every aspect of Voya’s life is in complete shambles. Voya’s struggling to keep going in spite of everything that has been going on. She feels like no one respects her. It’s understandable that she’s left feeling insecure especially since her own family doesn’t think she should be a matriarch which is the highest position she could be in.

Blood Like Fate’s content warnings are blood, gore, violence, mentions of addiction, child neglect, sickness/infection, and an eating disorder. This book does not shy away from discussing mental health. I liked the fact that this book has a strong emphasis on the importance of getting therapy. Sambury handles mental health in a fantasy world well which was the first time I read about mental health in a fantasy book. Even the side characters all have their own conflicts within the story. It is an emotional book with loveable protagonists. The characters go to therapy which is the first time I saw this being discussed in a fantasy book!

A therapist says : “Let’s explore that!” via GIPHY.

I’d say the only thing I wasn’t a fan of how we didn’t get answers for certain plot points. It has a slow start, but it picks up!

Overall, I really loved it! I think the beginning could have started off with more action but overall it was a lot of fun.

It’s a wrap via GIPHY.

Turn the Pages Tour : The Decoy Girlfriend by Lillie Valle

Turn the pages tour

TITLE: The Decoy Girlfriend   

AUTHOR: Lillie Vale

PUBLISHER: Putnam Books (Penguin Random House)

RELEASE DATE: September 6, 2022

GENRES: Adult RomCom, Adult Contemporary Romance

Synopsis

A laugh-out-loud funny and whip-smart romantic comedy from the author of The Shaadi Set-Up, about a young woman who takes the place of her celebrity doppelgänger, and must fake-date the actress’s sexy costar boyfriend.

Writer Freya Lal has a huge secret: she’s a dead ringer for It-girl actress Mandi Roy. Her second novel is due in a month, but inspiration is nowhere to be found. Desperate to shake off her writer’s block, Freya leans into her look-alike abilities and indulges in some mistaken identity for simple perks, like scoring a free mimosa or getting into a trendy nightclub. 

Actor Taft Bamber appears to have it all: gorgeous, talented, and Mandi’s love interest both on- and off-screen. But what nobody knows is that their relationship is a PR stunt, and after years of playing make-believe, he’s yearning for something real. 

When Freya’s latest impersonation of Mandi goes viral thanks to Taft’s accidental interference, rumors of a breakup threaten Hollywood’s golden couple. To make amends, Freya is forced to give Mandi a little time off: she’ll pretend to be the actress for a month, move in with Taft, and squash the rumors by acting completely in love. But as Freya and Taft play house, it becomes impossible to ignore that their instant chemistry isn’t just for the cameras.

While faking it, they might have just found the real thing.

Review in Gifs

Chuck & Blair via GIPHY.

This book is all about fake dating and Chuck & Blair is what comes to mind. Freya and Taft’s chemistry reminds me of them. They’re so cute together especially when they insist nothing is going on.

Peeta & Katniss via GIPHY.

The on and off screen part of the book reminded me of how Katniss & Peeta had to act on and off screen. In front of the cameras they had to pretend to be in love and off screen Katniss hated Peeta at first. Similarly, Taft & Freya has to act like they’re in love.

“Welcome to Hollywood.” Via GIPHY.

This all takes place in Hollywood and it was cool to follow an IT couple. I loved seeing Taft and Freya.

About the Author

Lillie Vale is the author of books for both teens and adults, including The Decoy Girlfriend, Beauty and the Besharam, The Shaadi Set-Up and Small Town Hearts, an American Library Association’s 2020 Rainbow Books List selection. She writes about secrets and yearning, complicated and ambitious girls who know what they want, the places we call home and people we find our way back to, and the magic we make. Born in Mumbai, she grew up in Mississippi, Texas, and North Dakota, and now lives in an Indiana college town. Find her on Twitter @LillieLabyrinth and Instagram @labyrinthspine, or visit her website lillielabyrinth.com.

Author’s website: https://www.lillielabyrinth.com

Author’s instagram: instagram.com/labyrinthspine

Author’s twitter: twitter.com/lillielabyrinth

Check out the other stops on the tour!

Turn the Pages tour

Name

Date

Type of Post (bloggers)

Turn the Page Tours

August 21

Welcome Post

@readsbyradus 

August 25

@bookishbrunchclub

August 24

@wraithreads

August 23

@libraryofleni

August 25

Reading Stewardess

August 27

Review

@dreaminginpages

August 27

@kaikeighsbooknoook

August 21

@bookshelves.and.boybands

August 23

@runhideandread

August 22

The Clever Reader

August 26

Author interview 

Kait Plus Books

August 24

Author interview

A Clouded Galaxy Reads

August 27

Review

@sparetimereader

August 26

@her.shelves

August 25

@bookishly_kenia

August 26

@coldbrewbookreviews

August 24

A Clouded Galaxy Reads

August 27

Review

@sparetimereader

August 26

@her.shelves

August 25

@bookishly_kenia

August 26

@coldbrewbookreviews

August 24

@meetcuteromance / Amani’s Honest Reviews

August 21

Review in gifs!

@purrfectpages

August 26

@wonderousreads

August 22

@stp_reads

August 23

@tinybooknest

August 22

@lindseys.booknook

August 27

@takealookatmybookshelf

August 25

@popthebutterfly / Pop the Butterfly Reads

August 24

Review

@beautynherbooks / Beauty & Her Books

August 21

Review

@decklededgess

August 22

@theladysparks

August 23

Book Blog Tour : The Godparent Trap By: Rachel Van Dyke

The Godparent Trap via Valentine PR

Release Date: July 19, 2022

Synopsis

Colby’s living her best life: as a popular food blogger, she gets to fulfill her dreams of exploring the globe. But her world comes crashing down when a tragic accident leaves her co-guardian of her best friend’s two adorable children. Not only does she need to put down roots—fast—but she’ll be sharing custody with the one man she can’t stand sharing a continent with, let alone a house. Accountant-extraordinaire Rip values rules and plans. But when he loses his sister and his best friend and becomes an insta-guardian all in one night, Rip sees his organized life imploding. What he really doesn’t need is his sister’s irresponsible, flighty—albeit kind and gorgeous—best friend making it worse. Rip doesn’t trust Colby to take their new responsibilities seriously, while Colby can’t believe Rip thinks children will thrive under his rigid control. Yet soon Rip and Colby discover they need each other more than they hate each other. Could it be possible that following their hearts is just what their new little family needs?

My Review

This book is perfect for fans of the movie “Life as We Know it!” Colby and Rip have a very similar dynamic. I absolutely freaking loved their witty banter and how that moment that they realized they needed each other more than they loathed each other. It has a slow start, but eventually picks up.

Life as We Know It via GIPHY. Caption states: “Did you hear me say I loved you? Because I can say it again.”

Colby is a fun and lovable protagonist. But, it took me sometime to appreciate Rip. I wasn’t a huge fan of Rip. Overall, it’s a cute, rom-com type of book that will make you cry at times.

My Rating

4/5 stars

Get Your Copy!

Apple Books: https://apple.co/3qc00iH
Amazon: https://amzn.to/32lkcGk
Nook: https://bit.ly/3pc3T7M
Kobo: https://bit.ly/3mkDzXv
Google Play: https://bit.ly/3pbIefV

Add to Goodreads: https://bit.ly/3sjiYq3

Thank you to Rachel Van Dyken, Forever Publishing, and Valentine PR for the eARC in exchange for an honest review!

About the Author

Author of The God Parent Trap

Rachel Van Dyken is the #1 New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA TODAY Bestselling author of regency and contemporary romances. When she’s not writing you can find her drinking coffee at Starbucks and plotting her next book while watching guilty-pleasure TV.

She keeps her home in Idaho with her Husband and, adorable son. She loves to hear from readers!

The Mid-Year Freak Out Tag

The Mid-Year Freak Out Tag book banner

Arc = advanced reader’s copy.

Best Book You’ve Read in 2022

Caption : “It was amazing!” via GIPHY.

As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow by Zoulfah Katouh. I read this arc and loved it!

Best Sequel You’ve Read in 2022

Caption: “The Most Awaited Part!” via GIPHY.

Love from Mecca to Medina by S.K. Ali. I got an ARC of this and it’s SO good!

New Releases You Haven’t Read Yet, But Want to

Animated girl reading a book on a bed via GIPHY.

You’re Invited by Amanda Jayatissa. This book is set in Sri Lanka and I’m excited to read it. As an American Sri Lankan, this was incredible to see! This book is about a girl who’s ex best friend and ex fiancé get to get her to have a big wedding in Sri Lanka. When the bride goes missing, the ex fiancé and the protagonist becomes the prime suspects in the investigation.

Most Anticipated Release for the Second Half of 2022

I’m Very Excited via GIPHY.

Bloodmarked by Tracey Deonn.

Biggest Disappointment of 2022

Yoda says: “Disappointed am I.” via GIPHY.

The Chandler Legacies by Abdi Nazemian.

Biggest Surprise of 2022

Nick Fury is surprised via GIPHY.

Babel by R.F. Kuang. The author is incredible!

New Favorite Author

Caption: “It’s my favorite!” via GIPHY.

Well this author is new to me and the author is R.F. Kuang. But, if we’re strictly talking about 2022 debut authors I’m excited for Deborah Falaye.

Newest Fictional Crush

Belle is admiring the Beast from afar via GIPHY.

Ian Jun from Beauty & the Besharam by Lillie Vale.

Newest Favorite Character

Cat says : “How romantic!” From Aristrocats via GIPHY.

Mara from Under One Roof by Ali Hazelwood and Durkhanai Miangul from The Man or The Monster by Aamna Qureshi.

Book That Made You Cry

Anger via Inside Out GIPHY.

All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir.

Book That Made You Happy

Princess Diaries: “A Princess!” via GIPHY.

Tokyo Dreaming by Emiko Jean.

Favorite Book to Movie Adaptation You’ve Seen So Far This Year

If I have to pick a book to movie adaptation it would have to be Along for the Ride.

But if I could pick a book to TV adaptation I would go with The Summer I Turned Pretty.

Conrad and Belly at the Volleyball tournament via GIPHY.

Favorite Review You’ve Written This Year

A reporter says: “I felt accepted and seen” via GIPHY.

The one I wrote for Hana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin and the one I wrote for Love from Mecca to Medina.

Most Beautiful Book Covers You’ve Bought This Year

Caption states: “Freaking Gorgeous!” via GIPHY.

There’s SO many! As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow (the arc), Twisted Lies, Bhai for Now, Salaam, with Love, and so many more!

What Books Do You Really Need to Read

Ariel states: “I want more…” via GIPHY.

Bloodmarked by Tracey Deonn, A Tempest of Tea by Hafsah Faizal, The Love Match by Priyanka Taslim, and other books that have been announced but have not been published yet.

Miranda Priestly says: “That’s all.” via GIPHY.

If you’d like to do this, feel free to tag me so I can see it!

My Social Media Link

https://linktr.ee/AmaniSalahudeen/

TBR & Beyond Tours: Nura & The Immortal Palace by M.T. Khan

Nura and The Immortal Palace Blog Tour

Nura and the Immortal Palace by M.T. Khan

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Publishing Date: July 5, 2022

Book Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54913540 

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0759557950/ 

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/nura-and-the-immortal-palace-m-t-khan/1140501490 

Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Nura-Immortal-Palace-M-T-Khan/9780759557956 

Indigo: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/nura-and-the-immortal-palace/9780759557956-item.html 

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780759557956

Can I Get A Copy of This? Via GIPHY.
Book Cover for Nura and the Immortal Palace

Synopsis

Aru Shah and the End of Time meets Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away in this mesmerizing portal fantasy that takes readers into the little-known world of Jinn.

Nura longs for the simple pleasure of many things—to wear a beautiful red dupatta or to bite into a sweet gulab. But with her mom hard at work in a run-down sweatshop and three younger siblings to feed, Nura must spend her days earning money by mica mining. But it’s not just the extra rupees in her pocket Nura is after. Local rumor says there’s buried treasure in the mine, and Nura knows that finding it could change the course of her family’s life forever.

Her plan backfires when the mines collapse and four kids, including her best friend, Faisal, are claimed dead. Nura refuses to believe it and shovels her way through the dirt hoping to find him. Instead, she finds herself at the entrance to a strange world of purple skies and pink seas—a portal to the opulent realm of jinn, inhabited by the trickster creatures from her mother’s cautionary tales. Yet they aren’t nearly as treacherous as her mother made them out to be, because Nura is invited to a luxury jinn hotel, where she’s given everything she could ever imagine and more.

But there’s a dark truth lurking beneath all that glitter and gold, and when Nura crosses the owner’s son and is banished to the working quarters, she realizes she isn’t the only human who’s ended up in the hotel’s clutches. Faisal and the other missing children are there, too, and if Nura can’t find a way to help them all escape, they’ll be bound to work for the hotel forever.

Content Warning: child labor.

Playlist

Beginning of the playlist as an IG graphic. It has a purple background.

Before You Go- Lewis Capaldi

no body, no crime- Taylor Swift

Demons- Imagine Dragons

My Universe – BTS

Unconditionally- Katy Perry

Only You – Selena Gomez

Worst of You – Maisie Peters

favorite crime – Olivia Rodrigo

Can’t Do Better – Kim Petras

Fight Song – Rachel Platten

There’s a Place for Us – Carrie Underwood

About The Author

M.T. Khan Author Cover

M.T. Khan is a speculative fiction author with a penchant for all things myth, science, and philosophy. She focuses on stories that combine all three, dreaming of evocative worlds and dark possibilities.

When she’s not writing, M.T. Khan has her nose deep in physics textbooks or glued to her CAD computer as she majors in Mechanical Engineering. Born in Lahore, Pakistan, she currently resides in Toronto, Canada, with a hyperactive cat and an ever-increasing selection of tea. Her forthcoming debut, NURA AND THE IMMORTAL PALACE, hits shelves on July 5th 2022 from Little, Brown.

Author Links:

Website: https://www.mtkhan.com/ 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/maeedakhan 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/maeedakhan/ 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/20591593.M_T_Khan 

TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@maeedakhan 

Tour Schedule

July 4th
Confessions of a YA Reader – Promotional Post
Beneath A Thousand Skies – Review

July 5th
Stuck in Fiction – Promotional Post
Books tales by me – Review & Mood Board
Clouded Galaxy Reads – Review

July 6th
B for Bookslut – Review
The Momma Spot – Review
Djreadsbooks – Review & Playlist

July 7th
The Book Dutchesses – Promotional Post
Tirilu – Review
The Girl Who Reads – Review

July 8th
Nine Bookish Lives – Promotional Post
paperbacktomes – Review
dinipandareads – Review & Favorite Quotes

July 9th
The Caffeinated Rareder – Review
Melancholic Blithe – Promotional Post
Anjali Writes And Reads – Review & Mood Board

July 10th
The Erudite Labyrinth – Review & Favorite Quotes
Kait Plus Books – Promotional Post

IG Tour Schedule

July 4th
lisashelves – Review & Favorite Quotes
GryffindorBookishNerd – Review
atrailofpages – Review

July 5th
writingrosereads – Promotional Post
whisperingprose – Review
feliciareads11 – Blogger’s Choice
cloudedgalaxyreads – Blogger’s Choice

July 6th
meetcuteromancebooks – Playlist
BookDragonsTBR – Blogger’s Choice
djreadsbooks – Blogger’s Choice

July 7th
karinas.lit – Book Look
following.fantasies – Review & Favorite Quotes
bookstagramofmine – Blogger’s Choice

July 8th
ninebookishlives – Blogger’s Choice
paperbacktomes – Blogger’s Choice

July 9th
dhirviepages – Review & 15 Reactions While Reading Nura and the Immortal Palace
fangirlpixiebooks – Promotional Post
thecaffeinatedrareder – Blogger’s Choice
studioad_anjali – Blogger’s Choice

July 10th
tbrandbeyond – Promotional Post
read.cells – Top 5 Reasons to Read Nura and the Immortal Palace & Mood Board
mulberryreads – Review
musfira._ – Promotional Post

Top 10 Books That Remind Me of The Summer I Turned Pretty

Please remember to check the books for trigger warnings if that’s something you’d like to know!

On with the list!!

Belly is smiling via GIPHY

1. If you want a book where the character is similar to Belly I recommend Saints & Misfits by S.K. Ali

Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali

I feel like Belly and Janna are both around the same age. They both have people in their lives who treat them like they’re younger and they just want to be independent.

2. If you’re Team Jeremiah, pick up Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

Love & Gelato book

It’s not a summer beach house romance, but the protagonist does get swept away by two main love interests when she spends a summer in Italy.

Jeremiah says: “You Sure About That?” VIA GIPHY

3. If you’re Team Conrad, grab a copy of It All Comes Back to You by Farah Naz Rishi

It All Comes Back to You by Farah Naz Rishi

Deen is very similar to Conrad. He’s just as broody, just as hopelessly in love with the protagonist, and doesn’t think he deserves her. If you’re a Conrad girl, give this book a chance!

4. If you liked Cam Cameron, read TJ Power Has Something to Prove by Jesmeen Kaur Deo

TJ Power Has Something to Prove Cover

I feel like Cameron reminds me a little bit of the love interest in TJ Power Has Something to Prove. This book is also perfect if you’re a fan of Never Have I Ever.

Devi & Paxton from Never Have I Ever via GIPHY

5. Are you a fan of Steven & Shayla? Pick up The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang Book Cover
Steven says: “I think I love you.” Via GIPHY.

Shayla and Stella both have a lot of money. Just like Steven, Michael (in The Kiss Quotient) is trying to land a job. Except in Michael’s case, the money isn’t for himself like it is in Steven’s case. Michael needs money to pay his mom’s medical bills. On the other hand, Stella has more money than she knows what to do with it. This is perfect for anyone who ships Shayla and Steven!

6. Want a book that has a strong friendship like Laurel & Susannah’s? Read Sweet Mongolias Stealing Home by Sheryl Wood.

Stealing Home Sweet Mongolias by Sheryl Woods

The friendships the three moms have is similar to the one between Susannah and Laurel. They’re there for each other during all the highs and lows in their lives. There’s also a Netflix adaptation called Sweet Mongolias.

Fabulous from Sweet Mongolias via GIPHY.

7. Do you love Laurel and Cleveland ? Pick it up The Roughest Draft by husband and wife author duo Emily Wibberly and Austin Siegemund-Broka

The Roughest Draft

Just like Cleveland and Laurel, Katrina Freeling and Nathan Van Hyusen hate each other but work together on their book. Slightly different from Cleveland and Laurel, but I felt like their chemistry are pretty similar to each other.

A woman is smiling and holding up the sign that states: “Plot: enemies to lovers!”

8. Want a book that will make you feel like you’re back at Cousins Beach? Pick up Fallen Too Fae by Abbi Glines.

Fallen Too Far by Abbi Glines

Rosemary Beach premise is similar to Cousins Beach. Except it’s steamier. I’d also say there’s a lot of sub plots that have a deeper underlying message so don’t let the cover of the book make you stop reading it.

9. Need a book that reminds you of Belly? Pick up By the Book by Jasmine Guillory.

By the Book

Isabelle and Belly (her full name is also Isabelle) share the same name. By the Book is for those who ship Jeremiah and Belly. I adored by the book (got to read an e-arc)!!

Jeremiah in The Summer I Turned Pretty via GIPHY.

10. Here’s another summer read if you LOVED The Summer I Turned Pretty! It’s The Summer of You by Nagisa Faruya

My Summer of You by Nagisa Faruya

This is the perfect summer book for those who love mangas or graphic novels. It’s a cute summer romance that reminds me of how Belly feels like she’s always looking forward to summer at Cousins Beach.

Belly says: “All the Time!” Via GIPHY.

Turn the Pages Tour for The Box in the Woods by Maureen Johnson

The Box in the Woods Turn the Pages Tour Blog Banner

Book Title: The Box in the Woods (Truly Devious #4)

Author: Maureen Johnson

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Release Date: June 21, 2022

Genres: Young Adult, Mystery, Thriller, Contemporary

Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/52716736 

Book Purchase link:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Box-Woods-Truly-Devious/dp/0063032600

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-box-in-the-woods-maureen-johnson/1136705456

Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Box-Woods-Maureen-Johnson/9780063032606?ref=grid-view&qid=1623417161799&sr=1-1Indiebound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780063032606

Book Cover of The Box in the Woods

Synopsis

After solving the case of Truly Devious, Stevie Bell investigates her first mystery outside of Ellingham Academy in this spine-chilling and hilarious stand-alone mystery from New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson.

Amateur sleuth Stevie Bell needs a good murder. After catching a killer at her high school, she’s back at home for a normal (that means boring) summer.

But then she gets a message from the owner of Sunny Pines, formerly known as Camp Wonder Falls—the site of the notorious unsolved case, the Box in the Woods Murders. Back in 1978, four camp counselors were killed in the woods outside of the town of Barlow Corners, their bodies left in a gruesome display. The new owner offers Stevie an invitation: Come to the camp and help him work on a true crime podcast about the case.

Stevie agrees, as long as she can bring along her friends from Ellingham Academy. Nothing sounds better than a summer spent together, investigating old murders.

But something evil still lurks in Barlow Corners. When Stevie opens the lid on this long-dormant case, she gets much more than she bargained for. The Box in the Woods will make room for more victims. This time, Stevie may not make it out alive.

My Review

Stevie is one of my favorite protagonists! I love how this included a podcast which is something I love since I have my own podcast called @raiseyourwordspod (it’s a bookish/entertainment pod though – not true crime). This is one of my new favorite series and I first heard about it when S.K. Ali mentioned it online. I especially love Stevie’s spunky personality and learning more about the true crime podcast.

My Rating

5/5 stars

Qotd: Have you read the Truly Devious series?

RockStar Blog Tours: The Fallen Moon by Graci Kim

Blog Tour Banner The Last Fallen Moon by Graci Kim

About the Book:

Title: THE LAST FALLEN MOON (Gifted Clans #2)

Author: Graci Kim

Pub. Date: June 14, 2022

Publisher: Rick Riordan Presents

Formats: Hardcover, eBook, audiobook

Pages: 384

Find it: Goodreads, Amazon,Kindle, Audible, B&N, iBooks, Kobo, TBD, Bookshop.org

Blog Tour Book Banner from RockStar Book Tour

Synopsis

Best-selling author Rick Riordan presents the second book in Graci Kim’s magical and mysterious Gifted Clans trilogy.

“Graci Kim does such an amazing job of blending Korean mythology into the modern world, I am now wondering how I ever lived without knowing all this cool information.”–New York Times #1 best-selling author Rick Riordan

For Riley Oh, life as the Godrealm’s last fallen star is not all it’s cracked up to be. Her new divine heritage doesn’t even come with cool magical powers; half of her friends and family (including her parents) can’t remember her; and to top it all off, the entire Gom clan is mad at her for killing the Cave Bear Goddess and stripping away their healing abilities.

But when their anger boils over and a group of witches curse Riley’s home, she knows it’s up to her to restore magic back to her clan – even if it means sneaking into the Spiritrealm.

Luckily, Riley has some backup. Along with her sister, Hattie, Riley meets Dahl, a heaven-born boy with shockingly white hair and a fondness for toilets who might not be telling the whole truth about who he is. Together they’ll fight vicious monsters, discover dark underwater worlds, and race to save the land of the dead from a fate that no one could have foreseen.

And this time, Riley won’t let anything get in her way. Because she can’t shake the feeling that something terrible is coming their way – and the gifted community is going to need all the powers they can get.

Grab THE LAST FALLEN STAR now!

The Last Fallen Moon Book Cover

My Review

I loved the sisterly relationship between Riley and Hattie. This book has Korean Mythology and I loved reading about all the food descriptions. Riley’s also a likable quirky middle schooler. I love how stubborn Riley is and the magical elements in this fantasy book.

My Rating

5/5 Stars

About the Author

Author Graci Kim

Graci Kim is the bestselling author of The Last Fallen Star, book one in the Korean mythology-inspired middle grade adventure series. Called a “sparkling yarn” by Entertainment Weekly, the Gifted Clans trilogy has been optioned by the Disney Channel for a live-action television series, and was a 2021 Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for “Best Middle Grade & Children’s Book”.

Graci is also one of the authors of The Cursed Carnival and Other Calamities short story collection, published by Rick Riordan Presents (Disney Hyperion), which became an instant New York Times bestseller.

In a previous life, Graci was a diplomat for the New Zealand foreign service, a cooking show host, and once ran a business that turned children’s drawings into cuddly toys. She lives in New Zealand with her husband and daughter. You can find her sometimes on Twitter (@gracikim), more often on Instagram (@gracikimwrites), and always at her website (www.gracikim.com).

Website | Twitter | Instagram | TikTok | Goodreads | Amazon | BookBub

Giveaway Details

1 winner will win a finished copy of THE LAST FALLEN MOON, US Only.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/e2389ba21469/

Check out the other stops on the tour!

Tour Schedule

Week One:

6/1/2022

YABooksCentral

Excerpt

6/2/2022

Feed Your Fiction Addiction

Review/IG Post

6/3/2022

More Books Please blog

Review/IG Post

6/4/2022

onemoreexclamation

Review/IG Post

Week Two:

6/5/2022

Lifestyle of Me

Review

6/6/2022

Okie Dreams

Review/IG Post

6/7/2022

The Bookwyrm’s Den

Review

6/8/2022

laura’s bookish corner 

Review/IG Post

6/9/2022

A Court of Coffee and Books

Review/IG Post

6/10/2022

wilted pages

Review/IG Post/TikTok Post

6/11/2022

beersbooksandboos

Review/IG Post/TikTok Post

Week Three:

6/12/2022

@drewsim12

IG Review/TikTiok Review

6/13/2022

Read With Serena 

Review/IG Post

6/14/2022

Nonbinary Knight Reads

Review/IG Post/TikTok Post

6/15/2022

meetcuteromancebooks

Review/IG Post

6/16/2022

@coffeesipsandreads

Review/IG Post

6/17/2022

@ReadsReaders 

YouTube Review/IG Post/TikTok Post

6/18/2022

Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers 

Review/IG Post

Week Four:

6/19/2022

Emmiepooh2 

IG Review

6/20/2022

Bookwyrming Thoughts

Review

6/21/2022

The Real World According To Sam

Review/IG Post

6/22/2022

The Girl Who Reads

Review/IG Post

6/23/2022

The Momma Spot

Review/IG Post

6/24/2022

BookBriefs

Review/IG Post

6/25/2022

Ruei’s Reading Corner

Review/IG Post

Week Five:

6/26/2022

onemused

IG Review 

6/27/2022

Library of Alexandria Archives

Review/IG Post

6/28/2022

Two Points of Interest

Review

6/29/2022

popthebutterfly

Review/IG Post/TikTok Post

6/30/2022

@enjoyingbooksagain

IG Review

TBR & Beyond: The Merciless Ones Book Tour

The Merciless Ones Tour Banner

I apologize for being late to my stop and not being consistent on here – I’m still recovering from a knee injury and haven’t been feeling up to writing multiple posts as I usually like to do.

About the Book

The Merciless Ones by Namina Forna

Title: The Merciless Ones
Series: The Gilded Ones
Author: Namina Forna
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publishing Date: May 31st, 2022
Page Length: 432
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: YA
Rep: Transgender, Sapphic, Black (West African)

Synopsis

Fans of The Gilded Ones and Children of Blood and Bone will love the second book in an epic fantasy series about a girl who is the key to saving the empire–or its greatest threat.

It’s been six months since Deka has freed the goddesses and discovered who she really is. There are now wars waging across the kingdom. Otereans now think jatu are traitors to the nation. Deka is called a monster.

But the real battle has only just begun and Deka must lead the charge. Deka is tasked with freeing the rest of the goddesses. Only as she begins to free them, she begins to see a strange symbol everywhere in places of worship and worn on armor. There’s something unnatural about that symbol; just looking at it makes Deka lose her senses. Even worse, it seems to repel her powers. She can’t command or communicate with the new deathshrieks. In fact, she can’t even understand them when they speak.

Deka knows freeing the goddesses is just the beginning. She can tell whatever dark force out is powerful and there is something sinister out there threatening the kingdom connected to that symbol–something merciless–that her army will need to stop before humanity crumbles. But Deka’s powers are only getting stronger…and her strongest weapon could be herself.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indigo | IndieBound

Content Warning: scenes of violence,graphic violence, and description of sexual assault

My Review

The Merciless Ones is an incredible sequel to The Gilded Ones! I absolutely adored The Gilded Ones and I thought it was such a fun, fast-paced book. The Gilded Ones has a strong emphasis on racism & The Merciless Ones discusses gender identity. Deka’s character development was one of my favorite parts about this book. Unfortunately, I wasn’t a huge fan of the fact that everyone gets a love interest. Overall, it’s a fun sequel!

My Rating

4/5 stars

My Playlist

Spotify Playlist embedded

About the Author

Author Namina Forna

Namina Forna is a young adult novelist based in Los Angeles, and the author of the upcoming epic fantasy YA novel The Gilded Ones. Originally from Sierra Leone, West Africa, she moved to the US when she was nine and has been traveling back and forth ever since. Namina has an MFA in film and TV production from USC School of Cinematic Arts and a BA from Spelman College. She works as a screenwriter in LA and loves telling stories with fierce female leads.

Check out the other stops on the tour!!

Blog Tour Schedule

May 30th
Nine Bookish Lives – Promotional Post
Reading Stewardess – Review
Lit lemon books – Review & Favorite Quotes
laura’s bookish corner – Review

May 31st
Stuck in Fiction – Promotional Post
Amani’s Honest Reviews – Review & Playlist
One More Chapter – Review
Kerri McBookNerd – 15 Reactions While Reading The Merciless Ones

June 1st
Kait Plus Books – Promotional Post
Purposely Unperfect – Review & Playlist
The Girl Who Reads – Review
Ashes of a Book Dragon – Top 5 Reasons to Read The Merciless Ones

June 2nd
Rae’s Reading Lounge – Review & Favorite Quotes
A Realm of Books – Review
paperbacktomes – Top 5 Reasons to Read The Merciless Ones

June 3rd
AndOnSheReads – Review
Literary Liza – Review & Favorite Quotes
Book Notes by Athina – Promotional Post
Avni Reads – Review

June 4th
Book Lover’s Book Reviews – Promotional Post & Tik Tok
Confessions of a YA Reader – Review
Modest Hiccup – 15 Reactions While Reading The Merciless Ones
The Written Journey – Review & Favorite Quotes

June 5th
Oyinda Loves Books – 15 Reactions While Reading The Merciless Ones
The Bookish Coven – Review & Favorite Quotes
The Book Dutchesses – Promotional Post
Boekensteeg – Review & Favorite Quotes

Instagram Schedule

May 30th
stitchsaddiction – Review

harshlareads – Review & Favorite Quotes
ninebookishlives – Blogger’s Choice
booksandpops4000 – Blogger’s Choice

May 31st
pcreads – Top 5 Reasons to Read The Merciless Ones
feliciareads11 – Blogger’s Choice
_leahreads – Blogger’s Choice
kerri_mcbooknerd – Blogger’s Choice

June 1st
thebookwebb – Promotional Post
purposelyunperfect – Blogger’s Choice
bookstagramofmine – Blogger’s Choice
ashesofabookdragon – Blogger’s Choice

June 2nd
luna_reads_ – Journal Spread
jl_books – Blogger’s Choice
paperbacktomes – Blogger’s Choice

June 3rd
tbrandbeyond – Promotional Post
literary_lizard – Blogger’s Choice
booknotes_athina – Blogger’s Choice
avnireads – Blogger’s Choice

June 4th
writingrosereads – Promotional Post
bookloversbookreviews – Blogger’s Choice
modesthiccup – Blogger’s Choice
thewrittenjourney_ – Blogger’s Choice

June 5th
the_ya_assassin – Top 5 Reasons to Read The Merciless Ones
iambibliomane – Review
oyindalovesbooks – Blogger’s Choice
boekensteeg – Blogger’s Choice

Until Next Time… bye!!

Pokémon leaving via GIPHY.

All the K-Dramas I’m Going to Watch after Eid

Blog Banner that states: All the Korean Dramas I’m Going to Watch After Eid

Hello, everyone!! I’ve been back from my trip to Sri Lanka for a week and I’ve tested negative for covid which is a huge relief. I was unfortunately really sick when I got back – had major migraines, fever, and just overall relieved to be home lol.

So Jet Lagged via GIPHY.

It was a long trip with over 7+ hour power cuts some days. Some days the only thing to do was to cool off at the beach because there was no power and no electricity. That was also a nightmare trying to balance an online class on top of it but I somehow managed to do that. It was a hectic trip, but it was nice to see my grandmother and relatives that I haven’t seen in like two years.I’m glad to be back though and thankfully just in time for Eid. For those who are wondering, Eid is on Monday which means this weekend is the last few days of Ramadan.

A man says: “Moving On!” Via GIPHY.

