Nura and the Immortal Palace – M.T. Khan

This is a middle grade tale that is as smart as it is entertaining. It combines magic and the more grounded theme of education in a way that encourages us to take some of the content quite seriously and ponder its meaning, while also allowing us to be enchanted by the elements that belong more to the fantasy world than our everyday one.

Nura is a determined young lady. While most kids at the mine are mining without really thinking they could ever find the great treasure desired by their master, the ‘‘mica,’’ Nura fully believes that she is capable of such a big endeavour. Unfortunately, her ambition caused quite an accident at the mine, and a few of the kids have gone missing. Though her ambition initially led her to cause damage, this time she is hoping it will help her find the missing kids—and her best friend.

Nura’s journey leads her to enter a treacherous world full of jinn, who do not have her best interest at heart. She quickly stumbles too deep into the world, so deep she might never get out of it again. But Nura has a fire in her that just won’t quit. It was really good to be acquainted with someone so goal-oriented and who tries to use her powerful energy for good actions. I feel like there are two types of fire—the one lit from anger (destructive) and the one lit from a desire to see change come about (productive). Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between the two or they intertwine, but though Nura makes some mistakes along the way, she learns to direct her energy towards the right things and the right people. It can be hard for her to know who to trust, especially after being betrayed badly, but sometimes you have to have faith.

I really enjoyed my experience reading this book. It is fast-paced, with quite a bit of action, as well as full of memorable characters whose personalities I could get a sense of. My only complaint is regarding the solution that Nura finds to her problem, which felt quite predictable. Otherwise, this is quite a smart tale with impactful scenes that I quite recommend!

Thank you Hachette Book Group Canada for the copy in exchange for a review! On sale July 5th.

Nothing Personal – Nancy Jo Sales

It’s been over a month since my last online date. Nothing bad happened per se, certainly nothing close to what Nancy Jo Sales is describing in this book. I wasn’t pressured or forced into doing anything. I wasn’t manhandled or mansplained to the whole time. I wasn’t even ghosted after. And though it was a slight case of he-didn’t-quite-look-like-his-pictures, I had grown used to that by then. But like Nancy explains, these apps don’t really exist for us to find love—our long term partners, even if 80% of Tinder users claim that that’s what they ultimately want. These apps are designed to be used. They’re designed to be addictive, and they are.

That’s why I needed this book. Though I had never enjoyed the process of meeting a stranger I had been talking to – however decent-looking this person could seem – I just couldn’t stop matching and texting until finally it came time to meet and I’d either push through my discomfort or anxiety in the process or… cancel. These apps really are addictive. And no one was asking me out in person, so it felt hard – almost counterintuitive – to delete my account, since I was looking for love and there were no in person prospects.

This book had the kind of effect on me that I was hoping for, meaning that it helped me stay away from those apps. And like the author says, of course there are exceptions. Not every guy is a sexist player and liar and toxic and problematic – duhhhh – but those are the kinds of men that these apps either appeal to the most or help create. On the other hand, if you are a genuinely good catch, then there is an overwhelming amount of girls or guys who throw themselves at you, and it all feels so mechanical, so dissatisfying, so devoid of magic.

As revealing and valuable as this book is, it is also quite depressing. It’s depressing to read about a culture that focuses on short-term and self-satisfying interactions, rather than long-term, mutually-satisfying and above all meaningful interactions. A hook-up culture that confuses (‘‘so what are we really?’’) and makes it hard for people to really connect. I think the saddest part of all – and certainly something I experienced myself – was the ‘‘who could care less’’ game that the author mentioned, in which neither people involved want to be the one to care the most and so, in the end, no one really does and things fizzle out pretty quickly. From a woman’s point of view, caring about my matches – the ones I talked to the most – was quite instinctual or natural for me, but oftentimes, if I let show that I cared, they would either be freaked out or let me do the whole work of trying to connect. Rarely did it feel equal. Rarely did they reciprocate.

But as sad as this book can get, it cannot and should not be ignored. And as often as it made me feel like maybe romance and love are both dead and I would be better off without men in my life, it has thought me a lot about access control (who I should let get close to me and know me), not feeling so responsible for men’s emotions and reactions and knowing what I want and how I want to be treated and stating both of those things instead of letting the other person decide what they want with me and how they want to treat me.

Thank you Hachette Book Group Canada for the copy in exchange for a review!