Queen of the Tiles by Hanna Alkaf

Summary:
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.

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. But I did actually end up listening to the finished audiobook that I borrowed from my local library.
I didn’t love this book like I thought it was going to. I thought that it was lacking in a few of my favorite things about mystery/thrillers. There was a real lack of suspense and little to no stakes for the story to just go “ha ha no one did it?” It felt like nothing happened the whole book. A murder mystery should have the stakes slowly raised and I feel like that didn’t happen. It felt like we just did a character-by-character investigation with a backstory with each of the characters. I honestly could have gone for a little info-dumping over the oversharing that I feel like we got with this story.
I still liked the idea of a competitive scrabble community. I’m sure this is something that exists out there and I love it. Really niche hobbies like this are really interesting to me. I really liked how the main character had turned her love for scrabble into an incredible vocabulary.
I did like Najwa. The way that she thought was really engaging for the story. She’s the reason that I finished the book even though I didn’t really love the story. I did I love the casual mention of putting her hijab on and things like that which we get a few times in the book.
While I didn’t love this one, I think it was an issue with my reading lately, and not the fault of the story. I will still be recommending this one in the future.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s (Almost) Auto-Buy Authors

Hi, lovelies! Back in April, I did a post about my ‘Auto-Buy Authors‘ where I talked about authors that I love to the point where I automatically buy their books when they have a new release. There were quite a few authors that I thought have the potential to make that list, but have only published one or two books. So, I thought I’d share a list of some authors that are on their way toward that list, but don’t have enough published books for me to really say for sure yet.

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Tehlor Kay Mejia
I wrote this list in a note while I wrote my original auto-buy author post, so since then, I’ve read two more of Mejia’s books and I definitely think she’s moved solidly into auto-buy territory. I loved the We Set the Dark on Fire duology and I recently really enjoyed Miss Meteor which is co-written with Anna-Marie McLemore. I’m also very excited to read the second book in the Paola Santiago series.

Katie Henry
Henry has three books out and I’ve genuinely enjoyed all three of them. They’re contemporary books that generally involve a serious topic, but wit humor and thoughtfulness. I read This Will Be Funny Someday and totally loved it. There’s a toxic relationship and some lying, but I think it was all done with care. She has an untitled book coming in 2022 that I already can’t wait for.

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Hanna Alkaf
I read The Girl and the Ghost as one of my first books of 2021 and I absolutely devoured it. I don’t read historical fiction often, but I’ve heard really great things about The Weight of Our Sky and I absolutely am excited to read Queen of the Tiles when it’s released.

Emily Henry
Henry is coming quickly toward the definite auto-buy list because of her adult romance. I really liked Beach Read and I recently read People We Meet On Vacation and I liked that one even more. I don’t know if she’s planning to write more YA books, but I really loved all three of her YA books too.

Justin A. Reynolds
I want to add him to my auto-buy list, but he’s only published two books so far. Now, I’ve loved both of these books so, so much. I don’t expect that to change anytime soon. But, it’s still a bit early to say for sure. I highly recommend both Opposite of Always and Early Departures.

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Dahlia Adler
Adler wrote Cool for the Summer, which I believe will be making several of my ‘2021 favorites’ lists when I make them. But this is the only book I’ve read by Adler. So, despite the book having a huge emotional impact on me, I can’t quite add Adler to my auto-buy list yet.

Laura Pohl
I really loved the audiobooks for The Last 8 and The First 7. I am beyond excited to read The Grimrose Girls later this year. I absolutely think she’ll make it to my auto-buy list, but I want to try more books by her first.

Adalyn Grace
The All the Stars and Teeth duology was a really great one. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what she publishes next.

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Bethany C. Morrow
I loved both A Song Below Water and the sequel, A Chorus Rises. Morrow has a few books coming out in the near future. One is a retelling, which I think I’ll skip, but I’m really excited for Cherish Farrah in 2022.

Katy Rose Pool
I am absolutely obsessed with The Age of Darkness trilogy. The third book isn’t even out yet, but I know I’m going to love it. I also follow Pool on Instagram and she’s been talking a bit about what she’s working on next, vaguely of course, and I already can’t wait to read whatever it is.

There are so many incredible authors out there and I wish that I could read them all. But these are some of the authors that are right on the tipping point of making their place on my auto-buy author list.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Girl and the Ghost by Hannah Alkaf

Summary:
A Malaysian folk tale comes to life in this emotionally layered, chilling middle-grade debut, perfect for fans of The Book of Boy and The Jumbies.
I am a dark spirit, the ghost announced grandly. I am your inheritance, your grandmother’s legacy. I am yours to command.
Suraya is delighted when her witch grandmother gifts her a pelesit. She names her ghostly companion Pink, and the two quickly become inseparable.
But Suraya doesn’t know that pelesits have a dark side—and when Pink’s shadows threaten to consume them both, they must find enough light to survive . . . before they are both lost to the darkness.
Fans of Holly Black’s Doll Bones and Tahereh Mafi’s Furthermore series will love this ghostly middle-grade debut that explores jealousy, love, and the extraordinary power of friendship.
Review:The Girl and the Ghost
I adored The Girl and The Ghost. This book was creepy but in a way that I just couldn’t stop listening. I have to shower this narrator with compliments because they told this story in such an incredible way, filling it with emotion and suspense at all the right moments. I will definitely be looking to see if this narrator has read other books.
This book alternates chapters between the girl and the ghost. It’s a dark and atmospheric story about a young girl named Suraya who is gifted a pelesit (which is a sort of a ghost). This pelesit is eventually named Pink by Suraya. Her mother cares for her in the sense of making sure Suraya is fed and clothed and goes to school. But she’s not a mother that is affectionate. Suraya is a lonely kid, so when Pink comes to find her after her grandmother dies, Suraya is glad to have a friend. She and Pink do everything together. This story starts when Suraya is very young, so not much happens in the beginning aside from Pink finding Suraya and the two bonding deeply. But once Suraya gets a bit older, and makes a new friend, Pink becomes jealous. This is where the story starts to get suspenseful and kind of scary. Pink reacts out of jealousy and starts to do things that Suraya has specifically told him not to do.
I loved pretty much everything about this book. Suraya and Pink’s relationship was sweet at first, it was something that they both needed, a friend. I really appreciated that as things progressed and Suraya realized that she couldn’t handle things with Pink anymore, she asked her mother for help. I think that this book was wholesome as heck despite being a middle-grade horror novel. It had friendship and adventure, pelesit, ghosts, and a few other spooky things. The Girl and the Ghost is a story with heart and I absolutely loved every minute of it.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.