Alright, so this first one is unfortunately one that I’ve already been given spoilers but I still want to know what happens. I started this before Ramadan and I’m excited to finish it.

Twenty Five Twenty One

Fanning myself like how the protagonist does in Twenty Five Twenty One is also what I ended up doing to survive the power cuts (this is via GIPHY).

Synopsis is from Asian Wiki:

Na Hee-Do is a member of her high school fencing team. Due to the South Korean financial crisis, the high school fencing team gets disbanded. Getting through all the difficulties, she becomes a member of the sabre fencing national team.

The South Korean financial crisis also causes Back Yi-Jin’s father’s business to go bankrupt. This leads to a life change for Back Yi-Jin, from living the life of a wealthy person to a poor person. While studying, he works part-time jobs like delivery newspapers. Later, he becomes a sports reporter for a broadcasting network.

Twenty five twenty one actor covering his face and raising his eyebrows via GIPHY.

I will do a full review after I watch all of it.

Business Proposal

Shockingly this is one that I didn’t get any spoilers and I’m so excited to finish this as well.

Business Proposal via GIPHY.

I’ve only seen episode one (this was pre Sri Lanka trip) and it looks incredible. I did hear some things but thankfully nothing major.

Synopsis from Asian Wiki

Shin Ha-Ri (Kim Se-Jeong) is a single woman and works for a company. She has a male friend and she has held a crush on him for a long time, but she learns that her friend has a girlfriend. Shin Ha-Ri feels sad and decides to meet her friend Jin Young-Seo, who is a daughter of a chaebol family. Jin Young-Seo then asks Shin Ha-Ri to take her place in a blind date and even offers some money for her time. Shin Ha-Ri accepts her friend’s offer. She goes out on the blind date as Jin Young-Seo, while having the intention to get rejected by her date. When she sees her blind date, Shin Ha-Ri is dumbfounded. Her blind date is Kang Tae-Moo (Ahn Hyo-Seop). He is the CEO of the company where she works.

Kang Tae-Moo is the CEO of a company that his grandfather founded. One day, his grandfather informed him of an upcoming blind date that he set up for him. Kang Tae-Moo is a workaholic and he is annoyed that his grandfather sets up blind dates for him. He decides to marry the next woman whom he meets at a blind date, so he won’t be disturbed from his work anymore. That woman is Shin Ha-Ri, but pretending to be Jin Young-Seo.

On the following day, Shin Ha-Ri receives a phone call from Kang Tae-Moo. He asks her to marry him.

This was my reaction after watching the first episode via GIPHY.

Falling into Your Smile

So, this is one I didn’t start but want to start! I’ve heard that if you like the c-drama Love 020 or the k-drama The King’s Avatar then you’ll LOVE this one.

This looks SO cute (all GIFs on here are via GIPHY).

Synopsis via Asian Wiki

Tong Yao earns a spot as the first female player in the all-male ZGDX team and grows closer to the team leader.

Tomorrow

This is one my friend recommended to me!

This is going to be me running to start this Kdrama.

Synopsis

Choi Jun-Woong (Ro Woon) looks for a job, but it is hard for him to get hired. One night, he accidentally meets grim reapers Koo Ryeon (Kim Hee-Seon) and Im Ryoog-Gu. The two grim reapers belong to a crisis management team. Koo Ryeon is the leader and Lim Ryung-Gu is a member. Their objective is to save suicidal people. Soon, Choi Jun-Woong becomes a new member of the crisis management team.

It looks SO good!!

Jess from New Girl says: “Just One More!” Via GIPHY.

My Liberation Notes

An Asian woman looks solemn as she walks in a busy street via GIPHY.

Yeom Chang-Hee (Lee Min-Ki) is the middle child of the three siblings. He wants to escape from his family’s home in Sanpo Village, but he doesn’t have a dream and just spends his life meaninglessly. He is looked down upon by his family members.

Yeom Mi-Jeong (Kim Ji-Won) is the youngest child of the three siblings. She would like to be liberated from her boring life, but she is introverted and timid. She is lonely and feels unfulfilled in her life.

Yeom Gi-Jeong (Lee El) is the oldest child of the three siblings. She has a hot temper. She wastes a lot of time commuting to her job in Seoul from Sanpo Village. Her life is filled with complaints and she wants to find love.

Mr. Gu (Son Suk-Ku) is a mysterious man, who suddenly appears in Sanpo Village. He is always drunk. One day, Yeom Mi-Jeong approaches him.

A desi guy states: “That’s all!” via GIPHY.

If you’re into K-dramas or c-dramas let me know what you’re currently watching!!

How to Be the Best Third Wheel by Loridee De Villa

How to Be The Best Third Wheel blog banner that I made

Synopsis

It’s the last year of highschool, and everything has changed . . .

After a summer spent in the Philippines with her family, Lara Dela Cruz is eager to start her senior year and, most importantly, reunite with her three besties, Carol, Jasmine, and Kiera. Of course summer is the season of change, and Lara knew she’d have to get caught up on the major updates, hot gossip, and other shenanigans she may have missed. But what she did not expect was to show up on the first day of school to all three of her friends now in relationships.

The mushy public displays of affection and lunches spent gushing about their new “boyfries” has Lara quickly realizing her last year of high school is nothing like she imagined.

Since she’s been back, Lara’s long time frenemy, James, has become impossibly annoying. Sure, they are now both third wheels, but why is he asking her to tutor him in classes? And why, after they start spending more time together, does she begin to notice how cute he looks when he smiles . . . uh oh.

Fighting for the attention of her best friends, catching some pretty new and confusing feelings for James, and wading through the pressures post-high-school plans all have Lara reeling. And to make matters worse, Lara’s beautiful and untrustworthy cousin conveniently appears and wiggles her way right between her and James’ budding relationship. Feeling like a third wheel in more ways than one, Lara must learn to accept that change is inevitable, love is complicated, and being the odd one out is sometimes where inner power is found.

Gif with three cats that states: “When they say come join us you won’t be a third wheel.” Via GIPHY.

You’ll Like it if ..

💕 You want a clean, romance .

✨ Perfect for those who are around 11-15. I know my younger self would have LOVED this!!

🇵🇭 Philippine rep!

💖 For anyone who’s ever felt like a third wheel!

This book left me feeling like this:

Jane from Jane the Virgin looks down and then smiles via GIPHY.

I definitely feel like it’s perfect for a younger audience and I remember reading an earlier draft of it when I was younger which is why it’s so nostalgic for me.

If you’ve gotten to this point please feel free to let me know what book makes you feel nostalgic in the comments below!

Winnie the Pooh is holding a blue balloon and the text message sees: “See You!” Via GIPHY.

Ramadan Mubarak: Here’s My Favorite Books by Muslim Authors to Read This Ramadan!!

Ramadan Mubarak is next to a moon that also says Ramadan Mubarak in Arabic via GIPHY.

1. Love from A to Z by S.K. Ali

Love From A to Z book cover via Barnes & Nobles

Synopsis

A marvel: something you find amazing. Even ordinary-amazing. Like potatoes–because they make French fries happen. Like the perfect fries Adam and his mom used to make together. 

An oddity: whatever gives you pause. Like the fact that there are hateful people in the world. Like Zayneb’s teacher, who won’t stop reminding the class how “bad” Muslims are. 

But Zayneb, the only Muslim in class, isn’t bad. She’s angry.

When she gets suspended for confronting her teacher, and he begins investigating her activist friends, Zayneb heads to her aunt’s house in Doha, Qatar, for an early start to spring break.

Fueled by the guilt of getting her friends in trouble, she resolves to try out a newer, “nicer” version of herself in a place where no one knows her. 

Then her path crosses with Adam’s. 

Since he got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November, Adam’s stopped going to classes, intent, instead, on perfecting the making of things. Intent on keeping the memory of his mom alive for his little sister.

Adam’s also intent on keeping his diagnosis a secret from his grieving father. 

Alone, Adam and Zayneb are playing roles for others, keeping their real thoughts locked away in their journals. 

Until a marvel and an oddity occurs… 

Marvel: Adam and Zayneb meeting. 

Oddity: Adam and Zayneb meeting.

My Thoughts

I still can’t find the right words to describe how much I ADORE this book!! I love the airport meet-cute scene. The descriptions of Doha are also a lot of fun to read. What I especially love is how it’s not just a love story!!

Love from A to Z also tackles Islamophobia, a main character living with MS, and stuff that people in real life deal with!

Patrick from SpongeBob is looking up and smiling. There are pink hearts everywhere via GIPHY.

2. Salaam, With Love by Sara Sharaf Beg

Salaam, with Love by Sara Sharaf Beg

Synopsis

Being crammed into a house in Queens with her cousins is not how Dua envisions her trip to New York City. But here she is, spending the holy month of Ramadan with extended family she hasn’t seen in years.

Dua struggles to find her place in the conservative household and to connect with her aloof, engaged-to-be-married cousin, Mahnoor. And as if fasting the whole day wasn’t tiring enough, she must battle her hormones whenever she sees Hassan, the cute drummer in a Muslim band who has a habit of showing up at her most awkward moments.

After just a month, Dua is surprised to find that she’s learning a lot more than she bargained for about her faith, relationships, her place in the world—and cute drummers. . . .

Underlined is a line of totally addictive romance, thriller, and horror paperback original titles coming to you fast and furious each month. Enjoy everything you want to read the way you want to read it.

My Thoughts

This was the first time I read about a practicing Hijabi Muslim woman celebrating Ramadan. I loved the big family gatherings and I’m so happy that I’ve gotten to know the author on Twitter as well!! I love how Dua has a strong character development from the beginning of the book to the end. Her interactions with her family reminded me of some of my own interactions with my family. I adored seeing positive Muslim parental representation!!

3. All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir

All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir promo box from PenguinTeen!!

Synopsis

Lahore, Pakistan. Then.
Misbah is a dreamer and storyteller, newly married to Toufiq in an arranged match. After their young life is shaken by tragedy, they come to the United States and open the Clouds’ Rest Inn Motel, hoping for a new start.

Juniper, California. Now.
Salahudin and Noor are more than best friends; they are family. Growing up as outcasts in the small desert town of Juniper, California, they understand each other the way no one else does. Until The Fight, which destroys their bond with the swift fury of a star exploding.

Now, Sal scrambles to run the family motel as his mother Misbah’s health fails and his grieving father loses himself to alcoholism. Noor, meanwhile, walks a harrowing tightrope: working at her wrathful uncle’s liquor store while hiding the fact that she’s applying to college so she can escape him—and Juniper—forever.

When Sal’s attempts to save the motel spiral out of control, he and Noor must ask themselves what friendship is worth—and what it takes to defeat the monsters in their pasts and the ones in their midst.

From one of today’s most cherished and bestselling young adult authors comes a breathtaking novel of young love, old regrets, and forgiveness—one that’s both tragic and poignant in its tender ferocity.

My Thoughts

I wrote an article on this book for Pop-Culturalist and I also wrote an IG post on my bookstagram account @ meetcuteromancebooks!

4. Once Upon an Eid edited by Aisha Saeed and S.K. Ali

Once Upon an Eid book

This is a beautifully written anthology with 15 Muslim Voices!!

Synopsis

Eid! The short, single syllable word conjures up a variety of feelings and memories for Muslims. Maybe it’s waking up to the sound of frying samosas or the comfort of bean pie, maybe it’s the pleasure of putting on a new outfit for Eid prayers, or maybe it’s the gift giving and the holiday parties, or carnival rides to come that day. Whatever it may be, for those who cherish this day of celebration, the emotional responses may be summed up in another short and sweet word: joy.


Contributors include G. Willow Wilson, Hena Khan, N. H. Senzai, Hanna Alkaf, Rukhsana Khan, Randa Abdel-Fattah, Ashley Franklin, Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, Candice Montgomery, Huda Al-Marashi, Ayesha Mattu, Asmaa Hussein, and Sara Alfageeh.

5. Queen of the Tiles by Hanna Alkaf

Queen of the Tiles Book Cover

Synopsis

CATALYST
13 points
noun: a substance that speeds up a reaction without itself changing

When Najwa Bakri walks into her first Scrabble competition since her best friend’s death, it’s with the intention to heal and move on with her life. Perhaps it wasn’t the best idea to choose the very same competition where said best friend, Trina Low, died. It might be even though Najwa’s trying to change, she’s not ready to give up Trina just yet.

But the same can’t be said for all the other competitors. With Trina, the Scrabble Queen herself, gone, the throne is empty, and her friends are eager to be the next reigning champion. All’s fair in love and Scrabble, but all bets are off when Trina’s formerly inactive Instagram starts posting again, with cryptic messages suggesting that maybe Trina’s death wasn’t as straightforward as everyone thought. And maybe someone at the competition had something to do with it.

As secrets are revealed and the true colors of her friends are shown, it’s up to Najwa to find out who’s behind these mysterious posts—not just to save Trina’s memory, but to save herself.

Final Thoughts

So this is just part one of my list of Muslim Authored books!! I will try to do a part two after April 20th when I’m back in the US. For those who are celebrating: Ramadan Mubarak!! 🌙

Ramadan Mubarak with lanterns via GIPHY.

I’m currently in Sri Lanka (visiting my grandmother ) and the situation is pretty awful.

There’s a 36 hour curfew and all of social media is blocked. By all I mean Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and even Snapchat! It’s to silence the protestors and I have to say I’m unsure if things will get better in Sri Lanka but I’m hoping that I’ll be able to return safely. My family and I are thankfully doing okay- just keeping an eye on the news and the curfew. People are panic buying and getting resources (even something as simple as eggs and water is a challenge). If you’re a Muslim and you’re celebrating Ramadan please keep the people of Sri Lanka in your du’aas/thoughts.

Tolkein Reading Day!!

What is Tolkien Reading Day? Tolkien Reading Day is held on the 25th of March each year. The date of the 25th of March was chosen as the date on which the Ring was destroyed, completing Frodo’s quest and vanquishing Sauron.

This year I made a mood board to celebrate Tolkein Reading Day!

Mood Board

Moodboard that I created using pics from Pinterest & Canva!!

According to the Tolkein Society: “It has been organised by the Tolkien Society since 2003 to encourage fans to celebrate and promote the life and works of J.R.R. Tolkien by reading favourite passages. We particularly encourage schools, museums and libraries to host their own Tolkien Reading Day events.”

Question for The Readers: Are you an LOTR fan? How are you celebrating Tolkein Reading Day. Let me know in the comments!

Apologies for being MIA! I’ve been out of town to visit an elderly relative but I’ll be back to my regular posting schedule on April 20th.

Kdramas I’m Loving this Month

Twenty Five Twenty One

Twenty Five Twenty One via GIF

Synopsis

Via AsianWiki

Na Hee-Do is a member of her high school fencing team. Due to the South Korean financial crisis, the high school fencing team gets disbanded. Getting through all the difficulties, she becomes a member of the sabre fencing national team.

The South Korean financial crisis also causes Back Yi-Jin’s father’s business to go bankrupt. This leads to a life change for Back Yi-Jin, from living the life of a wealthy person to a poor person. While studying, he works part-time jobs like delivery newspapers. Later, he becomes a sports reporter for a broadcasting network.

This is so cute and I love how it switches between the past and the present. Na Hee Do is such a badass female lead and it’s been so long since I’ve loved a female lead in a Korean Drama.

Business Proposal

Business Proposal via GIPHY

Synopsis

Via AsianWiki

Shin Ha-Ri (Kim Se-Jeong) is a single woman and works for a company. She has a male friend and she has held a crush on him for a long time, but she learns that her friend has a girlfriend. Shin Ha-Ri feels sad and decides to meet her friend Jin Young-Seo, who is a daughter of a chaebol family. Jin Young-Seo then asks Shin Ha-Ri to take her place in a blind date and even offers some money for her time. Shin Ha-Ri accepts her friend’s offer. She goes out on the blind date as Jin Young-Seo, while having the intention to get rejected by her date. When she sees her blind date, Shin Ha-Ri is dumbfounded. Her blind date is Kang Tae-Mu (Ahn Hyo-Seop). He is the CEO of the company where she works.

Kang Tae-Mu is the CEO of a company that his grandfather founded. One day, his grandfather informed him of an upcoming blind date that he set up for him. Kang Tae-Mu is a workaholic and he is annoyed that his grandfather sets up blind dates for him. He decides to marry the next woman whom he meets at a blind date, so he won’t be disturbed from his work anymore. That woman is Shin Ha-Ri, but pretending to be Jin Young-Seo.

On the following day, Shin Ha-Ri receives a phone call from Kang Tae-Mu. He asks her to marry him.

This drama is hilarious so far and I love how the characters are so different from what I’ve usually seen in a k-drama. The tension and the banter is so freaking good and I highly recommend checking it out!!

Single’s Inferno

Single’s Inferno via GIPHY

Synopsis

Stranded and ready to mingle, flirty singles search for love on a deserted island, they can only escape as couples for romantic date nights in paradise.

This reminds me of the bachelor but better!! I love the settings and each episode is filled with drama that will keep you wanting more.

What are you watching right now?

What are we watching ? via GIPHY

If you’re also into watching K-dramas, Chinese dramas, Bollywood movies, or Thai dramas please feel free to let me know what you’re watching in the comments!!

All the March Releases I Can’t Wait For!

So March is also my birthday and this year I’ll be turning 25.

It’s kind of hard to believe and this year has been a lot. I am finally done with the praxis exam which is 5 hours with no break. Yeah. That wasn’t a typo. I literally had no break and it was just go go go from one section to the next.

Joshua Basset is sitting down and says : “This is a nightmare!” Via GIPHY.

I have a new semester starting in March and a lot going on in my personal life that’s occasionally overwhelming which is why I haven’t posted on here as often as I would like to. I really wish I could promise regular posts, but I will try to update monthly with the exception being Ramadan.

Qotd: How’s everyone doing? Let me know in the comments. Are you excited about any of the releases that I mention below?

Okay, on to what everyone’s waiting for: THE BOOKS!

A woman says: “I’d be fine with just the books!” Via GIPHY.

1. All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir

All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir – pic that I took.

Release Date: March 1st!

Synopsis

Lahore, Pakistan. Then.

Misbah is a dreamer and storyteller, newly married to Toufiq in an arranged match. After their young life is shaken by tragedy, they come to the United States and open the Clouds’ Rest Inn Motel, hoping for a new start.

Juniper, California. Now.

Salahudin and Noor are more than best friends; they are family. Growing up as outcasts in the small desert town of Juniper, California, they understand each other the way no one else does. Until The Fight, which destroys their bond with the swift fury of a star exploding. 

Now, Sal scrambles to run the family motel as his mother Misbah’s health fails and his grieving father loses himself to alcoholism. Noor, meanwhile, walks a harrowing tightrope: working at her wrathful uncle’s liquor store while hiding the fact that she’s applying to college so she can escape him – and Juniper – forever.

When Sal’s attempts to save the motel spiral out of control, he and Noor must ask themselves what friendship is worth – and what it takes to defeat the monsters in their pasts and the ones in their midst.

YODA : Heal You, I must via GIPHY.

2. Travelers Along the Way: a Robinhood Remix by Amina Mae Safi

Travelers Along the Way by Amina Mae Safi cover.

Release Date: March 1st!

Synopsis

Jerusalem, 1192. The Third Crusade rages on. Rahma al-Hud loyally followed her elder sister Zeena into the war over the Holy Land, but now that the Faranji invaders have gotten reinforcements from Richard the Lionheart, all she wants to do is get herself and her sister home alive.

But Zeena, a soldier of honor at heart, refuses to give up the fight while Jerusalem remains in danger of falling back into the hands of the false Queen Isabella. And so, Rahma has no choice but to take on one final mission with her sister.

On their journey to Jerusalem, Rahma and Zeena come across a motley collection of fellow travelers―including a kind-hearted Mongolian warrior, an eccentric Andalusian scientist, a frustratingly handsome spy with a connection to Rahma’s childhood, and an unfortunate English chaplain abandoned behind enemy lines. The teens all find solace, purpose and camaraderie―as well as a healthy bit of mischief―in each other’s company.

But their travels soon bring them into the orbit of Queen Isabella herself, whose plans to re-seize power in Jerusalem would only guarantee further war and strife in the Holy Land for years to come. And so it falls to the merry band of misfits to use every scrap of cunning and wit (and not a small amount of thievery) to foil the usurper queen and perhaps finally restore peace to the land.

3. Love, Decoded by Jennifer Yen

Release Date: March 8th!

Synopsis

Love , Decoded by Jennifer Yen

High school junior Gigi Wong strives to be the best. After all, that’s what everyone expects of her—her parents, friends, and even potential colleges. Thankfully, her best friend, Kyle, is always there to listen with a smile and a delicious bowl of ramen. Still, with her future—and her dreams—on the line, how is she to stand out when her classmates seem so perfect too?

Her answer comes in the form of an app writing contest. If Gigi can secure the nomination to represent her school, she has a chance at a prestigious tech internship. That’s sure to get her applications noticed . . . All she needs is a winning entry.

When transfer student and new friend Etta confides that she’s struggling to fit in, it gives Gigi an idea. What if she takes what she’s learned from shadowing her aunt Rose, a professional matchmaker, to create a fun friend-making app? Perfect!

When Gigi’s app goes viral at school, she’s the center of attention–and a major scandal. She never meant to hurt anyone, let alone Etta and Kyle. Can she save all she worked so hard for and the relationships that mean so much to her?

Nam Joo Hyuk is smiling via Netflix’s Start-Up.

4. Kamila Knows Best by Farah Heron

Release Date: March 8th!

A finished copy of Kamila Knows Best by Farah Heron- this is a pic that I took

Synopsis

This is an Emma retelling!

Kamila Hussain’s life might not be perfect, but, whew, it’s close. She lives a life of comfort, filled with her elaborate Bollywood movie parties, a dog with more Instagram followers than most reality stars, a job she loves, and an endless array of friends who clearly need her help finding love. In fact, Kamila is so busy with her friends’ love lives, she’s hardly given any thought to her own . . .

Fortunately, Kamila has Rohan Nasser. A longtime friend of the family, he’s hugely successful, with the deliciously lean, firm body of a rock climber. Only lately, Kamila’s “harmless flirting” with Rohan is making her insides do a little bhangra dance.

But between planning the local shelter’s puppy prom, throwing a huge work event, and proving to everyone that she’s got it all figured out, Kamila isn’t letting herself get distracted—until her secret nemesis returns to town with an eye for Rohan. Suddenly, it seems like the more Kamila tries to plan, the more things are starting to unravel—and her perfectly ordered life is about to be turned upside down.

“It is the greatest amusement in the world!” Via Emma.

5. Squire by Sara Alfageeh & Nadia Shammas

Squire Book Cover

Release Date: March 8th!

Synopsis

Aiza has always dreamt of becoming a Knight. It’s the highest military honor in the once-great Bayt-Sajji Empire, and as a member of the subjugated Ornu people, Knighthood is her only path to full citizenship. Ravaged by famine and mounting tensions, Bayt-Sajji finds itself on the brink of war once again, so Aiza can finally enlist in the competitive Squire training program. 

It’s not how she imagined it, though. Aiza must navigate new friendships, rivalries, and rigorous training under the unyielding General Hende, all while hiding her Ornu background. As the pressure mounts, Aiza realizes that the “greater good” that Bayt-Sajji’s military promises might not include her, and that the recruits might be in greater danger than she ever imagined.

Character says : “This is a lie for the greater good!” Via Netflix.

6. Blood Scion by Deborah Falaye

Blood Scion book cover

Synopsis

Fifteen-year-old Sloane can incinerate an enemy at will—she is a Scion, a descendant of the ancient Orisha gods.

Under the Lucis’ brutal rule, her identity means her death if her powers are discovered. But when she is forcibly conscripted into the Lucis army on her fifteenth birthday, Sloane sees a new opportunity: to overcome the bloody challenges of Lucis training, and destroy them from within.

7. Dating Dr. Dil by Nisha Sharma

Release Date: March 15th!!

Dating Dr. Dil Book Cover

Synopsis

Nisha Sharma’s new romantic comedy features enemies to lovers, a cast of best friends, and a gaggle of aunties determined to make a match.

Hi! I’m Kareena Mann. As cheesy as it sounds, I’m looking for my soulmate. In four months. And he must gain the approval of my meddling aunties.

Kareena dreams of having a perfect love story like her parents did. That’s why on the morning of her thirtieth birthday, she’s decided to suit up and enter the dating arena. When her widowed father announces he’s retiring and selling their home after her sister’s engagement party, Kareena makes a deal with him. If she can find her soulmate by the date of the party, he’ll gift her the house, and she’ll be able to keep her mother’s legacy alive. 

Hi, I’m Dr. Prem Verma, host of the Dr. Dil Show. Prem means love, Dil means heart, and I’m a cardiologist. Don’t let my name fool you. I only fix broken hearts in the literal sense.

Prem doesn’t have time for romance, which is why it’s no surprise when his first meeting with Kareena goes awry. Their second encounter is worse when their on-air debate about love goes viral. Now Prem’s largest community center donor is backing out because Prem’s reputation as a heart-health expert is at risk. To get back in his donor’s good graces, he needs to fix his image fast, and dating Kareena is his only option.

Even though they have warring interests, the more time Prem spends with Kareena, the more he thinks she’s might actually be the woman he wants to spend the rest of his life with. In this Taming of the Shrew re-imagination, for Prem and Kareena to find their happily ever after, they must admit that hate has turned into fate.

Marie from Aristocats says: “How romantic!” Via GIPHY.

8. A Magic Steeped in Poison by Judy I. Lim

A Magic Steeped in Poison book cover

Synopsis

Release Date: March 29th!!

I used to look at my hands with pride. Now all I can think is, “These are the hands that buried my mother.”

For Ning, the only thing worse than losing her mother is knowing that it’s her own fault. She was the one who unknowingly brewed the poison tea that killed her―the poison tea that now threatens to also take her sister, Shu.

When Ning hears of a competition to find the kingdom’s greatest shennong-shi―masters of the ancient and magical art of tea-making―she travels to the imperial city to compete. The winner will receive a favor from the princess, which may be Ning’s only chance to save her sister’s life. 

But between the backstabbing competitors, bloody court politics, and a mysterious (and handsome) boy with a shocking secret, Ning might actually be the one in more danger.

Uncle Iroh says: “Here, have some calming tea!”

9. Wave by Diana Farid & Kris Goto

Wave book cover

Synopsis

Thirteen-year-old Ava loves to surf and to sing. Singing and reading Rumi poems settle her mild OCD, and catching waves with her best friend, Phoenix, lets her fit in—her olive skin looks tan, not foreign. But then Ava has to spend the summer before ninth grade volunteering at the hospital, to follow in her single mother’s footsteps to become a doctor.

And when Phoenix’s past lymphoma surges back, not even surfing, singing, or poetry can keep them afloat, threatening Ava’s hold on the one place and the one person that make her feel like she belongs. With ocean-like rhythm and lyricism, Wave is about a girl who rides the waves, tumbles, and finds her way back to the shore.

Moana high fives an ocean.

10. Four Aunties and a Wedding by Jesse Q. Sutanto

Four Aunties and a Wedding Book Cover

Synopsis

Meddy Chan has been to countless weddings, but she never imagined how her own would turn out. Now the day has arrived, and she can’t wait to marry her college sweetheart, Nathan. Instead of having Ma and the aunts cater to her wedding, Meddy wants them to enjoy the day as guests. As a compromise, they find the perfect wedding vendors: a Chinese-Indonesian family-run company just like theirs. Meddy is hesitant at first, but she hits it off right away with the wedding photographer, Staphanie, who reminds Meddy of herself, down to the unfortunately misspelled name. 

Meddy realizes that is where their similarities end, however, when she overhears Staphanie talking about taking out a target. Horrified, Meddy can’t believe Staphanie and her family aren’t just like her own, they are The Family—actual mafia, and they’re using Meddy’s wedding as a chance to conduct shady business. Her aunties and mother won’t let Meddy’s wedding ceremony become a murder scene—over their dead bodies—and will do whatever it takes to save her special day, even if it means taking on the mafia.

Pikachu and Piplup wave goodbye via GIPHY!

That’s all for now!

All the Right Reasons Turn the Pages Tour

All the Right Reasons Blog Banner Turn the Pages Tour

Book Information

Synopsis

My Review

Gilmore Girls Emily and Lorelai are wearing matching outfits and the song Girls Just Wanna Have Fun plays in the background during this scene via GIPHY.

Trigger Warnings: toxic parent relationship

I really liked that this is centered around Cara and her mother. It definitely screams Gilmore Girls! I loved the family vibes in it more than the romance. I think this book was a lot of fun and I liked learning more about the behind the scenes of being in a reality tv show. I also enjoyed reading about Cara and she’s got a very strong voice. Cara’s parents are divorced and she’s dealing with the addition of a stepmother in her family.

My RATING

4/5 stars!!

About the Author

About

https://www.instagram.com/bethanymangle/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19831288.BethanyMangle

The Top 5 Shows I’m Watching this month!

1. The Book of Boba Fett

Boba fett from Disney Plus

This is an action packed show and I love that the actress who plays Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) from Agents of Shield also plays a bad ass character in this show!

2. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Phil Coulson says Boo-yah! Via GIPHY.

I’m on season 6 and it’s an incredible show so far!!

3. Only Murders in the Building

Selena Gomez as Mabel in Only Murders in the Building via GIPHY.

I freaking love this show!! Selena Gomez, Steve Martin, & Micheal Scott are phenomenal in Only Murders in the Building. You can stream this on Hulu.

4. Fruits Basket Season 2

Tohru from Fruits Basket is smiling via GIPHY.

This is such a good show!! I’m on season 2 and I love the character development. Every episode is even better than the previous one. There is never a dull moment.

5. Sweet Mangolias

Helen smiles and says: “Perfect!” via GIPHY.

I love that season 2 of Sweet Mangolias included a hijabi Muslim as a doctor on the show! I wish she had more lines and that she had a more prominent role. Overall, this was an incredible show and Helen is my favorite of the three Sweet Mangolias. My second favorite is Maddie. This show is perfect for fans of Gilmore Girls and Good Trouble! It’s got a lot of family drama and I like the fact that the parents play a prominent role in their kid’s lives.

Question: If you’re still reading this, what shows are you currently watching or hoping to watch next?

My thoughts on being a writer

I just wanted to start off by saying I’ve always loved writing. I think my mistake began by sharing early rough drafts with others. In the beginning I thought I had a thick skin for whatever negative things critique partners might say. And, for a while I did.

I honestly wasn’t sure if I’d ever write about this. I joined a critique group online and that’s when things started to go wrong. One person went so far as to say that I should read writing resource books that they read when they were ten because apparently my writing was just that shitty.

I get that not everyone will like my writing. That’s totally okay. What’s not okay is to act condescending towards another writer because you think they’re writing is awful. It’s totally fine to write negative reviews – yes even on goodreads! Especially since reviews on goodreads are meant to help a book. However, when you’re entrusted with someone else’s manuscript you can definitely tell them that they need to improve their grammar or that sentences are redundant. But, don’t tell them something if you wouldn’t say it to their face or to your friend’s face.

I’m still going to keep writing eventually. But, I’m planning on taking down the writer’s nook portion of the site and maybe even a break from writing books for this month. I need to figure out how I’m going to move forward especially since writing has always been therapeutic and fun for me. I know I’m not an expert writer, but I wouldn’t call myself a shitty one either. I’ll leave The Writer’s Nook Posts up until Friday before I take them down for those who want to read the writing posts.

Korean Dramas I’m Watching This Month

Korean Dramas I’m Watching This Month graphic made by me (Amani)

1. Our Beloved Summer

Our Beloved Summer via GIPHY

Choi Ung (Choi Woo-Sik) and Kook Yeon-Su (Kim Da-Mi) broke up 5 years ago. A documentary they filmed during their high school days becomes popular. They don’t want to, but they have to stand in front of the camera.

I loveee this drama so far!! I’m almost done with it and it’s so cute.

2. Snowdrop

Snowdrop via GIPHY

An enduring love story in 1987 Seoul; Youngro, a female university student, treats the bleeding Suho, a student attending a prestigious university, who one day jumps into a women’s university dormitory despite the dangerous situation.

3. Twenty Five Twenty One

Twenty Five Twenty One via GIPHY.

In a time when dreams seem out of reach, a teen fencer pursues big ambitions and meets a hardworking young man who’s focused on rebuilding his life.

4. Single’s Inferno

Single’s Inferno via GIPHY.

This reminds me of the bachelor but way more entertaining!

5. Beauty Inside

Beauty Inside via GIPHY.

The love story between a top actress and an airline director who each suffers an unusual phenomenon. He suffers from prosopagnosia, while every month she transforms into someone else for a week

Grogu says bye bye via GIPHY.

Our Beloved Summer is so cute!!

Our Beloved Summer kdrama via GIPHY

Synopsis

The series is a coming-of-age story about a former couple who are forced to come together again when a documentary they shot in high school goes viral!

My Review

I adore the cast and the storyline so far! I’m only on episode 11 but there’s so much more to it than I initially expected . It’s one of my highly anticipated K-Dramas and I will have another blog post once I’m done watching it! I’m not rating it until I’m done but it’s so so cute!

Do you watch K-Dramas or Any Asian dramas? I’ve also started a new Thai series called Bad Bunny and I’m planning on watching the rest of Suspicious Partner next!

Two guys are smiling and waving via GIPHY.

Books I’m Excited to Read in February

Tokyo Dreaming

Princess Diaries via GIPHY me ? A Princess?! Shut Up!

Synopsis

When Japanese-American Izumi Tanaka learned her father was the Crown Prince of Japan, she became a princess overnight. Now, she’s overcome conniving cousins, salacious press, and an imperial scandal to finally find a place she belongs. She has a perfect bodyguard turned boyfriend. Her stinky dog, Tamagotchi, is living with her in Tokyo. Her parents have even rekindled their college romance and are engaged. A royal wedding is on the horizon! Izumi’s life is a Tokyo dream come true. 

Only…

Her parent’s engagement hits a brick wall. The Imperial Household Council refuses to approve the marriage citing concerns about Izumi and her mother’s lack of pedigree. And on top of it all, her bodyguard turned boyfriend makes a shocking decision about their relationship. At the threat of everything falling apart, Izumi vows to do whatever it takes to help win over the council. Which means upping her newly acquired princess game. 

But at what cost? Izumi will do anything to help her parents achieve their happily ever after, but what if playing the perfect princess means sacrificing her own? Will she find a way to forge her own path and follow her heart?

Crazy Rich Asians via GIPHY

I got an arc of this so I’m super excited to read it!

Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan

Dory saying Just keep reading, just keep reading via GIPHY.

Synopsis

A captivating debut fantasy inspired by the legend of the Chinese moon goddess, Chang’e , in which a young woman’s quest to free her mother pits her against the most powerful immortal in the realm and sets her on a dangerous path—where choices come with deadly consequences, and she risks losing more than her heart.

Growing up on the moon, Xingyin is accustomed to solitude, unaware that she is being hidden from the powerful Celestial Emperor who exiled her mother for stealing his elixir of immortality. But when Xingyin’s magic flares and her existence is discovered, she is forced to flee her home, leaving her mother behind. 

Alone, untrained, and afraid, she makes her way to the Celestial Kingdom, a land of wonder and secrets. Disguising her identity, she seizes an opportunity to learn alongside the Crown Prince, mastering archery and magic, even as passion flames between her and the emperor’s son. 

To save her mother, Xingyin embarks on a perilous quest, confronting legendary creatures and vicious enemies across the earth and skies. When treachery looms and forbidden magic threatens the kingdom, however, she must challenge the ruthless Celestial Emperor for her dream—striking a dangerous bargain in which she is torn between losing all she loves or plunging the realm into chaos.

Something Wilder by Christina Lauren

Synopsis

When I’m doubt go to the library via GIPHY.

Growing up the daughter of notorious treasure hunter and absentee father Duke Wilder left Lily without much patience for the profession…or much money in the bank. But Lily is nothing if not resourceful, and now uses Duke’s coveted hand-drawn maps to guide tourists on fake treasure hunts through the red rock canyons of Utah. It pays the bills but doesn’t leave enough to fulfill her dream of buying back the beloved ranch her father sold years ago, and definitely not enough to deal with the sight of the man she once loved walking back into her life with a motley crew of friends ready to hit the trails. Frankly, Lily would like to take him out into the wilderness—and leave him there.

Leo Grady knew mirages were a thing in the desert, but they’d barely left civilization when the silhouette of his greatest regret comes into focus in the flickering light of the campfire. Ready to leave the past behind him, Leo wants nothing more than to reconnect with his first and only love. Unfortunately, Lily Wilder is all business, drawing a clear line in the sand: it’s never going to happen.

But when the trip goes horribly and hilariously wrong, the group wonders if maybe the legend of the hidden treasure wasn’t a gimmick after all. There’s a chance to right the wrongs—of Duke’s past and their own—but only if Leo and Lily can confront their history and work together. Alone under the stars in the isolated and dangerous mazes of the Canyonlands, Leo and Lily must decide whether they’ll risk their lives and hearts on the adventure of a lifetime.

I got an arc of this and I’m so excited because I ADORE Christina Lauren’s books!!! It’s so freaking good and I absolutely love them. They’re the perfect romance book to read on a cold winter day.

What are you reading this weekend?

Harley Quinn sipping coffee and reading a book via GIPHY.

A Snippet of my WIP Unconditionally Yours

The Simpson Writing is the hardest thing ever! Via GIPHY.

One: The Run-In at the Hospital

Rashid’s P.O.V:

        Finals week was hell, but it’s not like things could get worse. I just wanted to pass my classes so I could make it to winter break. I just made myself a cup of chai and was sitting at the counter in my apartment a few miles away from the main campus where my medical school was located. My laptop was open with multiple tabs on and I had my text book out lying on the kitchen counter.  It had been a nightmare finding the right school to get in to, but I was so sure that nightmare was over once I got in. I was so incredibly stupid for thinking that. My cell phone rang; snapping me out of my daydream.

        I have always been the good kid. Not because I wanted to be, but because I had to be. Ammi and Abbu always had more than enough on their plates. Abbu worked as a lawyer at a firm and is a divorce lawyer. He helps divorced couples settle their assets and then comes home to his family.  Abbu was always at work and Ammi loved her job as an accountant. Once she got diagnosed she had to quit her job. Something I never thought I’d see her do. 

                     She liked numbers because they made sense to her when nothing else did. Ammi was a strong believer in being logical. This is exactly why the fact that she didn’t want me to know about her diagnosis was out of character even for her. Maybe she didn’t want to worry me that things were worse than she’d assume they were. They want me to have the best in life because they struggled to get to where they are today.

          Ever since I got into med school, I barely have time for anything else. But, on the rare occasion when I do have time I try to keep in touch with them and my friends back home. It’s just so hard to balance everything when I constantly feel like there’s always more to do at med school and that I could be doing better if I just had more time. I could ace my final if I have more time. 

    Ammi has Breast Cancer. Ever since Ammi was diagnosed with cancer, the diagnosis wasn’t a constant reminder that time was running out. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, but time and distance can hinder a relationship. Oftentimes, it’s rooted in resentment. Resentment for not being around. Not being present enough. 

          “Rashid, you need to come home, beta!” Abbu’s voice was frantic and urgent. Unlike his usual, calm demeanor. I immediately stood up and rubbed my eyes. Just as I did that, the textbook I was studying for was about to fall. As I  caught it with one hand and shoved it back on the couch I turned my attention back to Abbu.

        “What is it? Are you and Ammi okay?” I talk fast whenever I’m anxious.

        Abbu exhaled as he said, “Ammi didn’t want to worry you, but she has terminal cancer.” I dropped the phone and it landed on the couch.

        “Rashid? Beta, are you still there?” I was about to nod when I remembered that Abbu couldn’t see me. I picked up the phone again and said, “How long?” I nearly dropped the phone as I waited impatiently for his reply.

        “The doctor didn’t say yet. In some cases, it can be months. In others, weeks. Don’t be mad at your Ammi. She wanted you to focus on your finals. I thought it would be best 

in case….” Abbu’s voice trailed off, but I could read between the lines. In case Ammi didn’t make it. 

    “I’ll get on the next flight home.” 

    “No, beta.”

    “No? What do you-”

    “Ask to take your finals early. Finish the semester. You’re in medical school, Rashid! Besides, your Ammi will be upset if she finds out you skipped it.” Abbu added. Fuck. Ammi didn’t even want me to know which means things are way worse than I even anticipated. 

    “Okay, I’ll do that and I’ll be there as soon as I can, insha’ Allah (god willing).” I informed him. 

    “Alright, beta. Allah hafiz.” Abbu replied.

    “Allah hafiz. Give Ammi my salams.” I said, as we hung up. 

            I’m an idiot. I should’ve noticed the signs immediately! Now that I think about it it makes sense considering how tired Ammi has been recently. Before she was hospitalized, Ammi wanted me to learn how to make her famous samosas saying that the family recipe shouldn’t end with her. That should have been an obvious sign. One I was stupid enough to miss. Yet I still went back to med school that semester. It wasn’t until Abbu’s frantic call that I realized how severe the situation really was.

         Prior to getting the call to come home I made plans to go see a Dua Lipa concert. I immediately began the process of reselling my ticket and making the hard decision to let my friends know that I’d have to bail on them. At least I have a good excuse. 

       I didn’t know how much time I had left with Ammi and I really wanted to make the most of it. 

“Why didn’t you tell me about this sooner, Ammi?” I asked, as I held her hand. I had rushed home the minute Abbu (Dad)  told me the news. Apparently, Ammi didn’t want to worry us, but Abbu thought I deserved to know. I’d rather know later than never. I finished my last final at med school just before winter break officially started. Once I informed my professors about what was happening at home, I was able to rush back home to be there for Ammi during her chemotherapy.

I wanted to be there for her as much as possible. I knew she wouldn’t be around for forever, but I was hoping that she’d be here for graduation. I honestly don’t know what Abbu and I would do without her. 

“You should be in med school, jaanu.” Ammi told me. Ammi was lying in the hospital bed in one of those hospital gowns. She looked so pale and it terrified me. I didn’t know what to do or what to say to make it better. It was hard to see Ammi like this. The hospital room had the usual bare-white walls. There was a plant in the corner to spruce up the room, but this wasn’t like the children’s hospital – that place was like colors exploded on the walls. But, here it was like they wanted the patients to be as miserable as they felt.

  “I came back early to be with you, Ammi. Aren’t you happy to see me?” I teased Ammi. Ammi held my hand and gave me a weak smile.

         “I’m glad you’re home, beta. But, you should be studying for your finals, no?” Ammi inquired.

              “I was able to take them early. I want to be here with you on the days Abbu has work, Ammi.”  

“Come sit, beta. I am going to be fine. At Thanksgiving, we’ll have a chicken masala and guests will be over. You’ll see, jaanu.” 

“Ammi, you don’t know if that’ll happen. We don’t.” I  wished Ammi would just admit that everything wasn’t fine and that things will never be the same again no matter how badly I wanted it to be. 

    “Rashid, you can’t live your life in fear. Whatever Allah (S.W.T.) has planned will happen, insha’ Allah!” Ammi said, as she emphasized the last two words. All I could do in response was hold her hand. When  Ammi fell asleep, I  sighed and looked out at the night sky. The night sky was aglow with bright city lights. The crescent moon sparkled at night. The blanket of stars appeared to be endless and shined brightly tonight. Outside, it was already bitterly cold despite the beautiful view that seemed inviting.

Abbu would be here soon and then he would know exactly how severe the situation was. I  needed to know even if Ammi didn’t want me to. Ammi wanted me to pretend everything was okay and that she would get better but it just didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel right to continue as if nothing was wrong. I was just lucky enough that I found out that the situation had gotten significantly worse when I had.

Ammi was never fond of making a big deal out of her health. She always believed that everyone has their time and it ends whenever Allah (S.W.T.)  wills it to end. In a way, she’s definitely right. I just couldn’t imagine a world without her in it. I couldn’t imagine getting married without her or graduating med school without her. I still had so many milestones that I desperately wanted to share with her. I still need my Ammi. I need to be able to hug her after a rough day or just to talk to her.

Ammi and I have always had a close knit bond. I honestly don’t know what Abbu and I will do without her. How could we possibly move on? How could she act so nonchalant about it all? I know she’s accepted her fate. I can see the defeat in her eyes that wasn’t always there until recently. I would do anything for her. I wish I could take away her pain.

 I remembered the first time Ammi told me she had cancer. She had ordered Halal pepperoni pizza and even ordered garlic knots …one of my favorites. She waited until I had finished my share before breaking the news. I was  in so much shock that I had run out and went for a bike ride with Ammi calling after me.When I got home, Abbu  explained that he had wanted to tell me sooner but Ammi was still in denial about how severe the situation was. 

    “She doesn’t want to miss out on your life, son.” Abbu told me gently. 

When that sunk in, I  realized I  should’ve thought about it the other way around: I didn’t want to miss out on being in Ammi’s life. I didn’t know how much longer I had with her or what would happen if… I  shuddered thinking of that what if Mamaent. I didn’t want to think about that. Instead, I focused on counting my blessings that I even had this time with Ammi.  Not everyone is lucky enough to have these Mamaents with their parents. I texted my friends telling them that I couldn’t make it tonight. We initially had plans to see a football game. I wouldn’t be an asshole again and miss this. There would be other games in the future. Who knows if there would be other days I’d get to spend with Ammi.

        “Assalamu Alaikum, Abbu!” I stepped out of the hospital room as quietly as I could. I  didn’t want to wake Ammi up now that she was asleep.

        “Yes… I will. Right. Yes I prayed Isha, Abbu. I went to the masjid before driving over. Will you be here tonight? Okay… I will wait until you come. You have to tell her, Abbu.“ I  told  Abbu before hanging up. I sighed before walking back in.

        “Rashid? What is it, beta?” Ammi said as she sat up in bed.

        “Abbu is coming, but he is going to be a little late, Ammi.” 

        “You shouldn’t be here… you should be with your friends, Rashid. You have friends, right?” Ammi teased, as I  rolled my eyes.

        “Yes, Ammi. I have friends – but I’d rather be here with you. Besides, Abbu will be here soon and then I’ll head home.” 

        “Go home, Rashid. I’m just going to go back to sleep. I will tell Abbu you were here all day.” Ammi patted my hand and motions to the door with a small smile. “Thank you for coming, beta, but I don’t want you watching me sleep.” I kissed Ammi on the cheek, gathered my things, and rushed out the door. I looked back in the direction of  Ammi’s hospital room and shook my head. It had been a long night, but it was time to head home. I was on my way out when someone crashed into me.

“Watch where you’re going!” I snapped as the girl looked up in surprise. She took out her headphones from her ears and quickly fixed her hijab. She looked like she was only five foot tall. 

“Oh, I’m so sorry – I must have missed the animal crossing sign – my bad!” She covered her mouth with one hand and rolled her eyes.

        “Sorry – I was on my way to the west wing and I got lost. I didn’t even realize you were there.”  Realization dawned on me  as I  realized I had been an asshole.

“Sorry for being an asshole. I know it’s no excuse, but it’s been a rough week.”

        “Likewise.” 

        “The west wing is just around the corner after you go straight and take a left.”

        “How do I know you’re not leading me to some weird part of this building?”

        “Take my advice or not … I really don’t care. But, if you don’t it’ll be awhile before an assistant can help you out.” I  pointed to the line of people waiting to talk to the desk assistant. She gave me the middle finger and walked off in the direction I had given her. I laughed at how bold she was and she was so defiant that I had to admit I was enamored by her. What a weird girl. I  had forgotten to say salaams but figured I’d never see her again. She had left quite an impression on me but I knew the chances of seeing her again were slim to none. I didn’t even know anything else about this girl. 

She was short but her attitude made up for it. It wasn’t even a long conversation, but it kept replaying in my head. In such a short time, she had managed to strike a nerve. I didn’t like the fact that she’d call me out for being rude to her. She was the only one who called me out on my bullshit. I didn’t know how I felt about that. It was a strange feeling.  Women are weird. It was easier to think that than to admit the truth : I was intrigued by her. 

        I don’t have time for love anyway, I thought to myself. I was going to meet up with Hashim – the Imam’s son and hang out before heading home that night. Hashim had insisted that I stopped by. I  realized maybe  Ammi was right – maybe I did need the distraction.    

          The Imam opened the door with a smile. 

“Assalamu Alaikum, Rashid! Come in, come in!” The Imam was this tall, Arab guy originally from Palestine. The Imam was gentle but firm. He 

was the kind of man anyone would be willing to approach due to how understanding he was. He was always willing to hear kids out instead of yelling at them first and asking the right questions later. Unless you asked his son, Hashim. 

        “Hashim is in his room, Rashid. How is your mother doing?” The Imam inquired.

“She is good, still recovering, Uncle AbdulRahman. Please continue to keep her in your du’aas.” I  replied, with a smile as I headed upstairs before the Imam could ask him anything else. Inside his house, the Imam had insisted that I called him Uncle saying it was good to separate work from home. 

“Salams, so did my dad hold you up?” Hashim asked.

        “Wasalams, nah – he just asked about Ammi.”

        “How are you holding up?”

        “Not great – I could use a distraction to be honest.”

        “I know a good one – let’s watch Star Wars: A New Hope!”

        “Alright!” I  took off my jacket and sat on the bean bag. Hashim came back with two bags of popcorn and handed one to me. I’ve known Hashim ever since we were kids. Ever since his sister was alive. She used to tag along when we went out to get burgers or watch the latest Marvel movie. We haven’t been the same since the incident. Even though I try not to think about it – I can’t help but feel her presence in the house. It haunts me.

        I never really thought about her that much when she was alive and I still feel guilty for that. Maybe if I had paid attention. Maybe if I had asked the right questions things would be different. I know she was super close to Hashim and they had this incredible sibling bond. Even after all this time it still hurt to talk about her in the past tense. She didn’t even graduate. 

We still talk about her – mention our favorite memories. Hashim’s worried he’ll forget her. He’s my best friend and I just want to do whatever I can to help him out. He’s always been there for me. I just want to be there for him too. I do what I can to take his mind off things- binge-watch Star Wars or just play video games. Some days we talk about it. “Kettle for you and butter for me,” Hashim said,as he pressed play.

Today was not that day. Getting to see Laia  escape with Luke’s help helped me  momentarily forget about what Abbu had told me. More like sprung on me.

        “Are you okay, man?” Hashim shot me a look of concern. I didn’t want to add to his  plate. 

        “Huh? Oh yeah… I’m alright. Why?”

“You kinda zoned out a little. I tried calling your name and wasn’t sure if you were okay.”

        “I’m fine… it’s just …it’s been a weird night, man.” Hashim put the movie on pause and turned on the fan. “If you don’t want my parents to overhear it’s better to turn on the fan. Anyway, so what happened?”   

        I sighed as I thought about brushing off what I was thinking. When Hashim gave me  a look I cracked and told him about meeting the girl at the hospital.

“She was only about five foot and barely able to reach my shoulders. Yet she was so feisty!” I shook my head in amusement as I recalled the incident.

“You were an asshole, moron.” Hashim replied, with a grin as I shook my head. I  gave Hashim what I had hoped was an annoyed look before I started laughing.

        “Damn it – I kind of was. Wasn’t I?”

                    “Here’s the good news – you’re probably never going to run into her again. So, don’t worry about it.”

        “And if I do?”

        “You’re smart. I’m sure you’ll figure it out. If not … maybe you’re not as smart as I think you are.” I rolled my eyes and grabbed the remote. 

              “You’re not going to tell me what’s really going on, are you?”I shot him a look and he rolled his eyes. “Alright, then… let’s finish the movie. Then I’ll pester you about your crush.”

                 “It’s not a crush!”

                      “Yeah, sure it’s not. That grin says otherwise. Let’s finish the movie,” He said, with a grin as I tossed a pillow at his head.

                                  “Hey!” With that, we turned our attention back to the movie. It was a comfortable silence – the kind of silence that close friends shared once they really got to know one another. I grabbed some popcorn and ate it as the movie continued. There’s something nice about rewatching an old favorite movie.

“HASHIM! RASHID! Dinner is ready!” Hashim’s Mama was the kind of woman who will insist on feeding you no matter how many times you tell her you already ate. Has it really been that long? 

“I’m sorry it’s not much – Hashim told me you were staying a little while ago.” I  looked in amazement at the macaroni bechamel, the pastries, and the kebabs. 

“This looks incredible, Aunty!” I said, meaning every word I said. It really was an incredible sight to behold. Arab food was amazing but it could use some hot sauce. Some pepper flakes couldn’t hurt either. I thankfully didn’t say any of

that out loud and by the way Hashim’s Mama beamed at me I knew I  had made the right decision. They sat down at the table and the Imam began serving me dish by dish and then served his wife. After he served Hashim and then himself. 

        “BismillAllah Rahman Ar-Raheem!” The Imam declared before eating. Everyone else followed suit and dug in. By the end of the night, I was in a happy food coma. The bachamel had been his favorite and Hashim’s Mama insisted that he take some home with him when she heard that he liked it. I tried to say it was okay (brown culture customs or maybe it was a Muslim 

thing) but I was secretly ecstatic that I’d get to drive home with it. Hashim walked me to the car and the two of us  talked for a bit before I drove off.

        By the time I entered the house, it was still quiet. Abbu had stayed the night by Ammi’s hospital bed so I had the whole house to myself. Unlike some of my friends’ siblings, I wasn’t the type to get scared while being home alone. That was something I could handle. In fact, sometimes I needed to be home alone long enough to rejuvenate after being around people all day. Even if I enjoyed their company.

        One of the things I loved doing when I’m home alone is having the freedom to blast music as loudly as I want whenever I want. I also liked having the uninterrupted time to read or catch up on a show. It was nice the first few days, but since I’ve been home it’s been happening more often. It’s one of the reasons I’ve been spending more time at Hashim’s place.

        Abbu had texted earlier in the day to tell me to attend some masjid event. Apparently, it was a D’awah booth. The D’awah booth is usually a table that is handled by local Muslim students and supervised by the Imam or other elders in the community. It was for an interfaith session. I had to attend a workshop training tonight to make sure I was prepared for whatever happened. Abbu thought this would be a good distraction for me. When I had attempted to protest, Abbu rebutted my rebuttals saying that whatever I wanted to do probably isn’t a one way ticket to Jannah (Paradise). So here I was about to go to my first D’awah workshop. 

“Asaalamu Alaikum, everyone!” The Imam greeted us with a smile as we walked in and removed our shoes.  The women sat behind us and I sat with the other male teens in the front. “We will take a break for Asr salah but feel free to pray dhur before we commence.” The Imam paused and watched as many of the students got up to pray. Once we were done, I sat back down and did my best to listen attentively to the Imam.  

    “Remember that we always ask if they would like a flyer. Never get angry regardless of what the other person says. Remember not to take it too personally if the other person is rude to you. If you’re talking to a Christian, be empathetic. Acknowledge that you also believe in Prophet Isa (A.S.) or as they say Jesus. We just don’t believe in the trinity. Focus on the common ground with whomever you’re talking to. If you don’t have patience, this will be a tedious task for you and I suggest that you think about whether or not you’re cut out for it. You will have a supervisor with you at the booth should you have any questions or if things get out of hand. We have never had any dire situations.” The Imam handed out booklets with information on topics that could be of interest to others. He droned on for a bit and I zoned out.

    “We will have a container of candy for kids to walk by and take. When that happens, this is your time to hand out a booklet. One woman and man will be manning the table every hour. If you are unable to make it, please come and see me before you leave tonight. This is my number if you need to reach me at any time.” The Imam wrote down his number on the white board and everyone took a picture or wrote it down. “I am going to pass this sheet around and I want each of you to sign up for the time slot.” I looked around to see if I recognized any of the guys. 

    There was one kid that I recognized from school – we had the same Art class but other than that I didn’t recognize anyone. He was always making Tik Tok videos when he thought the teacher wasn’t looking. The kid was never as smooth as he thought he was. Hashim avoided these workshops as often as he could and usually only attended them if his Dad guilt tripped him into attending one. The Imam droned on for a few more minutes and then it was finally time to head out. I wouldn’t have shown up to this workshop if my parents didn’t talk me into doing this.

    “Rashid!” I spun around to face the kid from my  Art class.

“It’s me… Uzair!” Uzair replied. Was this kid always so bubbly? It was like he had endless energy or was on a sugar rush. He was always so goddamn loud. If there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s obnoxiously loud people. Uzair always had this superior complex that annoyed the hell out of me. I’m not sure how much longer I can stand this.

    “Oh… right. Hey, so what did you want to talk about?”

    “You have no idea who I am … right?” Uzair asked.

    “Sorry… no. “

    “That’s alright. Anyway… what time did you sign up for?”

             “Five pm.” I  said silently hoping that Uzair didn’t sign up for the same time. I  just wanted to head out but this kid was persistent. It was driving me crazy.

         “Damn … I have the last shift.”

         “That’s a shame… well, I have to head out.” With that, I smiled at him and got inside my car. I was finally able to drive away.  I  turned on some music and listened to Eminem as I drove home.I was more introverted than most and preferred solitude to large gatherings which is why it was a miracle that I had even agreed to volunteer for that Da’wah booth. The only reason I went through with it was because Ammi had been so ecstatic when she heard that I didn’t want to disappoint her. I couldn’t disappoint her. Not when it made her smile that much and she hasn’t been that positive in awhile. 

      When I  finally arrived at home, it was already eight pm and Abbu was asleep on the couch. CNN played in the background and I have no idea why he  insisted on watching it whenever he was home when he could read about it or do anything else. I  quietly walked in, locked the door, and lowered the volume of the TV. I  knew if I  turned off the TV it would startle Abbu awake and Abbu didn’t get a lot of sleep recently so that was the last thing I  wanted to do. Instead, I put away my things and started to make dinner.

A family friend had dropped off food so I just had to heat it up. I wasn’t sure if Abbu ate so I made two plates filled with Nihari, biriyani, and naan. The broth smelled of turmeric and other traditional spices. There were slow-cooked beef chunks in the stew and even though I had already eaten it was an overwhelming day and I tend to stress eat. I wasn’t planning on sleeping yet, so I made some chai on the stove and added some cinnamon and spice.

Although I’m not an expert cook, I  knew my way around a kitchen.Ammi believed that both men and women should learn how to cook. It had been drilled into my  head that you needed food for survival and cooking isn’t just something for girls.  Still, I  appreciated it  when I  didn’t have to worry about cooking even though the reason Aunties would send food is because they thought  Abbu  and I didn’t know how to cook. A common misconception. The aunties’ food was scrumptious, so we never corrected them when they made their assumptions. 

      I  sat at the dining table and it was only when I  was washing the dishes that Abbu woke up. “Ah, beta, you’re home!” Abbu exclaimed, as he rubbed his eyes and got up from the couch. “What did Aunty Samreena bring today?” 

      “Nihari, biriyani, and some naan. She also left a tray of pakoras and some samosas.” I  replied, as I handed Abbu his plate. 

Abbu smiled and microwaved his food. “Thanks for the chai, beta. How was  the workshop? You did go, right, Rashid?”

 “Yes, Abbu. I went and it was alright. I probably won’t do it again but I’ll go for the D’awah workshop over the weekend, Insha’ Allah!” Abbu patted my shoulder.  “Good, good, beta. Your Ammi will be pleased. Are you stopping by the hospital this weekend after the D’awah booth?” 

 “Yes, Abbu. I’m going to go upstairs. I’m meeting with Hashim and some others tomorrow evening. Do you want me to do anything before then?” 

“That’s okay. I’ll be at the hospital in the evening after work, beta. I know Ammi didn’t want you to be there during the week but I’m sure she’ll want to see you over the weekend.” Abbu informed me as he started eating. I sipped my chai as I nodded along. I didn’t get the logic, but I knew better than to pressure Abbu into answering his questions about Ammi and the chemotherapy. If it was just going to be the two of us, we needed to learn how to get along without overstepping. Ya Allah, please make this easy on me. Please let Ammi miraculously be okay.

The Top 10 Highly Anticipated Sequels of 2022

Here are all the sequels I’m excited for this year!

1. Ashes of Gold

Ashes of Gold book cover

Synopsis

In the heart-pounding conclusion to the Wings of Ebony duology, which #1 New York Times bestselling author Nicole Yoon calls “bold, inventive, big-hearted and deeply perceptive,” Rue makes her final stand to reclaim her people’s stolen magic.

Rue has no memory of how she ended up locked in a basement prison without her magic or her allies. But she’s a girl from the East Row. And girls from the East Row don’t give up. Girls from the East Row pick themselves back up when they fall. Girls from the East Row break themselves out.

But reuniting with her friends is only half the battle. When she finds them again, Rue makes a vow: she will find a way to return the magic that the Chancellor has stolen from her father’s people. Yet even on Yiyo Peak, Rue is a misfit—with half a foot back in Houston and half a heart that is human as well as god, she’s not sure she’s the right person to lead the fight to reclaim a glorious past. 

When a betrayal sends her into a tailspin, Rue must decide who to trust and how to be the leader that her people deserve…because if she doesn’t, it isn’t just Yiyo that will be destroyed—it will be Rue herself.

I got an arc of this and it was incredible!! The world-building and the magic was so good.

2. Bloodmarked by Tracey Deonn

Bloodmarked Cover book by Tracey Deonn

Synopsis

The shadows have risen, and the line is law.

All Bree wanted was to uncover the truth behind her mother’s death. So she infiltrated the Legendborn Order, a secret society descended from King Arthur’s knights—only to discover her own ancestral power. Now, Bree has become someone new:

A Medium. A Bloodcrafter. A Scion.

But the ancient war between demons and the Order is rising to a deadly peak. And Nick, the Legendborn boy Bree fell in love with, has been kidnapped.

Bree wants to fight, but the Regents who rule the Order won’t let her. To them, she is an unknown girl with unheard-of power, and as the living anchor for the spell that preserves the Legendborn cycle, she must be protected.

When the Regents reveal they will do whatever it takes to hide the war, Bree and her friends must go on the run to rescue Nick themselves. But enemies are everywhere, Bree’s powers are unpredictable and dangerous, and she can’t escape her growing attraction to Selwyn, the mage sworn to protect Nick until death.

If Bree has any hope of saving herself and the people she loves, she must learn to control her powers from the ancestors who wielded them first—without losing herself in the process.

I’m on the list to get an arc of this and I can’t wait!

3. Love from Mecca to Medina by S.K. Ali

There’s no cover for it, but S.K. Ali recently shared the news that this is the sequel for Love from A to Z . The manuscript has been submitted to her agent and I am so excited to read this!!

4. Loveboat Reunion by Abigail Hung Wen

Loveboat Reunion by Abigail Hung Wen

Synopsis

Hearts were broken, revenge was plotted—but at least they’re friends now. They left the drama behind them back in Taipei—at their summer program, Loveboat—forever.

Now that fall is here, they’re focusing on what really matters. Sophie has sworn off boys and is determined to be the best student Dartmouth’s ever had. Xavier just wants to stay under his overbearing father’s radar, collect his trust fund when he turns eighteen, and concentrate on what makes him happy.

But the world doesn’t seem to want Sophie and Xavier to succeed. Sophie’s college professor thinks her first major project is “too feminine.” Xavier’s father gives him an ultimatum: finish high school or be cut off from his inheritance.

Then Sophie and Xavier find themselves on a wild, nonstop Loveboat reunion, hatching a joint plan to take control of their futures. Can they succeed together . . . or are they destined to combust?

I got an arc of this and it was so swoon-worthy!!

5. One True Loves by Elise Bryant

One True Loves Book Cover

Synopsis

Headed to New York University as an “undeclared” major, Lenore Bennett is feeling the pressure of figuring out what she wants to do in life. It’s a stress heightened by her parents, who want her to be as prepared as possible. On a post-graduation European cruise, she meets Alex Lee, who has the next ten years of his life mapped out. He’s exactly the type of person she’d never be interested in. That is, until the two spend more time together and she finds herself completely, totally falling for him.

This was so adorable and I loved the arc I got.

6. The Fae Keeper by H.E. Edgmon

The Fae Keeper Cover

Synopsis

This highly anticipated sequel to The Witch King picks up with the door to Faery closed and everything in chaos. After abolishing the corrupt Guard, Emyr and Wyatt are simultaneously hunting Derek and Clarke and trying to get other kingdoms to follow their lead. And in the midst of it all, they discover a truth about witches’ real place in fae society and realize Asalin’s problems might be more than the two of them can fix.

7. Godslayers by Zoe Hana Mikuto

GodSlayers book cover

Synopsis

It has been months since Heavensday, when the Gearbreakers landed a blow against Godolia, and the rebels who have escaped retribution are being hunted by the last Zenith, the only surviving Godolia leader. While Eris is being held prisoner, Sona now believes herself a loyal soldier for Godolia, after a cybernetic brainwashing courtesy of the Zenith. The rebels last hope may depend on Eris and Sona finding their way back to each other.

8. Shattered Midnight by Dhonielle Clayton

Shattered Midnight by Dhonielle Clayton

Synopsis

Zora comes to New Orleans as a Black woman from the south that’s escaping her magical gift and the accidents it has caused. All she has with her is magical red shoes and a perfect singing voice, as well as a bag of clothes. She tries to blend in, trying to avoid her mean family there and trying not to draw too much attention, and one day she gets an opportunity she cannot refuse to play at a known jazz club. There, she meets Phillip, who also has magic and a mirror that tells the future and could change her life.

What follows is a tale of forbidden love and the secret family connections that can come to haunt us, perfect for those seeking a unique escape.

9. Redemptor by Jordan Ifueko

Redemptor book Cover

Synopsis

For the first time, an Empress Redemptor sits on Aritsar’s throne. To appease the sinister spirits of the dead, Tarisai must now anoint a council of her own, coming into her full power as a Raybearer. She must then descend into the Underworld, a sacrifice to end all future atrocities.

Tarisai is determined to survive. Or at least, that’s what she tells her increasingly distant circle of friends. Months into her shaky reign as empress, child spirits haunt her, demanding that she pay for past sins of the empire.

With the lives of her loved ones on the line, assassination attempts from unknown quarters, and a handsome new stranger she can’t quite trust . . . Tarisai fears the pressure may consume her. But in this finale to the Raybearer duology, Tarisai must learn whether to die for justice . . . or to live for it.

10. Our Violent Ends by Chloe Gong

Our Violent Ends by Chloe Gong

This book came out this year and it’s one of the best sequels I’ve ever read.

Synopsis

Summary: The year is 1927, and Shanghai teeters on the edge of revolution. After sacrificing her relationship with Roma to protect him from the blood feud, Juliette has been a girl on a mission. One wrong move, and her cousin will step in to usurp her place as the Scarlet Gang’s heir.

What sequels are you excited for? Let me know in the comments down below.

Pikachu is waving goodbye via GIPHY

K-Dramas I Want to Watch Next

I’m currently watching Our Beloved Summer. It also has a webtoon.

Synopsis

Our Beloved Summer Trailer

I love the romance and tension in this k-drama!

The next drama I want to watch is W: Two Worlds.

Synopsis

W : Two Worlds video

I am a huge fan of Lee Jong Suk and this has been high on my to-watch list for awhile.

The next one on my list is Extraordinary You.

Synopsis

Extraordinary You Trailer

I also still need to see What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim.

Synopsis

What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim Trailer

I also want to watch Oh My Ghost.

Synopsis

It’s called Oh My Ghost on Netflix.

The last K-drama I’m going to mention is Hotel Del Luna.

Synopsis

Hotel Del Lina Trailer

Do you watch K-dramas? If yes, what’s on your to – watch list? Let me know in the comments.

The Top 5 Best and Worse Movies from 2021

The Best

1. Spider-Man: No Way Hone

Tom Holland as Spider-Man

This was one of my highly anticipated movies and it was so freaking awesome!! I loved every minute of this. No spoilers but: It’s beautiful and heartbreaking.

2. Black Widow

Natasha is doing the pose! via GIPHY.

“Why do you always do that thing? That thing you do when you’re fighting? With the arm and the hair, when you do like a fighting pose.” -Yelena says to Natasha in Black Widow.

This movie was heartbreaking and incredible! I loved learning more about Natasha.

3. Shang-Chi

Shang in Shang-Chi via GIPHY.

Shang and Katy have this beautiful friendship dynamic in Shang-Chi. I loved how bad-ass all of the characters were.

4. Always & Forever, Lara Jean

Lara Jean at Prom Night I’m Always & Forever, Lara Jean via Netflix.

The final installment in the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. It’s one of my favorite book to movie adaptations!

My friends and I talked about it on my podcast, Raise Your Words earlier this year. You can tune in by clicking here.

If you like the episode don’t forget to rate us on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re tuning in from! We appreciate all of our listeners.

5. Cruella

Cruella states: “You In?” Via GIPHY.

I had so much fun watching Cruella! This movie was unexpected and hilarious.

The Worse

Michael Scott states: “This is the worst!” Via GIPHY

1. He’s All That

He’s All That GIPHY caption states: “You don’t think I can do it?”

He’s All That is so terrible it’s honestly not even worth the watch.

2. The Kissing Booth 3

Elle says: “The Best Summer Ever … Period!” Via Netflix.

Instead of talking about this, I think it’s better if y’all listened to the episode my friends and I did on The Kissing Booth 3.

3. Cinderella (Camila Cabello)

Camila Cabello via Amazon Prime.

Camila Cabello stars in Amazon’s Cinderella. Don’t get me wrong – I love Camila’s songs and have been listening to her music since The Ex-Factor. The Amazon version of Cinderella was NOT it.

4. Home Sweet Home Alone

Home Sweet Home Alone via Disney Plus’s movie. The kid states: “They don’t even know I’m here!”

I loved the classic Home Alones with Macaulay Culkin. But the premise for this wasn’t nearly as exciting. It was lame and had a terrible ending.

5. The Suicide Squad

Harley Quinn smiles via GIPHY.

I loved The Suicide Squad in the CW show and the cast for the movie was pretty good, but I wasn’t a fan of the premise.

What was your favorite and least favorite movies from this year?

Let me know in the comments below!

Spotify Unwrapped Book Challenge

@itskooreviews tagged me in the Spotify Unwrapped Book Challenge 2021. I love pairing music and books, so thank you so much for tagging me. It’s also great for an end of the year wrap up. (Intro from @ itskoosreviews)!

“The idea of this challenge is to put your playlist on shuffle, and for the first five songs, you need to pick a book you read in 2021 that fits that song. It doesn’t have to be a perfect fit. You just have to explain why you chose that book for that song. There may not be a book match for every song, so please feel free to skip.”

Song: Real Friends by Camila Cabello, Swae Lee

Book: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas via Bookshop.org.

Hailey is the definition of being a toxic friend. She doesn’t actually care about Starr or any of the struggles that Starr has endured. Maya Yang on the other hand is Starr’s actual friend and I loved that The Hate U Give touches on that.

Starr in The Hate U Give movie adaptation.

You can pick up your copy here!

Song: It’s Nice to Have a Friend by Taylor Swift

Book: Kate in Waiting by Becky Albertalli.

Kate in Waiting by Becky Albertalli via Bookshop.org.

“Have my back, yeah, everyday/ Feels like home, stay in bed.”

Kate and Anderson always have each other’s back. That is, until they end up fighting over the same person.

You can buy your copy here!

Leah asks Simon: “Do you ever feel weird?” In Love, Simon.

Song: Shakespeare by Miranda Cosgrove

Book: Misfit in Love by S.K. Ali

Misfit in Love by S.K. Ali via Bookshop.org

This is an old love song and I think it’s perfect when it comes to describing Sarah and Muhammad’s relationship in Misfit in Love.

Here’s my interview with S.K. Ali!

You can get your copy from this link!

Schmidt asks Cece: “Can you stop looking at me like that, please?” Via GIPHY.

Song: Over Again by One Direction

Book: These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong.

These Violent Delights via Bookshop.org

Roma and Juliette reminds me of the line: “Hole in the middle of my heart like a polo/And it’s no joke to me.” These Violent Delights is a Romeo and Juliette retelling with a darker twist set in Shanghai.

You can check out my interview with Chloe here.

Here’s the link for the book!

Taylor Swift in her music video “Love Story.” Via GIPHY.

Song: Soon You’ll Get Better by Taylor Swift ft. The Chicks

Book: You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao!

You’ve Reached Sam – picture I took

You can read my interview with Dustin here!

You’ve Reached Sam talks about grief in a way I’ve never seen before and Soon You’ll Get Better is one of Taylor’s best sad songs.

That’s a Wrap via GIPHY.

Alright, that’s all for now! I’ll see y’all in the New Year.

I’m tagging: (only if you want to do this)

Latesha from BookishGirlMagic

Amna from perusingbooks

BookishRantings

A girl says: “and you!” points fingers and smile
Mr. Rogers smile and says: “SEE YOU NEXT TIME!” Via GIPHY.

The Best Books I’ve Read in 2021!

Hello, everyone!! I know it’s been awhile since my last post and I have to be honest grad school life has sucked out any ounce of creativity that I had.

Belle states: I just finished the most wonderful story via Giphy.

1. All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir

Sadie Sink from the All Too Well The Short Film via Giphy

This book comes out in March and thanks to Penguin Teen I got an ARC of it! This is heartbreakingly beautiful and is a must-read for everyone!!

Here’s a synopsis:

Lahore, Pakistan. Then.
Misbah is a dreamer and storyteller, newly married to Toufiq in an arranged match. After their young life is shaken by tragedy, they come to the United States and open the Cloud’s Rest Inn Motel, hoping for a new start.

Juniper, California. Now.
Salahudin and Noor are more than best friends; they are family. Growing up as outcasts in the small desert town of Juniper, California, they understand each other the way no one else does. Until The Fight, which destroys their bond with the swift fury of a star exploding.

Now, Sal scrambles to run the family motel as his mother Misbah’s health fails and his grieving father loses himself to alcoholism. Noor, meanwhile, walks a harrowing tightrope: working at her wrathful uncle’s liquor store while hiding the fact that she’s applying to college so she can escape him—and Juniper—forever.

When Sal’s attempts to save the motel spiral out of control, he and Noor must ask themselves what friendship is worth—and what it takes to defeat the monsters in their pasts and the ones in their midst.

From one of today’s most cherished and bestselling young adult authors comes a breathtaking novel of young love, old regrets, and forgiveness—one that’s both tragic and poignant in its tender ferocity.

2. Hana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin

From You’ve Got Mail via Giphy.

This is a book that I resonate with a lot! I already posted my in-depth book review of all the reasons why I adore it earlier this year.

Here’s the synopsis:

Sales are slow at Three Sisters Biryani Poutine, the only halal restaurant in the close-knit Golden Crescent neighborhood of Toronto. Hana waitresses there part time, but what she really wants is to tell stories on the radio. If she can just outshine her fellow intern at the city radio station, she may have a chance at landing a job. In the meantime, Hana pours her thoughts and dreams into a podcast, where she forms a lively relationship with one of her listeners. But soon she’ll need all the support she can get: a new competing restaurant, a more upscale halal place, is about to open in the Golden Crescent, threatening her mother’s restaurant.

When her mysterious aunt and her teenage cousin arrive from India for a surprise visit, they draw Hana into a long-buried family secret. A hate-motivated attack on their neighborhood complicates the situation further, as does Hana’s growing attraction for Aydin, the young owner of the rival restaurant–who might not be a complete stranger after all. 

As life on the Golden Crescent unravels, Hana must learn to use her voice, draw on the strength of her community and decide what her future should be.

3. Misfit in Love by S.K. Ali

Two rings and underneath it says Forever via Giphy.

The best Muslim wedding! Here’s the synopsis:

Janna Yusuf is so excited for the weekend: her brother Muhammad’s getting married, and she’s reuniting with her mom, whom she’s missed the whole summer. 

And Nuah’s arriving for the weekend too. Sweet, constant Nuah. The last time she saw him, Janna wasn’t ready to reciprocate his feelings for her. But things are different now. She’s finished high school, ready for college…and ready for Nuah. It’s time for Janna’s (carefully planned) summer of love to begin—starting right at the wedding. 

But it wouldn’t be a wedding if everything went according to plan. Muhammad’s party choices aren’t in line with his fiancée’s taste at all, Janna’s dad is acting strange, and her mom is spending more time with an old friend (and maybe love interest?) than Janna. And Nuah’s treating her differently. 

Just when things couldn’t get more complicated, two newcomers—the dreamy Haytham and brooding Layth—have Janna more confused than ever about what her misfit heart really wants. Janna’s summer of love is turning out to b

4. The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

Kylo and Rey from Star Wars

This is a book I’ve been rereading. It’s the perfect book to read after finals! If fake dating between scientists appeal to you then this is for you!! For those who don’t know this is also a Kylo x Rey fanfic. Here’s what it’s about:

As a third-year Ph.D. candidate, Olive Smith doesn’t believe in lasting romantic relationships–but her best friend does, and that’s what got her into this situation. Convincing Anh that Olive is dating and well on her way to a happily ever after was always going to take more than hand-wavy Jedi mind tricks: Scientists require proof. So, like any self-respecting biologist, Olive panics and kisses the first man she sees. 

That man is none other than Adam Carlsen, a young hotshot professor–and well-known ass. Which is why Olive is positively floored when Stanford’s reigning lab tyrant agrees to keep her charade a secret and be her fake boyfriend. But when a big science conference goes haywire, putting Olive’s career on the Bunsen burner, Adam surprises her again with his unyielding support and even more unyielding…six-pack abs. 

Suddenly their little experiment feels dangerously close to combustion. And Olive discovers that the only thing more complicated than a hypothesis on love is putting her own heart under the microscope.

5. Our Violent Ends by Chloe Gong

Taylor Swift in her Love Story music video via Giphy.

This epic conclusion to the duology is a must-read! It’s a Romeo and Juliet retelling. Here’s what it’s about:

The year is 1927, and Shanghai teeters on the edge of revolution. 

After sacrificing her relationship with Roma to protect him from the blood feud, Juliette has been a girl on a mission. One wrong move, and her cousin will step in to usurp her place as the Scarlet Gang’s heir. The only way to save the boy she loves from the wrath of the Scarlets is to have him want her dead for murdering his best friend in cold blood. If Juliette were actually guilty of the crime Roma believes she committed, his rejection might sting less. 

Roma is still reeling from Marshall’s death, and his cousin Benedikt will barely speak to him. Roma knows it’s his fault for letting the ruthless Juliette back into his life, and he’s determined to set things right—even if that means killing the girl he hates and loves with equal measure. 

Then a new monstrous danger emerges in the city, and though secrets keep them apart, Juliette must secure Roma’s cooperation if they are to end this threat once and for all. Shanghai is already at a boiling point: The Nationalists are marching in, whispers of civil war brew louder every day, and gangster rule faces complete annihilation. Roma and Juliette must put aside their differences to combat monsters and politics, but they aren’t prepared for the biggest threat of all: protecting their hearts from each other.

6. A Sky Beyond the Storm by Sabaa Tahir

I like big books and I cannot lie via Giphy.

This is one of my favorite series ever!! Here’s what it’s about:

Picking up just a few months after A Reaper at the Gates left off…

The long-imprisoned jinn are on the attack, wreaking bloody havoc in villages and cities alike. But for the Nightbringer, vengeance on his human foes is just the beginning.

By his side, Commandant Keris Veturia declares herself Empress, and calls for the heads of any and all who defy her rule. At the top of the list? The Blood Shrike and her remaining family.

Laia of Serra, now allied with the Blood Shrike, struggles to recover from the loss of the two people most important to her. Determined to stop the approaching apocalypse, she throws herself into the destruction of the Nightbringer. In the process, she awakens an ancient power that could lead her to victory—or to an unimaginable doom.

And deep in the Waiting Place, the Soul Catcher seeks only to forget the life—and love—he left behind. Yet doing so means ignoring the trail of murder left by the Nightbringer and his jinn. To uphold his oath and protect the human world from the supernatural, the Soul Catcher must look beyond the borders of his own land. He must take on a mission that could save—or destroy—all that he knows.

7. We Free the Stars by Hafsah Faizal

Effie says May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor via Giphy.

If you’re looking for another epic duology this is it!! Here’s the synopsis:

Darkness surged in his veins. Power bled from her bones.

The battle on Sharr is over. The Arz has fallen. Altair may be captive, but Zafira, Nasir, and Kifah are bound for Sultan’s Keep, determined to finish the plan Altair set in motion: restoring the hearts of the Sisters of Old to the minarets of each caliphate, finally bringing magic to all of Arawiya. But they are low on resources and allies alike, and the kingdom teems with fear of the Lion of the Night’s return.

As the zumra plots to overthrow Arawiya’s darkest threat, Nasir fights to command the magic in his blood. He must learn to hone his power, to wield it against not only the Lion but his father as well, trapped under the Lion’s control. Zafira battles a very different darkness festering in her through her bond with the Jawarat―it hums with voices, pushing her to the brink of sanity and to the edge of a chaos she dares not unleash. In spite of everything, Zafira and Nasir find themselves falling into a love they can’t stand to lose . . . But time is running out, and if order is to be restored, drastic sacrifices will have to be made.

8. The Bronzed Beasts by Roshani Chokshi

The Gilded Wolves Bookish meme via Google Images.

The Gilded Wolves is the first book in the series. I won’t spoil what happens but if you’re into geists then you need to read this!

9. You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao

Sadness from Inside Out and the captain states: “It’s Ok…. I’m fine.” via GIPHY which is how I felt after reading You’ve Reached Sam.

Here’s my interview with Dustin Thao for Pop-Culturalist: http://pop-culturalist.com/exclusive-interview-pop-culturalist-chats-with-dustin-thao/.

The synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Julie Clarke has her future all planned out–move out of her small town with her boyfriend Sam, attend college in the city; spend a summer in Japan. But then Sam dies. And everything changes. Heartbroken, Julie skips his funeral, throws out his belongings, and tries everything to forget him. But a message Sam left behind in her yearbook forces memories to return. Desperate to hear him one more time, Julie calls Sam’s cell phone just to listen to his voice mail recording. And Sam picks up the phone. The connection is temporary. But hearing Sam’s voice makes Julie fall for him all over again and with each call, it becomes harder to let him go. What would you do if you had a second chance at goodbye?

10. The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

My soulmate will be… books! via The Good Place

This is the best upper YA/Adult fantasy series!!! I’d recommend this to ANYONE.

On the streets of eighteenth-century Cairo, Nahri is a con woman of unsurpassed skill. She makes her living swindling Ottoman nobles, hoping to one day earn enough to change her fortunes. But when Nahri accidentally summons Dara, an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior, during one of her cons, she learns that even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences.

Forced to flee Cairo, Dara and Nahri journey together across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire and rivers where the mythical marid sleep, past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises and mountains where the circling birds of prey are more than what they seem, to Daevabad, the legendary city of brass. 

It’s a city steeped in magic and fire, where blood can be as dangerous as any spell; a city where old resentments run deep and the royal court rules with a tenuous grip; a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound–and where her very presence threatens to ignite a war that has been simmering for centuries.

11. Sweet & Bitter Magic by Adrienne Tooley

Spongebob says: “It’s magical!”

This was a book I wasn’t sure I’d love but I’m so freaking happy that I read it this year because it had an incredible plot!!

Tamsin is the most powerful witch of her generation. But after committing the worst magical sin, she’s exiled by the ruling Coven and cursed with the inability to love. The only way she can get those feelings back–even for just a little while–is to steal love from others. Wren is a source–a rare kind of person who is made of magic, despite being unable to use it herself.

Sources are required to train with the Coven as soon as they discover their abilities, but Wren–the only caretaker to her ailing father–has spent her life hiding her secret. When a magical plague ravages the queendom, Wren’s father falls victim. To save him, Wren proposes a bargain: if Tamsin will help her catch the dark witch responsible for creating the plague, then Wren will give Tamsin her love for her father. Of course, love bargains are a tricky thing, and these two have a long, perilous journey ahead of them–that is, if they don’t kill each other first.

12. The Lady or The Lion by Aamna Qureshi

Bookish meme one says Read the Books and the other says didn’t read the books!

This is a pakistani-inspired fantasy and I’m not saying you should read it just because Aamna is literally one of the nicest authors I know but it’s a compelling fast-paced fantasy novel!!

As crown princess of Marghazar, Durkhanai Miangul will do anything to protect her people and her land. When her grandfather, the Badshah, is blamed for a deadly assault on the summit of neighboring leaders, the tribes call for his head. To assuage cries for war, the Badshah opens Marghazar’s gates to foreigners for the first time in centuries, in a sign of good faith. His family has three months to prove their innocence, or they will all have war.

As Durkhanai races to solve who really orchestrated the attack, ambassadors from the neighboring tribal districts arrive at court, each with their own intentions for negotiations, each with their own plans for advantage. When a mysterious illness spreads through the villages and the imperialists push hard on her borders, Durkhanai must dig deep to become more than just a beloved princess-she must become a queen. 

To distract Durkhanai from it all is Asfandyar Afridi, the wry ambassador who tells her outright he is a spy, yet acts as though he is her friend-or maybe even something more.

13. The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Rory Gilmore is holding up a book and the caption says: “Now smell it.” via GIPHY.

If you ever loved The Westing Game when you were younger, this series is like an adult version of it. I adore both and even if you’re not into thrillers you should still give it a shot.

Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fortunes change in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea why — or even who Tobias Hawthorne is. To receive her inheritance, Avery must move into sprawling, secret passage-filled Hawthorne House, where every room bears the old man’s touch — and his love of puzzles, riddles, and codes.

Unfortunately for Avery, Hawthorne House is also occupied by the family that Tobias Hawthorne just dispossessed. This includes the four Hawthorne grandsons: dangerous, magnetic, brilliant boys who grew up with every expectation that one day, they would inherit billions. Heir apparent Grayson Hawthorne is convinced that Avery must be a conwoman, and he’s determined to take her down. His brother, Jameson, views her as their grandfather’s last hurrah: a twisted riddle, a puzzle to be solved. Caught in a world of wealth and privilege, with danger around every turn, Avery will have to play the game herself just to survive.

14. Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas

Star in The Hate U Give.

Concrete Rose is the prequel to The Hate U Give. I have already written a blog post on this earlier this year.

Here’s the synopsis:

If there’s one thing seventeen-year-old Maverick Carter knows, it’s that a real man takes care of his family. As the son of a former gang legend, Mav does that the only way he knows how: dealing for the King Lords. With this money he can help his mom, who works two jobs while his dad’s in prison.

Life’s not perfect, but with a fly girlfriend and a cousin who always has his back, Mav’s got everything under control.

Until, that is, Maverick finds out he’s a father.

Suddenly he has a baby, Seven, who depends on him for everything. But it’s not so easy to sling dope, finish school, and raise a child. So when he’s offered the chance to go straight, he takes it. In a world where he’s expected to amount to nothing, maybe Mav can prove he’s different.

When King Lord blood runs through your veins, though, you can’t just walk away. Loyalty, revenge, and responsibility threaten to tear Mav apart, especially after the brutal murder of a loved one. He’ll have to figure out for himself what it really means to be a man.

15. Wings of Ebony by J.Elle

Aang says : “Now… check this out!”

Author J.Elle is a new author that I recently discovered and I love her writing style!!! Ashes pf Gold is also getting a sequel.

“Make a way out of no way” is just the way of life for Rue. But when her mother is shot dead on her doorstep, life for her and her younger sister changes forever. Rue’s taken from her neighborhood by the father she never knew, forced to leave her little sister behind, and whisked away to Ghizon—a hidden island of magic wielders.

Rue is the only half-god, half-human there, where leaders protect their magical powers at all costs and thrive on human suffering. Miserable and desperate to see her sister on the anniversary of their mother’s death, Rue breaks Ghizon’s sacred Do Not Leave Law and returns to Houston, only to discover that Black kids are being forced into crime and violence. And her sister, Tasha, is in danger of falling sway to the very forces that claimed their mother’s life.

Worse still, evidence mounts that the evil plaguing East Row is the same one that lurks in Ghizon—an evil that will stop at nothing until it has stolen everything from her and everyone she loves. Rue must embrace her true identity and wield the full magnitude of her ancestors’ power to save her neighborhood before the gods burn it to the ground.

16. Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert

How you’ll feel after reading this book via GIPHY.

This is the second book in the Brown Sisters Trilogy and it’s so freaking cute!

Danika Brown knows what she wants: professional success, academic renown, and an occasional roll in the hay to relieve all that career-driven tension. But romance? Been there, done that, burned the T-shirt. Romantic partners, whatever their gender, are a distraction at best and a drain at worst. So Dani asks the universe for the perfect friend-with-benefits—someone who knows the score and knows their way around the bedroom.

When big, brooding security guard Zafir Ansari rescues Dani from a workplace fire drill gone wrong, it’s an obvious sign: PhD student Dani and former rugby player Zaf are destined to sleep together. But before she can explain that fact to him, a video of the heroic rescue goes viral. Suddenly, half the internet is shipping #DrRugbae—and Zaf is begging Dani to play along. Turns out his sports charity for kids could really use the publicity. Lying to help children? Who on earth would refuse? 

Dani’s plan is simple: fake a relationship in public, seduce Zaf behind the scenes. The trouble is, grumpy Zaf is secretly a hopeless romantic—and he’s determined to corrupt Dani’s stone-cold realism. Before long, he’s tackling her fears into the dirt. But the former sports star has issues of his own, and the walls around his heart are as thick as his… um, thighs. 

The easy lay Dani dreamed of is now more complex than her thesis. Has her wish backfired? Is her focus being tested? Or is the universe just waiting for her to take a hint?

17. The Wild Ones by Nafisa Azad

A blonde woman says: “Keep Reading!” via Netflix

If you haven’t read a Nafisa Azad book, what are you doing? Go pick up one of her books from your local library.

We are the Wild Ones, and we will not be silenced.

We are girls who have tasted the worst this world can offer. Our story begins with Paheli, who was once betrayed by her mother, sold to a man in exchange for a favor. When Paheli escaped, she ran headlong into Taraana—a boy with stars in his eyes, a boy as battered as she was. He tossed Paheli a box of stars before disappearing. With the stars, Paheli gained access to the Between, a place of pure magic and mystery. Now, Paheli collects girls like us, and we use our magic to travel the world, helping to save other girls from our pain, our scars. 

When Taraana reappears, he asks for our help. Dangerous magical forces are chasing him, and they will destroy him to get his powers. We will do everything to save him—if we can. For if Taraana is no longer safe and free, neither are the Wild Ones. And that is a fate that we refuse to accept. Ever again.

18. Those Deadly Games by Diana Urban

Text states: “Because two can keep a secret if one of them is dead!”

This is Diana’s second book and it’s one pf my favorite thrillers. Diana has a way of making you want to read more!

Let’s play a game.

You have 24 hours to win. If you break my rules, she dies. If you call the police, she dies. If you tell your parents or anyone else, she dies.

Are you ready?

When Crystal Donavan gets a message on a mysterious app with a video of her little sister gagged and bound, she agrees to play the kidnapper’s game. At first, they make her complete bizarre tasks: steal a test and stuff it in a locker, bake brownies, make a prank call. 

But then Crystal realizes each task is meant to hurt–and kill–her friends, one by one. But if she refuses to play, the kidnapper will kill her sister. Is someone trying to take her team out of the running for a gaming tournament? Or have they uncovered a secret from their past, and wants them to pay for what they did… 

As Crystal makes the impossible choices between her friends and her sister, she must uncover the truth and find a way to outplay the kidnapper… before it’s too late.

19. Dating Dr.Dil by Nisha Sharma

Desi Wedding via Giphy.

Nisha Sharma is my new favorite romance author!! I love the desi rep.

Kareena Mann dreams of having a love story like her parents, but she prefers restoring her classic car to swiping right on dating apps. When her father announces he’s selling her mother’s home, Kareena makes a deal with him: he’ll gift her the house if she can get engaged in four months. Her search for her soulmate becomes impossible when her argument with Dr. Prem Verma, host of The Dr. Dil Show, goes viral. Now the only man in her life is the one she doesn’t want.

Dr. Prem Verma is dedicated to building a local community health center, but he needs to get donors with deep pockets. The Dr. Dil Show was doing just that, until his argument with Kareena went viral, and he’s left short changed. That’s when Kareena’s meddling aunties presented him with a solution: convince Kareena he’s her soulmate and they’ll fund his clinic. 

Even though they have conflicting views on love-matches and arranged-matches, the more time Prem spends with Kareena, the more he begins to believe she’s the woman he wants to spend the rest of his life with. But for Prem and Kareena to find their happily ever after, they must admit that hate has turned into fate.

20. Huda F Are You? By Huda Fahmy

A young Muslim woman is adjusting her hijab via GIPHY.

Huda Fahmy’s comics are hilarious and I resonated with this muslim graphic novel. Even if you’re not Muslim, you’ll love the humor in this!

Huda and her family just moved to Dearborn, Michigan, a small town with a big Muslim population. In her old town, Huda knew exactly who she was: She was the hijabi girl. But in Dearborn, everyone is the hijabi girl.

Huda is lost in a sea of hijabis, and she can’t rely on her hijab to define her anymore. She has to define herself. So she tries on a bunch of cliques, but she isn’t a hijabi fashionista or a hijabi athlete or a hijabi gamer. She’s not the one who knows everything about her religion or the one all the guys like. She’s miscellaneous, which makes her feel like no one at all. Until she realizes that it’ll take finding out who she isn’t to figure out who she is.

Turn the Pages Blog Tour: If This Gets Out

If This Gets Out Blog Tour

Synopsis

If This Gets Out
by Sophie Gonzales and Cale Dietrich
Published by Wednesday Books
Releasing on December 7, 2021
YA FICTION-Contemporary, LGBTQ+ Fiction

Eighteen-year-olds Ruben Montez and Zach Knight are two members of the boy-band Saturday, one of the biggest acts in America. Along with their bandmates, Angel Phan and Jon Braxton, the four are teen heartbreakers in front of the cameras and best friends backstage.

On a whirlwind tour through Europe, with both an unrelenting schedule and minimal supervision, Ruben and Zach come to rely on each other more and more, and their already close friendship evolves into a romance. But when they decide they’re ready to tell their fans and live freely, they start to truly realize that they will never have the support of their management. How can they hold tight to each other when the whole world seems to want to come between them?

If This Gets Out is an absolute showstopper! Equal parts edgy and adorable, this bright, joyful book has everything I look for in a queer YA romance.” —Phil Stamper, bestselling author of The Gravity of Us

IF This Gets Out Cover

Review

A BOY BAND ?!! Yes, please!! The only other boy band book I’ve read so far was Super Fake Love Song by David Yoon. This book was such a fun, quirky romance. I’ve read Sophie’s other book and I’m also reading this one for the IG book club, Love, Arctually and for the Turning the Pages tour. I would have liked to see more scenes of the tour that they go on and the countries that they visit. The boy band reminds me a bit of One Direction, but there’s no actual reference to them. It had a slow start, but it picks up!! This is perfect for fans of Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera.

My Rating

4/5 stars!

My Playlist

Leah says, “I have something to tell you!” via Love, Simon via GIPHY.
  • Rollercoaster-Bleachers
  • Alfie’s Song (Not So Typical Love Song)
  • Wild Heart – Bleachers
  • Stay, Stay, Stay – Red (Taylor’s Version)
  • Nothing New – Taylor Swift, Phoebe Bridgers
  • Run – Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran
  • Message in a Bottle- Taylor Swift
  • Heat Waves – Glass Animals
  • hope ur ok- Olivia Rodrigo
  • Jump Then Fall- (Taylor’s Version) Taylor Swift

The Red (Taylor’s Version) Book Tag

The Red (Taylor’s Version) Book Tag pic created by Amani (me) and you can find me here : https://linktr.ee/AmaniSalahudeen/

This was made in collaboration with @itskoosreviews!!

MC = Main Character.

Ronan will not be listed out of respect for Ronan and his family.

Taylor is smiling in a car via GIPHY

1. State of Grace

State of Grace- Taylor’s Version

Lyrics: “And I never (Never) saw you coming / And I’ll never (Never) be the same.”

Prompt: A book you didn’t see coming, one that ended up being better than expected.

2. Red

Red (Taylor’s Version)

Lyrics: “But loving him was red / (Red, red) / (Red, red).”

Prompt: A book you love with a red cover

3. Treacherous

Treacherous (Taylor’s Version)

Lyrics: “I’ll be smart to walk away / but you’re quicksand.”

Prompt: A book you couldn’t help but read in one sitting.

4. I Knew You Were Trouble

I Knew You Were Trouble (Taylor’s Version)

Lyrics: “And I realize the blame is on me / ‘Cause I knew you were trouble when you walked in”

Prompt: A book you ended up not liking, one that was more trouble than it was worth.

5. All Too Well

All Too Well- Taylor’s Version

Lyrics: “I remember it all too well.”

Prompt: A book you remember everything about.

6. 22

22- Taylor’s Version

Lyrics: “I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling 22.”

Prompt: Turn to page 22 or 22% of the last book you read and share the first few lines.

7. I Almost Do

I Almost Do- Taylor’s Version

Lyrics: “Every time I don’t, I almost do, I almost do.”

Prompt: A book on your TBR you keep passing over. You almost read it. You almost do…

8. We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together

We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together – Taylor’s Version

Prompt: A trope you used to like but can no longer read anymore.

9. Stay Stay Stay

Stay Stay Stay – Taylor’s Version

Lyrics: “No choice but to / stay, stay, stay.”

Prompt: A book that made you mad but you couldn’t help but finish it.

10. The Last Time

The Last Time- Taylor’s Version

Lyrics: “This is the last time I’m asking you why.”

Prompt: The last book that hurt you.

11. Holy Ground

Holy Ground – Taylor’s Version

Lyrics: “Spinning like a girl in a brand new dress/ We had this big wide city all to ourselves.”

Prompt: Find a book that’s located in a different city than the one you live in.

12. Sad Beautiful Tragic

Sad Beautiful Tragic- Taylor’s Version

Lyrics: “Distance, timing, breakdown, fighting.”

Prompt: A book with a messy breakup.

13. The Lucky One

The Lucky One- Taylor’s Version

Lyrics: “And your lover in the foyer doesn’t even know you.”

Prompt: Find a book where the MC has a crush on the main love interest but the main love interest has no idea.

14. Everything Has Changed

Everything Has Changed – Taylor’s Version

Lyrics: “And your eyes looking like coming home.”

Prompt: A book that contains the Childhood friends to lovers trope.

15. Starlight

Starlight- Taylor’s Version

Lyrics: “He said, ‘Look at you, worrying too much about things you can’t change.’”

Prompt: A book that has a love triangle trope.

16. Begin Again

Begin Again- Taylor’s Version

Lyrics: “I’ve been spending the last eight months
Thinking all love ever does is break and burn and end/ But on a Wednesday in a café, I watched it begin again.”

Prompt: A book where the MC doesn’t believe in love and falls in love with the main lead.

17. The Moment I Knew

The Moment I Knew – Taylor’s Version

Lyrics: “As I comb back through my memory/ How you said you’d be here.”

Prompt: A book where the MC is disappointed by the main love interest.

18. Come Back… Be Here

Come Back… Be Here – Taylor’s Version

Lyrics: “I guess you’re in London today.”

Prompt: A book set in London.

19. Girl At Home

Girl At Home- Taylor’s Version

Lyrics: “So don’t look at me you’ve got a girl at home.”

Prompt: A book where the main love interest is a flirt.

20. State of Grace (and this includes the Acoustic version too)

State of Grace- Taylor’s Version

Lyrics: “Mosaic broken hearts
But this love is brave and wild.”

Prompt: A book where the MC has a broken heart.

21. Better Man

Better Man- Taylor’s Version

Lyrics: “I’m probably better off alone/ than loving a man who didn’t know what he had when he had it.”

Prompt: A book where the main lead puts herself first.

22. Nothing New

Nothing New – Taylor’s Version

Lyrics: “Will you still want me when I’m nothing new?”

Prompt: “A book where the MC is not special.”

23. Babe

Babe- Taylor’s Version

Lyrics: “What about your promises, promises?”

Prompt: A book where the main couple makes a promise to each other.

24. Message in a Bottle

Message in a Bottle – Taylor’s Version

Lyrics: “’Cause you could be the one that I love
I could be the one that you dream of!”

Prompt: A book where the MC has a crush so intense that it feels like that person could be the one.

25. I Bet You Think About Me

I Bet You Think About Me- Taylor’s Version

Lyrics: “I bet you couldn’t believe/When you realized I’m harder to forget than I was to leave.”

Prompt: A book where the guy is pining for the girl or regrets breaking up with the main lead.

26. Forever Winter

Forever Winter -Taylor’s Version

Lyrics: “I’ll be summer sun for you forever/ Forever winter if you go.”

Prompt: A book about finding the right person at the wrong time.

27. Run

Run- Taylor’s Version

Lyrics: “Darling, let’s run/ Run from it all.”

Prompt: A book where the couple escapes or runs away together.

28. The Very First Night

The Very First Night- Taylor’s Version

Lyrics: “I miss you like it was the very first night.”

Prompt: A book where the MC is pining for the main lead. Bonus if they’re both pining for each other.

29. All Too Well – The 10 Minute Version

All Too Well -The Short Film

Lyrics: “Photo album on the counter, your cheeks were turning red.”

Prompt: A childhood book that’s left a lasting impact on you.

Tagging @ Ismahane, @ Maggie, @ Maya, @ Mishi on Twitter , @ Taye, @ Deborah, @ Margaret, @ Saima!

Taylor Swift via GIPHY

Turn The Pages : The Winning Ingredient Blog Tour

Turn the Pages Presents The Winning Ingredient tour banner

Title: The Winning Ingredient

Author: Kelly Swan Taylor

Publisher: Link Press

Release Date: September 22nd, 2021

Genre : YA contemporary/ sports romance

You can buy your copy here!

Synopsis

The Winning Ingredient Book Cover

Mia DeSalvo is one tough cookie, who can throw a perfect spiral and bake perfect biscotti. But, as George Washington High’s top student and ninth-grade class president, she’s thrown off her game when asked to tutor boarding school drop-out and secret-weapon-on-the-football-field, Bryce Fitzgerald. Despite his to-die-for dimples, he’s a total bore. Besides, her plate is already full, trying to save her family’s struggling century-old Italian bakery.

Determined to tackle her family’s business woes, Mia secretly devotes her free time to developing new recipes, with the help of her Sicilian great-great-grandmother’s handwritten cookbook. She soon discovers that blending her own innovations with her Nonna Antoinette’s history may be the key to the bakery’s success.

But Mia’s not the only one with a secret. As rumors swirl around Bryce’s lightning-speed exit from prestigious Chadwick Academy, she’s resolved to get to the bottom of it. Unfortunately, the star quarterback’s bad attitude, mixed with her flaming temper, is a recipe for disaster. 

When Mia stumbles upon Bryce’s beautifully written journal, it’s clear his talents aren’t confined to the football field, and there’s much more to the hazel-eyed quarterback than she could’ve imagined. While the journal may hold all the answers she’s looking for, the weight of its heartbreaking words may be too much for her to carry.

With the future of the DeSalvo Bakery and the football State Championship hanging in the balance, Mia and Bryce might just have what the other is missing.

My Review

I loved Bryce and Mia’s undeniable chemistry and the tension between them was done really well! I loved reading about how Mia has to tutor him and how they start to get a little more comfortable around each other as the story goes on. It’s a fast-paced book that’s perfect for fans of Textrovert by Lindsey Summers. It was a little slow at times, but overall I enjoyed this one!

My Rating

4/5 stars

Favorite Quotes

A young Asian woman says: “One of my favorites!” via GIPHY.
  • “Bryce revealed a hint of his impressive dinoles as he folded his muscular arms across his navy jersey.”
  • “Her mood brightened with the room, finding her own gleaming cobalt KitchenAid mixer waiting patiently for her.”
  • “Mia was taken aback , having heard the same words from Abbie.”
  • “At first glance, there is a look of disdain in her eyes.”

About the Author

Author of The Winning Ingredient

Kelly Swan Taylor is a Boston-based attorney and former laboratory scientist. As a competitive runner, racing from sun-drenched Hawaii to frigid Iceland, her first publishing credit was in Simon & Schuster’s best-selling book series, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Running for Good, highlighting her experiences in the historic 2013 and 2014 Boston Marathons. Growing up immersed in beloved “Teen” novels, Kelly now crafts her own sweet stories that bridge the gap between middle grade and young adult fiction that is so often forgotten but so sorely needed in the market today. She has a soft spot for the sincere yet flawed character with a kind heart who tries to do the right thing, stumbles along the way, but eventually becomes a hero in everyday life. In her free time, Kelly enjoys traveling and collecting snow globes and race medals from around the world. A proud alumnus of Syracuse University, she cheers her Syracuse Orange from both her sofa and the metal bleachers of the Carrier Dome. She resides in Providence, Rhode Island with her architect husband, Jonathan, and two spoiled geriatric kitties.

Check out the other stops on the tour!

Tour Schedule

Bojack Horseman says: “Keep Reading!” via GIPHY

BLOG TOUR

November 11

Amani’s Honest Reviews – Review and Favorite Quotes

November 12

Book Butterfly in Dreamland – Review

November 13

Twirling Book Princess – Review and Favorite things about TWI

November 14

Book Butterfly in Dreamland – Review

November 15


Stuck in Fiction – Review & Mood Board

November 16

Brinns Books – Review & Favorite Quotes

November 17

Offictionandfantasy – Book Review
Peppermintnplottwists – Book Review & Favorite things about TWI

November 18

Leann Reads Books – Review

November 19

She Reads Again – Review
Whispering Stories – Review &Favorite things about TWI

November 20

HerBookishObsession – Review
Sheaf and Ink – Review
Booklore – Review & Favorite Quotes

November 21

Book Corner – Review & Favorite Things about TWI

Gilded Blog Tour


I’m on the blog tour for GILDED!!! Huge thanks to Macmillian, fiercereads, and mackidsbooks for my gifted finished copy and Gilded Themed Box!

It’s here! It’s here! It’s here!

Text states: “It’s finally here!” Via GIPHY.
Gilded Book Box, picture taken by me!

Synopsis


Marissa Meyer, #1 New York Times-bestselling author, returns to the fairytale world with this haunting retelling of Rumpelstiltskin.

Long ago cursed by the god of lies, a poor miller’s daughter has developed a talent for spinning stories that are fantastical and spellbinding and entirely untrue. Or so everyone believes. When one of Serilda’s outlandish tales draws the attention of the sinister Erlking and his undead hunters, she finds herself swept away into a grim world where ghouls and phantoms prowl the earth and hollow-eyed ravens track her every move. The king orders Serilda to complete the impossible task of spinning straw into gold, or be killed for telling falsehoods.

In her desperation, Serilda unwittingly summons a mysterious boy to her aid. He agrees to help her… for a price. Love isn’t meant to be part of the bargain. Soon Serilda realizes that there is more than one secret hidden in the castle walls, including an ancient curse that must be broken if she hopes to end the tyranny of the king and his wild hunt forever.

Get the Book!

GOODREADS AMAZON B&N INDIGO TARGET BOOKSHOP.ORG

Gilded Cover

Gilded Book Cover

I’ve been a huge fan of Marissa Meyer for awhile. It’s cool to finally get Rumplestiltskin’s story!

This is the first in a duology. This story has Germanic folklore. So far, Serilda is one of my favorite narrators. He’s sarcastic and funny which is why I really enjoy reading about him. I got the book later than expected so I’m still reading this but overall it’s just as good as I thought it would be! My full review will be up on GoodReads once I’m done.

About the Author

Author Marissa Meyer

Marissa Meyer is the #1 New York Times-bestselling author of The Lunar Chronicles, Heartless, The Renegades Trilogy, and Instant Karma, as well as the graphic novel duology Wires and Nerve. She holds a BA in Creative Writing from Pacific Lutheran University and a MA in Publishing from Pace University. In addition to writing, Marissa hosts The Happy Writer podcast. She lives near Tacoma, Washington, with her husband and twin daughters.

http://www.marissameyer.com

What I’m Doing for Preptober

Me during Preptober and NaNoWriMo !

What is Preptober?

Preptober is when people share their stories via social media posts through mood boards or tweets (or whatever you feel like doing) or that they’re planning on participating in NaNoWriMo during November. This is also the month where most people create their outlines.

What is NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month is when you write 50,000 words in a month. The program has a young writer’s program for anyone who’s in school or wants to set their own word count goal.

Teachers can also create a NaNoWriMo classroom for their classes to assign the program as a graded project.

Jess from New Girl is putting on her glasses via GIPHY

Alright, now that you know what it is; here’s what I’m doing!

What I’m Doing

So for those of you who don’t know, this is my 10th year doing NaNoWriMo!

I’m working on a modern-day Little Mermaid retelling that I’m tentatively calling “Silenced Salaams.” Below, is a pic of my mood board:

My mood board

I also got a writing bujo notebook from Etsy that I’m going to use to help me plot the book.

Is anyone interested in a post on NaNoWriMo essentials?

Question for the writers: Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? I actually made a discord group and if you’d like the link to that please feel free to let me know in the comments below!

and in case I don’t see ya… Good afternoon, Good evening, & good night ! via GIPHY

Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha is a Must-See!

GIF of Hometown cha cha cha vs my week

Synopsis

Yoon Hye-Jin (Shin Min-A) works as a dentist. She is mostly a realist, but due to her rightfulness, which is only a tiny part of her mind, her life changes. She ends up moving to the seaside village of Gongjin.

There, Yoon Hye-Jin meets Hong Du-Sik (Kim Seon Ho). She becomes curious about him. Hong Du-Sik is called Chief Hong by the local residents. He is a handsome and smart man. Officially, he is unemployed, but he always seems busy. If somebody needs help, Hong Du-Sik is the first one to appear and provide help. (Via Asian Wiki)

My initial thoughts

This starts off as a cute, fluffy kdrama but it picks up rather quickly and it becomes very intense. I adored Kim Seon Ho ever since I saw him in Start-Up! Good boy is finally getting his main character moment.

Start-Up kdrama via GIPHY

I was hooked from episode one, which rarely happens to me with korean dramas. This show is incredible and you’re going to fall in love with Gongjin. Oh and Chief Hong, of course!

I also adored the supporting cast -especially the elderly woman in this Korean drama! The romance is really good so far and I plan on doing a more in-depth review (with my rating) once I get a chance to finish watching this show.

Are you into Korean Dramas or thinking of starting one soon? Let me know in the comments below.

Hometown cha cha cha (the main leads are hugging) via GIPHY

Cover Reveal: Daughters of the Dawn

Blog Banner

Cover Reveal

Daughters of the Dawn Cover Reveal!

This is an Indian Inspired “The Parent Trap” but in a fantasy world!

This book is the sequel to Sisters of the Snake which is currently available to purchase or you can request it at your local library!

Sisters of the Snake Banner

Synopsis for Sisters of the Snake (Book One)

A lost princess. A dark puppet master. And a race against time—before all is lost.

Princess Rani longs for a chance to escape her gilded cage and prove herself. Ria is a street urchin, stealing just to keep herself alive.

When these two lives collide, everything turns on its head: because Ria and Rani, orphan and royal, are unmistakably identical.

A deal is struck to switch places—but danger lurks in both worlds, and to save their home, thief and princess must work together. Or watch it all fall into ruin.

Deadly magic, hidden temples, and dark prophecies: Sisters of the Snake is an action-packed, immersive fantasy that will thrill fans of The Wrath & The Dawn and The Tiger at Midnight.

Blog Tour: Vial of Tears Excerpt!

Vial of Tears Blog Banner

I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the VIAL OF TEARS by Cristin Bishara Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!

About the book

Vial of Tears Book Cover

Title: VIAL OF TEARS

Author: Cristin Bishara

Pub. Date: October 5, 2021

Publisher: Holiday House

Formats: Hardcover, eBook, audiobook

Pages: 320

Find it:  GoodreadsAmazon, Kindle, Audible, B&N, iBooks, Kobo, TBDBookshop.org

Two sisters become trapped in the underworld–and in the machinations of deities, shapeshifters, and ghouls–in this lush and dangerous Phoenician mythology-inspired fantasy.

Sixteen-year-old sisters Samira and Rima aren’t exactly living the dream. Instead, they live with their maddeningly unreliable mother in a rundown trailer in Michigan. Dad’s dead, money’s tight, and Mom disappears for days at a time. So when Sam’s grandfather wills her the family valuables–a cache of Lebanese antiquities–she’s desperate enough to try pawning them before Mom can.

But she shouldn’t. Because one is cursed, forbidden, the burial coin of a forgotten god. Disturbing it condemns her and Rima to the Phoenician underworld, a place of wicked cities, burning cedar forests, poisoned feasts of milk and lemons, and an endless, windless ocean.

Nothing is what it seems. No one is who they say. And down here, the night never ends.

To get home–and keep her sister safe–Sam will have to outwit beautiful shapeshifters, pose as a royal bride, sail the darkest sea… and maybe kill the god of death himself.

Reviews:

★  “A heroic tale that feels both classic and fresh.”Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

Excerpt

PROLOGUE

Karm El Mohr, Syria ( modern- day Lebanon), 1903

In the night his mother disappeared, the boy had tiptoed to her room to ask for a glass of water. 

The moon shone through the windows, casting a glowing walk-way across the floor. The air was fragrant with blossoming orange trees. He would tell her that he couldn’t sleep, that lately his dreams had been strange. Had hers been, too? 

It was an uncertain time. The Turks had been coming without warning. They galloped through the village taking whatever they wanted— livestock, clothing, jewelry, young men for their army. In his dreams, they rode dragons instead of horses. 

He nudged her bedroom door open. Father was not yet home; he was drinking arak and playing backgammon next door at Aami Hanna’s. 

Mother stood in the center of the bedroom in her nightgown. Her hair was down, long tangles of black. In her arms she cradled a jug— 

the one she’d found yesterday while exploring the mountain caves. 

Over the years, she’d come home with other treasures: a metal spear, the jawbone of a lion, a clay seal, glass beads. Truly, though, she told her son, the most precious thing she found was a bit of solitude. 

“Mother,” he whispered. Was she asleep with her eyes open? 

Behind her, the moonlight glistened on a spiderweb, a hexagon of silken threads. “Shoo saar? Shoo aam b’seer?”  What happened? What  is  happening? 

She tilted her head as if she’d heard something beyond his voice. 

Perhaps it was an animal; wolves sometimes stalked the village at night. He, too, listened so intently that, for a moment, he thought he could hear the spider plucking its legs along the web, perfecting its trap. 

He noticed she held something— small and round— between her fi ngers. “What do you have, immi?” he asked. 

And then he saw something strange spreading before his mother’s bare feet: a dark pool, black smoke bubbling up from its center. 

Fire! 

He tried to scream, but he could hardly breathe. Instead he stumbled backward, bumping into the half- open door, his heart pounding against his ribs. Why was there no burning odor, no heat from the smoke? The air was cold. 

“Get back, Mother!” he managed to whisper desperately, shivering. 

But she seemed oddly calm— trancelike— as she stood near the cusp of the widening pool, which began to swirl like a pot of soup stirred by an unseen ladle. The boy knew he should cry for help or pull her back, but now he himself was unable to turn away, unable to move. 

What was it? What was in there? 

What was at the bottom? 

Long fi ngers, tendrils of smoke, beckoned him forward with a shushing noise like a mother soothing a child. Mesmerized, horrifi ed, he stepped closer. 

Something was materializing and rising up out of the churning pool. Some one. 

A man. 

“Give it to me,” the man hissed, shadowed in smoke. 

His face was hidden by a beard, his cloak trimmed with fur. He spoke in a foreign tongue, with ancient words— but the boy understood. It was the language of his long- lost ancestors. It was in his blood. 

But give  what? Perhaps he wanted the jug? 

The man glanced at the boy before grabbing his mother by the wrist. Her face collapsed into an expression of pain. The jug fell with a thud. 

“Let her go!” the boy begged, frozen. 

“Mine,” the man said. 

“She is not yours!” 

His mother’s eyes snapped into focus. She fi nally looked at her son— fi nally saw him standing there— and her face dimmed with terror. 

“Go,” she croaked. The ghostly man pulled her toward the pool, which was now a yawning black mouth consuming half of the room. 

“You cannot take her!” the boy cried. 

 “Habibi.”  His mother’s voice was nothing more than a thick moan. 

“Bhebak aatool.” 

He reached out to her, the tips of his fi ngers grazing her nightgown. His balance wavered at the edge of the spiraling chasm. 

With a grunt of determination, she pushed the boy away with more strength than he’d known she had, sending him across the room. 

He landed on his back, hitting his head on the doorframe. Helplessly, he watched as the man wrapped his cloak around his mother, envelop-ing all but her pale face. Outside, a cloud slid over the moon, turning the light ashen. His mother and the stranger stepped into the bubbling black vortex, which narrowed. 

And disappeared. 

A final sigh of smoke lingered briefly before it went out like a forgotten campfire. 

All was quiet. The bedroom floor was as solid as ever. 

But his mother was gone. 

He whimpered and pulled himself across the room, lying fl at across the spot where she’d been just moments ago. Under his cheek, the fl oor grew cold and wet with tears. Surely this was only another nightmare— his worst yet— but he could not wake himself up. 

 I love you,  she’d said. Forever. 

He picked up the jug and held it to his chest; he rocked back and forth and called for her. Outside the window, an owl responded with a forlorn  who- who. 

When he finally stumbled next door, frantic and babbling, his father stubbed out his cigarette and cursed. “The Turks!” he cried. 

He stood and knocked over the backgammon board, scattering pieces everywhere like a fistful of lost coins. “They kidnapped her!” 

He tore through the village, his angry shouts waking children from their sleep. A few men mounted horses and went chasing shadows into the night, ready to slit the throats of her captors. Other than a pack of hyenas, they found nothing. 

Secretly, no one held out hope. She was too beautiful. She had surely been taken as a bride. After a month, the village priest stopped praying for her return. After a year, no one spoke of it. 

 “Bayye,”  the boy would say to his father, tugging on his pants in their grove of walnut trees. “It was not the Turks.” 

He had told and retold his story, but the more he recounted what had truly happened, the less people listened. They patted his head, crossed themselves, and changed the subject. 

“There is no such thing as a genie!” his father said finally. “Now stop your talk, once and for all. People are beginning to think you are akhwet. ” 

But the boy knew what he had seen. He kept the jug hidden and close. He rubbed it every night, making the same unfulfilled wish— 

 Please bring my mother home— until he was an old man ready to die. 

1

“No, no, no.” Sam swore under her breath. “Go away.” 

She pressed her eyes shut, as if that would make their landlord’s car disappear. 

But his ancient Mercedes was still rasping along behind her, its belly low to the ground, slinking like an animal. Sam dipped her head and picked up the pace. Her shoes were tucked under her arm, and the gravel road bit into her bare feet. As she reached the mailbox, she heard the car sputter to a stop, and there was the snap of the driver’s door. 

“What’s the rush?” Mr. Koplow called, laughing as he trailed her up the cracked cement driveway. 

Sam stopped and steeled herself before turning to face his empty smile and icy blue eyes. His pants hung low underneath his belly; his thinning hair was combed straight back. 

“It’s not the first yet,” Sam said, even though she knew they still owed last month’s rent. 

Mr. Koplow tipped his chin toward the trailer. “Your mother here?” 

“She went to get milk.” 

“Milk,” Mr. Koplow repeated. 

“And toilet paper,” Sam said, adding to the lie. 

“Right. So she’ll be back soon,” Mr. Koplow suggested, reaching into his shirt pocket for a pack of cigarettes. He pulled one out, crooked, and pressed it between his lips. 

Sam glanced up at the sky, where the sun was inching its way down. “Sorry, but I really need to get to the lake.” She raised her hand. 

Goodbye. 

Mr. Koplow didn’t move. He let out a curl of smoke. “She wants me to fi x the back stoop. I need to take a look, see what happened.” 

“Nothing happened. It’s rotten.” 

At her feet was an oil stain from her mother’s leaking car, and behind her there was yet another dent in the carport. She knew Mr. 

Koplow was keeping tabs; they would never get their security deposit back when the time came. 

He squinted at her dirty feet, at her chipped green toenail polish. His eyes climbed higher, lingering on her purse, then the stack of bracelets up her arm. “How much did those cost?” he asked as his phone rang. 

Three dollars. That was how much she’d paid for her bracelets. 

Clearance table, plus her employee discount. 

“Yeah, this is Alan. Slow down, slow down,” Mr. Koplow said into his cell, his voice rising. “What’s leaking? The toilet on the second fl oor?” He pointed his cigarette at Sam. “I’ll be back.” 

A moment later, his car engine sputtered and caught, and Sam watched as he vanished down the gravel road, a wall of dust rising behind him. 

With a sigh, she turned to face the lopsided trailer with its mildew- stained siding and ripped welcome mat. Mr. Koplow had once told Mom that it wasn’t the Taj Mahal and she was no princess, so what did she expect? 

Whatever it was, it was home. It was the place of rushed Monday mornings and the smell of Mom’s perfume. It was where Rima had fallen against the coffee table and gotten the scar on her shoulder, where Dad had taught Sam how to cast a net from the top of the picnic table, pretending the backyard was teeming with baitfish. It was the place Dad would come home to, when he finally came home. He could fold his clothes and put them away. His grape soda would take up the top shelf of the fridge. He’d get Outside magazine delivered again. 

He’d pick up right where he left off. 

“See you soon,” he’d said the day he was deployed, ruffling Sam’s hair. “Take care of your mom and baby sister while I’m gone.” 

“Yes, sir,” she’d said. 

Then he’d stooped down and put his hands on her shoulders. His military boots— which always smelled like motor oil— were tightly laced under his flight suit. His hands were so big. Invincible. He could survive anything. 

“Promise me,” he said, his blond eyebrows drawn together. The air had been laced with the sweetness of spring flowers and grass and new leaves, just like today. “Promise me you’ll look out for them until I get back.” 

“I will, sir,” Sam had repeated, an uneasy knot in her stomach. 

“I’ll try to, Dad.” 

“Try hard, kiddo. I love you.” That was the last thing he’d said to her. 

She could almost feel Dad’s hands on her shoulders now as she jiggled the house key into the rusty lock. Another broken thing that needed to be replaced. 

Behind her, brakes squealed and then sighed. She spun around to look. Was it Mr. Koplow again, or Mom fi nally home, or someone Mom owed money, or a favor? 

It was a hulking UPS truck. A man in a brown uniform hopped down with a box in his hands. 

“It’s probably for Mrs. Jarvis,” Sam said to the deliveryman as she finally jerked the door open. She pointed down the street at a lawn cluttered with gnomes and metallic balls on pedestals. “QVC addict.” 

“Nope,” he said, reading the box. “This is for Samira Clark. 

That you?” 

“It’s just Sam,” she said. “Nobody calls me Samira.” 

“Whoever sent this package does. I’ll need a photo ID for this one.” 

Sam pulled her wallet from her purse and handed over her driver’s license. 

“Wow, your hair,” the deliveryman said as he glanced back and forth between her face and her license. She was sixteen in the photo, almost two years ago. At the time she’d had shoulder- length hair bleached to a brassy shade of blond. Now her black hair hung down to her waist. 

“That’s me,” Sam assured him. 

He held the electronic clipboard out for her. “Initial here. And put the date right there at the bottom.” 

The date. It was Friday. Mom had been gone since Monday. That made four nights. Too long. If she didn’t hear from her by tomorrow, she’d have to call the police. 

“Hello?” 

“Yeah, sorry,” Sam said, scribbling her signature. “Stressful day, that’s all. Couldn’t remember the date for a second.” 

He smiled, took back the board, and handed her the package and her driver’s license. “Hang in there.” 

“Thanks,” she said, though he was already jogging back to his truck. 

Sam stepped inside, looking at the box. It was lighter than she expected, and it smelled like spices and tobacco. Postage stickers were everywhere, and on the right- hand corner LIBANPOST, BEIRUT was stamped within a rectangle of bright blue ink. The sender had meticulously written The United States of America under Sam’s zip code, and the return address had been perfectly penned, as though a ruler had been held underneath each line. Karm El Mohr,  it said, which Sam recognized as the name of her mother’s hometown in Lebanon, a little village in the mountains. 

Curiosity tugged at her, but it was getting late. She had to hurry to the lake, or there would be nothing at all for dinner. 

“Rima?” Sam called into the house. Their tiny kitchen table, too small for three people, teetered when Sam set the package on top. She tucked her driver’s license away and tossed her purse and shoes into the corner. 

“Hello?” she called one more time before peeking into her mother’s bedroom. There was always the slim chance she could be back, and asleep. 

But nothing had changed since the last time Sam looked. Mom’s bed was unmade, her fl oral comforter tangled. The curtains were drawn. On a chair, nestled between two throw pillows, a teddy bear stared at Sam with vacant eyes. MY VALENTINE was stitched across its heart- shaped belly. Sam stared back. Though she’d never asked, she was sure it was a gift from Dad— it had been around a lot longer than any of Mom’s boyfriends. 

She closed her mother’s door and went to her own room, where she changed into jeans, a fi shing shirt with a dozen little pockets for supplies, and sneakers. Her old Girl Scout sash— loaded with badges for archery, horseback riding, cookie sales— 

had fallen from its 

thumbtacks again. She pressed it back into the wall and then tossed a makeup bag and a jacket onto Rima’s upper bunk, which was already piled high with dirty clothes, schoolwork, and at least twenty jars of nail polish. There was only enough space in their windowless room for one dresser, and there was no closet, so the floor was cluttered with semiorganized piles. Picking through them, Sam found everything she needed, making a mental checklist as she went: fi shing rod; Dad’s Swiss Army knife in case she needed to cut a line; a cooler. Back in the kitchen she grabbed an ice pack from the freezer and, finally, moldy cheese for bait. 

“Go, go, go,” she urged herself. 

The winter had been so long and gray. She’d missed Glen Lake’s waters— turquoise blue and crystal clear, a reassurance that not everything in the world was dark and muddy underneath. No matter how many times she pulled her boat out onto the lake, her heart still swelled, as if those Caribbean- looking waters were a gift just for her, and that unexpected beauty was all she needed to carry on. 

Her hand was on the door, but at the last moment she glanced back at the UPS package on the table. If Mom came home while she was fi shing, she would open the package herself, even though it was addressed to Sam. 

What could be inside? 

The only person they knew from Lebanon was Mom’s grandfather, Jiddo Naameh. Packages from him came very rarely, and they were always for Mom, never Sam. She’d never even met her great- grandfather, had only seen him in a handful of yellowed pictures that hung on the walls of Mom’s bedroom. He looked old in those photos, and they were all taken before Sam was born. 

It would only take a second to open the package. She took her hand off the doorknob, set her fi shing gear down, and found a pair of scissors in the kitchen junk drawer. 

Judging by the weight and size of the box, there might be a book 

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or two inside. In the past, he’d sent calendars, tourist guides, poetry written in Arabic, and books with glossy photos of Roman and Phoenician ruins. Sometimes he’d include bars of olive oil soap, jars of pomegranate molasses, and cans of sesame seed paste. 

Sam slit the tape along the edges of the box and pulled the card-board flaps up. A white envelope sat on top of the packing material, addressed to her. 

She ran her finger across the handwriting, then slid her thumb under the envelope’s flap and pulled it open. Inside was a piece of folded paper, so thin it was translucent. She unfolded it, eager to read, but the entire note was indecipherable to her: It was written in Arabic, in bright purple ink, the color of peacock feathers. 

She dug into the box again, half convinced that only pillows of bubble wrap filled the rest of it, but her fingers hit something solid. 

The hairs on the back of her neck stood up as she pulled out a fat, pear- shaped object enshrouded in newspaper. Setting it on the table, she began unpeeling the sheets, layer after layer, her fingertips turning black from the newsprint. 

Finally, the last square of paper fell to the floor. Sam stood staring at a piece of dull clay pottery. 

Its narrow neck was flanked by two circular handles, hardly big enough to fi t her fingers through. Simple, symmetrical lines criss-crossed its belly. It had a look of homemade imperfection; maybe Jiddo had made it himself. 

The letter surely explained it. She refolded it and tucked it back inside the envelope, glancing at the clock on the microwave. She’d already wasted a solid ten minutes of fi shing time. She had to hide everything and get out on the water. 

“Go,” she told herself again, pushing away from the table. It wobbled, and the jug shuddered off the edge. 

“No!” she cried. 

For a moment, the jug seemed suspended in air, simply waiting to be caught— and then it hit the linoleum floor with a hollow, sickening sound. 

Sam let out a groan as she knelt to examine the damage. It had split in half; she tried to fi t it back together like two puzzle pieces, but there was a thin seam between them. Just like my life,  she thought. Split apart and then precariously put back together. You only noticed the cracks when you got close enough. 

And that was when she saw the coins. 

There were seven, crusted to the dirty bottom of the jug. She tipped it upside down over the table, shook, and the coins spilled out. 

Sam blinked. 

Treasure. 

Time and dirt had turned a few of them black. Others were only slightly tarnished, stamped with images of pine trees and ships, sea castles and owls, spears crossed to make an X. PIASTRES, one of them said; another had a perfect hole drilled through its middle, flanked by two small lions. 

Sweat trickled down her temples. Her mind raced. What if Mom came home right this second? She had already pawned every last item of worth in their possession. She would take the coins without a second thought. 

There was one more, she noticed: stuck to the bottom, caked with a mud- hardened residue, so camouflaged with the dark pottery she almost missed it. She tipped the jug piece again and shook, hard, but it wouldn’t come loose. When she tried with a fingernail, her nail bent and snapped, and the coin stayed put. 

“Super,” she said, sucking on her finger to take the sting away. 

Letter- like shapes arced along the top edge of the coin. They might have been words, but they were written in an alphabet she didn’t recognize. Even though she couldn’t read Arabic, she knew its familiar curves and dots. This was something altogether different. 

Sam glanced at the clock again. 

She needed to go— but instead she pulled Dad’s Swiss Army knife from one of her shirt pockets. His initials were engraved on its bright red side: B.C.C. She gave the knife a quick kiss like she always did before she used it, knowing her father’s fingerprints were still there underneath her own. 

Carefully, she worked the tip of the smallest blade under the coin, until it finally sprang out onto the table. 

For some reason, she hesitated to touch it. It seemed different than the other coins. Older, thicker. It made her heart beat faster. 

These coins could change everything for them. This one could really be worth something. 

She picked the coin up, and the moment her fingers met the metal, her hand turned icy cold. She bit the inside of her mouth and winced, tasting blood. 

A presence filled the room. She was suddenly sure she was being watched. 

“Who’s there?” she asked, spinning to look. 

Something pulled on her, pushed her. The room turned dark, as if the electricity had failed and a storm cloud had rolled right inside the house. There was the distant sound of a flute, and then a whispering voice. Raspy and urgent. 

 You have what is mine! 

The language was foreign, but somehow she understood. 

Give it to me! 

The pull on her intensified, a fierce current sweeping her out into deep waters. It felt as though her feet were no longer on the floor, that the worn gray linoleum beneath her had become fluid. The storm cloud swirled and widened into a funnel in the floor, a pit of smoke. 

Her hand had frozen shut, fingers curled tightly around the coin. But with a determined shriek, she threw it down. 

The strange storm stopped as suddenly as it had started. 

The light returned to the room. The linoleum was as chipped and ordinary as always. She stood panting for air, staring at the coin where it had landed. 

Sam rubbed her throbbing hand, her heart pounding with such ferocity she had to lie down. She made her way to the couch and collapsed, listening. 

All was silent, other than her own frantic breathing. There was no hypnotic fl ute, no voice. Her stomach turned over with something that felt like motion sickness, as if she’d just stepped off a spinning carnival ride and still couldn’t fi nd her footing. 

Outside the window, a dog barked, and Mrs. Jarvis yelled. “Get over here! Peanut!” She called the dog’s name over and over again. 

“Peanut! Peanut! There you are!” 

Sam counted to one hundred and then stood. 

Warily, she went back to the kitchen and stared at the coin. She was afraid to touch it, but she couldn’t just leave it there. 

After pacing the house, searching for an idea, she went to Rima’s collection of beauty supplies, a pink plastic cabinet with four drawers. 

She yanked open the drawer labeled EYES and dug through a rainbow of shadows, liners, and tubes of mascara until she found the tweezers. 

Metal meeting metal made a dull ting as she tapped the coin. Carefully, she slid the tweezers around it and clamped down. All good. 

Nothing happened. As Dad would say, No holes in the boat. 

She let out a little laugh of relief. She had almost expected it to spring to life like a coiled snake. 

Back in the kitchen, she slipped the coin into a large Ziploc bag, along with the other seven coins and the two halves of the broken jug. 

The back door squeaked behind her as she headed outside, down the rotting stoop and into the yard. The gardening tools were already laid out, right next to the plants she’d bought last week. After setting down the bag, she thrust the big metal shovel into the ground, thinking how her mother accused her of burying everything— her emotions, herself— in school and work. 

She would get some answers tomorrow. At the library or on the internet, there would be information about old coins. She would find someone— other than Mom— to translate Jiddo’s letter. In the mean-time, this was the best hiding place for the things he had sent her. 

An hour later, she had a decent- sized hole in the backyard, deep enough. After burying the bag, Sam looked back up at their sagging trailer. 

Maybe it wasn’t lopsided after all. Maybe it was her. 

2

A door slammed with a gunshot bang and Sam sat up. 

She was surprised to find herself back on the couch; a rogue metal spring dug through the thin cushions and jabbed at her thigh. 

Across the room, their hazy TV was on mute, and a woman silently urged her to act now and buy an Immortal Youth skincare system in three easy payments. 

Sam had a dim recollection of putting on her nightshirt, of trying to stay awake until Rima came home. She’d never made it to the lake. 

Morning sunlight streamed into the room, illuminating the dusty air. 

“Rima?” she called, her voice hoarse. 

She cleared her throat and stood, rolling her neck until it cracked. 

Her fingers ached where she’d touched the coin. 

The coin. 

She sucked in a breath as the whole thing came flooding back to her. 

The remote shook in her hand as she clicked off the TV. She must have fallen asleep watching some crazy movie, that’s all it was. Her imagination on overload. She tossed the remote onto the couch and went to the kitchen for a drink, but with a start she remembered the smoky pit in the fl oor, exactly where she stood now. She skittered away from the spot and tried to laugh at herself. 

There was no way that had happened. 

And yet she was completely sure it did. 

Heart thumping, she poured herself a glass of water from the sink and drank it in one long gulp. She grabbed Jiddo’s letter from the table and backed away from the kitchen, feeling like it was set with snares. 

“Rima?” she called again. 

She padded cautiously to their bedroom. Her sister’s clothes were fl ung across the fl oor, making a trail to the bed, where she snored quietly on the top bunk, murmuring in her sleep, her arm slung over the railing. Sam felt a surge of relief before catching a whiff of vape and beer. And barf. 

“Soccer practice,” Sam mumbled under her breath. There were brambles in Rima’s hair. “Yeah, right.” 

She slid Jiddo’s letter underneath her own pillow, and then crossed the tiny hallway to open her mother’s bedroom door. 

She was back. Finally. 

Her duffel bag was on the bed, its contents spilling out, and among the jumbled clothes was the picture she always took with her, no matter where she went. Her wedding photo, framed in silver. Dad in a suit and tie, so serious. Mom in her white gown. 

“Mom?” Sam called, walking quickly through the small house, searching. 

Her mother’s voice answered, muffled and distant. “Out here!” 

Through the kitchen window, Sam could see her waving from the backyard. Sam waved back. 

Still in her bare feet and nightshirt, she threw open the patio door and ran out across the weeds and dirt. Above her, the sky was a happy pastel blue, like some sort of candy drink. The cold air took her by surprise, though. Yesterday had been summer- like, but now her breath spilled out ahead of her as she rushed toward her mother. 

“You’re home!” Sam said. 

“Hey, gorgeous,” Mom said, smiling up at her. 

Mom was the one who was gorgeous. Her black hair shone almost blue in the sunlight, and her skin glowed with olive undertones. She was on her knees with a rusty gardening spade and polka- dotted gloves; the potted vegetables Sam had bought the week before were beside her, an investment that would literally grow all summer. A five- dollar plant gave them vegetables for months. 

“Stand up so I can hug you,” Sam said, her teeth chattering against the cold. 

She nervously scanned the grass, looking for the rock that marked the place where she’d buried everything. Exactly where she’d put it was a blur; she’d been in such a state of shock and panic, and had worked until after dark. 

“Yes. I could use a hug.” Mom pulled off her dirty gardening gloves and stood, dusting her knees. “And a week of sleep.” 

Sam wrapped her arms around her mother’s waist and kissed her cheek. She seemed thinner than ever; Sam’s arms could practically go twice around her tiny waist. “Where’ve you been?” she asked, sneaking in one more peck on the other cheek before her mother pulled away. 

“Getting stuff to plant your garden,” Mom said, dodging the real question. 

Sam looked down at the dozen or so plants she had already bought, plus a few bags of black soil Mom must have just brought home. A fat bumblebee floated past, investigating the new plants. 

“Thanks,” Sam said. 

“Tomatoes need phosphorus.” Mom pointed her gardening spade at a bag of fertilizer. She read the planting instructions aloud. “ ‘Roma tomato. Pear- or plum- shaped. Plant in full sun in rows thirty- six inches apart.’ ” 

“Yeah, I was kind of waiting for the weather to warm up,” Sam said. “For good.” 

She’d covered the plants the previous week because it had dipped into the thirties overnight. The old sheet she’d used to protect them was strewn across the ground now, streaked with mud. Underneath a corner of the striped fabric, a rock—  the rock she’d used to mark the spot— peeked out. 

“I got some stakes and twine,” Mom said, “and a green pepper plant.” She bumped her hip against Sam’s. “You’re shivering. Go get dressed. You’ll catch a cold out here.” 

“The entire garden is supposed to go over there,” Sam said, point-ing to the opposite corner of the yard. “All these plants need sun.” 

You need sun,” Mom said. “Look how pale you are. Go inside and get a warm drink.” 

“Come with me,” Sam said, but Mom put her gardening gloves back on and squinted at the tag from the green pepper plant. Sam studied the rim of bone under the collar of her mother’s shirt. So thin. 

“Where were you?” Sam asked quietly. “I was going to call the police today.” 

Mom dropped the tag she was holding. “Do not do that.” All the cheer that had been in her voice moments ago was gone. “Never ever do that.” 

“I know, but . . .” 

“You’re not eighteen yet. They’ll put you in a foster home. And Rima somewhere else, in a different one.” She cast a gloved finger in one direction and then in another. Opposite ends of the world. 

“Why was Mr. Koplow here yesterday?” Sam pressed. “How many months behind are we? He said he was here about the stoop, but it’s more than that, right?” 

Mom sighed and raked her fingers through her hair, sending a stripe of dirt through her bangs. “The credit card company won’t increase our limit.” She shook her head. “I had to get new brake pads for the car. Then your wisdom teeth came out, and that wasn’t completely covered. I bought soccer cleats for Rima, plus her summer registration fees. Things add up.” 

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Sam looked over her shoulder toward the house, wondering if Rima was awake yet. She didn’t need to hear another argument. Especially not the same old argument. “I could have put in some extra hours at the jewelry store.” 

She held back the rest: I don’t like how Mr. Koplow looks at you. I don’t want you owing him anything. 

Mom considered the hole she’d just dug. “Do you think that’s deep enough?” 

“How much did you spend on all this gardening stuff ?” Sam asked. “Maybe we can return a couple things.” 

“Well,” Mom said, a smile tugging at her lips. “I wanted to save the surprise, but since you’re asking . . .” 

From the front pockets of her jeans, she pulled out two thick wads of cash. And then, while Sam stood frozen with disbelief, she sprinkled the bills all over the ground. Like she was planting seeds for money trees. 

What?  What did you do?” Sam asked. Possibilities— all of them bad— swirled through her mind. “Where did you get all this? Is it real?” 

There were tens and twenties . . . even fifties. The wind picked up and Sam dropped to her knees to gather the money before it blew away. 

“I won at the casino.” Mom laughed. She sounded proud of herself. “I won big.” 

“You were gambling all week?” Sam held the money tight in her fists, fighting back the torrent of angry words that swelled inside her. Mom had been playing slots at the casino again? That  was where she was? 

But the money. The money! It was more than Sam made in a month. Maybe even more than their check from the Marines. 

“Karma, baby!” Mom said. “Mercury retrograde ended last week, so the timing was good.” She looked up at the sky. “I wonder if there’s a lunar eclipse in Pisces right now. I should check on that.” 

“The stars were aligned,” Sam said. 

“Yes,” Mom said, ignoring Sam’s sarcasm. “And today, we’re going to Lowe’s to buy a washer and dryer. No more trips to the laundromat.” She dipped her hand into her shirt pocket and found a pair of sunglasses, then slid them on and smiled, posing. “Like them?” 

“Yeah. They’re great, Mom.” Sam sighed, reluctantly handing the money back. “Really great.” 

“We’ll get Alan off our backs, buy some new clothes,” Mom continued, “and go out for steaks tonight. Let’s go see a movie, too.” She cleared her throat. “What? I see your wheels turning.” 

“I just . . . We have a lot of bills to pay, obviously. Those should come first. And that other thing . . . remember?” But clearly Mom had forgotten. “The entrepreneurship certificate program. The small- business classes I’ve been saving for.” 

Mom swatted her words away. “You haven’t even graduated high school yet. Enjoy the last few weeks of senior year. Enjoy the summer.” 

“ But—” 

“Your dad took a few college classes, you know, before he enlisted. 

And what did they get him? Nothing.” Her eyes lit up. “We should spend the money on a prom dress for you!” 

“No! That’s a total waste. I’m just going with my friends anyway,” 

Sam said. “I’ll wear Rima’s blue dress.” 

“That dress won’t fi t you. Come on, you could be the belle of the ball,” Mom said, fanning the bills. She twisted her mouth when Sam shook her head. “You are no fun.” She shoved the cash back into her pockets. “You’re so serious all the time, so practical. You weren’t always like this. I worry about you.” 

“I worry about you, ” Sam countered, keeping her voice in check. 

“Next time please leave a note. That’s all I’m asking, so I know where you are. I called all your normal jobs. I was starting to think you were dead.” 

“Dead!” Mom said. “That’s dramatic.” 

“ ‘Dear Sam, I’ll see you Saturday morning. Here’s how you can reach me if you need to. Have a good week. Love, Mom.’ ” 

“A note,” Mom repeated. “That would’ve been thoughtful. But then you might have come searching for me.” 

And she didn’t want to be found. 

Sam gave her mother a look. They’d had this standoff so many times, and getting angry only made things worse. Mom was home, with money to spare, so Sam tamped down her frustration and pasted on a smile. 

“I’m glad you’re home,” she said, picking up the shovel and ducking underneath the branches of the only tree in their yard. Its trunk wore a hundred scars where she and Dad had thrown knives into it. Sam could almost see herself taking aim, see the ghost of her ten- year- old self, of Dad standing by chewing on a toothpick. It’s all in the wrist,  he would coach, but more often than not she missed the tree altogether and the knife would land in the grass. 

Mom pushed her new sunglasses onto the top of her head. They were Ray- Bans, and they weren’t knock- offs. The wad of gambling money would be gone by next week. 

“Yep,” Sam mumbled, deciding for certain that she needed to keep the jug and coins a secret. With a grunt, she jammed the shovel into the ground. She’d worn blisters across her palms last night from digging, and now they flared up again. That part, at least, had really happened— burying the Ziploc bag. Her mind flashed to the smoky mist and the man’s voice, which now felt so dreamlike and impossible. 

“Are you okay?” Mom asked. “You really do look sick.” 

“The last time I ate was yesterday at lunch.” 

“Inside,” she said, putting an arm around Sam. “You’re freezing! I bought bagels. I was just waiting for Rima to wake up.” 

“I’ll go play reveille in her ear,” Sam said, but when they turned to walk back to the house, she saw that Rima was standing at the door with a cup of coffee. She lifted a hand toward Mom as if she’d been gone five minutes rather than five days. No big deal. Totally normal. 

Mom kissed Rima’s forehead before she could duck away. “How’s my baby?” she asked. “Good?” 

“How was the party last night?” Sam asked, following Rima into the kitchen. Her hair was in a messy knot, her face oily with yesterday’s makeup. “I mean, soccer practice?” 

Rima shot her a look. Shut up,  she mouthed silently. 

“Mom won some money at the casino,” Sam added, opening the refrigerator and handing Rima a tub of cream cheese. Mom had bought caramel- flavored, the best, and probably without a coupon. 

Sam chose a cinnamon bagel from the open box on the kitchen table. 

“We’re going shopping today.” 

“After I nap,” Mom said, stifling a yawn. In the kitchen’s fluorescent light, the skin under her eyes looked purple. She’d probably gambled all night and slept in her car during the day. “It’s hard work winning cold, hard cash.” 

“How much?” Rima asked, trailing Mom into her room. “What’d you play? Slots or blackjack?” 

Sam swallowed the last bite of her bagel. She showered and dressed, stacking a few bracelets over her wrist and slipping on her old sneakers. The lake was calling to her, but she had econ homework, an entire business plan due on Friday. Plus, if she went to the library, she could search for clues about the coins. 

She tucked Jiddo’s letter into her pocket and walked through the house. When she looked inside Mom’s room, she found her already asleep, her cheek pressed crookedly against her half- unpacked duffel bag. 

The back door was ajar, and Rima was singing somewhere. 

And then Sam heard a noise that made her spine stiffen: the chink of a shovel hitting rock. 

Panicked, Sam pressed her fingertips against the window. Rima was on her knees in the yard. She was digging. 

Sam threw open the back door. “What are you doing?” she asked, her voice cracking as she sprinted toward her sister. 

“Mom told me to move all the plants to this one spot.” Rima had the Ziploc bag in her hands, the pieces of the broken jug showing through. The hose was running, creating a thin river of mud around Rima’s bare feet. “But check this out,” she said. “I found this.” 

“Don’t open it,” Sam warned. She was breathless from running. 

“But there’s a bunch of coins in here.” Rima pointed through the clear bag. “They look old.” 

“Give it to me,” Sam said, thrusting her hand out. 

“Finders keepers,” Rima replied, pulling the bag toward her chest. 

“You don’t understand,” Sam said. “Jiddo sent that to me. It’s mine.” 

“Huh?” Rima made a face. “Jiddo?” 

Sam nodded. 

“So why is it out here?” 

“Because,” Sam said. “I needed to hide it for now.” She put her hand out again, but instead Rima opened the bag and pulled the two chunks of pottery out. Three or four coins fell to the ground. “You’re going to lose something!” 

“Is it from Lebanon?” Rima let out a low whistle. “This stuff looks ancient.” 

“One of the coins is . . .” Sam’s voice trailed off. She wanted to say 

“magical” or “cursed,” but that seemed ridiculous in the broad daylight of their backyard. Birds chirped, and the clouds were ribbons across the blue sky. 

Rima picked up the coins and set them in the palm of her hand. 

“Do you think they’re worth something?” She smiled and her eyes lit up with excitement. Her enthusiasm was contagious, and Sam felt herself smile back. 

“We have to research everything first,” she said. “Don’t tell Mom, okay? She’ll just take them to the pawnshop. I need to go to a museum or find a guidebook or something, so we can sell them for the right price.” 

“Yeah,” Rima said. “That makes sense.” 

“They might not be worth anything,” Sam cautioned. “And they were from Jiddo, so part of me thinks we should just keep them anyway. Maybe they’re family heirlooms. I thought I’d glue the jug back together, at least.” 

Rima nodded. She took the last few coins from the bottom of the bag and placed them alongside the others in her cupped hand. Her posture turned rigid. “C-cold,” she gasped. 

It was happening again. 

A small patch of soil seemed to turn loose at Rima’s knees. 

“Drop them,” Sam cried. “Hurry!” 

She grabbed Rima’s wrist and shook until the coins fell to the ground. Sam knelt over them, guarding them, counting them: fi ve, six . . . There were supposed to be eight. The seventh coin was nestled next to Mom’s gardening gloves. Where was the last one? 

“D’you hear that?” Rima asked, her words slurred. She looked around the yard. “A flute.” Smoke rose from the twisting earth. 

“Are you still holding one?” Sam demanded, horrified. She dragged Rima back, away from where the ground was moving, turning, becoming a dark spiral that widened and reached toward their toes. “Drop it! Drop it! ” 

Rima’s eyes, so full of life a moment earlier, were glazed over. 

“Look at me.” Sam snapped her fingers in front of Rima’s face, but she was somewhere far away. “Listen to me. Let go of the coin!” She shook her by the shoulders. 

Rima slumped into her arms, but her fingers held the coin like a vise. 

Sam peeled them back, one by one, and plucked the coin from her sister’s palm. She pinched it between two fingertips, and the mesmerizing, eerie music of the flute filled her head once again. The inky fog rushed to embrace her, twisting, pulling, shushing her. Sam felt her voice trapped in her throat. The world was unfurling. 

It’s going to take us. 

“Mine,” a man’s voice said. 

Sam turned to look. There was no one in the yard— other than wide- eyed Rima— but now there was the smell of incense burning. 

Her fingers refused to open. The coin’s icy poison was spreading, making her entire arm brittle. 

“My obol.” 

The man’s voice was closer . . . and then Sam saw him. 

Bearded and cloaked and made of the dark clouds that spun across the yard. His breath spilled from his mouth in cold currents. 

He lunged with dizzying swiftness, his hands going to Rima. I have the coin,  Sam wanted to say. Leave her alone! 

Rima cried out as the ghost gripped her by the wrist and yanked her away. He looked at Sam, his face full of fury. His eyes were golden, but his pupils were all wrong. One of them was the shape of a keyhole. 

Stop!  Sam silently screamed over the sound of the flute, a drum-beat also rising. She desperately crawled after Rima, her fingers finding a belt loop in her sister’s jeans. They were at the cusp of the dark, revolving funnel. 

With a last, desperate effort, Sam flicked the coin away. Over her shoulder, she caught a glimpse of it flipping through the air, as if someone had tossed it to call heads or tails. It landed in the black soil of their garden, behind them. 

No. Above them. 

It was too late. The three of them were sinking down, down, down; the backyard had become something like a raised stage they’d fallen from. 

Sam closed her eyes and spun. 

About the author

PROLOGUE

Karm El Mohr, Syria ( modern- day Lebanon), 1903

In the night his mother disappeared, the boy had tiptoed to her room to ask for a glass of water. 

The moon shone through the windows, casting a glowing walk-way across the floor. The air was fragrant with blossoming orange trees. He would tell her that he couldn’t sleep, that lately his dreams had been strange. Had hers been, too? 

It was an uncertain time. The Turks had been coming without warning. They galloped through the village taking whatever they wanted— livestock, clothing, jewelry, young men for their army. In his dreams, they rode dragons instead of horses. 

He nudged her bedroom door open. Father was not yet home; he was drinking arak and playing backgammon next door at Aami Hanna’s. 

Mother stood in the center of the bedroom in her nightgown. Her hair was down, long tangles of black. In her arms she cradled a jug— 

the one she’d found yesterday while exploring the mountain caves. 

Over the years, she’d come home with other treasures: a metal spear, the jawbone of a lion, a clay seal, glass beads. Truly, though, she told her son, the most precious thing she found was a bit of solitude. 

“Mother,” he whispered. Was she asleep with her eyes open? 

Behind her, the moonlight glistened on a spiderweb, a hexagon of silken threads. “Shoo saar? Shoo aam b’seer?”  What happened? What  is  happening? 

She tilted her head as if she’d heard something beyond his voice. 

Perhaps it was an animal; wolves sometimes stalked the village at night. He, too, listened so intently that, for a moment, he thought he could hear the spider plucking its legs along the web, perfecting its trap. 

He noticed she held something— small and round— between her fi ngers. “What do you have, immi?” he asked. 

And then he saw something strange spreading before his mother’s bare feet: a dark pool, black smoke bubbling up from its center. 

Fire! 

He tried to scream, but he could hardly breathe. Instead he stumbled backward, bumping into the half- open door, his heart pounding against his ribs. Why was there no burning odor, no heat from the smoke? The air was cold. 

“Get back, Mother!” he managed to whisper desperately, shivering. 

But she seemed oddly calm— trancelike— as she stood near the cusp of the widening pool, which began to swirl like a pot of soup stirred by an unseen ladle. The boy knew he should cry for help or pull her back, but now he himself was unable to turn away, unable to move. 

What was it? What was in there? 

What was at the bottom? 

Long fi ngers, tendrils of smoke, beckoned him forward with a shushing noise like a mother soothing a child. Mesmerized, horrifi ed, he stepped closer. 

Something was materializing and rising up out of the churning pool. Some one. 

A man. 

“Give it to me,” the man hissed, shadowed in smoke. 

His face was hidden by a beard, his cloak trimmed with fur. He spoke in a foreign tongue, with ancient words— but the boy understood. It was the language of his long- lost ancestors. It was in his blood. 

But give  what? Perhaps he wanted the jug? 

The man glanced at the boy before grabbing his mother by the wrist. Her face collapsed into an expression of pain. The jug fell with a thud. 

“Let her go!” the boy begged, frozen. 

“Mine,” the man said. 

“She is not yours!” 

His mother’s eyes snapped into focus. She fi nally looked at her son— fi nally saw him standing there— and her face dimmed with terror. 

“Go,” she croaked. The ghostly man pulled her toward the pool, which was now a yawning black mouth consuming half of the room. 

“You cannot take her!” the boy cried. 

 “Habibi.”  His mother’s voice was nothing more than a thick moan. 

“Bhebak aatool.” 

He reached out to her, the tips of his fi ngers grazing her nightgown. His balance wavered at the edge of the spiraling chasm. 

With a grunt of determination, she pushed the boy away with more strength than he’d known she had, sending him across the room. 

He landed on his back, hitting his head on the doorframe. Helplessly, he watched as the man wrapped his cloak around his mother, envelop-ing all but her pale face. Outside, a cloud slid over the moon, turning the light ashen. His mother and the stranger stepped into the bubbling black vortex, which narrowed. 

And disappeared. 

A final sigh of smoke lingered briefly before it went out like a forgotten campfire. 

All was quiet. The bedroom floor was as solid as ever. 

But his mother was gone. 

He whimpered and pulled himself across the room, lying fl at across the spot where she’d been just moments ago. Under his cheek, the fl oor grew cold and wet with tears. Surely this was only another nightmare— his worst yet— but he could not wake himself up. 

 I love you,  she’d said. Forever. 

He picked up the jug and held it to his chest; he rocked back and forth and called for her. Outside the window, an owl responded with a forlorn  who- who. 

When he finally stumbled next door, frantic and babbling, his father stubbed out his cigarette and cursed. “The Turks!” he cried. 

He stood and knocked over the backgammon board, scattering pieces everywhere like a fistful of lost coins. “They kidnapped her!” 

He tore through the village, his angry shouts waking children from their sleep. A few men mounted horses and went chasing shadows into the night, ready to slit the throats of her captors. Other than a pack of hyenas, they found nothing. 

Secretly, no one held out hope. She was too beautiful. She had surely been taken as a bride. After a month, the village priest stopped praying for her return. After a year, no one spoke of it. 

 “Bayye,”  the boy would say to his father, tugging on his pants in their grove of walnut trees. “It was not the Turks.” 

He had told and retold his story, but the more he recounted what had truly happened, the less people listened. They patted his head, crossed themselves, and changed the subject. 

“There is no such thing as a genie!” his father said finally. “Now stop your talk, once and for all. People are beginning to think you are akhwet. ” 

But the boy knew what he had seen. He kept the jug hidden and close. He rubbed it every night, making the same unfulfilled wish— 

 Please bring my mother home— until he was an old man ready to die. 

1

“No, no, no.” Sam swore under her breath. “Go away.” 

She pressed her eyes shut, as if that would make their landlord’s car disappear. 

But his ancient Mercedes was still rasping along behind her, its belly low to the ground, slinking like an animal. Sam dipped her head and picked up the pace. Her shoes were tucked under her arm, and the gravel road bit into her bare feet. As she reached the mailbox, she heard the car sputter to a stop, and there was the snap of the driver’s door. 

“What’s the rush?” Mr. Koplow called, laughing as he trailed her up the cracked cement driveway. 

Sam stopped and steeled herself before turning to face his empty smile and icy blue eyes. His pants hung low underneath his belly; his thinning hair was combed straight back. 

“It’s not the first yet,” Sam said, even though she knew they still owed last month’s rent. 

Mr. Koplow tipped his chin toward the trailer. “Your mother here?” 

“She went to get milk.” 

“Milk,” Mr. Koplow repeated. 

“And toilet paper,” Sam said, adding to the lie. 

“Right. So she’ll be back soon,” Mr. Koplow suggested, reaching into his shirt pocket for a pack of cigarettes. He pulled one out, crooked, and pressed it between his lips. 

Sam glanced up at the sky, where the sun was inching its way down. “Sorry, but I really need to get to the lake.” She raised her hand. 

Goodbye. 

Mr. Koplow didn’t move. He let out a curl of smoke. “She wants me to fi x the back stoop. I need to take a look, see what happened.” 

“Nothing happened. It’s rotten.” 

At her feet was an oil stain from her mother’s leaking car, and behind her there was yet another dent in the carport. She knew Mr. 

Koplow was keeping tabs; they would never get their security deposit back when the time came. 

He squinted at her dirty feet, at her chipped green toenail polish. His eyes climbed higher, lingering on her purse, then the stack of bracelets up her arm. “How much did those cost?” he asked as his phone rang. 

Three dollars. That was how much she’d paid for her bracelets. 

Clearance table, plus her employee discount. 

“Yeah, this is Alan. Slow down, slow down,” Mr. Koplow said into his cell, his voice rising. “What’s leaking? The toilet on the second fl oor?” He pointed his cigarette at Sam. “I’ll be back.” 

A moment later, his car engine sputtered and caught, and Sam watched as he vanished down the gravel road, a wall of dust rising behind him. 

With a sigh, she turned to face the lopsided trailer with its mildew- stained siding and ripped welcome mat. Mr. Koplow had once told Mom that it wasn’t the Taj Mahal and she was no princess, so what did she expect? 

Whatever it was, it was home. It was the place of rushed Monday mornings and the smell of Mom’s perfume. It was where Rima had fallen against the coffee table and gotten the scar on her shoulder, where Dad had taught Sam how to cast a net from the top of the picnic table, pretending the backyard was teeming with baitfish. It was the place Dad would come home to, when he finally came home. He could fold his clothes and put them away. His grape soda would take up the top shelf of the fridge. He’d get Outside magazine delivered again. 

He’d pick up right where he left off. 

“See you soon,” he’d said the day he was deployed, ruffling Sam’s hair. “Take care of your mom and baby sister while I’m gone.” 

“Yes, sir,” she’d said. 

Then he’d stooped down and put his hands on her shoulders. His military boots— which always smelled like motor oil— were tightly laced under his flight suit. His hands were so big. Invincible. He could survive anything. 

“Promise me,” he said, his blond eyebrows drawn together. The air had been laced with the sweetness of spring flowers and grass and new leaves, just like today. “Promise me you’ll look out for them until I get back.” 

“I will, sir,” Sam had repeated, an uneasy knot in her stomach. 

“I’ll try to, Dad.” 

“Try hard, kiddo. I love you.” That was the last thing he’d said to her. 

She could almost feel Dad’s hands on her shoulders now as she jiggled the house key into the rusty lock. Another broken thing that needed to be replaced. 

Behind her, brakes squealed and then sighed. She spun around to look. Was it Mr. Koplow again, or Mom fi nally home, or someone Mom owed money, or a favor? 

It was a hulking UPS truck. A man in a brown uniform hopped down with a box in his hands. 

“It’s probably for Mrs. Jarvis,” Sam said to the deliveryman as she finally jerked the door open. She pointed down the street at a lawn cluttered with gnomes and metallic balls on pedestals. “QVC addict.” 

“Nope,” he said, reading the box. “This is for Samira Clark. 

That you?” 

“It’s just Sam,” she said. “Nobody calls me Samira.” 

“Whoever sent this package does. I’ll need a photo ID for this one.” 

Sam pulled her wallet from her purse and handed over her driver’s license. 

“Wow, your hair,” the deliveryman said as he glanced back and forth between her face and her license. She was sixteen in the photo, almost two years ago. At the time she’d had shoulder- length hair bleached to a brassy shade of blond. Now her black hair hung down to her waist. 

“That’s me,” Sam assured him. 

He held the electronic clipboard out for her. “Initial here. And put the date right there at the bottom.” 

The date. It was Friday. Mom had been gone since Monday. That made four nights. Too long. If she didn’t hear from her by tomorrow, she’d have to call the police. 

“Hello?” 

“Yeah, sorry,” Sam said, scribbling her signature. “Stressful day, that’s all. Couldn’t remember the date for a second.” 

He smiled, took back the board, and handed her the package and her driver’s license. “Hang in there.” 

“Thanks,” she said, though he was already jogging back to his truck. 

Sam stepped inside, looking at the box. It was lighter than she expected, and it smelled like spices and tobacco. Postage stickers were everywhere, and on the right- hand corner LIBANPOST, BEIRUT was stamped within a rectangle of bright blue ink. The sender had meticulously written The United States of America under Sam’s zip code, and the return address had been perfectly penned, as though a ruler had been held underneath each line. Karm El Mohr,  it said, which Sam recognized as the name of her mother’s hometown in Lebanon, a little village in the mountains. 

Curiosity tugged at her, but it was getting late. She had to hurry to the lake, or there would be nothing at all for dinner. 

“Rima?” Sam called into the house. Their tiny kitchen table, too small for three people, teetered when Sam set the package on top. She tucked her driver’s license away and tossed her purse and shoes into the corner. 

“Hello?” she called one more time before peeking into her mother’s bedroom. There was always the slim chance she could be back, and asleep. 

But nothing had changed since the last time Sam looked. Mom’s bed was unmade, her fl oral comforter tangled. The curtains were drawn. On a chair, nestled between two throw pillows, a teddy bear stared at Sam with vacant eyes. MY VALENTINE was stitched across its heart- shaped belly. Sam stared back. Though she’d never asked, she was sure it was a gift from Dad— it had been around a lot longer than any of Mom’s boyfriends. 

She closed her mother’s door and went to her own room, where she changed into jeans, a fi shing shirt with a dozen little pockets for supplies, and sneakers. Her old Girl Scout sash— loaded with badges for archery, horseback riding, cookie sales— 

had fallen from its 

thumbtacks again. She pressed it back into the wall and then tossed a makeup bag and a jacket onto Rima’s upper bunk, which was already piled high with dirty clothes, schoolwork, and at least twenty jars of nail polish. There was only enough space in their windowless room for one dresser, and there was no closet, so the floor was cluttered with semiorganized piles. Picking through them, Sam found everything she needed, making a mental checklist as she went: fi shing rod; Dad’s Swiss Army knife in case she needed to cut a line; a cooler. Back in the kitchen she grabbed an ice pack from the freezer and, finally, moldy cheese for bait. 

“Go, go, go,” she urged herself. 

The winter had been so long and gray. She’d missed Glen Lake’s waters— turquoise blue and crystal clear, a reassurance that not everything in the world was dark and muddy underneath. No matter how many times she pulled her boat out onto the lake, her heart still swelled, as if those Caribbean- looking waters were a gift just for her, and that unexpected beauty was all she needed to carry on. 

Her hand was on the door, but at the last moment she glanced back at the UPS package on the table. If Mom came home while she was fi shing, she would open the package herself, even though it was addressed to Sam. 

What could be inside? 

The only person they knew from Lebanon was Mom’s grandfather, Jiddo Naameh. Packages from him came very rarely, and they were always for Mom, never Sam. She’d never even met her great- grandfather, had only seen him in a handful of yellowed pictures that hung on the walls of Mom’s bedroom. He looked old in those photos, and they were all taken before Sam was born. 

It would only take a second to open the package. She took her hand off the doorknob, set her fi shing gear down, and found a pair of scissors in the kitchen junk drawer. 

Judging by the weight and size of the box, there might be a book 

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or two inside. In the past, he’d sent calendars, tourist guides, poetry written in Arabic, and books with glossy photos of Roman and Phoenician ruins. Sometimes he’d include bars of olive oil soap, jars of pomegranate molasses, and cans of sesame seed paste. 

Sam slit the tape along the edges of the box and pulled the card-board flaps up. A white envelope sat on top of the packing material, addressed to her. 

She ran her finger across the handwriting, then slid her thumb under the envelope’s flap and pulled it open. Inside was a piece of folded paper, so thin it was translucent. She unfolded it, eager to read, but the entire note was indecipherable to her: It was written in Arabic, in bright purple ink, the color of peacock feathers. 

She dug into the box again, half convinced that only pillows of bubble wrap filled the rest of it, but her fingers hit something solid. 

The hairs on the back of her neck stood up as she pulled out a fat, pear- shaped object enshrouded in newspaper. Setting it on the table, she began unpeeling the sheets, layer after layer, her fingertips turning black from the newsprint. 

Finally, the last square of paper fell to the floor. Sam stood staring at a piece of dull clay pottery. 

Its narrow neck was flanked by two circular handles, hardly big enough to fi t her fingers through. Simple, symmetrical lines criss-crossed its belly. It had a look of homemade imperfection; maybe Jiddo had made it himself. 

The letter surely explained it. She refolded it and tucked it back inside the envelope, glancing at the clock on the microwave. She’d already wasted a solid ten minutes of fi shing time. She had to hide everything and get out on the water. 

“Go,” she told herself again, pushing away from the table. It wobbled, and the jug shuddered off the edge. 

“No!” she cried. 

For a moment, the jug seemed suspended in air, simply waiting to be caught— and then it hit the linoleum floor with a hollow, sickening sound. 

Sam let out a groan as she knelt to examine the damage. It had split in half; she tried to fi t it back together like two puzzle pieces, but there was a thin seam between them. Just like my life,  she thought. Split apart and then precariously put back together. You only noticed the cracks when you got close enough. 

And that was when she saw the coins. 

There were seven, crusted to the dirty bottom of the jug. She tipped it upside down over the table, shook, and the coins spilled out. 

Sam blinked. 

Treasure. 

Time and dirt had turned a few of them black. Others were only slightly tarnished, stamped with images of pine trees and ships, sea castles and owls, spears crossed to make an X. PIASTRES, one of them said; another had a perfect hole drilled through its middle, flanked by two small lions. 

Sweat trickled down her temples. Her mind raced. What if Mom came home right this second? She had already pawned every last item of worth in their possession. She would take the coins without a second thought. 

There was one more, she noticed: stuck to the bottom, caked with a mud- hardened residue, so camouflaged with the dark pottery she almost missed it. She tipped the jug piece again and shook, hard, but it wouldn’t come loose. When she tried with a fingernail, her nail bent and snapped, and the coin stayed put. 

“Super,” she said, sucking on her finger to take the sting away. 

Letter- like shapes arced along the top edge of the coin. They might have been words, but they were written in an alphabet she didn’t recognize. Even though she couldn’t read Arabic, she knew its familiar curves and dots. This was something altogether different. 

Sam glanced at the clock again. 

She needed to go— but instead she pulled Dad’s Swiss Army knife from one of her shirt pockets. His initials were engraved on its bright red side: B.C.C. She gave the knife a quick kiss like she always did before she used it, knowing her father’s fingerprints were still there underneath her own. 

Carefully, she worked the tip of the smallest blade under the coin, until it finally sprang out onto the table. 

For some reason, she hesitated to touch it. It seemed different than the other coins. Older, thicker. It made her heart beat faster. 

These coins could change everything for them. This one could really be worth something. 

She picked the coin up, and the moment her fingers met the metal, her hand turned icy cold. She bit the inside of her mouth and winced, tasting blood. 

A presence filled the room. She was suddenly sure she was being watched. 

“Who’s there?” she asked, spinning to look. 

Something pulled on her, pushed her. The room turned dark, as if the electricity had failed and a storm cloud had rolled right inside the house. There was the distant sound of a flute, and then a whispering voice. Raspy and urgent. 

 You have what is mine! 

The language was foreign, but somehow she understood. 

Give it to me! 

The pull on her intensified, a fierce current sweeping her out into deep waters. It felt as though her feet were no longer on the floor, that the worn gray linoleum beneath her had become fluid. The storm cloud swirled and widened into a funnel in the floor, a pit of smoke. 

Her hand had frozen shut, fingers curled tightly around the coin. But with a determined shriek, she threw it down. 

The strange storm stopped as suddenly as it had started. 

The light returned to the room. The linoleum was as chipped and ordinary as always. She stood panting for air, staring at the coin where it had landed. 

Sam rubbed her throbbing hand, her heart pounding with such ferocity she had to lie down. She made her way to the couch and collapsed, listening. 

All was silent, other than her own frantic breathing. There was no hypnotic fl ute, no voice. Her stomach turned over with something that felt like motion sickness, as if she’d just stepped off a spinning carnival ride and still couldn’t fi nd her footing. 

Outside the window, a dog barked, and Mrs. Jarvis yelled. “Get over here! Peanut!” She called the dog’s name over and over again. 

“Peanut! Peanut! There you are!” 

Sam counted to one hundred and then stood. 

Warily, she went back to the kitchen and stared at the coin. She was afraid to touch it, but she couldn’t just leave it there. 

After pacing the house, searching for an idea, she went to Rima’s collection of beauty supplies, a pink plastic cabinet with four drawers. 

She yanked open the drawer labeled EYES and dug through a rainbow of shadows, liners, and tubes of mascara until she found the tweezers. 

Metal meeting metal made a dull ting as she tapped the coin. Carefully, she slid the tweezers around it and clamped down. All good. 

Nothing happened. As Dad would say, No holes in the boat. 

She let out a little laugh of relief. She had almost expected it to spring to life like a coiled snake. 

Back in the kitchen, she slipped the coin into a large Ziploc bag, along with the other seven coins and the two halves of the broken jug. 

The back door squeaked behind her as she headed outside, down the rotting stoop and into the yard. The gardening tools were already laid out, right next to the plants she’d bought last week. After setting down the bag, she thrust the big metal shovel into the ground, thinking how her mother accused her of burying everything— her emotions, herself— in school and work. 

She would get some answers tomorrow. At the library or on the internet, there would be information about old coins. She would find someone— other than Mom— to translate Jiddo’s letter. In the mean-time, this was the best hiding place for the things he had sent her. 

An hour later, she had a decent- sized hole in the backyard, deep enough. After burying the bag, Sam looked back up at their sagging trailer. 

Maybe it wasn’t lopsided after all. Maybe it was her. 

2

A door slammed with a gunshot bang and Sam sat up. 

She was surprised to find herself back on the couch; a rogue metal spring dug through the thin cushions and jabbed at her thigh. 

Across the room, their hazy TV was on mute, and a woman silently urged her to act now and buy an Immortal Youth skincare system in three easy payments. 

Sam had a dim recollection of putting on her nightshirt, of trying to stay awake until Rima came home. She’d never made it to the lake. 

Morning sunlight streamed into the room, illuminating the dusty air. 

“Rima?” she called, her voice hoarse. 

She cleared her throat and stood, rolling her neck until it cracked. 

Her fingers ached where she’d touched the coin. 

The coin. 

She sucked in a breath as the whole thing came flooding back to her. 

The remote shook in her hand as she clicked off the TV. She must have fallen asleep watching some crazy movie, that’s all it was. Her imagination on overload. She tossed the remote onto the couch and went to the kitchen for a drink, but with a start she remembered the smoky pit in the fl oor, exactly where she stood now. She skittered away from the spot and tried to laugh at herself. 

There was no way that had happened. 

And yet she was completely sure it did. 

Heart thumping, she poured herself a glass of water from the sink and drank it in one long gulp. She grabbed Jiddo’s letter from the table and backed away from the kitchen, feeling like it was set with snares. 

“Rima?” she called again. 

She padded cautiously to their bedroom. Her sister’s clothes were fl ung across the fl oor, making a trail to the bed, where she snored quietly on the top bunk, murmuring in her sleep, her arm slung over the railing. Sam felt a surge of relief before catching a whiff of vape and beer. And barf. 

“Soccer practice,” Sam mumbled under her breath. There were brambles in Rima’s hair. “Yeah, right.” 

She slid Jiddo’s letter underneath her own pillow, and then crossed the tiny hallway to open her mother’s bedroom door. 

She was back. Finally. 

Her duffel bag was on the bed, its contents spilling out, and among the jumbled clothes was the picture she always took with her, no matter where she went. Her wedding photo, framed in silver. Dad in a suit and tie, so serious. Mom in her white gown. 

“Mom?” Sam called, walking quickly through the small house, searching. 

Her mother’s voice answered, muffled and distant. “Out here!” 

Through the kitchen window, Sam could see her waving from the backyard. Sam waved back. 

Still in her bare feet and nightshirt, she threw open the patio door and ran out across the weeds and dirt. Above her, the sky was a happy pastel blue, like some sort of candy drink. The cold air took her by surprise, though. Yesterday had been summer- like, but now her breath spilled out ahead of her as she rushed toward her mother. 

“You’re home!” Sam said. 

“Hey, gorgeous,” Mom said, smiling up at her. 

Mom was the one who was gorgeous. Her black hair shone almost blue in the sunlight, and her skin glowed with olive undertones. She was on her knees with a rusty gardening spade and polka- dotted gloves; the potted vegetables Sam had bought the week before were beside her, an investment that would literally grow all summer. A five- dollar plant gave them vegetables for months. 

“Stand up so I can hug you,” Sam said, her teeth chattering against the cold. 

She nervously scanned the grass, looking for the rock that marked the place where she’d buried everything. Exactly where she’d put it was a blur; she’d been in such a state of shock and panic, and had worked until after dark. 

“Yes. I could use a hug.” Mom pulled off her dirty gardening gloves and stood, dusting her knees. “And a week of sleep.” 

Sam wrapped her arms around her mother’s waist and kissed her cheek. She seemed thinner than ever; Sam’s arms could practically go twice around her tiny waist. “Where’ve you been?” she asked, sneaking in one more peck on the other cheek before her mother pulled away. 

“Getting stuff to plant your garden,” Mom said, dodging the real question. 

Sam looked down at the dozen or so plants she had already bought, plus a few bags of black soil Mom must have just brought home. A fat bumblebee floated past, investigating the new plants. 

“Thanks,” Sam said. 

“Tomatoes need phosphorus.” Mom pointed her gardening spade at a bag of fertilizer. She read the planting instructions aloud. “ ‘Roma tomato. Pear- or plum- shaped. Plant in full sun in rows thirty- six inches apart.’ ” 

“Yeah, I was kind of waiting for the weather to warm up,” Sam said. “For good.” 

She’d covered the plants the previous week because it had dipped into the thirties overnight. The old sheet she’d used to protect them was strewn across the ground now, streaked with mud. Underneath a corner of the striped fabric, a rock—  the rock she’d used to mark the spot— peeked out. 

“I got some stakes and twine,” Mom said, “and a green pepper plant.” She bumped her hip against Sam’s. “You’re shivering. Go get dressed. You’ll catch a cold out here.” 

“The entire garden is supposed to go over there,” Sam said, point-ing to the opposite corner of the yard. “All these plants need sun.” 

You need sun,” Mom said. “Look how pale you are. Go inside and get a warm drink.” 

“Come with me,” Sam said, but Mom put her gardening gloves back on and squinted at the tag from the green pepper plant. Sam studied the rim of bone under the collar of her mother’s shirt. So thin. 

“Where were you?” Sam asked quietly. “I was going to call the police today.” 

Mom dropped the tag she was holding. “Do not do that.” All the cheer that had been in her voice moments ago was gone. “Never ever do that.” 

“I know, but . . .” 

“You’re not eighteen yet. They’ll put you in a foster home. And Rima somewhere else, in a different one.” She cast a gloved finger in one direction and then in another. Opposite ends of the world. 

“Why was Mr. Koplow here yesterday?” Sam pressed. “How many months behind are we? He said he was here about the stoop, but it’s more than that, right?” 

Mom sighed and raked her fingers through her hair, sending a stripe of dirt through her bangs. “The credit card company won’t increase our limit.” She shook her head. “I had to get new brake pads for the car. Then your wisdom teeth came out, and that wasn’t completely covered. I bought soccer cleats for Rima, plus her summer registration fees. Things add up.” 

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Sam looked over her shoulder toward the house, wondering if Rima was awake yet. She didn’t need to hear another argument. Especially not the same old argument. “I could have put in some extra hours at the jewelry store.” 

She held back the rest: I don’t like how Mr. Koplow looks at you. I don’t want you owing him anything. 

Mom considered the hole she’d just dug. “Do you think that’s deep enough?” 

“How much did you spend on all this gardening stuff ?” Sam asked. “Maybe we can return a couple things.” 

“Well,” Mom said, a smile tugging at her lips. “I wanted to save the surprise, but since you’re asking . . .” 

From the front pockets of her jeans, she pulled out two thick wads of cash. And then, while Sam stood frozen with disbelief, she sprinkled the bills all over the ground. Like she was planting seeds for money trees. 

What?  What did you do?” Sam asked. Possibilities— all of them bad— swirled through her mind. “Where did you get all this? Is it real?” 

There were tens and twenties . . . even fifties. The wind picked up and Sam dropped to her knees to gather the money before it blew away. 

“I won at the casino.” Mom laughed. She sounded proud of herself. “I won big.” 

“You were gambling all week?” Sam held the money tight in her fists, fighting back the torrent of angry words that swelled inside her. Mom had been playing slots at the casino again? That  was where she was? 

But the money. The money! It was more than Sam made in a month. Maybe even more than their check from the Marines. 

“Karma, baby!” Mom said. “Mercury retrograde ended last week, so the timing was good.” She looked up at the sky. “I wonder if there’s a lunar eclipse in Pisces right now. I should check on that.” 

“The stars were aligned,” Sam said. 

“Yes,” Mom said, ignoring Sam’s sarcasm. “And today, we’re going to Lowe’s to buy a washer and dryer. No more trips to the laundromat.” She dipped her hand into her shirt pocket and found a pair of sunglasses, then slid them on and smiled, posing. “Like them?” 

“Yeah. They’re great, Mom.” Sam sighed, reluctantly handing the money back. “Really great.” 

“We’ll get Alan off our backs, buy some new clothes,” Mom continued, “and go out for steaks tonight. Let’s go see a movie, too.” She cleared her throat. “What? I see your wheels turning.” 

“I just . . . We have a lot of bills to pay, obviously. Those should come first. And that other thing . . . remember?” But clearly Mom had forgotten. “The entrepreneurship certificate program. The small- business classes I’ve been saving for.” 

Mom swatted her words away. “You haven’t even graduated high school yet. Enjoy the last few weeks of senior year. Enjoy the summer.” 

“ But—” 

“Your dad took a few college classes, you know, before he enlisted. 

And what did they get him? Nothing.” Her eyes lit up. “We should spend the money on a prom dress for you!” 

“No! That’s a total waste. I’m just going with my friends anyway,” 

Sam said. “I’ll wear Rima’s blue dress.” 

“That dress won’t fi t you. Come on, you could be the belle of the ball,” Mom said, fanning the bills. She twisted her mouth when Sam shook her head. “You are no fun.” She shoved the cash back into her pockets. “You’re so serious all the time, so practical. You weren’t always like this. I worry about you.” 

“I worry about you, ” Sam countered, keeping her voice in check. 

“Next time please leave a note. That’s all I’m asking, so I know where you are. I called all your normal jobs. I was starting to think you were dead.” 

“Dead!” Mom said. “That’s dramatic.” 

“ ‘Dear Sam, I’ll see you Saturday morning. Here’s how you can reach me if you need to. Have a good week. Love, Mom.’ ” 

“A note,” Mom repeated. “That would’ve been thoughtful. But then you might have come searching for me.” 

And she didn’t want to be found. 

Sam gave her mother a look. They’d had this standoff so many times, and getting angry only made things worse. Mom was home, with money to spare, so Sam tamped down her frustration and pasted on a smile. 

“I’m glad you’re home,” she said, picking up the shovel and ducking underneath the branches of the only tree in their yard. Its trunk wore a hundred scars where she and Dad had thrown knives into it. Sam could almost see herself taking aim, see the ghost of her ten- year- old self, of Dad standing by chewing on a toothpick. It’s all in the wrist,  he would coach, but more often than not she missed the tree altogether and the knife would land in the grass. 

Mom pushed her new sunglasses onto the top of her head. They were Ray- Bans, and they weren’t knock- offs. The wad of gambling money would be gone by next week. 

“Yep,” Sam mumbled, deciding for certain that she needed to keep the jug and coins a secret. With a grunt, she jammed the shovel into the ground. She’d worn blisters across her palms last night from digging, and now they flared up again. That part, at least, had really happened— burying the Ziploc bag. Her mind flashed to the smoky mist and the man’s voice, which now felt so dreamlike and impossible. 

“Are you okay?” Mom asked. “You really do look sick.” 

“The last time I ate was yesterday at lunch.” 

“Inside,” she said, putting an arm around Sam. “You’re freezing! I bought bagels. I was just waiting for Rima to wake up.” 

“I’ll go play reveille in her ear,” Sam said, but when they turned to walk back to the house, she saw that Rima was standing at the door with a cup of coffee. She lifted a hand toward Mom as if she’d been gone five minutes rather than five days. No big deal. Totally normal. 

Mom kissed Rima’s forehead before she could duck away. “How’s my baby?” she asked. “Good?” 

“How was the party last night?” Sam asked, following Rima into the kitchen. Her hair was in a messy knot, her face oily with yesterday’s makeup. “I mean, soccer practice?” 

Rima shot her a look. Shut up,  she mouthed silently. 

“Mom won some money at the casino,” Sam added, opening the refrigerator and handing Rima a tub of cream cheese. Mom had bought caramel- flavored, the best, and probably without a coupon. 

Sam chose a cinnamon bagel from the open box on the kitchen table. 

“We’re going shopping today.” 

“After I nap,” Mom said, stifling a yawn. In the kitchen’s fluorescent light, the skin under her eyes looked purple. She’d probably gambled all night and slept in her car during the day. “It’s hard work winning cold, hard cash.” 

“How much?” Rima asked, trailing Mom into her room. “What’d you play? Slots or blackjack?” 

Sam swallowed the last bite of her bagel. She showered and dressed, stacking a few bracelets over her wrist and slipping on her old sneakers. The lake was calling to her, but she had econ homework, an entire business plan due on Friday. Plus, if she went to the library, she could search for clues about the coins. 

She tucked Jiddo’s letter into her pocket and walked through the house. When she looked inside Mom’s room, she found her already asleep, her cheek pressed crookedly against her half- unpacked duffel bag. 

The back door was ajar, and Rima was singing somewhere. 

And then Sam heard a noise that made her spine stiffen: the chink of a shovel hitting rock. 

Panicked, Sam pressed her fingertips against the window. Rima was on her knees in the yard. She was digging. 

Sam threw open the back door. “What are you doing?” she asked, her voice cracking as she sprinted toward her sister. 

“Mom told me to move all the plants to this one spot.” Rima had the Ziploc bag in her hands, the pieces of the broken jug showing through. The hose was running, creating a thin river of mud around Rima’s bare feet. “But check this out,” she said. “I found this.” 

“Don’t open it,” Sam warned. She was breathless from running. 

“But there’s a bunch of coins in here.” Rima pointed through the clear bag. “They look old.” 

“Give it to me,” Sam said, thrusting her hand out. 

“Finders keepers,” Rima replied, pulling the bag toward her chest. 

“You don’t understand,” Sam said. “Jiddo sent that to me. It’s mine.” 

“Huh?” Rima made a face. “Jiddo?” 

Sam nodded. 

“So why is it out here?” 

“Because,” Sam said. “I needed to hide it for now.” She put her hand out again, but instead Rima opened the bag and pulled the two chunks of pottery out. Three or four coins fell to the ground. “You’re going to lose something!” 

“Is it from Lebanon?” Rima let out a low whistle. “This stuff looks ancient.” 

“One of the coins is . . .” Sam’s voice trailed off. She wanted to say 

“magical” or “cursed,” but that seemed ridiculous in the broad daylight of their backyard. Birds chirped, and the clouds were ribbons across the blue sky. 

Rima picked up the coins and set them in the palm of her hand. 

“Do you think they’re worth something?” She smiled and her eyes lit up with excitement. Her enthusiasm was contagious, and Sam felt herself smile back. 

“We have to research everything first,” she said. “Don’t tell Mom, okay? She’ll just take them to the pawnshop. I need to go to a museum or find a guidebook or something, so we can sell them for the right price.” 

“Yeah,” Rima said. “That makes sense.” 

“They might not be worth anything,” Sam cautioned. “And they were from Jiddo, so part of me thinks we should just keep them anyway. Maybe they’re family heirlooms. I thought I’d glue the jug back together, at least.” 

Rima nodded. She took the last few coins from the bottom of the bag and placed them alongside the others in her cupped hand. Her posture turned rigid. “C-cold,” she gasped. 

It was happening again. 

A small patch of soil seemed to turn loose at Rima’s knees. 

“Drop them,” Sam cried. “Hurry!” 

She grabbed Rima’s wrist and shook until the coins fell to the ground. Sam knelt over them, guarding them, counting them: fi ve, six . . . There were supposed to be eight. The seventh coin was nestled next to Mom’s gardening gloves. Where was the last one? 

“D’you hear that?” Rima asked, her words slurred. She looked around the yard. “A flute.” Smoke rose from the twisting earth. 

“Are you still holding one?” Sam demanded, horrified. She dragged Rima back, away from where the ground was moving, turning, becoming a dark spiral that widened and reached toward their toes. “Drop it! Drop it! ” 

Rima’s eyes, so full of life a moment earlier, were glazed over. 

“Look at me.” Sam snapped her fingers in front of Rima’s face, but she was somewhere far away. “Listen to me. Let go of the coin!” She shook her by the shoulders. 

Rima slumped into her arms, but her fingers held the coin like a vise. 

Sam peeled them back, one by one, and plucked the coin from her sister’s palm. She pinched it between two fingertips, and the mesmerizing, eerie music of the flute filled her head once again. The inky fog rushed to embrace her, twisting, pulling, shushing her. Sam felt her voice trapped in her throat. The world was unfurling. 

It’s going to take us. 

“Mine,” a man’s voice said. 

Sam turned to look. There was no one in the yard— other than wide- eyed Rima— but now there was the smell of incense burning. 

Her fingers refused to open. The coin’s icy poison was spreading, making her entire arm brittle. 

“My obol.” 

The man’s voice was closer . . . and then Sam saw him. 

Bearded and cloaked and made of the dark clouds that spun across the yard. His breath spilled from his mouth in cold currents. 

He lunged with dizzying swiftness, his hands going to Rima. I have the coin,  Sam wanted to say. Leave her alone! 

Rima cried out as the ghost gripped her by the wrist and yanked her away. He looked at Sam, his face full of fury. His eyes were golden, but his pupils were all wrong. One of them was the shape of a keyhole. 

Stop!  Sam silently screamed over the sound of the flute, a drum-beat also rising. She desperately crawled after Rima, her fingers finding a belt loop in her sister’s jeans. They were at the cusp of the dark, revolving funnel. 

With a last, desperate effort, Sam flicked the coin away. Over her shoulder, she caught a glimpse of it flipping through the air, as if someone had tossed it to call heads or tails. It landed in the black soil of their garden, behind them. 

No. Above them. 

It was too late. The three of them were sinking down, down, down; the backyard had become something like a raised stage they’d fallen from. 

Sam closed her eyes and spun. 

About the author

PROLOGUE

Karm El Mohr, Syria ( modern- day Lebanon), 1903

In the night his mother disappeared, the boy had tiptoed to her room to ask for a glass of water. 

The moon shone through the windows, casting a glowing walk-way across the floor. The air was fragrant with blossoming orange trees. He would tell her that he couldn’t sleep, that lately his dreams had been strange. Had hers been, too? 

It was an uncertain time. The Turks had been coming without warning. They galloped through the village taking whatever they wanted— livestock, clothing, jewelry, young men for their army. In his dreams, they rode dragons instead of horses. 

He nudged her bedroom door open. Father was not yet home; he was drinking arak and playing backgammon next door at Aami Hanna’s. 

Mother stood in the center of the bedroom in her nightgown. Her hair was down, long tangles of black. In her arms she cradled a jug— 

the one she’d found yesterday while exploring the mountain caves. 

Over the years, she’d come home with other treasures: a metal spear, the jawbone of a lion, a clay seal, glass beads. Truly, though, she told her son, the most precious thing she found was a bit of solitude. 

“Mother,” he whispered. Was she asleep with her eyes open? 

Behind her, the moonlight glistened on a spiderweb, a hexagon of silken threads. “Shoo saar? Shoo aam b’seer?”  What happened? What  is  happening? 

She tilted her head as if she’d heard something beyond his voice. 

Perhaps it was an animal; wolves sometimes stalked the village at night. He, too, listened so intently that, for a moment, he thought he could hear the spider plucking its legs along the web, perfecting its trap. 

He noticed she held something— small and round— between her fi ngers. “What do you have, immi?” he asked. 

And then he saw something strange spreading before his mother’s bare feet: a dark pool, black smoke bubbling up from its center. 

Fire! 

He tried to scream, but he could hardly breathe. Instead he stumbled backward, bumping into the half- open door, his heart pounding against his ribs. Why was there no burning odor, no heat from the smoke? The air was cold. 

“Get back, Mother!” he managed to whisper desperately, shivering. 

But she seemed oddly calm— trancelike— as she stood near the cusp of the widening pool, which began to swirl like a pot of soup stirred by an unseen ladle. The boy knew he should cry for help or pull her back, but now he himself was unable to turn away, unable to move. 

What was it? What was in there? 

What was at the bottom? 

Long fi ngers, tendrils of smoke, beckoned him forward with a shushing noise like a mother soothing a child. Mesmerized, horrifi ed, he stepped closer. 

Something was materializing and rising up out of the churning pool. Some one. 

A man. 

“Give it to me,” the man hissed, shadowed in smoke. 

His face was hidden by a beard, his cloak trimmed with fur. He spoke in a foreign tongue, with ancient words— but the boy understood. It was the language of his long- lost ancestors. It was in his blood. 

But give  what? Perhaps he wanted the jug? 

The man glanced at the boy before grabbing his mother by the wrist. Her face collapsed into an expression of pain. The jug fell with a thud. 

“Let her go!” the boy begged, frozen. 

“Mine,” the man said. 

“She is not yours!” 

His mother’s eyes snapped into focus. She fi nally looked at her son— fi nally saw him standing there— and her face dimmed with terror. 

“Go,” she croaked. The ghostly man pulled her toward the pool, which was now a yawning black mouth consuming half of the room. 

“You cannot take her!” the boy cried. 

 “Habibi.”  His mother’s voice was nothing more than a thick moan. 

“Bhebak aatool.” 

He reached out to her, the tips of his fi ngers grazing her nightgown. His balance wavered at the edge of the spiraling chasm. 

With a grunt of determination, she pushed the boy away with more strength than he’d known she had, sending him across the room. 

He landed on his back, hitting his head on the doorframe. Helplessly, he watched as the man wrapped his cloak around his mother, envelop-ing all but her pale face. Outside, a cloud slid over the moon, turning the light ashen. His mother and the stranger stepped into the bubbling black vortex, which narrowed. 

And disappeared. 

A final sigh of smoke lingered briefly before it went out like a forgotten campfire. 

All was quiet. The bedroom floor was as solid as ever. 

But his mother was gone. 

He whimpered and pulled himself across the room, lying fl at across the spot where she’d been just moments ago. Under his cheek, the fl oor grew cold and wet with tears. Surely this was only another nightmare— his worst yet— but he could not wake himself up. 

 I love you,  she’d said. Forever. 

He picked up the jug and held it to his chest; he rocked back and forth and called for her. Outside the window, an owl responded with a forlorn  who- who. 

When he finally stumbled next door, frantic and babbling, his father stubbed out his cigarette and cursed. “The Turks!” he cried. 

He stood and knocked over the backgammon board, scattering pieces everywhere like a fistful of lost coins. “They kidnapped her!” 

He tore through the village, his angry shouts waking children from their sleep. A few men mounted horses and went chasing shadows into the night, ready to slit the throats of her captors. Other than a pack of hyenas, they found nothing. 

Secretly, no one held out hope. She was too beautiful. She had surely been taken as a bride. After a month, the village priest stopped praying for her return. After a year, no one spoke of it. 

 “Bayye,”  the boy would say to his father, tugging on his pants in their grove of walnut trees. “It was not the Turks.” 

He had told and retold his story, but the more he recounted what had truly happened, the less people listened. They patted his head, crossed themselves, and changed the subject. 

“There is no such thing as a genie!” his father said finally. “Now stop your talk, once and for all. People are beginning to think you are akhwet. ” 

But the boy knew what he had seen. He kept the jug hidden and close. He rubbed it every night, making the same unfulfilled wish— 

 Please bring my mother home— until he was an old man ready to die. 

1

“No, no, no.” Sam swore under her breath. “Go away.” 

She pressed her eyes shut, as if that would make their landlord’s car disappear. 

But his ancient Mercedes was still rasping along behind her, its belly low to the ground, slinking like an animal. Sam dipped her head and picked up the pace. Her shoes were tucked under her arm, and the gravel road bit into her bare feet. As she reached the mailbox, she heard the car sputter to a stop, and there was the snap of the driver’s door. 

“What’s the rush?” Mr. Koplow called, laughing as he trailed her up the cracked cement driveway. 

Sam stopped and steeled herself before turning to face his empty smile and icy blue eyes. His pants hung low underneath his belly; his thinning hair was combed straight back. 

“It’s not the first yet,” Sam said, even though she knew they still owed last month’s rent. 

Mr. Koplow tipped his chin toward the trailer. “Your mother here?” 

“She went to get milk.” 

“Milk,” Mr. Koplow repeated. 

“And toilet paper,” Sam said, adding to the lie. 

“Right. So she’ll be back soon,” Mr. Koplow suggested, reaching into his shirt pocket for a pack of cigarettes. He pulled one out, crooked, and pressed it between his lips. 

Sam glanced up at the sky, where the sun was inching its way down. “Sorry, but I really need to get to the lake.” She raised her hand. 

Goodbye. 

Mr. Koplow didn’t move. He let out a curl of smoke. “She wants me to fi x the back stoop. I need to take a look, see what happened.” 

“Nothing happened. It’s rotten.” 

At her feet was an oil stain from her mother’s leaking car, and behind her there was yet another dent in the carport. She knew Mr. 

Koplow was keeping tabs; they would never get their security deposit back when the time came. 

He squinted at her dirty feet, at her chipped green toenail polish. His eyes climbed higher, lingering on her purse, then the stack of bracelets up her arm. “How much did those cost?” he asked as his phone rang. 

Three dollars. That was how much she’d paid for her bracelets. 

Clearance table, plus her employee discount. 

“Yeah, this is Alan. Slow down, slow down,” Mr. Koplow said into his cell, his voice rising. “What’s leaking? The toilet on the second fl oor?” He pointed his cigarette at Sam. “I’ll be back.” 

A moment later, his car engine sputtered and caught, and Sam watched as he vanished down the gravel road, a wall of dust rising behind him. 

With a sigh, she turned to face the lopsided trailer with its mildew- stained siding and ripped welcome mat. Mr. Koplow had once told Mom that it wasn’t the Taj Mahal and she was no princess, so what did she expect? 

Whatever it was, it was home. It was the place of rushed Monday mornings and the smell of Mom’s perfume. It was where Rima had fallen against the coffee table and gotten the scar on her shoulder, where Dad had taught Sam how to cast a net from the top of the picnic table, pretending the backyard was teeming with baitfish. It was the place Dad would come home to, when he finally came home. He could fold his clothes and put them away. His grape soda would take up the top shelf of the fridge. He’d get Outside magazine delivered again. 

He’d pick up right where he left off. 

“See you soon,” he’d said the day he was deployed, ruffling Sam’s hair. “Take care of your mom and baby sister while I’m gone.” 

“Yes, sir,” she’d said. 

Then he’d stooped down and put his hands on her shoulders. His military boots— which always smelled like motor oil— were tightly laced under his flight suit. His hands were so big. Invincible. He could survive anything. 

“Promise me,” he said, his blond eyebrows drawn together. The air had been laced with the sweetness of spring flowers and grass and new leaves, just like today. “Promise me you’ll look out for them until I get back.” 

“I will, sir,” Sam had repeated, an uneasy knot in her stomach. 

“I’ll try to, Dad.” 

“Try hard, kiddo. I love you.” That was the last thing he’d said to her. 

She could almost feel Dad’s hands on her shoulders now as she jiggled the house key into the rusty lock. Another broken thing that needed to be replaced. 

Behind her, brakes squealed and then sighed. She spun around to look. Was it Mr. Koplow again, or Mom fi nally home, or someone Mom owed money, or a favor? 

It was a hulking UPS truck. A man in a brown uniform hopped down with a box in his hands. 

“It’s probably for Mrs. Jarvis,” Sam said to the deliveryman as she finally jerked the door open. She pointed down the street at a lawn cluttered with gnomes and metallic balls on pedestals. “QVC addict.” 

“Nope,” he said, reading the box. “This is for Samira Clark. 

That you?” 

“It’s just Sam,” she said. “Nobody calls me Samira.” 

“Whoever sent this package does. I’ll need a photo ID for this one.” 

Sam pulled her wallet from her purse and handed over her driver’s license. 

“Wow, your hair,” the deliveryman said as he glanced back and forth between her face and her license. She was sixteen in the photo, almost two years ago. At the time she’d had shoulder- length hair bleached to a brassy shade of blond. Now her black hair hung down to her waist. 

“That’s me,” Sam assured him. 

He held the electronic clipboard out for her. “Initial here. And put the date right there at the bottom.” 

The date. It was Friday. Mom had been gone since Monday. That made four nights. Too long. If she didn’t hear from her by tomorrow, she’d have to call the police. 

“Hello?” 

“Yeah, sorry,” Sam said, scribbling her signature. “Stressful day, that’s all. Couldn’t remember the date for a second.” 

He smiled, took back the board, and handed her the package and her driver’s license. “Hang in there.” 

“Thanks,” she said, though he was already jogging back to his truck. 

Sam stepped inside, looking at the box. It was lighter than she expected, and it smelled like spices and tobacco. Postage stickers were everywhere, and on the right- hand corner LIBANPOST, BEIRUT was stamped within a rectangle of bright blue ink. The sender had meticulously written The United States of America under Sam’s zip code, and the return address had been perfectly penned, as though a ruler had been held underneath each line. Karm El Mohr,  it said, which Sam recognized as the name of her mother’s hometown in Lebanon, a little village in the mountains. 

Curiosity tugged at her, but it was getting late. She had to hurry to the lake, or there would be nothing at all for dinner. 

“Rima?” Sam called into the house. Their tiny kitchen table, too small for three people, teetered when Sam set the package on top. She tucked her driver’s license away and tossed her purse and shoes into the corner. 

“Hello?” she called one more time before peeking into her mother’s bedroom. There was always the slim chance she could be back, and asleep. 

But nothing had changed since the last time Sam looked. Mom’s bed was unmade, her fl oral comforter tangled. The curtains were drawn. On a chair, nestled between two throw pillows, a teddy bear stared at Sam with vacant eyes. MY VALENTINE was stitched across its heart- shaped belly. Sam stared back. Though she’d never asked, she was sure it was a gift from Dad— it had been around a lot longer than any of Mom’s boyfriends. 

She closed her mother’s door and went to her own room, where she changed into jeans, a fi shing shirt with a dozen little pockets for supplies, and sneakers. Her old Girl Scout sash— loaded with badges for archery, horseback riding, cookie sales— 

had fallen from its 

thumbtacks again. She pressed it back into the wall and then tossed a makeup bag and a jacket onto Rima’s upper bunk, which was already piled high with dirty clothes, schoolwork, and at least twenty jars of nail polish. There was only enough space in their windowless room for one dresser, and there was no closet, so the floor was cluttered with semiorganized piles. Picking through them, Sam found everything she needed, making a mental checklist as she went: fi shing rod; Dad’s Swiss Army knife in case she needed to cut a line; a cooler. Back in the kitchen she grabbed an ice pack from the freezer and, finally, moldy cheese for bait. 

“Go, go, go,” she urged herself. 

The winter had been so long and gray. She’d missed Glen Lake’s waters— turquoise blue and crystal clear, a reassurance that not everything in the world was dark and muddy underneath. No matter how many times she pulled her boat out onto the lake, her heart still swelled, as if those Caribbean- looking waters were a gift just for her, and that unexpected beauty was all she needed to carry on. 

Her hand was on the door, but at the last moment she glanced back at the UPS package on the table. If Mom came home while she was fi shing, she would open the package herself, even though it was addressed to Sam. 

What could be inside? 

The only person they knew from Lebanon was Mom’s grandfather, Jiddo Naameh. Packages from him came very rarely, and they were always for Mom, never Sam. She’d never even met her great- grandfather, had only seen him in a handful of yellowed pictures that hung on the walls of Mom’s bedroom. He looked old in those photos, and they were all taken before Sam was born. 

It would only take a second to open the package. She took her hand off the doorknob, set her fi shing gear down, and found a pair of scissors in the kitchen junk drawer. 

Judging by the weight and size of the box, there might be a book 

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or two inside. In the past, he’d sent calendars, tourist guides, poetry written in Arabic, and books with glossy photos of Roman and Phoenician ruins. Sometimes he’d include bars of olive oil soap, jars of pomegranate molasses, and cans of sesame seed paste. 

Sam slit the tape along the edges of the box and pulled the card-board flaps up. A white envelope sat on top of the packing material, addressed to her. 

She ran her finger across the handwriting, then slid her thumb under the envelope’s flap and pulled it open. Inside was a piece of folded paper, so thin it was translucent. She unfolded it, eager to read, but the entire note was indecipherable to her: It was written in Arabic, in bright purple ink, the color of peacock feathers. 

She dug into the box again, half convinced that only pillows of bubble wrap filled the rest of it, but her fingers hit something solid. 

The hairs on the back of her neck stood up as she pulled out a fat, pear- shaped object enshrouded in newspaper. Setting it on the table, she began unpeeling the sheets, layer after layer, her fingertips turning black from the newsprint. 

Finally, the last square of paper fell to the floor. Sam stood staring at a piece of dull clay pottery. 

Its narrow neck was flanked by two circular handles, hardly big enough to fi t her fingers through. Simple, symmetrical lines criss-crossed its belly. It had a look of homemade imperfection; maybe Jiddo had made it himself. 

The letter surely explained it. She refolded it and tucked it back inside the envelope, glancing at the clock on the microwave. She’d already wasted a solid ten minutes of fi shing time. She had to hide everything and get out on the water. 

“Go,” she told herself again, pushing away from the table. It wobbled, and the jug shuddered off the edge. 

“No!” she cried. 

For a moment, the jug seemed suspended in air, simply waiting to be caught— and then it hit the linoleum floor with a hollow, sickening sound. 

Sam let out a groan as she knelt to examine the damage. It had split in half; she tried to fi t it back together like two puzzle pieces, but there was a thin seam between them. Just like my life,  she thought. Split apart and then precariously put back together. You only noticed the cracks when you got close enough. 

And that was when she saw the coins. 

There were seven, crusted to the dirty bottom of the jug. She tipped it upside down over the table, shook, and the coins spilled out. 

Sam blinked. 

Treasure. 

Time and dirt had turned a few of them black. Others were only slightly tarnished, stamped with images of pine trees and ships, sea castles and owls, spears crossed to make an X. PIASTRES, one of them said; another had a perfect hole drilled through its middle, flanked by two small lions. 

Sweat trickled down her temples. Her mind raced. What if Mom came home right this second? She had already pawned every last item of worth in their possession. She would take the coins without a second thought. 

There was one more, she noticed: stuck to the bottom, caked with a mud- hardened residue, so camouflaged with the dark pottery she almost missed it. She tipped the jug piece again and shook, hard, but it wouldn’t come loose. When she tried with a fingernail, her nail bent and snapped, and the coin stayed put. 

“Super,” she said, sucking on her finger to take the sting away. 

Letter- like shapes arced along the top edge of the coin. They might have been words, but they were written in an alphabet she didn’t recognize. Even though she couldn’t read Arabic, she knew its familiar curves and dots. This was something altogether different. 

Sam glanced at the clock again. 

She needed to go— but instead she pulled Dad’s Swiss Army knife from one of her shirt pockets. His initials were engraved on its bright red side: B.C.C. She gave the knife a quick kiss like she always did before she used it, knowing her father’s fingerprints were still there underneath her own. 

Carefully, she worked the tip of the smallest blade under the coin, until it finally sprang out onto the table. 

For some reason, she hesitated to touch it. It seemed different than the other coins. Older, thicker. It made her heart beat faster. 

These coins could change everything for them. This one could really be worth something. 

She picked the coin up, and the moment her fingers met the metal, her hand turned icy cold. She bit the inside of her mouth and winced, tasting blood. 

A presence filled the room. She was suddenly sure she was being watched. 

“Who’s there?” she asked, spinning to look. 

Something pulled on her, pushed her. The room turned dark, as if the electricity had failed and a storm cloud had rolled right inside the house. There was the distant sound of a flute, and then a whispering voice. Raspy and urgent. 

 You have what is mine! 

The language was foreign, but somehow she understood. 

Give it to me! 

The pull on her intensified, a fierce current sweeping her out into deep waters. It felt as though her feet were no longer on the floor, that the worn gray linoleum beneath her had become fluid. The storm cloud swirled and widened into a funnel in the floor, a pit of smoke. 

Her hand had frozen shut, fingers curled tightly around the coin. But with a determined shriek, she threw it down. 

The strange storm stopped as suddenly as it had started. 

The light returned to the room. The linoleum was as chipped and ordinary as always. She stood panting for air, staring at the coin where it had landed. 

Sam rubbed her throbbing hand, her heart pounding with such ferocity she had to lie down. She made her way to the couch and collapsed, listening. 

All was silent, other than her own frantic breathing. There was no hypnotic fl ute, no voice. Her stomach turned over with something that felt like motion sickness, as if she’d just stepped off a spinning carnival ride and still couldn’t fi nd her footing. 

Outside the window, a dog barked, and Mrs. Jarvis yelled. “Get over here! Peanut!” She called the dog’s name over and over again. 

“Peanut! Peanut! There you are!” 

Sam counted to one hundred and then stood. 

Warily, she went back to the kitchen and stared at the coin. She was afraid to touch it, but she couldn’t just leave it there. 

After pacing the house, searching for an idea, she went to Rima’s collection of beauty supplies, a pink plastic cabinet with four drawers. 

She yanked open the drawer labeled EYES and dug through a rainbow of shadows, liners, and tubes of mascara until she found the tweezers. 

Metal meeting metal made a dull ting as she tapped the coin. Carefully, she slid the tweezers around it and clamped down. All good. 

Nothing happened. As Dad would say, No holes in the boat. 

She let out a little laugh of relief. She had almost expected it to spring to life like a coiled snake. 

Back in the kitchen, she slipped the coin into a large Ziploc bag, along with the other seven coins and the two halves of the broken jug. 

The back door squeaked behind her as she headed outside, down the rotting stoop and into the yard. The gardening tools were already laid out, right next to the plants she’d bought last week. After setting down the bag, she thrust the big metal shovel into the ground, thinking how her mother accused her of burying everything— her emotions, herself— in school and work. 

She would get some answers tomorrow. At the library or on the internet, there would be information about old coins. She would find someone— other than Mom— to translate Jiddo’s letter. In the mean-time, this was the best hiding place for the things he had sent her. 

An hour later, she had a decent- sized hole in the backyard, deep enough. After burying the bag, Sam looked back up at their sagging trailer. 

Maybe it wasn’t lopsided after all. Maybe it was her. 

2

A door slammed with a gunshot bang and Sam sat up. 

She was surprised to find herself back on the couch; a rogue metal spring dug through the thin cushions and jabbed at her thigh. 

Across the room, their hazy TV was on mute, and a woman silently urged her to act now and buy an Immortal Youth skincare system in three easy payments. 

Sam had a dim recollection of putting on her nightshirt, of trying to stay awake until Rima came home. She’d never made it to the lake. 

Morning sunlight streamed into the room, illuminating the dusty air. 

“Rima?” she called, her voice hoarse. 

She cleared her throat and stood, rolling her neck until it cracked. 

Her fingers ached where she’d touched the coin. 

The coin. 

She sucked in a breath as the whole thing came flooding back to her. 

The remote shook in her hand as she clicked off the TV. She must have fallen asleep watching some crazy movie, that’s all it was. Her imagination on overload. She tossed the remote onto the couch and went to the kitchen for a drink, but with a start she remembered the smoky pit in the fl oor, exactly where she stood now. She skittered away from the spot and tried to laugh at herself. 

There was no way that had happened. 

And yet she was completely sure it did. 

Heart thumping, she poured herself a glass of water from the sink and drank it in one long gulp. She grabbed Jiddo’s letter from the table and backed away from the kitchen, feeling like it was set with snares. 

“Rima?” she called again. 

She padded cautiously to their bedroom. Her sister’s clothes were fl ung across the fl oor, making a trail to the bed, where she snored quietly on the top bunk, murmuring in her sleep, her arm slung over the railing. Sam felt a surge of relief before catching a whiff of vape and beer. And barf. 

“Soccer practice,” Sam mumbled under her breath. There were brambles in Rima’s hair. “Yeah, right.” 

She slid Jiddo’s letter underneath her own pillow, and then crossed the tiny hallway to open her mother’s bedroom door. 

She was back. Finally. 

Her duffel bag was on the bed, its contents spilling out, and among the jumbled clothes was the picture she always took with her, no matter where she went. Her wedding photo, framed in silver. Dad in a suit and tie, so serious. Mom in her white gown. 

“Mom?” Sam called, walking quickly through the small house, searching. 

Her mother’s voice answered, muffled and distant. “Out here!” 

Through the kitchen window, Sam could see her waving from the backyard. Sam waved back. 

Still in her bare feet and nightshirt, she threw open the patio door and ran out across the weeds and dirt. Above her, the sky was a happy pastel blue, like some sort of candy drink. The cold air took her by surprise, though. Yesterday had been summer- like, but now her breath spilled out ahead of her as she rushed toward her mother. 

“You’re home!” Sam said. 

“Hey, gorgeous,” Mom said, smiling up at her. 

Mom was the one who was gorgeous. Her black hair shone almost blue in the sunlight, and her skin glowed with olive undertones. She was on her knees with a rusty gardening spade and polka- dotted gloves; the potted vegetables Sam had bought the week before were beside her, an investment that would literally grow all summer. A five- dollar plant gave them vegetables for months. 

“Stand up so I can hug you,” Sam said, her teeth chattering against the cold. 

She nervously scanned the grass, looking for the rock that marked the place where she’d buried everything. Exactly where she’d put it was a blur; she’d been in such a state of shock and panic, and had worked until after dark. 

“Yes. I could use a hug.” Mom pulled off her dirty gardening gloves and stood, dusting her knees. “And a week of sleep.” 

Sam wrapped her arms around her mother’s waist and kissed her cheek. She seemed thinner than ever; Sam’s arms could practically go twice around her tiny waist. “Where’ve you been?” she asked, sneaking in one more peck on the other cheek before her mother pulled away. 

“Getting stuff to plant your garden,” Mom said, dodging the real question. 

Sam looked down at the dozen or so plants she had already bought, plus a few bags of black soil Mom must have just brought home. A fat bumblebee floated past, investigating the new plants. 

“Thanks,” Sam said. 

“Tomatoes need phosphorus.” Mom pointed her gardening spade at a bag of fertilizer. She read the planting instructions aloud. “ ‘Roma tomato. Pear- or plum- shaped. Plant in full sun in rows thirty- six inches apart.’ ” 

“Yeah, I was kind of waiting for the weather to warm up,” Sam said. “For good.” 

She’d covered the plants the previous week because it had dipped into the thirties overnight. The old sheet she’d used to protect them was strewn across the ground now, streaked with mud. Underneath a corner of the striped fabric, a rock—  the rock she’d used to mark the spot— peeked out. 

“I got some stakes and twine,” Mom said, “and a green pepper plant.” She bumped her hip against Sam’s. “You’re shivering. Go get dressed. You’ll catch a cold out here.” 

“The entire garden is supposed to go over there,” Sam said, point-ing to the opposite corner of the yard. “All these plants need sun.” 

You need sun,” Mom said. “Look how pale you are. Go inside and get a warm drink.” 

“Come with me,” Sam said, but Mom put her gardening gloves back on and squinted at the tag from the green pepper plant. Sam studied the rim of bone under the collar of her mother’s shirt. So thin. 

“Where were you?” Sam asked quietly. “I was going to call the police today.” 

Mom dropped the tag she was holding. “Do not do that.” All the cheer that had been in her voice moments ago was gone. “Never ever do that.” 

“I know, but . . .” 

“You’re not eighteen yet. They’ll put you in a foster home. And Rima somewhere else, in a different one.” She cast a gloved finger in one direction and then in another. Opposite ends of the world. 

“Why was Mr. Koplow here yesterday?” Sam pressed. “How many months behind are we? He said he was here about the stoop, but it’s more than that, right?” 

Mom sighed and raked her fingers through her hair, sending a stripe of dirt through her bangs. “The credit card company won’t increase our limit.” She shook her head. “I had to get new brake pads for the car. Then your wisdom teeth came out, and that wasn’t completely covered. I bought soccer cleats for Rima, plus her summer registration fees. Things add up.” 

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Sam looked over her shoulder toward the house, wondering if Rima was awake yet. She didn’t need to hear another argument. Especially not the same old argument. “I could have put in some extra hours at the jewelry store.” 

She held back the rest: I don’t like how Mr. Koplow looks at you. I don’t want you owing him anything. 

Mom considered the hole she’d just dug. “Do you think that’s deep enough?” 

“How much did you spend on all this gardening stuff ?” Sam asked. “Maybe we can return a couple things.” 

“Well,” Mom said, a smile tugging at her lips. “I wanted to save the surprise, but since you’re asking . . .” 

From the front pockets of her jeans, she pulled out two thick wads of cash. And then, while Sam stood frozen with disbelief, she sprinkled the bills all over the ground. Like she was planting seeds for money trees. 

What?  What did you do?” Sam asked. Possibilities— all of them bad— swirled through her mind. “Where did you get all this? Is it real?” 

There were tens and twenties . . . even fifties. The wind picked up and Sam dropped to her knees to gather the money before it blew away. 

“I won at the casino.” Mom laughed. She sounded proud of herself. “I won big.” 

“You were gambling all week?” Sam held the money tight in her fists, fighting back the torrent of angry words that swelled inside her. Mom had been playing slots at the casino again? That  was where she was? 

But the money. The money! It was more than Sam made in a month. Maybe even more than their check from the Marines. 

“Karma, baby!” Mom said. “Mercury retrograde ended last week, so the timing was good.” She looked up at the sky. “I wonder if there’s a lunar eclipse in Pisces right now. I should check on that.” 

“The stars were aligned,” Sam said. 

“Yes,” Mom said, ignoring Sam’s sarcasm. “And today, we’re going to Lowe’s to buy a washer and dryer. No more trips to the laundromat.” She dipped her hand into her shirt pocket and found a pair of sunglasses, then slid them on and smiled, posing. “Like them?” 

“Yeah. They’re great, Mom.” Sam sighed, reluctantly handing the money back. “Really great.” 

“We’ll get Alan off our backs, buy some new clothes,” Mom continued, “and go out for steaks tonight. Let’s go see a movie, too.” She cleared her throat. “What? I see your wheels turning.” 

“I just . . . We have a lot of bills to pay, obviously. Those should come first. And that other thing . . . remember?” But clearly Mom had forgotten. “The entrepreneurship certificate program. The small- business classes I’ve been saving for.” 

Mom swatted her words away. “You haven’t even graduated high school yet. Enjoy the last few weeks of senior year. Enjoy the summer.” 

“ But—” 

“Your dad took a few college classes, you know, before he enlisted. 

And what did they get him? Nothing.” Her eyes lit up. “We should spend the money on a prom dress for you!” 

“No! That’s a total waste. I’m just going with my friends anyway,” 

Sam said. “I’ll wear Rima’s blue dress.” 

“That dress won’t fi t you. Come on, you could be the belle of the ball,” Mom said, fanning the bills. She twisted her mouth when Sam shook her head. “You are no fun.” She shoved the cash back into her pockets. “You’re so serious all the time, so practical. You weren’t always like this. I worry about you.” 

“I worry about you, ” Sam countered, keeping her voice in check. 

“Next time please leave a note. That’s all I’m asking, so I know where you are. I called all your normal jobs. I was starting to think you were dead.” 

“Dead!” Mom said. “That’s dramatic.” 

“ ‘Dear Sam, I’ll see you Saturday morning. Here’s how you can reach me if you need to. Have a good week. Love, Mom.’ ” 

“A note,” Mom repeated. “That would’ve been thoughtful. But then you might have come searching for me.” 

And she didn’t want to be found. 

Sam gave her mother a look. They’d had this standoff so many times, and getting angry only made things worse. Mom was home, with money to spare, so Sam tamped down her frustration and pasted on a smile. 

“I’m glad you’re home,” she said, picking up the shovel and ducking underneath the branches of the only tree in their yard. Its trunk wore a hundred scars where she and Dad had thrown knives into it. Sam could almost see herself taking aim, see the ghost of her ten- year- old self, of Dad standing by chewing on a toothpick. It’s all in the wrist,  he would coach, but more often than not she missed the tree altogether and the knife would land in the grass. 

Mom pushed her new sunglasses onto the top of her head. They were Ray- Bans, and they weren’t knock- offs. The wad of gambling money would be gone by next week. 

“Yep,” Sam mumbled, deciding for certain that she needed to keep the jug and coins a secret. With a grunt, she jammed the shovel into the ground. She’d worn blisters across her palms last night from digging, and now they flared up again. That part, at least, had really happened— burying the Ziploc bag. Her mind flashed to the smoky mist and the man’s voice, which now felt so dreamlike and impossible. 

“Are you okay?” Mom asked. “You really do look sick.” 

“The last time I ate was yesterday at lunch.” 

“Inside,” she said, putting an arm around Sam. “You’re freezing! I bought bagels. I was just waiting for Rima to wake up.” 

“I’ll go play reveille in her ear,” Sam said, but when they turned to walk back to the house, she saw that Rima was standing at the door with a cup of coffee. She lifted a hand toward Mom as if she’d been gone five minutes rather than five days. No big deal. Totally normal. 

Mom kissed Rima’s forehead before she could duck away. “How’s my baby?” she asked. “Good?” 

“How was the party last night?” Sam asked, following Rima into the kitchen. Her hair was in a messy knot, her face oily with yesterday’s makeup. “I mean, soccer practice?” 

Rima shot her a look. Shut up,  she mouthed silently. 

“Mom won some money at the casino,” Sam added, opening the refrigerator and handing Rima a tub of cream cheese. Mom had bought caramel- flavored, the best, and probably without a coupon. 

Sam chose a cinnamon bagel from the open box on the kitchen table. 

“We’re going shopping today.” 

“After I nap,” Mom said, stifling a yawn. In the kitchen’s fluorescent light, the skin under her eyes looked purple. She’d probably gambled all night and slept in her car during the day. “It’s hard work winning cold, hard cash.” 

“How much?” Rima asked, trailing Mom into her room. “What’d you play? Slots or blackjack?” 

Sam swallowed the last bite of her bagel. She showered and dressed, stacking a few bracelets over her wrist and slipping on her old sneakers. The lake was calling to her, but she had econ homework, an entire business plan due on Friday. Plus, if she went to the library, she could search for clues about the coins. 

She tucked Jiddo’s letter into her pocket and walked through the house. When she looked inside Mom’s room, she found her already asleep, her cheek pressed crookedly against her half- unpacked duffel bag. 

The back door was ajar, and Rima was singing somewhere. 

And then Sam heard a noise that made her spine stiffen: the chink of a shovel hitting rock. 

Panicked, Sam pressed her fingertips against the window. Rima was on her knees in the yard. She was digging. 

Sam threw open the back door. “What are you doing?” she asked, her voice cracking as she sprinted toward her sister. 

“Mom told me to move all the plants to this one spot.” Rima had the Ziploc bag in her hands, the pieces of the broken jug showing through. The hose was running, creating a thin river of mud around Rima’s bare feet. “But check this out,” she said. “I found this.” 

“Don’t open it,” Sam warned. She was breathless from running. 

“But there’s a bunch of coins in here.” Rima pointed through the clear bag. “They look old.” 

“Give it to me,” Sam said, thrusting her hand out. 

“Finders keepers,” Rima replied, pulling the bag toward her chest. 

“You don’t understand,” Sam said. “Jiddo sent that to me. It’s mine.” 

“Huh?” Rima made a face. “Jiddo?” 

Sam nodded. 

“So why is it out here?” 

“Because,” Sam said. “I needed to hide it for now.” She put her hand out again, but instead Rima opened the bag and pulled the two chunks of pottery out. Three or four coins fell to the ground. “You’re going to lose something!” 

“Is it from Lebanon?” Rima let out a low whistle. “This stuff looks ancient.” 

“One of the coins is . . .” Sam’s voice trailed off. She wanted to say 

“magical” or “cursed,” but that seemed ridiculous in the broad daylight of their backyard. Birds chirped, and the clouds were ribbons across the blue sky. 

Rima picked up the coins and set them in the palm of her hand. 

“Do you think they’re worth something?” She smiled and her eyes lit up with excitement. Her enthusiasm was contagious, and Sam felt herself smile back. 

“We have to research everything first,” she said. “Don’t tell Mom, okay? She’ll just take them to the pawnshop. I need to go to a museum or find a guidebook or something, so we can sell them for the right price.” 

“Yeah,” Rima said. “That makes sense.” 

“They might not be worth anything,” Sam cautioned. “And they were from Jiddo, so part of me thinks we should just keep them anyway. Maybe they’re family heirlooms. I thought I’d glue the jug back together, at least.” 

Rima nodded. She took the last few coins from the bottom of the bag and placed them alongside the others in her cupped hand. Her posture turned rigid. “C-cold,” she gasped. 

It was happening again. 

A small patch of soil seemed to turn loose at Rima’s knees. 

“Drop them,” Sam cried. “Hurry!” 

She grabbed Rima’s wrist and shook until the coins fell to the ground. Sam knelt over them, guarding them, counting them: fi ve, six . . . There were supposed to be eight. The seventh coin was nestled next to Mom’s gardening gloves. Where was the last one? 

“D’you hear that?” Rima asked, her words slurred. She looked around the yard. “A flute.” Smoke rose from the twisting earth. 

“Are you still holding one?” Sam demanded, horrified. She dragged Rima back, away from where the ground was moving, turning, becoming a dark spiral that widened and reached toward their toes. “Drop it! Drop it! ” 

Rima’s eyes, so full of life a moment earlier, were glazed over. 

“Look at me.” Sam snapped her fingers in front of Rima’s face, but she was somewhere far away. “Listen to me. Let go of the coin!” She shook her by the shoulders. 

Rima slumped into her arms, but her fingers held the coin like a vise. 

Sam peeled them back, one by one, and plucked the coin from her sister’s palm. She pinched it between two fingertips, and the mesmerizing, eerie music of the flute filled her head once again. The inky fog rushed to embrace her, twisting, pulling, shushing her. Sam felt her voice trapped in her throat. The world was unfurling. 

It’s going to take us. 

“Mine,” a man’s voice said. 

Sam turned to look. There was no one in the yard— other than wide- eyed Rima— but now there was the smell of incense burning. 

Her fingers refused to open. The coin’s icy poison was spreading, making her entire arm brittle. 

“My obol.” 

The man’s voice was closer . . . and then Sam saw him. 

Bearded and cloaked and made of the dark clouds that spun across the yard. His breath spilled from his mouth in cold currents. 

He lunged with dizzying swiftness, his hands going to Rima. I have the coin,  Sam wanted to say. Leave her alone! 

Rima cried out as the ghost gripped her by the wrist and yanked her away. He looked at Sam, his face full of fury. His eyes were golden, but his pupils were all wrong. One of them was the shape of a keyhole. 

Stop!  Sam silently screamed over the sound of the flute, a drum-beat also rising. She desperately crawled after Rima, her fingers finding a belt loop in her sister’s jeans. They were at the cusp of the dark, revolving funnel. 

With a last, desperate effort, Sam flicked the coin away. Over her shoulder, she caught a glimpse of it flipping through the air, as if someone had tossed it to call heads or tails. It landed in the black soil of their garden, behind them. 

No. Above them. 

It was too late. The three of them were sinking down, down, down; the backyard had become something like a raised stage they’d fallen from. 

Sam closed her eyes and spun.

About the author

Author Pic

Cristin grew up in a small Ohio town where she got her first library card at age three. She’s been reading and writing ever since. Before publishing Relativity, Cristin worked as a freelance business writer, authoring magazine articles, as well as copy for food catalogs, ads, websites, and tourist guides. She’s taught composition and creative writing, both at the college level andCristin grew up in a small Ohio town where she got her first library card at age three. She’s been reading and writing ever since. Before publishing Relativity, Cristin worked as a freelance business writer, authoring magazine articles, as well as copy for food catalogs, ads, websites, and tourist guides. She’s taught composition and creative writing, both at the college level anded her eyes and spun. 

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GIVEAWAY

3 winners will win a finished copy of VIAL OF TEARS, US Only.

Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/e2389ba21336/?

Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the tour!

Tour schedule

Week One:

9/27/2021YA Books CentralExcerpt
9/27/2021A Bookish DreamReview
9/28/2021Rajiv’s ReviewsReview
9/28/2021BookHounds YAExcerpt
9/29/2021Sometimes Leelynn ReadsReview
9/29/2021Books a Plenty Book ReviewsReview
9/30/2021abackwardsstoryReview
9/30/2021Emelie’s BooksReview
10/1/2021A Court of Coffee and BooksReview
10/1/2021FyreKatz BlogReview

Week Two:

10/4/2021Amani’s Honest ReviewsExcerpt
10/4/2021Simplybeccamee Review
10/5/2021The Momma SpotReview
10/5/2021The Litt Librarian Review
10/6/2021The Bookwyrm’s DenReview
10/6/2021@coffeebooksandmascara Review
10/7/2021Dana’s Book GardenReview
10/7/2021two points of interedtReview
10/8/2021@jypsylynn Review
10/8/2021History from a Woman’s Perspective Review

Blog Tour: The Throwback List Excerpt!

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I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the THE THROWBACK LIST by Lily Anderson Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!

About the book

The Throwback List Cover

About the Book:

Title: THE THROWBACK LIST

Author: Lily Anderson

Pub. Date: October 5, 2021

Publisher:  Hyperion Avenue

Formats: Hardcover, eBook, Audiobook

Pages: 400Find it:GoodreadsAmazonKindle, Audible, B&N, iBooks, Kobo, TBD, Bookshop.org

Quote by Sarah Watson on The Throwback List: “Witty and fiercely relatable… a fun, funny, and surprisingly emotional look at how friendship evolves but always endures.”

Synopsis

Welcome to Sandy Point, Oregon: a sleepy beach town that’s home to a giant anchor statue, a sometimes-karaoke-bar, and Frosty’s questionably legendary Sunday Sundae Surprise. A town Jo, Autumn, and Bianca thought they’d left far behind when they graduated high school, finally moving on to greener pastures than the midway point for tourists heading to the Goonies house. But life seldom goes according to plan.

Bianca Boria-Birdy, former prom queen and valedictorian, has always been an overachiever. As she juggles managing the family tattoo parlor, caring for her grandmother, and adjusting to a new marriage, Bianca’s schedule becomes stricter than ever, with no room for disruption. What she really needs is a vacation, but not even Bianca Boria-Birdy can achieve the impossible.
Autumn Kelly used to be an actress. Now she teaches drama at Sandy Point High. She may have had to kiss her movie-star dreams goodbye, but molding the next generation of performers has given her life meaning in a whole new way. Until the sudden reappearance of her ex-best friend throws everything off-balance.

Jo Freeman has it all together. With a cool job in Silicon Valley, connections at the trendiest fitness studios, and a down payment on her dream condo, she’s well on her way to reaching every one of her goals before thirty. Or she was, before she got fired and landed right back home with her parents and teenage sister.

When Jo finds an old bucket list in her childhood bedroom, it sets the three women on a path that brings them closer to one another with each task. And it just might lead to a life none of them could have planned. 

Excerpt

one

Palo Alto, California

Jo

Jo Freeman stepped off the elevator with “Lose Control” stuck in her head. That morning’s exercise coach—Salvador of Confident Kickboxing—put a song on the playlist for every heavy bag in the room and Jo had found herself hitting in the Missy Elliott zone.

“Take your anthem with you into the world today! Use your big-bitch energy!” Salvador called after them as the class split up to go to their various Silicon Valley desk jobs.

Normally, Jo left her buy-in at the door, discarding all of the silly mantras and platitudes inside her gym du jour. But today, she could feel the “Lose Control” beat keeping her hips loose as she took long strides past the reception desk at Quandt Corporation’s Palo Alto headqua